U.S. Kids Golf, LLC was started in 1996 as a solution to the problem its founder, Dan Van Horn, experienced when trying to get his children, ages 5 and 8, into golf. “They were enthusiastic at first, but their interest quickly dropped. They weren't having fun," Van Horn recalls. At the time, I didn't realize that cutoffs and junior clubs were so heavy; they were not only hurting my kids' swings, but also their desire to play."
That's when the former golf professional and engineer began developing Ultralight kids clubs, which were designed to be 25% lighter than adult and most junior clubs, and he formed the company, U.S. Kids Golf. Since then, parents and pros around the world have seen the incredible difference that lightweight and correctly fit clubs have made in their young player's swing and enthusiasm for the game. Today, the company is the world’s leading provider of equipment.
EQUIPMENT AND PRODUCTS
U.S. Kids Golf offers nine sizes and three models of clubs, and players are fit by height instead of age. Hats, shirts, gloves, balls, and other golf-related accessories are also designed specifically for young players.
Learning a good grip is most important in developing a smooth, natural swing. Add to this an oversized but extremely lightweight head with a flexible shaft, and you have the perfect club to swing at home or on the range. We call it the Yard Club. The specially molded training grip helps the young player learn the perfect hand position so that their swing can develop naturally. The club comes with three limited-flight yard balls for use at home, but it can be used with regular golf balls as well. The Yard Club is new for 2015 and is a great way to get off to the right start.
Since 1997, Ultralight has been the industry standard for beginners’ youth golf equipment. While other manufacturers offer a few sizes with a wide range of ages, U.S. Kids Golf offers nine sizes of Ultralight clubs, with each specially designed for players within a height range of just three inches. Players develop faster club head speeds because these are up to 30 percent lighter than adult clubs. Shaft flexes are built for the specific club lengths, and grips are made to fit the players' hands. The result of our engineering is a line of equipment that will encourage better swings, more fun, and hopefully, a lifetime enjoying golf.
When a young golfer is no longer a beginner and needs something better, Tour Series is our answer. Since its introduction in 2007, Tour Series quickly became the number one choice of competitive players, ages 12 and under, at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. Why, you might ask? Performance. The ball goes farther with more accuracy because the heads are 5% heavier than those in the Ultralight system, and the shafts are stiffer. Tour Series quality is the same as many adult leading brands. Each size is designed and manufactured to provide a perfect fit by customizing every aspect of each club, including length, driver loft and volume, club head weight, shaft weight, frequency, flex with a low kick point, grip size, and lie angle. Tour Series equipment helps young golfers play their best – that’s why the best players play Tour Series.
U.S. KIDS GOLF FOUNDATION
To help fulfill the U.S. Kids mission, in the year 2000, two new and necessary initiatives began: Tournaments and Play & Learn. With the immediate success of the first World Championship, held in Jekyll Island, GA, a separate non-profit corporation was formed in 2001, the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, and today continues its operations as a recognized 501(c)(3) public charity.
Quite often, after purchasing equipment, parents need more information and guidance to bring their kids into the game. At the first World Championship, the concept of playing shorter “Forward Tees” was introduced with a rousing success. Kids found more joy by playing from a location where pars, birdies, and even eagles were attainable at an early age. This concept evolved and became known as the U.S. Kids Golf Family Tee program and is now partnered with the PGA of America. Over 1500 courses in the United States have established Forward Tee locations in order to provide kids and families a suitable way to play the same course together. At the same time the Forward Tee program was introduced, a kid-friendly curriculum booklet with three levels and an included merit pin awards program began. This simplifying curriculum helps provide the young player and their parents a road map for learning the game with the help of their coach. Once kids have completed all three levels, they have “mastered” the learning program.
In 2004, to help parents find kid-friendly coaches, the U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 award was conceived. Yearly at the PGA of America show, coaches are recognized for their outstanding ability to teach the game to kids. Those receiving the award three times become Master Kids Coaches. So far, over 110 Master Kids Coaches have been recognized, and many more Top 50 coaches have been selected one or more times.
In 2011, U.S. Kids Golf began offering a continuing education program to help golf professionals share and develop best practices. A Certification program was born, and over 2000 PGA and LPGA professionals have attended training. A Certified Coach is a great choice to help your young player learn and enjoy the game.
Longleaf Golf & Country Club, Southern Pines, NC.
In 2015, the Foundation took its mission to heart and purchased the Longleaf Golf & Country Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina. “We are treating this as a living laboratory for growing kids and family golf in a club environment,” said U.S. Kids Golf President, Dan Van Horn. “Our goal is to implement best practices in a real-life situation.” A state of the art U.S. Kids Golf Academy is planned and tee locations of 3200, 3800, and 4400 yards will be added for family play. To reflect the new direction, the name was changed to Longleaf Golf & Family Club.
Tournaments – Tournament Players Association (TPA)
All roads lead to Pinehurst with our pinnacle World Championship held each year in late July. But it all began back in 2000 at Jekyll Island, GA, with shorter tees based on age and gender, allowing us to “scale the course.” Parent caddies are not only permitted, but encouraged - a concept that is transforming youth tournament golf.
Positive Coaching Alliance Partnership
To help parents in the process of making youth sports in general, and golf specifically, a positive experience for their children, in 2009, U.S. Kids Golf began a partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance. This program has been instrumental in helping players, coaches, and parents realize that all sports are opportunities to learn how to become a winner on the field and in life.
Today, with more than 900 tournaments organized yearly in 50+ markets, players, ages 5 to 14, learn to compete in their local community and then advance to State, Regional, and World Championships. Local Tours are designed for the beginning competitive golfer, as each event provides a fun environment where kids can develop their skills. Two-day events like our State invitational tournaments and Regional Championships are ranked by Junior Golf Scoreboard and are the next step for competitive junior golfers. At each level, players may earn Green, Orange, or Blue Status in order to gain entry into more challenging events.
In 2008, the European Championship was started in East Lothian, Scotland, where each year over 600 participants gather from 40 countries. Currently there are eight International Local Tours and two regional events: The British Kids Championship and the Venice Open. Additional affiliated events using U.S. Kids Golf specifications and guidance are conducted each year throughout the world.
The Short Game – a Netflix original full length documentary
In 2011, the TPA was approached about allowing access to an independent film company desiring to tell the story of the World Championship. The film focused on eight players, boys and girls ages 7 & 8, as they prepared to play in the 2012 World Championship at Pinehurst. The award-winning film is a great inspiration for young athletes, regardless of their sport, and is highly recommended by film critics and audiences. It is available on Netflix or can be purchased on DVD.
U.S. Kids Golf was started as a family business desiring to stay true to the mission and purpose of bringing kids into the game. Because providing the right equipment needed to be coupled with improved programs, coaching, and opportunity for competition, like other organized sports, the Foundation was started.
The vision of families spending time together outdoors and playing golf is our true passion, and many people throughout the golf industry have joined us in our efforts. We are thankful for our role in giving kids the lifelong game of golf.
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