NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
U.S. Kids Golf
Dan Van Horn, President and Founder
U.S. Kids Golf, LLC is the world’s leading provider of youth golf equipment and also coordinates more than 1,000 junior tournaments every year around the United States. The company was started in 1996 when founder Dan Van Horn recognized a need within the game while trying to get his kids, then 5 and 8, to play golf.
“They were enthusiastic at first, but their interest quickly dropped. They weren’t having fun,” says Van Horn, a former golf professional and engineer. “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.”
In response, Van Horn founded U.S. Kids Golf and began developing ultra-light clubs that weighed 25% less than adult and most junior clubs. Today, U.S. Kids Golf offers nine sizes and three models of clubs, all with differing weights, and fits players by height instead of age. The company also designs hats, shirts, gloves, balls, and other golf-related accessories specifically for young players.
“We are thankful for our role in giving kids the lifelong game of golf,” U.S. Kids Golf says on its website.
In 2000, U.S. Kids Golf started a non-profit foundation, recognizing that providing the proper equipment had to be coupled with improved programs, coaching, and the opportunity for competition, as in other organized sports.
The U.S. Kids Golf Foundation now consists of two main divisions: The Tournament Players Association (TPA) and the Coaches Institute (CI).
The Tournament Players Association provides a venue for kids to compete on courses scaled to their appropriate ages and within a family-centric environment. (Parents are encouraged to caddy for their players). More than 1,300 U.S. Kids Golf tournaments take place annually in 70+ markets at the local, state, and regional levels. Additionally, each summer the best youth players in the world attend the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, bringing over 1,500 players representing 54 nations. In 2013, a popular documentary, The Short Game, was released, highlighting this largest youth golf tournament in the world.
The Coaches Institute serves as a hub of knowledge and resources for its more than 1,300 Certified Coaches located around the world. The Institute makes it easier for members to learn best practices, share ideas, and implement new programs to grow the game among young players. These coaches are connected to interested families via the Find a Coach Directory on the U.S. Kids Golf website. The Institute also recognizes the top youth coaches with their Top 50 Kids Coaches award each year.
The idea behind U.S. Kids Golf equipment is to encourage better swings, more fun, and, ideally, a lifelong enjoyment of the game. The lighter clubs the company produces help players develop faster clubhead speeds, with their shaft flexibility built for specific club lengths and grips made to fit a young golfer’s hands.
U.S. Kids Golf recognized a niche in the industry and realized that to help grow the game its equipment needed to be tied with good coaching and kid-friendly competition.
A recent noteworthy initiative by the organization is its Longleaf Tee System, a joint undertaking with the American Society of Golf Course Architects, which helps properly scale golf courses for players based on their driver distance. To test the effectiveness and practicality of this initiative, the Foundation purchased a golf facility in Southern Pines, North Carolina. There, at Longleaf Golf & Family Club, the vision for a championship golf course in a family-friendly setting is constantly and rigorously tested so that this “living laboratory” develops ideas and programs that promote more engagement and enjoyment among golfers of all ages. The implementation of the Longleaf Tee System and the establishment of the first-ever U.S. Kids Golf Academy are both products born from the purchase of Longleaf.