It’s been more than a decade since dads were as inclined to steer their kids into golf as they are right now. The greatest father-son and father-daughter bonding sport on grass is experiencing a renaissance, with surging TV ratings, the growing popularity of kids golf birthday parties, and bulging tournament purses — the PGA TOUR will divvy out a record $363 million this season. That’s a lot of money for a sport that involves zero concussions
Not only that, but unlike other sports, golf offers parents a solid — and often distraction-free — window of time to spend with their kid. Even a quick nine holes means you get at least two hours together, with plenty of time to talk and walk in between shots. But before you start dreaming college scholarships and Q School, getting kids on the course — and loving golf without hurling the 7-iron every other hole — is top priority. To do that, they need the proper equipment. Here’s all the kids golf gear your little Mickelson will need to play, prosper, and eventually become your best partner.
1. Starter Clubs For Kids
Why: Nothing gets kids more excited about swinging the sticks than laying claim to their own set.
What you should look for: When looking for a starter set, it’s absolutely key that the clubs are the right size for your pint-sized golfer, otherwise they might as well be trying to play golf with lacrosse sticks.
We like: Tour Edge’s HT Max-J Junior Golf Set which comes with a lightweight stand-bag. Ease young golfers into the game with forgiving clubs including a 350cc titanium matrix high MOI driver and perimeter weighted irons with oversized heads. Sets are sold by age but double-check the height range before making your purchase: 3-5yrs (under 3’3″), 5-8yrs (3’3″-4’4″) and 9-12 (4’4″ -5’1″).
2. Golf Balls
Why: Odds are good that they’ll be shedding spheres by the dozen.
What you should look for: Forget all about balls stamped with Spiderman’s emblem or Sponge Bob Square Pants’ smiling mug. You’re going to want to buy balls the same way you should buy peanuts — in bulk. Previously enjoyed balls (recycled) are wunderbar.
We like: Pick up used and discontinued ball brands (like Nike, which got out of the golf ball game a couple years ago) to get a steep discount.
3. A Custom Ball Marker
Why: One of the worst feelings in golf, right up there with lipping out a would-be eagle, is when someone in your group accidentally hits your ball because they thought it was theirs.
What you should look for: A golf ball specific stencil, so all you need is a sharpie to leave a pro-caliber mark.
We like: Tin Cup has options galore ⏤ everything from a sailboat to a Jolly Roger ⏤ to make sure your kid’s golf balls will standout. And if they’re feeling creative, they can even upload their own design.
4. Club Cleaner
Why: When the lines on the clubface are clogged with dirt, you’re going to have trouble imparting spin on the ball.
What you should look for: A multi-purpose tool that can spray, scrub, and scrape the dirt away.
We like: Caddy Clean is a compact and lightweight multi-tool that easily tethers to any golf bag. The handy system was devised by a trio of high school golfers looking for an alternative to the ‘spit-shine method’ to keep their sticks looking fresh.
5. Junior Golf Shoes
Why: While running shoes will work in a pinch, golf specific footwear provides the traction and stability to swing without slipping, and thus avoid an awkward tee box face plant.
What you should look for: Whether your child has a preference for soft spikes or hybrids, good golf shoes should be flexible, breathable, and enhance their connection with the turf. Also look for shoes that are water resistant — it’s always a plus to be able to walk through heavy dew without getting your socks soaked.
We like: Golf shoe stalwart Footjoy’s Pro/SL Junior features green molded rubber traction to match the turf.
Why: The problem with the run-of-the-mill baseball caps is the lack of coverage, especially to places where sunblock is often forgotten like the top of the ears and the back of the neck.
What you should look for: Wide-brimmed hats that’ll offer the most shade. Good ventilation to keep heads as cool as possible is also key.
We like: My First Tilley Hat. These Canadian-made high-quality lids are UPF 50 and double as hiking hats. Large grommets on either side let the breeze on through and a cinch cord keeps it from blowing into the drink. Although even if your kid manages to untie it, the hat floats.
Why: It’s hard to keep a shirt tucked in without one.
What you should look for: Many golf belts are more than meets the eye and include nifty features like buckles that flip down to reveal a hidden ball marker.
We like: The NexBelt Go-in Series. Aside from their secret ball-marker compartment, these hole-free ratchet system belts are built to last. The scale for cutting them down to size ends at 25″, you can use a ruler to can mark 1″ increments and get a perfect fit. Since your kids gonna grow faster than the rough at St. Andrews, cut the belt so that the pawl (metal claw that touches the belt’s nylon teeth) is touching the teeth strip. They may need to wrap the end of the belt around their waist so that it reaches one of the side loops on their pants, but it’ll still look sharp and last a lot longer.
8. Golf GPS Watch
Why: The golf equivalent of “are we there yet?” is “dad, how far away from the hole are we?” While those colored stakes on the course offer a ballpark idea, if you want to be more exact about your distances you’re going to need a laser range finder or a golf GPS watch.
What you should look for: A watch preloaded with data culled from 30,000 golf courses around the world so that with a turn of the wrist they’ll know the distance to the front, center, and back of the green along with the yardages to layup targets wherever you’re playing.
We like: The Shot Navi Hug is a breeze to use and will help assure players that they’re picking the right club for the job.