With the help of TrackMan, U.S Kids Golf – the worldwide market leader in junior golf equipment – has taken junior golf equipment to an unprecedented level. Data taken from thousands of individual swings of the top young players in the world was studied to provide critical insights into what kind of golf equipment young talents need to hit it straighter, more solid and farther. The research project culminated in the creation of their new U.S. Kids Golf Tour Series 3 club line.
REASEARCHING WHAT KIDS REALLY NEED
Josh Kinchen, former Marketing Manager for golf clubs at Bridgestone Golf, was hired by U.S. Kids Golf with one goal in mind: Study kids’ golf swings and help produce a line of clubs that catered to the unique swings and needs of young players. One of Kinchen’s first acts was to add a TrackMan to the R&D Department.
For over a year, he travelled across the country to tournaments organized by the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation to collect more than 1,500 unique driver swings from the best junior golfers in the world. Kinchen’s learnings were many, with exciting new discoveries and many important confirmations. Notably, he discovered that kids need club characteristics that are decisively different from what adults need. One example, for adult swings, Distance or ‘Ball Carry’ performance is generally maximized with high launch, low spin characteristics, whereas kids need high launch, high spin characteristics due to their relatively low swing speeds of 50, 60 or 70 mph (versus 80, 90, 100+ mph for adults.)
Applying these insights to the design of their golf clubs, the U.S. Kids Golf product development team experimented with moving the club head’s center of gravity, adding some amount of loft, as well as changing the weighting and performance of the shaft. To obtain the best performance results, the team adjusted the club designs according to TrackMan data, which subsequently led to the development of the new Tour Series line.
The new TOUR Series 3 has a lightened shaft, a higher loft angle, a slightly softer tip, and a relocated GC (Geometric Center) further towards the back edge of the club in order to increase both loft and spin rate – ideal conditions for junior golfers to gain some extra distance.
JUST LIKE ON TV
Furthermore, what a research tool (TrackMan) is to Josh, is also a cool gadget with great entertainment value to the young golfers: “The kids get really excited when they see their shots being tracked, or animated, with the TrackMan shot tracer – just like they normally see on TV.”
Every year, the U.S. Kids Golf Tournament Players Association organizes the pinnacle World Championship in Pinehurst, attracting more than 1,500 golfers from over 55 countries. Despite their young age, these elite players show a good understanding and grasp of the TrackMan numbers, while the parents sometimes become Josh’s primary audience, when he starts walking through the numbers and explaining what conclusions to draw from them.
The power of TrackMan data for young talent development also finds recognition in the curriculum of the U.S. Kids Golf Coaches Institute Certified Seminars, which not only aim at showing golf professionals how to keep practice entertaining, exciting and interactive, but also keep their high-level coaches at the forefront of technology by discussing the optimal numbers for kids with relatively slow swing speeds.
MAIN MISSION: GROWING THE GAME OF GOLF
Besides running a very busy schedule of kids’ tournaments, the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation also pursues its efforts of growing the game of golf with the “2016-Longleaf-Tee-Syst-Brochure” initiative. With the American Society of Golf Course Architects, U.S. Kids turned a golf course in North Carolina – the Longleaf Golf & Family Club – into the first same league club in the world by introducing seven sets of tees. The aim is to make traditional golf courses more welcoming and family oriented. With the help of a unique fitting system, every player is allocated to a tee according to his or her average driver carry distance. Years of study, validated by TrackMan measurements of all levels of players, show that there is a direct correlation between the distance a player can hit their driver and the other clubs in the bag. A father who plays with his nine-year-old daughter, may therefore play from tee number seven, while his daughter may play from tee number 3. The fitting process is based on hitting distance, and will allow the two players to hit the same club into the green, thereby offering both players the same (fun) experience of the golf course.
Trying to roll this concept out on a national level, the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation works with a number of well-known names, such as the famous golf course designer Rees Jones. With the USGA as a supporter, a number of golf courses in the United States are currently in the process of implementing a version of the Longleaf Tee System, including Medinah Country Club (Course #2) in Illinois. As Josh points out, the main objective is to eliminate outdated norms and vernacular. “It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, a child or a senior, you should play according to your ability of how far you hit the ball off the tee. This allows you to play the golf course in a correct manner.”
ABOUT U.S. KIDS GOLF
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 cut-offs 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.
To help advance the U.S. Kids Golf mission, the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation was established in 2001 to conduct youth golf tournaments and guide the development of youth golf around the world. The foundation is comprised of two major operating groups: The Tournament Players Association (TPA) and The Coaches Institute. Since 2001, the Foundation has positively impacted over 1,000,000 youth golfers. This impact resonates far beyond golf, strengthening families and improving communities.