While the demographics are shifting slowly, the golf equipment marketplace is still dominated by the adult male, and while that guarantees that information about $500 drivers and $1200 iron sets is readily available, when new women’s club or a compelling new offering for juniors hits the market, you don’t often hear about it because we don’t hear about it.
In close to 8 years at MyGolfSpy, I can count the number of press releases I’ve received about golf clubs for juniors on one hand – and if memory serves, they all came from Cobra. Incidentally, the count is roughly the same for women’s clubs – and again, most of those came from Cobra.
Given all the emphasis on growing the game, it would be a bit surprising if not for the fact that mainstream golf companies habitually play to the middle of the market, which is pretty much the definition of mainstream.
The golf brands you know don’t spend big, or in many cases at all, to raise awareness for anything other than their mainline offerings, but as the industry continues to contract and becomes more reliant on participation from outside golf’s traditional demographics, hopefully, that’s going to change.
While it’s mostly being done quietly, there does seem to be an effort underway by some brands to better integrate women’s and junior products into the mainlines. Case in point, the new Xj line of junior clubs from Callaway Golf.
Truth be told, I only found out about Callaway’s new offerings because my 7-year-old daughter needed new clubs and Callaway’s Jason Finley responded to a tweet I posted looking for recommendations.
Spoiler alert – Jason suggested the Callaway Xj.
While Callaway isn’t throwing much of the weight of its marketing machine behind its new junior line, the company has made some significant changes to its approach to the junior space. The result is a new line of junior clubs that make more sense for the consumer and better aligns with the Callaway identity.
Sizing by height rather than age isn’t revolutionary stuff. US Kids recommends sets based on height. PING does it too. Lots of brands do it. Callaway will admit it lagged behind in this regard, instead sizing by age. With Xj, not only is Callaway leveraging a height-based sizing system, it has expanded the lineup to include three sets that cover kids from 38” to 61” inches. There’s also a new teen set (the Xt) designed to serve as a bridge between junior and adult clubs.
- Xj1 (38”-46”) is a 4-piece set that includes a fairway wood, 7-iron, sand wedge, and putter ($199.99).
- Xj2 (47”-53”) is a 6-piece set builds on the Xj1 with the inclusion of a driver and a 9-iron ($299.99).
- Xj3 (54”-61”) is a 7-piece set that adds a hybrid ($399.99).
- Xt is a 10-piece set that contains a driver, fairway, hybrid, 6-iron through PW, sand wedge and putter ($549).
As you can see, the number of clubs increases with age, and that plays to the reality that a typical 5-year-old, probably doesn’t need a full bag of clubs, and a typical 8-year-old, probably doesn’t either.
In the past, Callaway has gone more or less all-in on what would often be described as boy colors and girl colors. With Xj the took a more neutral approach. “We know that there are a lot of girls that don’t love pink,” said Callaway’s Jason Finley. With Xj, both white and blue bags are offered, and while white is considered the more feminine option, neither comes close to being gender-specific. My daughter went with the blue, and she loves it.
The Full Callaway Treatment
Callaway concedes that in the past its treated its junior sets as an afterthought. Things are different this time around. The Xj had plenty of input from what Jason Finley called Callaway’s Varsity Team. The same industrial designers who work on Callaway flagship products like the Rogue driver worked on Xj. The guys who designed the Xj bag are the same guys who work on Callaway’s mainstream offerings, and while the clubs themselves may not feature Callaway signature technology like Jailbreak and 360 Face Cup, the designs leverage Callaway’s past work in the club space – with the necessary adaptations for the size and weight requirements of the junior golfer.
The most appreciable change is that drivers in the Xj and Xt line feature 100% titanium construction. In the past, Callaway has used titanium blends. Finley told me that Titanium provides a bit more ball speed (even for kids), but of equal importance for the target demographic, it’s more durable. I promise you; kids don’t baby their clubs like many of us do.
It’s all part of a larger strategy to create a premium junior product worthy of the Callaway name. Over the past six years or so, Callaway has worked to position itself as a premium brand, and that’s trickling down to its junior sets by way of better materials, better construction, and a level of attention that Callaway hasn’t previously paid to its junior sets.
Given the price point and the fact that kids outgrow things quickly, Callaway knows the Xj won’t be for everyone. That said, the expectation is that golfers who identify with #TeamCallaway will be more inclined to have their kids play what they play. “They [parents] want it to look like what they have,” said Jason Finley, “and they don’t want their kid to be the one with the cheap set.”
And not for anything, it’s not a stretch to think that most kids will want to play what mom or dad plays. The company hopes Xj will better enable golfers to get their kids into a Callaway product.
The younger, the better, right?
You can expect to find Xj at both green grass and big-box locations. The former is particularly interesting because, while it’s likely not going to be a top priority for Callaway’s reps to sell-in, it does offer shops – particularly those run by Callaway staffers – a viable option for juniors that doesn’t require them to bring in additional lines.
Callaway is exploring options for a trade-in/trade-up program which will effectively help the clubs grow with the kid. Given the +/- 2-year viability of junior clubs (they grow-up so fast), helping parents save money while keeping their kids in Callaway is a textbook win-win.
You Have Other Options
None of this should suggest that Callaway is your only option for kids sets. US Kids has a solid reputation, PING has excellent junior offerings, as does Cobra – especially so for kids just a bit older than mine. Nearly everyone who makes golf clubs for adults dabbles in the junior space with varying degrees of commitment.
The larger point is that manufacturers are starting to realize that today’s junior golfer is tomorrow’s loyal customer. As a result, companies are expanding their offerings, and to some degree, even driving innovation in a category that has too often been treated as an afterthought.
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