Club Fitting: Women, Seniors, and Juniors

There’s a lot going on in Golf Club Fitting with PGA Professional Gary Balliet. As our 3rd Semester comes to a close, we’re talking about how to fit golfers for specific clubs as well as how to fit women, seniors, and juniors.

Women golfers
There is equipment that can help women want to play and play better.

Fitting for Women
As a general rule, women don’t take divots because they’re not strong enough. Usually, they just sweep the ground. But that doesn’t mean there’s not equipment out there that can help women want to play and play better. The worst thing a woman can do is play with her husband’s hand-me-downs cut down to her length.

When considering iron head design, women should consider the following seven characteristics:

1. Low center of gravity/low profile – this creates a higher launch angle, a higher spin rate, and a solid feel even on off-center hits.

2. Horizontal center of gravity – should be moved further out from the hosel. This makes for greater playability.

3. Rearward center of gravity – makes the ball go higher

4. Wider sole from front to back – more weight on the sole helps launch the ball higher

5. At least four degrees of bounce angle on the sole – helps eliminate digging and makes for a more level sweeping motion

6. More loft than a men’s iron set

7. Slightly heavier heads

Women’s driver heads should be 460cc’s and should have a higher MOI, which makes them easier to hit. A higher COR will also make the ball go farther as will more loft (12, 14, or 18 degrees depending on club head speed and launch angle). Women should consider using balls with larger dimple patterns and should use longer tees. Longer tees make it easier to hit up into the ball above the vertical face center. Hooked or off-set faces are also great for women who may tend to swing over the top and slice the ball.

When it comes to fairway woods, women should use a 5, 6, or 7-wood but should stay away from hitting a 3-wood off the deck. Hybrids are a great solution.

Women’s clubs are often too long. For example, a women’s 5-iron should be no longer than 37.25 inches. There are exceptions, of course, but on average, women’s clubs should be .75″ less than the corresponding men’s club. Women should be playing a driver that is 42.5″ to 43,” not 45″!

Irons for seniors should have wider soles, which can eliminate fat shots.

Most golf shafts are also too stiff for women. A 1/4″ tip trimming should be considered in lieu of the normal 1/2″ tip trim. An LL flex, which is softer than an L flex, is available. TrackMan and other launch monitors can help define the parameters for shaft flex.

Women should use the smallest possible grip that allows it to feel comfortable without digging into the opposing hand. Smaller grips allow for faster club head speed. Swing weights for women’s clubs should be somewhere between C-2 and C-9.

Fitting for Seniors
Seniors are not as limber as they once were because their shoulder turn is less and their muscles have lost some of their density. The good news is that senior golfers still remember how to swing. The reason why it’s so hard to teach a senior who has never played golf before is because his muscles don’t have the memory.

If a senior is playing with clubs more than five years-old, it’s time for him to get fitted with the newest technology. Fitting research and technological advances have greatly benefited senior golfers. Drivers between 450 and 460cc’s are the most forgiving, and seniors should take advantage of the highest playability iron available: cavity back with a low center of gravity, wider soles, 3-4 degrees of bounce, and no sharp leading edge. Forget those muscle back clubs!

Seniors should play fairway woods with shallow faces. Clubs with faces 1 1/8-1 3/8″ in depth also work better out of the rough. Wood-shaped hybrids will be easier to hit than iron-shaped ones. Graphite shafts weighing between 50 and 60 grams are best for seniors. Irons for seniors should have wider soles, which can eliminate fat shots.

The average senior can play a 45″ driver, but if he’s only able to drive the ball about 200 yards, he could really benefit from a 46″ or 47″ driver. Just remember that the club head speed is greatly reduced, and the longer shaft needs time to flex. A swing weight between C-8 and D-1 is the best swing weight for a senior driver, and the shaft should be 55-60 grams. Loft should be 12-13 degrees or higher, and seniors should look for 2-4 degrees of hook in the face or consider an offset driver head to prevent slicing. One trick for accuracy is to add 1/64″ or one wrap of tape under the low hand. Tee height should be 1/4″ to 1/2″ above the vertical face center.

A fitting chart like this one from U.S. Kids Golf can help ensure your junior is properly fitted.
A fitting chart like this one can help ensure your junior is properly fitted.

Fitting for Juniors
In the early 80s, moms and dads would give their cut-down clubs to their children. Lighter clubs for juniors is a myth, and lighter clubs are really only recommended for 3-5 year-old juniors.

A good fitter watches a junior hit balls to properly fit for length, lie, posture, grip size, and shaft flex. Adult club heads can be good for juniors because they’re heavier, but you don’t want the clubs to be too heavy. It’s a good idea to use lead tape on the heads if they’re too light.

It’s not worth spending a lot of money on junior clubs, especially if the junior is between the ages of two and seven. They will outgrow them quickly. Small woods are acceptable for kids aged 5-8 (340-400cc heads for 9-10 year-olds; 450-460cc heads for 11-18 year-olds).

A properly fitted club allows the junior to get the ball up into the air with the least amount of energy. Juniors can also be fitted based on their weight, average height by age, and age.

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