Keystone Science School launches KSS Golf Club with instruction on chipping, putting and physics | SummitDaily.com

Keystone Science School launches KSS Golf Club with instruction on chipping, putting and physics

Hard to believe for an elusive mountain gorilla, but HPG has never made a birdie or played a round of golf, and until a few days ago, he'd never even brought his golf bag onto a fairway.

"Actually, that was the first time I've ever swung a golf club on a golf course," said HPG (aka Hot Pink Gorilla), the furry mascot for Keystone Science School, a local day and overnight science camp nestled between holes on the far edge of The River Course at Keystone Golf Club. HPG scrambled onto the course long enough to take a drive down the fairway, and then scrambled off in time to avoid being spotted by a threesome of golfers hot on his pink heels. HPG didn't even have a putter to finish his impromptu hole, but of course HPG's bag is missing key clubs — he's a gorilla after all.

This summer, from June 26-30, HPG and counselors at Keystone Science School introduce middle school-aged campers to the sweet science of golf during the camp's inaugural KSS Golf Club. It's a brand-new program designed to give campers a taste of all things golf, from instruction with PGA pros at Keystone Golf Club to in-depth sessions with counselors discussing the physics and environmental impact of the elegant game.

"I absolutely love golf and think if we can get more kids involved at a younger age they might play for the rest of their lives," said Seth Oglesby, camp director for Keystone Science School and an avid golfer (duh). "Our mission at camp is to get kids in the outdoors, and when you really think about it, there's science wrapped up in everything … People who run golf courses are doing hard work to be sustainable and take care of the natural environment, especially up here."

The game

KSS Golf Camp is operated like any other day camp at the school. Campers arrive at 8 a.m., spend time outside, get treated to mid-day lunch, and then head back into nature until pick-up time at 5 p.m.

Recommended Stories For You

But what happens between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. makes the difference. The golf camp is one of several new camps under the school's Nova Day Camp umbrella, which features programs made for older students with a knack for specialized activities like rock climbing, watersports and ranching. The Wild West Ranch Camp, which introduces students to the logistics and environmental impacts of ranching, launched in 2014 and now runs two sessions, from June 19-23 and July 31 to Aug. 4.

"When you look at kids these days, they're interested in specialized programs and that gives us the way to think creatively about our program," Oglesby said. "With everything we do we can add that element of science and nature."

That educational mission — science, nature and fun, all rolled into one — sets KSS Golf Club apart from similar programs like PGA Junior Golf. Each day of golf camp begins with three to four hours on the links with PGA pros, who will go over the basics of putting, chipping, pitching and driving with campers. The camp is limited to 13 kids, which means everyone gets four-on-one instruction during the week. It also means they'll get plenty of time on the links when the week ends with up to nine holes of golf. It's made for golfers of any skill level, from absolute beginners to burgeoning pros, and all equipment is provided.

"Come if you've never played or come if you've played for years," Oglesby said. "I want this to be geared for everybody … When you think about it, there really aren't many youth golf programs around the county. I'm just hoping this will catch on."

The unseen side of the game

After a morning on the links, campers head back to the school for an afternoon with counselors. There, they'll learn about the unseen side of golf: physics, sustainability and environmental impact.

"I feel like this will help kids think critically about their technique, how they hit the ball, how they're strategic with what they're doing on a course," Oglesby said. "It's thinking about what they want critically, and then making it happen."

If understanding physics helps campers improve their handicap, Oglesby hopes that understanding course maintenance will help them appreciate how courses fit into the natural environment — for both good and bad.

"Golf course have a bad reputation for being harmful to the environment, so we want kids to think critically about the negative and positive impacts," said Malissa Nathrop, a day camp counselor who's teaching golf campers. "We'll look at water management, animal habitat, filtration systems — how golf courses take care of fertilizer and other human dimensions of recreation."

Campers have a prime example of modern course management in their backyard. Brett Lockard, superintendent for Keystone Golf Club, says his crew uses a sophisticated irrigation system to conserve water, while yearly soil tests help determine the right nutrients and fertilizers for daily use. Keystone also participates in Audubon International's Cooperative Sanctuary Program, which certifies golf courses that meet strict standards for water conservation, wildlife and habitat management, and environmental planning.

"It really isn't too difficult to balance (maintenance and environmental stewardship)," Lockard said. "The golf industry as a whole has been focused on this balance since the late 1980s. Most modern golf courses have been designed with buffer strips along waterways, large acreages of native and low-maintenance vegetation areas, efficient irrigation systems, and improved grass varieties that require less inputs."

For Oglesby, the camp is more than chipping and putting and fertilizing. It's about a lifelong appreciation of all things golf.

"Maybe these kids have never had a chance to be on a golf course," he said, almost alluding to the HPG. "And who knows — this could be how they fall in love with it and become the next Phil Mickelson."

2017 KSS Golf Club

What: The inaugural week for a golf-specific day camp at Keystone Science School, including daily golf instruction, the science of golf, the environmental impact of local courses and a round at the end of the week

When: June 26-30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Keystone Science School, 1053 Soda Ridge Road in Keystone

Cost: $500 per child

KSS Golf Club is part of the Nova Day Camp program and tailored for kids ages 11-13 (grades 6-8). All golf equipment is included in the registration fee, along with PGA pro instruction, course access, lunch and the final round at Keystone Golf Club. Participants need to bring close-toed shoes, sunscreen and appropriate clothing for changing weather conditions. To sign up for the KSS Golf Club or learn more about Keystone Science School, see the “Nova Day Camp” tab at KeystoneScienceSchool.org.