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A specific approach to grow golf (Part 6)

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Before I get into specifics, here’s a quick review of golf participation in the U.S.

Since 1985, we’ve lost 500,000 avid golfers, who are golfers who play golf 25+ times per year and pay 71 percent of all golf-related expenses. That doesn’t seem like a big loss until you consider that the U.S. population has increased 40 percent since 1985. Looking forward, the population forecast is flat to down so we can discount it as an influencer.

Extensive surveys indicate that golf is “too slow, no fun” and that’s the overwhelming reason people quit the game. Remember, the 4 million or so folks who have left the game since 2000 were avid golfers who averaged two rounds per month or more. They understood that the game was hard and had their own clubs. In the credit card world, they were the platinum members who walked away. The first order of business is to get a significant number of these folks playing at the avid rate again, because the industry needs their revenue.

Looking at the NGF data that I initially referenced in Part 3 of this series, I’m setting a 5-year goal to increase golf participation by 2 million avid golfers. Unrealistic, you say? May I point out that we had 10.2 million avid golfers playing in 2000, a number that dropped to 6.4 million in 2012. I’m only trying to get that number up to 8.5 million, which is still 1.5 million less than we had in 2000.

Where will those golfers come from? Surely we can’t recruit 2 million new bodies who will play 25 times a year. Agreed! It breaks down like this: Golf has 7.6 million golfers who play more than 8 times per year and another 11.3 million golfers who play once annually. They play, but not enough to be considered avid golfers. So we have a pool of 19 million who have shown enough interest to try the game, own clubs and fondly look at courses as they drive by. Our goal is convert 10 percent of these golfers to the avid category, and between us we’d settle for 5 percent and let momentum do the rest.

This is a specific approach; all the junior programs, women’s programs, whatever, are ongoing and have been for years. We’ll assume they have some positive value and welcome any successes but they are not the focus.

So there is the approach. It’s clearly defined and with a specific goal. How do we make it happen?

Decree No. 1: Czar Barney assigns the first project to The PGA of America. They have a vested interest and more importantly the organizational structure with their regional offices. The job is not a simple Tee It Forward message but one of education, where they show amateurs that some 90 percent of them are making the game too hard on themselves because of the way today’s courses are set up. We have a broad range of the type of holes they should be playing: The objective will be to show that a proper setup can be fun and still a challenge. Since programs seem to work better with names, it will be about instituting the “Challenge Tees.”

The PGA of America then goes to NBC/Golf Channel and partners with them to underwrite a multi-year series designed to help educate the amateur golfer on playing the “The Challenge Tees” so the “too slow, no fun” issue becomes a non-factor. The Czar defers to available creative minds in this endeavor.

Why the multi-year contract? Golf is played by adults who have shown to be fairly stubborn. The target market is the same demographic who have abandoned the game. They do not change easily; it takes time and a constant message.

The PGA of America would establish regional goals and bonuses accordingly. The more regions the better: divide and conquer. As some regions outperform others, the door opens for deeper analysis and adoption of successful local efforts.

I am Golf Czar, not an analyst for society and its effect on human nature. The societal issues are many and worthy. As has been written, this is a focused effort on the folks who left the game citing that it’s “too slow, no fun”

It’s been written that to combat today’s time pressures the golf industry should focus on speeding up play or cutting play to 9 holes. I don’t care if you play 7, 9 or 13 holes; if they are 430-yard “signature” par 4’s they are wrong for 90 percent of the amateurs playing.

The same goes for the 15-inch cup, non-conforming clubs balls and all the other easy, pop fixes that do not relate to the real game. The majority of golf courses are unfriendly, so rather than change their character let’s concentrate on them as a value proposition. Remember the restaurant? If the food is the issue fix that first.

Let me be clear on one point. I know the middle and front tees are already there. I also know the vast majority don’t use them relative to their personal skills. The entire program is to make distance relative, create fun holes and educate the golfing public that the fun of golf is back.

Decree No. 2 goes to the USGA. On many occasions I’ve been told, “We don’t want to move up because our handicaps will drop; then when we play back in the member guest we’ll have no chance.” Let me emphasize that I’ve heard this on dozens of occasions and it absolutely is a roadblock to playing a more distance-friendly course.

The Golf Czar, as I was named in my previous article, realizes that not all golfers bother to establish and use a handicap, however, enough do that it is incumbent upon the USGA to make the handicap system part of the solution, not part of the problem. I look forward to The USGA taking a leadership position on this issue.

USGA continued. Czar favors two sets of rules. With this statement, all the purists are granted time to vent. The other day when I played my group took a mulligan off  the first tee and gave putts inside the leather. We also rode carts and used rangefinders. When we finished, we turned in scores for a USGA handicap. Let’s not kid ourselves, the average golfer, avid to occasional, does not play strictly by the rules much less understand them.

