Tour pro Duffy Waldorf loves Hawaiian shirts, and for years he got the Don Ho treatment: "Ho ho ho, here comes Duffy!" But now the cool, roomy floral shirt is all the rage. On some shirts the leaves and hibiscus flowers are printed on the fabric; on some they're woven in; and on others, like the Paradise by Axis shirt, the flora are embroidered on silk. These new-wave Hawaiians range from Holiday Inn to Waldorf-Astoria prices, their only common threads being light weight, comfort and a style that'll make you stand out in any foursome.
The Shopping Guy: Pixie Sticks
The days of starting kids with sawed-off hand-me-downs are over. Today's young golfers demand more, and club manufacturers are delivering. Stainless-steel drivers, composite shafts and cavity-back irons combine to help youngsters get the ball in the air. Add an insert putter and a sleek carry bag, and you've got a great little package. We took our tester, nine-year-old Cal, to the range at Chelsea Piers in New York City to hit some balls toward New Jersey with four of the latest junior offerings.
U.S. Kids Golf Ultralight $139.99; 888-387-5437; uskidsgolf.com
SPECS: Carry Bag Starter Set includes: twenty-five-degree fairway driver, seven-iron, wedge, putter and dual-strap carry bag; composite shafts; right- or left-hand. For players fifty-two to sixty inches tall.
COMMENTS: U.S. Kids Golf originated the junior-clubs phenomenon. It's no surprise then that this set was a performer with our young tester (he liked the noodlelike shaft and the star on the face of each club). The Green set fits nine- to eleven-year-olds, but U.S. Kids offers a total of five sets for varying heights, ages and skill levels. Each, says founder Dan Van Horn, can last up to three years before a child grows into the next set.
VERDICT: The best clubs by price and performance, although the carry bag is a bit flimsy.
Nike Golf Birdie Blue $265; 800-922-6453; nikegolf.com
SPECS: Set includes: driver, midiron, wedge, mallet putter and single-strap carry bag; graphite shaft; right-hand only. For players fifty-one to fifty-eight inches tall.
COMMENTS: These clubs were "inspired" by the most famous young golfer of all time, Tiger Woods. Given his celebrity appeal and the clubs' beautiful, solid design, Nike has an instant winner. Our tester loved the Nike look and hit the clubs (especially the driver) on a high trajectory. The Birdie Blue (pictured) sits in the middle of three Nike sets: Par Red (for youngsters less than fifty inches tall) and Eagle Silver (fifty-nine to sixty-six inches).
VERDICT: Spendy, but worth it. The mallet-style putter is a standout.
TaylorMade 320K For Kids (K-40) $250; 800-888-2582; taylormadegolf.com
SPECS: Set includes: metalwood, two midirons, wedge, putter and single-strap carry bag; TM Lite graphite shaft; right-hand only. For players forty-five to sixty-three inches tall.
COMMENTS: The TaylorMade 320K clubs feature the same design principles that go into the 300 Series for adults. The result, for our tester, was a lower trajectory, albeit straight, that didn't travel as far. A mirrorlike finish on the sole of the driver did catch his attention: "I can see myself on the bottom!" TaylorMade's Growth Guarantee program promises to replace your child's outgrown set for only $100 (320K clubs come for children aged three to fourteen).
VERDICT: Solid contact from TaylorMade with appealing replacement program.
La Jolla Club Junior Yellow $189; 800-468-7700; lajollaclub.com
SPECS: Super Flex Carry Bag set includes: metalwood, two midirons, wedge, putter and bag; Super Flex graphite shafts; right- or left-hand. For players who measure twenty-two to twenty-six inches knuckle to ground.
COMMENTS: La Jolla Club junior sets are the most customized on the market. The closed-fist knuckle-to-ground measurement system ensures a "perfect fit." And each club features a tacky Winn grip (which felt "weird" to our tester) and shafts designed to match specific swing speeds. The company also produces the number-one set for very small kids, Snoopy clubs (designed for two- to six-year-olds), which have already recorded two holes in one.
VERDICT: Customization is a big plus, but do you know your child's swing speed?