There isn’t much better than the excitement of your junior golfer getting a new golf club. The desire to want to immediately go use the club and practice is one of the best feelings you can have as a golf parent, and as you can imagine, a pretty amazing feeling for your junior golfer as well.
From personal experience, I do not believe you should go out and buy a golf set right away. Unless your junior golfer has been playing similar sports or has practiced with borrowed clubs, a full set of clubs won’t be very useful to your junior golfer. Some clubs, like the hybrid, are really hard to hit for smaller players – it would be like starting out with a 2 iron!
If you’ve already bought that golf set, or inherited a set, I would recommend stashing them away and giving those clubs and bag to your junior golfer as they get better.
In this guide, I’ll share what I believe is a good progression for getting appropriate clubs for your golfers ability while keeping them excited about their equipment and their game.
When they are under 2
At this age, the name of the game is making sure golf equals fun, so a plastic set will do nicely. Let them emulate the idea of a swing and allow them to enjoy the feeling of hitting something with another thing without coaching. Henry’s first golf clubs were a plastic set from Walmart that he could bang around the house or use in our outdoor putting green.
These clubs aren’t serious, so for the sake of your walls and furniture, stay away from things like metal shafts (yes, they make these).
Before they turn 4
In my humble opinion, the first real club you should buy your junior golfer is a putter, and their first golf course should be miniature! I consider ages three and four to be prime miniature golf years. If you have access, and the means to do so, take your junior golfer out to the miniature golf course and introduce them to the idea of putting. In San Diego, our local Boomers (now out of business) had an annual pass. For about $60 we could play unlimited miniature golf and play with “real” golf clubs.
Miniature golf is an amazing way to get your junior golfer interested in the sport of golf since the bright colors and miniature golf features make the whole thing less serious. The holes are relatively short and it’s something they can reasonably do without feeling lots of pressure to perform. The occasional hole-in-one’s also make for some amazing car rides back.
If you do start going to the miniature golf course, make sure you borrow size appropriate clubs for your junior golfer. The people working behind the front desk tend to always give you clubs that are far too big to use a real putting stroke. Make sure you ask for the right size and err on the side of getting a putter that’s a bit small. Most places will also let you bring your own putter.
When Henry outgrew that, we moved into a more serious putter. As someone who plays a fairly large mallet (Odyssey White Hot XG 7), he was naturally interested in having a putter that looked a little more like Dad’s. Unlike other golf clubs, putters are unique in that cutting them down substantially won’t really impact your junior’s ability to play with them. If you have the means, you can buy a similar adult putter and cut it down to an age appropriate length. In our case, we purchased a clone putter from Diamond Tour golf which I requested be sent without the grip installed. That way, I could use a tube cutter to bring the club down to an appropriate size.
I cut the putter so that the appropriate length was when Henry gripped down on the grip all the way. That left some room for him to grow with the putter.
4 and over
There’s nothing magical about the age of four – I’m sure Tiger was probably hitting a large bucket with bladed irons at this point – but I can’t fathomably imagine teaching my junior golfer untill around this age.
Your first club (outside of the putter)
Outside of a putter, your first club should be something like US Kids Golf’s Yard Club.
As far as I’m concerned, these clubs are how you should introduce the full golf swing to your junior golfer. Here’s a few reasons why:
- They are extremely light, so strength isn’t an issue
- They are pre-built for your junior golfer’s size (36″, 39″, 42″, 45″, etc.)
- They have the loft of a sand wedge so they get the ball up in the air
- The shafts are really flexible for slower swing speeds
- They can hit real golf balls but come with several limited flight balls
These clubs also come with training grips that approximately show where your golfer should put his hands. While I initially was a fan of this, depending on your junior golfer’s hands and their hand strength, this might actually promote a poor grip. In Henry’s case, the grip forced his two hands further apart than he could actually manage and we ended up having to re-train his grip when he moved to his next set of clubs.
There are other manufacturers who make similar clubs, but I would prioritize getting the right size and weight for your junior golfer. If you really wanted to skip this step, then start with a sand wedge because of the loft. With enough time, patience, and golf snacks your junior golfer will be able to hit some reasonable shots off the tee and off the ground.
Buying your first set
Finally, the fun part! If you’ve made it this far – your junior golfer is starting to hit balls somewhat consistently and maybe he or she has even had their first lesson. At this point, you could buy a pre-made set of clubs that are appropriate for their height. You can get a decent four or five piece set plus bag for under $200.
Although it takes a bit more work, we really enjoyed making our own set of golf clubs and buying one club at a time from the store. This had several advantages:
- Each time we brought a new club home, it renewed Henry’s interest in golf and he wanted to practice more often and right away
- The golf clubs themselves were sort of a reward for persisting and felt like an accomplishment for him
- It allowed us to learn the unique aspects of each club before moving onto the next club
- We got to experience the joy of buying new clubs several times over and even testing them out on the golf simulator
We assembled our clubs via the TourX rack at The Golf Mart. The rack is organized by height, so it made selection easy. We also found a brand new Nike junior golf club for about $12 (deal!) which is now one of his favorite clubs.
What clubs should I buy (and in what order)?
You should choose for a set makeup that will allow your junior golfer to cover gaps between their driver and their pitching or sand wedge. So it goes without saying that you’ll need at least a driver and a pitching/sand wedge. If you already have the Yard Wedge or a sand wedge, then you first club outside of that ought to be the driver.
Starter set priorities:
- Sand or Pitching Wedge
Filling in the gaps in your junior golf set
I would recommend starting with a 7 iron, then building up their set as they progress. Once they can comfortably hit their other clubs, then consider something that can cover distance from the fairway. In Henry’s case, his set (and corresponding distances) look like this:
- Driver (75-100 yds)
- 19 Degree Hybrid (60-75 yes)
- 7 Iron (40-60 yds)
- Sand Wedge (25-40 yds)
I like this setup because it allows for room to expand. As your junior golfer gets stronger and more consistent, you’ll be able to identify where the gaps are in their game. For example, if Henry starts hitting his 7 iron consistently 55-65 yards, and his sand wedge from 35-45 yards, then it would make sense for us to pick a 9 iron that would bridge the gap between 45-55 yards. Until then, you should consider it an opportunity to teach them other ways of bridging gaps between clubs (like choking down on a golf club or taking a partial swing).
Should I buy a full set of junior golf clubs?
Unless your junior golfer is consistently hitting specific distances with their current set and you’ve identified gaps you need to fill, those extra clubs aren’t doing you (or them) any favors. Having fewer clubs in the beginning is actually better for your junior golfer for several reasons:
- Without consistency, additional clubs won’t make much of a difference to the way they play
- Budding junior golfers enjoy the ability to look at a yardage and know what club they need to hit (e.g. short shot = sand wedge, mid-shot = 7 iron, etc.)
- More clubs is extra weight they may need to carry or push
- Yardage gaps are themselves a teaching opportunity for different types of shots
Can I cut down a set of old clubs for my junior golfer?
While you could cut down an adult set of clubs, there’s a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t. Modern junior clubs aren’t all that expensive (Henry’s TourX clubs are $30 each) and have the right weight and flex for your junior golfers swing. Cutting down an adult set would likely result in a shaft that’s way too stiff and a club that’s way too heavy for your junior golfer. They will end up with an unnatural swing.
The right set of clubs for your junior golfer is the set that reduces frustration during the steepest part of the learning curve (when they are getting started) and keeps them excited about the game. Start with a good putter (that’s half of the game), get a sand wedge, a driver, and just enough clubs to fill the gaps between.