Czar is a realist. He understands that professionals and elite amateurs have benefited from technology more than the average amateur. I don’t want to ruin the game, I want to protect it from 15-inch cups and the non-conforming clubs that will be offered by manufacturers. Yes, Czar is aware that some think the ball goes too far and the first thought is for whom? The entire subject of equipment and golf balls is worthy of a separate discussion (or two).

A Czar decree to all private clubs. “Thou must employ caddies.” I’m not interested in your problems, work it out. Those that fail to conform become public and Czar will set greens fees.

Decree No. 3: All public facilities are to set aside specific times where Juniors play free. It could be an evening or afternoon and the courses can work it out. Accompanying parents pay minimum greens fees.

Decree No. 4: Funding for course changes. The USGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and any outside corporations wanting the association need to establish a fund and keep an ongoing minimum of  $100 million. This will be available for courses to hire architects who will be making creative changes while keeping back tees for elite players. Czar will appoint a credentialed committee to approve plans (30 days or less) and the payback is at 1 percent simple interest over 20 years. Czar is so enamored of this idea he promises to keep his greedy hands off the money.

You’ll notice nothing was specifically directed to the issue of slow play. Unless golfers move to relevant tees, why bother? The Czar is borderline apoplectic about slow play and plans a future column on the subject.

More upcoming columns that will be published after this series; one specifically on cost. It’s too significant and too complex to cover fairly in a few lines here; water usage, equipment and Czar is open to reader suggestions.

There you have it; simple, doable changes with specific goals attached. When participation trends back to the glory days, I want nothing. OK, maybe my likeness on every sprinkler head in existence, but modesty precludes saying more.

Time is the next element. The various organizations must be given adequate time to respond. Czar is watching carefully.

In the interim, all this effort was exhausting for Czar; I just voted myself a significant raise and bonus, no specific justification, after all I’m officially a non-profit.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

108 Comments

108 Comments

  1. blakev

    Sep 22, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Barney thanks for an interesting series of articles – here’s my 2 cents after reading all this, for what it is worth.
    -People are not going to play on the tee box you set for them if they don’t want to. Either you dig out the long tees and put roses or face people playing the longer tees even if they don’t have the level. The new equipment that hits longer is out there. It can’t be recalled. So let’s face it : courses can’t be shortened by placing shorter tee boxes – I don’t want marshals buzzing around policing me. The change has to be physical, involving greenskeepers and landscaping.

    -Educate those involved in new golf developments so they build either one or two short 9 holers or a complex of 27 holes – a “players” 18 and a shorter 9. No good player would ever frown at a quick 9 to sharpen up their short irons chipping and putting. Use the short 9 as a compliment to golf instruction. And don’t water the fairways much on these short 9 holers. Cost footprint is much better.

    -Shrink green size dramatically on non-championship courses (80-90% of courses) and definitely on the short 9 holers. People take too long on the greens. This will limit them to a chip and 2 putts rather than 3 time consuming putts. This raises the challenge level for the better player as well. Lowers maintenance costs. Avid golfers will not complain if it gets a bit tougher around the green.

    -It should be systematic that I can buy 10 rounds of golf for a drastic discount. Example – one round $50. 10 rounds $170. Short 9 holer: one round $20. 10 rounds $70. Even championship layouts that are open to the public should do this – they can have Monday and Friday as public day where the public has a 10 card greenfee for like $500-600, or a single rate of the +$150 (which is sad but very common). This saves the course for the members only on weekends and midweek, highlights the benefit of being a member.

    -I think juniors should pay for golf at the cheaper rates I outlined above but give them fantastic range pass deals. $100 a year unlimited buckets, for example. That way we’ll get a bigger pool of good golfers who overcome golf’s learning curve off the course.

    -Need to reserve tee times for walkers separate from carts and have tee times for mixed populations. Forcing a golf cart on people is wrong.

    -Golf equipment modernization is good for golf. If people quit because they find the equipment too expensive I can only suggest they lower their expectations and buy used (like I do) and keep playing.

    // This from a 55 year old 6 handicap. /blake

  2. Mat

    Aug 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Simple solutions:

    Mandatory pickups.

    If you miss your bogey, or put it in any water, lost ball, or OB, it’s a double bogey. If you aren’t on the green by par, pick it up, double bogey.

    Encourage Stableford scoring. In fact, make handicaps BASED on Stableford. I would modify it such that double=0, bogey 1, par 2, birdie 3, eagle 6, doublee 10, ace 10.

    Suddenly, there is a big emphasis placed on getting points. Importantly, there is no incentive to play beyond bogey.

  3. MLY

    Aug 25, 2014 at 12:55 am

    paint the white tees black

  4. Raymond T

    Aug 21, 2014 at 12:47 am

    use GPS/Rangefinder. Allow the amateurs and pro’s to use them. GPS doesn’t help golfers to shoot better. It makes the game of golf faster. Install GPS in golf carts. Make the GPS watches and units less than $100 so every golfer could buy them.

