For Nearly 30 Years, U.S. Kids Golf Has Been at the Forefront of Youth Golf
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
A young golfer goes through the U.S. Kids Golf fitting process.
I have long felt a connection to U.S. Kids Golf. Not simply because we share a passion for helping youth discover the game, but more so because their journey and mine both started in 1996. For the past 26 years, U.S. Kids Golf has been at the forefront of the youth golf space.
U.S. Kids Golf was founded by Dan Van Horn, an engineer and entrepreneur who had learned the game from his parents and wanted to pass the lifelong game of golf along to his children. He was coaching youth baseball at the time and his boys were having fun learning and playing the game. Dan noticed that everything in baseball was modified to fit the abilities of the young athletes — lightweight/shorter bats, smaller field, shorter base paths, t-ball or coach pitch, etc. That is the norm for not just baseball but many of the other sports, such as soccer, that capture the imagination of kids very early in life.
At the golf course, Dan’s children were provided cut down clubs and told to head to the forward most tees. It was obvious at the start: this experience was completely different than that with baseball. At the time Dan started to introduce his kids to the game, there was no ability for a child to make a proper golf swing due to the weight of the clubs and stiffness of the shafts. In addition, the golf course was way too long, and the kids were frustrated and not having fun in their attempt to play.
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As an entrepreneur, Dan researched what was available in the market for juniors in three broad areas: equipment, instruction, and competition, and found each area to be very lacking. Recognizing this and feeling a personal calling to serve young golfers and their families worldwide, U.S. Kids was founded with a very specific mission: “To help kids have fun learning the lifelong game of golf and encourage family interaction that builds lasting memories.”
I have had the privilege and opportunity to get to know many of the folks at U.S. Kids Golf over the past 15 years and John Bryan is one of those individuals. I recently caught up John Bryan to talk about all things youth golf…
“I was blessed to be asked to edit the Gateway PGA Section’s magazine back in the ‘80s and became its Executive Director shortly thereafter before assuming the same role with the Georgia PGA Section. I came to U.S. Kids Golf in 2004 and have led our Foundation’s Coaches Institute since its inception in 2012. Since that time, nearly 7000 coaches from over 70 nations have participated in our training programs.”
What do parents get wrong as it pertains to youth golf equipment?
Parents assuming “they’ll grow into these” is a typical error made in purchasing golf clubs. Golf clubs, or any other sporting equipment, simply cannot be treated the same as apparel, which can be “grown into.” A parent would not have their 6-year-old try to learn to hit a baseball swinging a major league baseball players bat or use a 16-pound bowling ball.
The phrase we wish parents to learn and coaches to preach is, “Kids should grow out of their clubs and not into them.” Purchasing clubs that are specially engineered with the appropriate length, weight, loft and other components allows young players to develop a swing that is fundamentally sound and one that can maximize speed and power for a lifetime.
What are the negative effects improper golf equipment can have on a young golfer's development?
“Golf swings become ingrained at a very young age. Rarely do we see clubs that are too light, too short or too flexible, so almost all improper fitting is when clubs are too long, too heavy and too stiff. This results in what we call a heavy/slow swing as the player has to lift the club and develops poor sequencing. And, with speed windows occurring early in a child’s development, once these are missed it’s almost impossible to overcome later.”
What are the most important factors to consider when choosing golf equipment for your child?
“It is important to choose clubs that will serve the player at their particular height and skill level. Clubs should be lightweight and short enough to allow the player to swing freely and fast in order to develop proper swing sequencing and habits that will result in greater success and keep kids coming back.”
What is the U.S. Kids Golf process for fitting juniors?
To properly fit a young golfer, the process is simple:
- First, determine the player’s height. Our fitting is based off of what is called “The 2/3 solution” founded on research of the average driver length relative to the players’ height of the world’s best players on the PGA and LPGA Tours.
- Once height is known, determining the best product to serve the player is based on the player’s ability and club head speed
- For someone who has never played we would recommend the Yard Club with an oversized, very lightweight head, lots of loft, and a molded grip to help the player put their hands on the club properly.
- For a player that has moved beyond the Yard Club, the next step would be to determine club head speed in order to choose between Ultralight, TOUR SERIES and epTOUR equipment, ideally using dynamic fitting to judge ball flight and other factors.
- Ultralight is best for the majority of players while those who are able to achieve higher club head speeds due to the development of their golf swing or transferrable athletic ability, will be better served with TOUR SERIES or epTOUR which are somewhat heavier and stiffer.
Be sure to connect with a PGA Coach in your area if you need help finding the perfect gear for your youth golfer.
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