In January, TaylorMade-adidas Golf CEO Mark King announced a new initiative between the PGA of America and TaylorMade called Hack Golf that’s aimed at making the game more fun as it evolves in the 21st Century. Clearly a play on words, it bills itself as “an open-innovation initiative aimed at crowdsourcing the future of the game.”
Translation: It doesn’t matter if you’re a golfer or not. Throw out an idea and we’ll see if it sticks.
Hack Golf insists it is not trying to fundamentally CHANGE golf as it is today. It’s about coming up with an easier, faster, more fun alternative to attract new people to the game. For the avid golfer, a lot of these initiatives are shocking. Golfers are taught at a young age to play 18 holes, know the (complex) rules and count every stroke until the ball reaches a bottom of a 4.25-inch cup. Truthfully, that’s not necessarily how the game is typically played. Out of bounds balls are not properly re-teed. Clubs are grounded in hazards. Mulligans, breakfast balls and gimmes are more the norm than not.
These “rules” are not written, but are accepted. Hack Golf is counting on core golfers keeping an open mind. Hack Golf’s first concept is the introduction of a 15-inch cup tournament. Held for the first time at Pauma Valley Country Club in Southern California, typical golf rules still prevailed with the exception that the cup was 3.5 times its normal size. The tournament was a huge success according to King. Rounds took 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete on average and some golfers showed a 10-stroke improvement with plenty of “hero” shots: One woman chipped in seven times, another man shot a gross 58.
To introduce the big cup concept to the media, Hack Golf hosted its own 9-hole, 15-inch cup event at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., with TaylorMade staff players Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia the day after the conclusion of the Masters. You may think anything from 50 yards and in would be jarred by Garcia, who has 24 worldwide professional wins and by Rose, the reigning U.S. Open champ. Results, however, were a little surprising. Rose shot 3-under, while Garcia bested him by posting 6-under. There were plenty of chip-ins and long putts made, but no hole-in-one or slam dunk from the fairway. The takeaway? With a big cup, golf is more fun but it is still hard.
Over the next few weeks, 20 more courses will join in on the 15-inch cup concept, with another 80 are expected to receive the custom 15-inch cup kit from PAR AIDE by the end of May. Format participation will include weekend tournaments and fundraisers, but some courses will have both a regulation hole and 15-inch hole on each green at all times as long as green square footage will allow. In the next month, the Hack Golf campaign plans to announce one or two more experiments to execute in the future.
Only time will tell what, if any, of these experiments will work, but King and Hack Golf have dedicated five years to funding this concept, so no doubt there are more developments to come.