  5. James

    Jul 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I can agree about Junior golf. Around here, it is like 35 bucks to take a Junior player out on a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail PUBLIC course. It’s less on the local city muni but still in the teens in terms of price. You grow the game from kids forward. Not adults backward. When I was a kid, the City of Memphis allowed Juniors during the summer to play 18 holes walking for 50 cents before noon and you could play in the afternoon as long as you bought your ticket before noon. That’s a good part of growing the game.

    As for a second set of rules, people have done this for years despite what the purists would like to say. Some of the stroke and distance rules like for OB are archaic and slow things down. Make it like a lateral. Drop a ball, take a stroke and play on.

  6. Kirk

    Jul 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    What is the correct length for a par 4? In the article you stated 430 yds as to hard, sorry but that’s a driver or fw off the tee and a mid to short iron into the green. That’s a mid to short par 4. I’m just a few months from 60 years old, so I’m not a flat bellied kid hitting it 350 of the tee. The main problem is that the game of golf is hard and if you want to be good it takes PRACTICE AND TIME. Today’s people are all about I WANT IT NOW. I see this everyday driving to work (1 hour each way) They have to drive 80-90 mph and put everyone’s life in danger. News Flash . . . . get up earlier. Same with golf . . . go earlier and PRACTICE and I don’t meant 15 minutes before your tee time, try 2 hours, stop at the range before or after work a couple of time a week. If you don’t want to put in the time playing and practicing, watch TV.

  7. Philip

    Jul 30, 2014 at 9:50 am

    One thing missing from this conversation is the role of the teaching professional. This seems to be absent from USGA/PGA grow the game efforts. If you want to make the game easier, find a way to make lessons more accessible for newcomers. I’m not talking about paying $20 to take a lesson with 20 other people – I’m talking about individual instruction. Teaching pros should be willing to give new players, say 4 lessons for $100, instead of the standard $50 a lesson and up. Get someone hooked and you will make up the discount later.

  8. steve

    Jul 30, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Isn’t this the same article over and over?

  9. David Arnar

    Jul 30, 2014 at 5:56 am

    To work towards a faster golf round shouldn’t we start at the professional level? Seeing a pro on TV take 15 practice swings for a 30 yard pitch, or stand up 3 times from a 4 feet putt does not give a really good image to the game. Also I feel that viewers do what they think works for the professionals, resulting in slower rounds all over.

  10. EveryDay

    Jul 30, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Charge way less to play the shortest tees (-40%)and more to play the tips(+30%).
    Charge
    Championship tees 130%
    Black tees 115%
    Blue tees 100%
    Silver tees 80%
    Red Tees 60%

    Put a flag of the color of the tees being played on the cart. This should increase juniors and Ladies participation and also give men an excuse to play the red tees.

  11. RAT

    Jul 29, 2014 at 9:57 am

    There are many more things that can take up your free time now. ATV’s, Video games, etc, Golf does have more to compete against and it’s getting worse. Time is the factor along with cost. Golf was an elitist sport and due to cost and time it will remain that way no matter the hole size, course design. There have been 4 courses close in a 30 mile radius of my home and it was due to poor management cost.

  12. Lime Shark

    Jul 28, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I don’t know about a 15 inch cup, but maybe you could paint a 1 foot diameter circle around the cup.

    Depending on the rules you could consider anything inside this circle to be in the cup.

    Maybe you could create a bonus point system for amateurs to encourage types of play.

    Make it inside the circle on your first put, and you get a bonus point.

    If your tee shot lands in the fairway (not in the rough) you get a bonus point.

    A double-bogie means you lose a bonus point; a triple-bogie means you lose two bonus points (would encourage people to drive from the front tees).

    At the end of your round, you subtract the bonus points from your strokes to give you a score.

    Anyway, it’s a thought. Maybe tinkering with the scoring system would help speed things up.

  13. Jason

    Jul 28, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Price and time are the two biggest factors, and time is time available to golf as well as the time it takes. I fall under the avid golfer category and am in the unique position to have two junior golfers a 14 year old son and an 8 year old daughter. My son golfs with me constantly and has finally fallen in love with the game enough that he gave up baseball season this summer in order to golf in some tournaments and work on his golf game (he’s currently at a 12 handicap). My daughter joins us when she feels like golfing which is about 1 time a week. We are very fortunate that we have a great little 9 hole course that charges $350 for a family membership, with out this gem we would never be able to get out to golf as much as we do and my kids would have little to no chance of golfing, at our course the owners love to see kids out golfing, they see them as future adult members. The price of golf is outrageous, for me and my son to play the surrounding courses we have resorted to mowing lawns to save money for golf outings and lessons and we shop around a take advantage of summer rates. If you want more people golfing it has to be more accessible to more people, $35 dollars for a good course and $65 for nice courses is to much for the average person(and those are cheap Kansas rates, not even close to what people in other states pay) and if you add in a junior like I do then your doubling fees each time you go out, I don’t know about the rest of you but my wife can think of many better things to spend $100 than 4-5 hours of golf. We have to get more junior golfers out there that’s the only way to grow the game we can’t depend on turning 40 somethings into golfers while the older population of golfers is shrinking. In baseball and softball you start off with a tee not straight into fast pitch, football you start off with flag football, in basketball the goal is lower, golf is the only sport where it is so frowned upon to move up or attempt to make the game easier. I have even seen articles criticizing people who use pull carts! We need more golfers and less snobs and the game will get more enjoyable and people will want to do it.

