U.S. Kids Golf Foundation: Fostering a Family Game
A spotlight on youth golf and how you can get involved
What is golf? Within that simple question lies the essential challenge before the golf industry.
Many, in fact most, people define golf by a score, a swing or a series of difficult skills to master. Those things are important, but is that really how the game should be defined? In the same vein, a “good” golf course for the industry generally means a championship course, a layout most amateurs would find very difficult. Maybe that needs some rethinking as well.
Golf should be heralded as a game of fun. It is an opportunity to laugh, celebrate, smile and bond with one’s friends and families. It’s a beautiful setting, it’s a fantastic shot, it’s a travel destination and it’s above all, an experience to share together.
The challenge clubs face today in member and player retention and growth has been difficult to overcome. But there is a thriving, industry-leading organization that has developed a solution.
That organization is U.S. Kids Golf. For nearly 20 years, it has been leading a revolution in how to engage youth and families to grow the game. This is their story.
A Foundation Built on Quality, Ingenuity and Trust
Most people know U.S. Kids Golf as the world’s leading provider of youth golf equipment. Their innovation in this area was a success. With the introduction of U.S. Kids Golf clubs, parents and coaches alike saw vast improvements in both youth golf performance and participation.
As the equipment company grew, it became clear that providing the right equipment was only the beginning of the U.S. Kids Golf youth revolution. The next opportunity was to scale the game with youth in mind and create a standard for education and training. Founder and president of U.S. Kids Golf, Dan Van Horn remarks, “Better fit equipment needed to be coupled with improved programs, coaching, and opportunity for competition, like other organized sports. That’s why we started the Foundation in 2004.”
The U.S. Kids Golf Foundation has become a significant force in growing the game and giving the golf industry a model to make that growth meaningful and sustainable. Its mission is focused on four basic principles that have become their recipe for success as a business and for the game we all love.
1. Families Who Play Together, Stay Together.
The foundation urges the whole family to get involved. “The vision of families spending time together outdoors and playing golf is our true passion,” said Van Horn. Perhaps the easiest way to promote family play is by scaling a golf course—to make the framework of each hole more approachable—so that pars, birdies and eagles are more attainable for every member of the family. U.S. Kids Golf introduced the Family Tee Area to do just that. Since its introduction, over 1,500 courses have adopted family tees. And the numbers continue to grow.
2. Tailored Coaching and Curriculum for Beginning Golfers.
There is no better way to enrich the lives of youth players than with a positive mentor and coach. In 2011, U.S. Kids Golf Foundation launched its Certified Coaching Program as a platform for golf professionals to better develop their skills in training beginning golfers ages 12 and under. If you haven’t yet, consider enlisting your course’s pros in the coaching program; or better yet, enroll yourself.
U.S. Kids Golf has also created kid-friendly curriculum called The Learning Program. “This three-level merit program serves as a roadmap for kids and their parents to master the game of golf with the help of their coach,” Van Horn notes. “Once a level is completed, kids can continue onto the next until all three are completed and they have ‘mastered’ the learning program.”
3. Work Hard, Play Hard.
As we all know, the game of golf requires intense commitment, work ethic, stamina and athleticism. All those things go better with a little fun and love added in. Friendly competition proves to kids that if they work hard at the sport, they will succeed. With that in mind, U.S. Kids Golf Foundation has introduced tournaments across the country to help kids excel at the game and have fun while they’re at it.
U.S. Kids Golf annually hosts close to 1000 local, state, regional and international tournaments that all lead to the World Championship hosted at Pinehurst each August. Over 2,100 players from around the world play for more than 6,000 spectators. When asked about the Road to Pinehurst, Van Horn said, “Tournaments can get very competitive but we strive to make them full of fun for the whole family. Besides the folks on the sideline rooting for their favorite player, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles can caddy too. It becomes a social event woven into the competition.”
4. Longleaf Golf and Family Club: A Living Lab for U.S. Kids Golf
In 2015, U.S. Kids Golf purchased Longleaf Golf & Family Club located in Southern Pines, North Carolina, with the sole purpose of making the club the most family-centric golf facility in the world. That mission is evident in membership packages, public play and other activities at the club. The hope is for Longleaf to become a model to clubs around the world who seek to grow revenue and membership by focusing on the golf course as a hub of family activity.
Longleaf Golf & Family Club will serve as the host for the first ever U.S. Kid’s Golf Academy. This unique academy will feature programs and an atmosphere designed to teach all levels of golfers in a programmatic and engaging way. The academy will also be a valuable resource to the world’s best golf coaches–creating programs and best practices that will contribute to continuously growing interest in the game.
Many capital improvements have been made to Longleaf since U.S. Kids Golf took over operations including a new 10,000 square-foot practice putting green, a state-of-the-art practice facility and construction of seven different tee locations on every hole to complement skill levels. In April, a six-hole short course, called “Bottlebrush” will be built within the layout at Longleaf to complete the learning, practice and teaching components at the Club.
All of the renovations and investment at Longleaf Golf & Family Club, and by extension, the development of the U.S. Kids Golf Academy, are centered around the original mission of US Kids Golf. By making personal interactions and opportunities central to the game, golf can keep its timeless allure while being redefined as a fun, family experience. And when that happens, everyone can enjoy winning at this great sport.
From the beginning, BrightView Golf Maintenance has been US Kids’ maintenance partner at Longleaf. We are proud to have brought to the club our world class agronomic and operating expertise, deep resources, industry relationships and most importantly, our passion to help make Longleaf the model for youth and family golf that US Kids envisions.
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You set the standard, we make it happen. We’re laser-focused on continuously refining the science, technology, and operations of golf course maintenance so we can bring our clients a competitive advantage and a course their players are proud of.