With Lederach Golf Club, kids get their own box (and we're not talkin' sand)

By Darryl Berger, Contributor

HARLEYSVILLE, Penn. - Kelly Blake Moran is building a golf course for kids. Well, it's not just for kids; grown-ups can play too. The Reading-based golf course architect has designed a municipal layout in suburban Philadelphia that features the standard set of adult tees, but will also include a set of tees for youngsters 7 to 11 years old. Lederach Golf Club, due to open in the summer of '05, will become the first course in Eastern Pennsylvania to feature "kids tees."

"To me it's kind of a no-brainer," says Moran. "We haven't done a very good job of creating an environment where kids feel they are a part of the golfing experience. They might go out with Mom or Dad and hit from the front tees, which play too long. They might drop a ball in the fairway 125 yards out and hit in, but that's not really making them a part of the actual experience either."

Many of us took our first hacks at a pitch-and-putt or par-3 course, but Moran says that's not good enough.

"Those courses are not what young players see on TV. They want an actual, real-to-life golf experience and that should be the goal."

Moran's junior tees at Lederach will play 2,800 yards and will be listed on the scorecard. "Too often youngsters are put into situations on the course where they either don't feel comfortable, or are not involved in real game situations. They get frustrated, their parents get frustrated and youngsters can get turned off to golf before they get turned on to it," Moran says in his native Texas drawl.

The course design will also lend itself to the novice golfer. Lederach will not have forced carries, the greens will offer the option of run-ups and there won't be many water hazards. But the architect is quick to point out that this is not a course built specifically for kids.

"This is going to be a challenging layout for good golfers," he says. "The difference is that kids will have a special place from which to play and the design should accommodate less accomplished players."

A decade ago, when it looked as if everyone and his uncle was going to have a life-long love affair with golf, growing the game seemed effortless. Now the future of the game is less certain. Moran feels that easing kids into the game is a step in the right direction.

"You learn the game early and you're more likely to learn the game right," he says. "You learn etiquette and how to play ready golf so that not only is the game more enjoyable for you, but the other golfers on the course."

Moran wanted to include kids' tees in earlier projects, but ran into resistance, "This time the folks in Lower Salford Township realized this is the essence of municipal golf, and the impact on the budget is inconsequential."

Moran has built golf courses from New Jersey to Florida, in Mexico and South America. But he's excited about Lederach because he thinks he's done something special.

"I'd like to see this become commonplace because I think it is a great way for kids to get into the game. It encourages families to golf together. It's a really great up side.

"I expect that most of the kids' play will be in the evening or off-peak times," Moran offers, "but there might be opportunities for a kid's tournament or league play. As they get older and better, the kids will move to the forward tees and keep moving back to the tees where they find the appropriate challenge for their current skill level."

Moran's own kids, 7 and 10, have been hitting golf balls since they could grip a club. "Lederach would be perfect for them. I just wish we lived a little closer," he says.

Kelly Blake Moran is getting ready to deliver a great present to thousands of kids he'll never meet when Lederach G.C. opens in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, next summer. For more on Kelly Blake Moran, visit www.kellyblakemoran.com.

Darryl Berger, Contributor

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