  14. bsoudi

    Jul 28, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    It’s not really about the course design and it’s certainly not about equipment, and not about handicaps, and not about rules, and not about distance and rolling back the ball. These are things the game’s elite talk about because it’s their world – but it’s not the world of the occasional and avid public golfers.

    Equipment companies are scapegoats for lazy thinkers – no one decides to golf less because TaylorMade comes out with its 5th driver in a year for $500. Guys on here clamoring for the golf companies to “create starter sets for $500” – dude, go to costco.com and there are at least 2 options from Callaway and Adams, some even including the bag. Cheaper options are available at sporting goods stores.

    The real issue is with courses. They suck, they have no imagination and they don’t understand customers. They need to make it easier and more fun for people to just get to playing:

    + Make it easy for me to find and buy tee times online. It’s WAY easier.
    + Get on GolfNow. I don’t care if you give discounts – if I’m trying to find a time for Friday, if you’re not on there, I’m not considering you.
    + Be nicer in the pro shop. Heck, even employ some women golfers to make it easier for women to play and men to take their wives/girlfriends.
    + Create a nice, well-done email newsletter. Remind me of the cool stuff you’re doing and course.
    + Have a solid text message discount service.
    + Consider a presence on Facebook and/or Twitter.
    + Make it easier and less stressful to have kids golf.
    + Do a nice job of lessons or group lesson programs. Have a kids camp.
    + 10 minute tee time intervals – minimum.
    + Become single-golfer friendly.
    + Make your Starter your most educated, trained, engaging and highly compensated employee. They would encourage people to play the most appropriate tees. Have them explain why, and that they’ll have more fun and keep times down – including theirs.
    + Encourage people to play it Forward – it works. Tom Watson once said play the yardage that’s 36 x your 5 iron distance.
    + Have Rangers not be nags, but nicely encourage folks to close gaps. Including helpful, pleasant tips for speeding up.
    + Cut the rough. Searching for balls isn’t fun.
    + Don’t gouge on pro shop merchandise. I might not want a logo shirt, but it communicates you’re not that golfer freindly.
    + Consider letting me buy a membership or punch card – if I play 10 times, I get a round free.
    + Have pricing for 6, 9, 12, 18 hole rounds. Communicate this to people.
    + Market yourselves as beginner-friendly – give the 15 inch hole thing a try.

    No need to redo the course, or get the PGA or the USGA involved. They care mostly about that top 5% of golfers and their country clubs and huge money.

    Courses need to start trying harder. They have the most to lose.

    And frankly, golfers need to mind their own business. If you want to play USGA rules with yout buds, do it. If you want to play the 4.5 inch hole, why do you care if someone else wants to play the 15 inch hole? Let them play their game, you play yours. It’s that type of judgemental attitude that turns a lot of people off anout golf and prevents them from showing up.

  15. leftright

    Jul 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Clinton, Bush and Obama. 3 reasons why golf is failing miserably. The powers that be tippy toe around the real issues like the Feds tippy toe around what is really the problem with the country, crime, foreign policy, etc. It will require a major cultural change and a strong economy for golf to rebound. It takes more to live, society is one big miserable fiasco created by an inept government that wants all your money and golf companies that have maxed out their products. We have 91 million people not working in this country and unemployment is not 7% like what is broadcasted, it is more like 12% and that is a conservative estimate. Socialist policies are not beneficial to growing recreational sports not unless they govt sponsors athletes like is done in many countries but typically golf does not fall into that category. China only started producing golfers once they got into world trade a capitalist economic mode. Korea has a strong economy and look at how many golfers are coming from there. Japan is not producing the golfers it once was due to a weak economy. Tennis is booming they say, well it is a cheap game. Men are expected to share responsibilities with women now, you want to play better let the wife learn too and I guess Tiger didn’t grow the game like was forecasted. America is turning back into a rich and poor society with the middle class getting bombarded with lack of jobs, more taxation and governmental intervention, jobs going overseas and a culturally incompetent society with violence on every corner. The rich are getting richer and the poor never cared anyway and are getting their welfare and foodstamps so they are happy. Talk about “growing golf,” better talk about fixing America because that is the real problem.

    • Rick Wilson

      Jul 28, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      Yes, things could be better in certain ways, but that doesn’t mean everyone should stop playing golf, softball, volleyball etc. Must people always sabotage every innocent subject with their political agenda? I hope I never get paired up with you [leftright] on the golf course.

  16. Bob Jones

    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    1. Designers: Build golf courses shorter, wider, and more forgiving around the green.

