The development of grass roots sports is essential for overall growth. Golf in Asia and its popularity in recent years has been incredible, however it is important to note that this expansion has occurred mid stream with most golfers participating either being from social upper class ( 50 years and above) or introduced to the game as way of lifestyle and business association ( 35 years and above).
In Japan for example the percentage of children playing/participating in golf is frightening with less than 1% (and declining) of the total golf population. This is opposed to the USA, Australia, Canada and parts of Europe where the numbers range from 6-8.5% (and growing). The issue is serious and many industries sources and leaders acknowledge this problem, however have really failed to address a major issue that has been in Japanese Golf for over 20 years.
There are positive signs however that ensure something will develop and one of these is the U.S Kids Golf program. New to Japan, U.S Kids Golf has very quickly become a market leader with its specific product line for kids as well organized Junior events that make the game accessible, enjoyable and all the time fun.
Craig Craven is responsible for developing U.S Kids Golf here in Japan and we asked him a couple of questions about the company and plans for 2006.
What is U.S Kids Golf?
U.S. Kids Golf is about bringing the sport of golf to kids. Whether it is our clubs, shoes, wear, and accessories, or our tournaments everything is designed just for kids.
When did U.S Kids start?
The company was started in January 1997 by Mr. Dan Van Horn after his own kid's enthusiasm for golf quickly faded. He found that cutoff clubs were too heavy and hard for kids to use so he designed a club 25% lighter than adult ones. The company has since branched to include shoes, gloves, wear, and pull carts; all designed around kids unique needs.
How is Golf here in Japan for kids?
Getting kids on a course is difficult and there is little structure for them. Golf numbers overall have decreased and golf courses need to encourage new players into the game, junior golfers are a key part of the future. It initially was slow but we have had excellent support from venues to date like Tama Hills, Kasagi, Windsor Park and others to come in 2006. The future is very encouraging and we are very happy to be a supporter of the games development.
You have events planned for 2006 that are very popular, tell us about them.
USKG Tournaments are structured events designed to bring families to the course and give kids opportunity to enjoy the sport at a real golf course. Parents become caddies and tees are adjusted to kid's age and gender. Family members and friends often form the gallery. At a USKG Tournament every kid has a chance to par a hole and be a star.
When are your next events in Kansai and Kanto areas?
We have events scheduled in Osaka on March 27, Kyoto on March 30-31, Windsor Park, Ibaragi April 3 and Saitama on April 4.
Paul Jones is based in Tokyo and is currently both principal and managing partner for several projects in the development of the game here in Japan and Asia. Paul has held roles in all facets of the sport and hospitality industry including operations, assett acquisitions, assett management, PR and postioning, branding, retail and education.