    2. USGA: Stop making everyone think they have to play by your rules. Those are for tournaments, not for having an afternoon of fun.

    3. Mfrs: sell starter sets of clubs: 3w, 21-degree hybrid, 5, 7, 9 irons, sand wedge, putter, for under $400.

    4. Pros: teach a simple golf swing to beginners, not one for polished amateurs.

    5. Owners: Reduce green fees and make profit on the resulting volume of play.

  17. butch henderson

    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    One way I can think of growing the game is for companies to have tournaments or outing for their employees. Companies today want you working too many hours. I remember working 40 hours a week and then we went to eoweo (every other weekend off) and it was 84 hours every 2 weeks. All I heard was how much time off we had. We were working longer days and 4 extra hours. How is that more time off? I can remember when companies had their own courses. Employees paid a small fee to belong.

  18. Paul

    Jul 28, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Czar, Could you break down the participation rates by age group? under 22, 22-35, 35-60 and over 60? What I am seeing is the 22-35 age group is dropping the game once they enter the workforce. I see this in tournament participation and who is out on the golf courses I play. The combination of finances (high student debt, high cost of golf, high cost of starting out in the adult world) and the demands of the modern workplace are taking this group out of the game. They are not returning as they establish themselves. I do not think the participation issues will improve unless this specific age group is addressed.

    • Barney adama

      Jul 28, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      Essentially you are correct. I think I described it as an aging foursome with no one on the bench. BUT I don’t think 30 somethings enjoy unreachable forced carries, bunkers that require magic to escape , losing golf balls so I go back to my premise. Make the courses more realistic, more fun to play. I don’t care if you’re 35 or 75 stop shooting at a 12′ basket.

  19. Josh

    Jul 27, 2014 at 11:26 am

    All of this talk about the reason we want to make changes to the game relates to a single aspect of reducing or eliminating the skills gap– which is the gap between the skill needed to play and ENJOY a round of golf when compared to the the level of skill that most golfers (or potential golfers) posses. If all of the 25 handicappers could go out tomorrow and shoot sub 80’s rounds, I guarantee they would play more frequently and enjoy paying for it. Just like with skiing or hockey or other sports where you must pay to play, and then gain a significant amount of skill to actually hang with other players or truly enjoy the game….it takes time and significant practice…something most people are not willing to do. Today’s society is so enamored with immediate gratification, that this hope of making changes MR ADAMS article are just attempting to scratch the surface. How about these two suggestions for immediate fixes that would see golfer participation in the modern era increase —

    1. Line the fairways of golf courses with driving range style nets so that every golfer…..regardless of skill…can grip it and rip it. It would reduce time spent looking for golf balls…while still making it fun for duffers to take a rip….don’t forget — the real fun for most golfers comes in trying to make the shots that the pros make…which involves griping and ripping regardless of the course layout. They will still pump golf balls into the woods with shorter, more playable course design and feel like golf is more brutal than fun. They will however remember the one drive that they nail and come back for more because of it. Along the way…they will improve skill and get more ability to play in the long run. Think of it as golf training wheels or number guards as used in bowling. We could even design something that is only up during certain times of day.

    2. Wider implementation of virtual reality golf simulators. With all of the money, technology and manufacturing skill put into golf gear….there has been far less innovation in the actual golf experience. Yes…the grass is greener, and greens are faster, but there has no implementation or technologist in the actual golf experience. How about combining all of the great aspects of golf — the outdoors, the nature. Etc with modernizing the golf experience. Significant money should be devoted to developing virtual reality golf simulators that could be setup outdoors; use grass / sand hitting surfaces, allow you to pay to play famous courses in actual lifelike representations. Allow 4somes to compete (or create virtual tournaments with large fields and prizes). Players could bring their same gear and play a round quicker because of the lack of walking or looking for balls. I’m not talking about the same simulators you’re used to seeing at golfsmiths, I’m taking about entire golf facilities built specifically to allow you to play a simulated round while hitting shots in realastic settings. This could easily be done at current golf courses by devoting money to these and selling time on them. Want to play for an hour — pay for that….want to enter a tournament…pay for that. No need to worry about 4hour rounds, etc.

    These are fairly drastic suggestions, but I think that the impact discussed by mr Adams that change the current golf experience only slightly aren’t enought to effect the overall PERCEPTION of the golf experience. We are in the modern age and need to apply disruptive innovation principles to creating a new golf experience that supplements the current experience. It will allow kids, and adults alike to ENJOY the game of golf….still buy gear and pay for greens fees when they like, but enjoy the game starting NOW, not when they are able to close the skills gap through years or months of practice or through costly ways to redesign golf courses that still won’t make a large impact to the high handicapper or new golfer.

    The GOLF CZAR should be forward thinking…and perhaps embrace things that will drive the game forward while preserving the current golf experience as only a part of the game….not the only way to experience it.

    You mentioned the restaurant experience in the article. I think that is a great example…there is not just one type of restaurant concept….there are many…fast casual, formal, quick serve….etc etc. we need to give golfers more ways to experience the game and have fun doing it. Not just tweak the one and only way to experience it. that would be like saying the only way to go to a restaurant would be to make formal restaurants that have slightly different cuisines. We leave out all of the other ways to serve people and lose out on all that enjoyment.

    • John

      Jul 27, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      I was chuckling at this, what I thought was a tongue in cheek post, until I read “these are fairly drastic suggestions”. Then I realized you were serious. So…I’ve got a better idea. Let’s everyone buy one club developed by NASA. It has a dial on it. The dial has listed: 300 yard drive, sink 30 footer, hole out from bunker, etc. then we just dial up our brilliant shot of choice, and…poof, done! It would be expensive of course, but the overwhelming demand for this club would bring the cost down. Then we just dial up a 59 and all go home. On second thought, make it a 58, we don’t want to be outdone by the likes of Al Geiberger, and Paul Goydos.
      Sound like fun?

      • Charlie

        Aug 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm

        Rodney Dangerfield had this in Caddyshack!!

  20. RG

    Jul 27, 2014 at 6:10 am

    I had hope for you Czar, I am disappointed. The “avid” golfers we lost were in there mid to late 60’s in the 80’s and are now deceased. New generations have not replaced them due to the growth of a new industry, video games. The video game industry is bigger world wide than the golfing industry and it will continue to grow. You are a golfer who thinks and talks about the greatness of the game, yet you know nothing of this new industry that didn’t exist before the 80’s, and has had a drastic impact on new players picking up the game. I love the game and I fall into the avid category, but I have eyes and I can see the writing on the wall. You minimize VG because you don’t understand VG. My son, nephews and friends kids, we take them all golfing. They play, and while they’re playing all they talk about is their greatest and latest games in the video world. Don’t you get it? They will grow up and maybe play a little golf now and again… but they will all play ALOT of video games. That’s where their time and money is going to go, and there is no change you can make to golf that is going to do anything about it. It’s called the future…

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Nobody said the future was good. My 15 year old son balances video games with the game of “Life”. He’s never once brought out a video game on the golf course.

    • barney adams

      Jul 27, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Sorry for your disappointment but in the Series Czar specifically stated that while he was aware of societal influences he was choosing to focus on one aspect, making the game more enjoyable. Czar remembers as a young HS person playing a sport a season, now coaches have made them year round commitments and the list goes on.

      • RG

        Jul 28, 2014 at 1:38 am

        Inside Sports just did a piece on the loses the game has suffered over the last few decades. In it they discuss many ideas such as the 15″ cup and “soccer” golf. Jack Nicklaus endorses all of these and I am with. At the end of the piece Bryant Gumbel says something to the effect of,”Do you think any of thesewill help in the modern instant gratification society we live in?”
        This is the key. We have to lighten up and make golf fun. The world has changed and golf must change too.
        Yes Czar you played a sport a season, probably with kids from the neighborhood or your school. Now kids play “Halo” and “Tiger Woods” year round with other kids from all over the planet. This is what your up against.
        In the end golf is a game, to me the greatest ever, but still a game.
        So Czar, who plays jacks, who shots mables, who plays checkers, who plays hop scotch? Extinct,no, but the world has moved on and those games will never be what they once were.

  21. TheLegend

    Jul 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I could grow this game by 50% in 20 years.

  22. James N

    Jul 26, 2014 at 9:34 am

    It is a multi-factor issue that is effecting golf. I for one will say current golf course design is one of the biggest issues. I understand you want beautiful vistas and challenging layouts, but new golf courses are distance monsters. What happened to the days of executive course? Just par 4 and par 3s courses that challenge because they are narrow. Average golfer shoots 100, and drives the ball 225yards. Why have 450yard par 4s with a 200 yard carry to the tee boxes?

  23. Mike

    Jul 26, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Three thoughts about needing to grow the game:

    1. Corporations are trying to recoup their massive investment in the game after they bought in during the early-mid 2000s bubble. I’m looking DIRECTLY at you Nike, Adidas, Golf Channel, and sites like this to a lesser extent.

    2. All of the entities in #1 want current golfers to feel a stagnant growth rate is a huge concern to the game itself and that we all MUST be evangelists. Heaven forbid we take a patient approach and see what happens to the game as the economy improves.

    3. We need to quit comparing the growth of golf to any sport but bowling. Bowling and golf are the only two sports (I can think of off the top of my head) where you have to buy equipment and BUY ACCESS to play. Solve the second issue and you solve the problem. Otherwise more people will flock to cheaper alternatives like public tennis courts, public running/biking/hiking trails, etc.

    • A Golfer

      Jul 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Mike,
      Great post! Buying “access” is what is driving avid golfers away from the game. I can control most of the other costs of the game simply by choosing to “buy or not to buy” as I see fit. The aspect I can’t control are the still increasing cost of greens fees.
      The average course in my area had weekend rates of $50 and rising.(And I’m not talking about the “Upscale” courses that are in the $70-$90 range) When you factor in food/beer and transportation/gas you’re looking at $70 or so for the round. If you golf weekly your looking at close to $300 a month just for golf. It’s getting to the point where I’m looking at better places for that $300. Hey course owners, stop “gouging” your customers and you will see participation go up.

  24. Jeff

    Jul 26, 2014 at 1:40 am

    When it comes to rules and pace of play I absolutely detest the lost ball and out of bounds just to narrow a hole or make it play harder. As an experienced high level amateur and high school Golf coach I watch adults and kids walk back to a tee all the time because they weren’t watching their ball closely enough or just plain can’t find it in the rough. Pros don’t have a problem because they have cameras and spectators. I wish they would have to play Pinehurst no. 2 with no cameras… How many lost balls would they have then? I propose treat a lost ball as a 1 stroke penalty and agree with the group where they thought it maybe, drop a ball and move on.
    Oh and Monarch Beach golf links, take those white stakes out in the middle of the rough between 10 and 18. Yes I loved driving it down 10 to avoid the water but your scorecard is not updated for these new rules so the 10 minutes on hold I spent on the phone figuring out which fairway they were for for the 50 year old couple I played with is crazy.
    Thanks for the rant.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jul 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      I rarely have a lost ball. I play to a 4 handicap and I’ll be darned if the tour pros get another advantage over me, besides free equipment, time to practice, coaches, training trailers, Trackman.

      When I hit a ball that may be lost I assess the situation. I play what I call “Gallery Rules”. What if I was a pro and had TV cameras, marshals, various officials, spectators, etc.? Then, if my lost ball is in a place where it should have been spotted I just drop another ball… no penalty. Puts me even with the pros, at least on that issue.

      Now, ball stuck in a tree, ball in the water, ball out of bounds… that’s another thing… I take my medicine.

      • blakev

        Sep 22, 2014 at 6:18 am

        I do this. I also deliberately put the ball in a ridiculously difficult position, behind a root or under leaves. If I’m going to pretend to find it, I too still want the tough medicine. I’ve convinced my foursome to do this too – we get around a tough course in 4h30 on average, if we aren’t slowed down too much. This would be the best rule change I can think of for amateurs.

  25. Rwj

    Jul 25, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    It’s not too slow and no fun. Everything in this country is based solely on money. Wages of the American worker has become stagnant within the past years while equipment, and more importantly, greens fees have rose. A descent course costs a weekend hacker >$40. If he is a descent golfer and wants to play a descent ball, that’s >$40 a dozen. If you want them to play twice a month, you’re asking them to pay over $100 a month.

  26. Jeff Daschel

    Jul 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Lots of great suggestions, I’m behind you, this isn’t cheapening the game it’s just making it a little less painful. Some of the proposed changes could be helped by getting the GSCAA on board, most of those guys are equipped with the tools to make subtle changes and are well renowned golf architects in a happy place in their mind. I worked at a course that flattened out a green side bunker and no labor or equipment had to be brought in from outside out own shop, so I think a lot of the costs if these changes could be paid simply with overtime from existing greens staff. It’s a great direction to start at least, thanks Barney, and thanks for the Tight Lies. That was my first set of clubs and now I’m hooked.

  27. KNUCK

    Jul 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Some entities left out of the equation to solve the slow-play, no-fun problem are the big operators like ClubCorp, Troon, and others which own 500, 600, or more public and privae courses nationwide. If they got on board and introduced some simple, no-cost brand standards at all their courses like increasing the width of the first cut of rough, decreasing the height of the second cut of rough, and making chipping areas around many greens so the double-digit player won’t have to try to gouge a wedge out of ankle-high rough when he/she misses a green by 10 feet, you’ld have faster play, more fun, better scores, fewer lost balls. Simple stuff.

  28. Carl

    Jul 25, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    An interesting thing about the evolution of driving distances in golf is that as the ball and driver are more juiced, we hit the ball further which means the courses get longer. So what do we really gain? A longer drive but we may still be as far away from the hole as we would have been otherwise. I have an old wooden driver that I hit on the range about 25 yards less than my state of the art modern one. If they banned the new ones and sent us all back to wood, and moved the tees up 25 yards (which I think they have the room to do at very little cost), my approach shots would probably be about the same. I would probably also shoot about the same score but the walk would be shorter and maybe quicker. Clubs drive the ball further now so golf courses have had to get longer. Not the other way around. So shorten the clubs and it should shorten the courses.

  29. Dave

    Jul 25, 2014 at 10:51 am

    If we are to agree with the supposition that 71% or the golf industry revenue is generated from avid golfers, then I believe that any solution which is not based on an understanding of why avid golfers are avid golfer (how new golfers become avid golfers)is very likely based on false premises. So to me the threshold question that needs to be answered is what aspects of playing golf do avid golfers enjoy the most? Is it because its fun?, challenging?, enjoy competition?, commune with nature?, mental aspects?, physical aspects? etc. I don’t think you have a great chance of resolving anything until to really understand this.

    Let’s look at this another way. If avid golfers revere the sport because of the quiet nature of the game, the integrity and character building aspects of golf under the rules to name a couple… Then drawing in masses of new players without education as to some common courtesies, understanding the rules of golf, etc. may in fact hurt the sport more than help it.

    It goes deeper I think than courses being too hard or golf not attracting enough new players… certainly these are elements worth considering, but in the end, they may not be the most important considerations required.

    • ParHunter

      Jul 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      A very good point! The difference is probably that the avid golfers are simply addicted to this game. The golf bug either gets you and you want to play as often as possible or you just play a few rounds a year and you have no idea why others are so obsessed about the game. I don’t think you can turn these into addicts – I mean avid golfers 😉

  30. bradford

    Jul 25, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I think tee-it forward is self defeating, eventually. Sure it may bring millions of new (and slower) players out to play a now easier game. But eventually, as they back-fill the now open “avid” spots, they will also move back–then their newer friends will move back with them. You can’t fix testosterone. Nothing will prevent people from moving back to feel manly IF they are given the choice. It’s generally not about how people PLAY from a certain tee, but how they look. I would like to see courses enforce a HCP policy. Single digits only on the blue tees, forgot your card, sorry–enjoy the whites for the day. Of course that would require proper rangering, but what’s the problem with allowing a few more retired guys drive around and play for free a few times a week?

  31. Johnny

    Jul 25, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Several have asked what I think is a very thought provoking question. Why is it that important to “grow the game”?

    • Travis

      Jul 25, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      To some of us, it is not important. I will love playing golf regardless of how many other people play it. To the club manufacturers and course owners it is important as their profitability is at stake.

    • Jason

      Jul 28, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      If people don’t golf courses close, prices continues to go up. Simple supply and demand.

  32. DC

    Jul 25, 2014 at 8:34 am

    The problem with the “cost issue” is that everyone is out for themselves. The OEM’s are out to make the most money for the OEM, the courses are out to make the most money for the courses, the PGA is out to increase the revenue for the PGA pros – and no one wants to give. IMO one of the best things that has come out of all of this has been the $99 5 pack of lessons that came out. All the rest of these ideas are just fluff.

    Would really like to see companies like TMAG – which now includes Adams Golf – wield more of a big stick in this regard. Look, the growth of the game has a direct affect on your bottom line. So why not push your weight around? I think the Challenge Tees sound like a great idea, why not try to find a few courses to partner with to push some of these realistic solutions? Challenge Tees, lower cost beginner equipment, better trade in options for guys who bought a club only to see a new model 2 months later – there have to be some options out there that you can try.

    Doing nothing doesnt seem like a good solution. How realistic of a long term business plan is it to just sit back and let your $399/$499 drivers come to market every 6-8 months? The OEMs have to get involved – by force or otherwise – in trying some of these solutions. The problem seems to be that given their fiduciary responsibility to their stakeholders, the level of risk they are willing to take is extremely low.

  33. stephen

    Jul 25, 2014 at 6:52 am

    I think the courses, OEM’s, and retailers need to partner together to create the overall framework for educating golfers. When you buy a new set of irons or drivers, here are some free passes to a clinic that would be held at a local golf course/range where you can work with PGA certified instructors on further enhancing your golf experience. New golfers can be taught he basics of the golf swing and basic etiquette. For the experienced golfers, course management, exposure to different formats and how to establish an index.

    I’d like to see the courses/ranges do a better job of coordinating and creating unique events at their site such as hosting tournaments for non-members and assisting with the coordination of weekly leagues.

  34. Duncan

    Jul 25, 2014 at 6:51 am

    A little gem from the recent Scottish Open. After a windy second day at Royal Aberdeen a seriously strong pre-Open Championship field complained that the course was too difficult (Rory McIlroy went round in 78). On Saturday and Sunday, they duly played off the club tees.
    Elite professionals institute Tee It Forward…

    • Barney adama

      Jul 28, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      I once forced a young tour pro to play the equivalent distances I do. He quit after 6 holes said it was crazy playing that way. I laughed ( insanely)

  35. Derrick

    Jul 25, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Okay, here are some rapid-fire suggestions/ideas at growing the game:

    1. The PGA, USGA, etc. should partner with equipment manufacturer(s) to endorse/produce/sell older model clubs or clubs with older tech. in them at the fraction of the cost for their more cutting edge products. Of course equipment companies would likely balk at this idea, but only because they know they have gotten away with repackaging products year after year with minimal or no improvements and only the occasional game-changing breakthrough. This is the number one obstacle plaguing golf’s growth or lack thereof.

    When someone wants to take up golf their choices are limited to either the best and brightest of everything (and spending hundreds if not certainly thousands of dollars) or some “trash” set of clubs they pick up at a thrift store or the like. The problem is, no one wants to lug around what is widely considered junk in a golf bag but they aren’t educated enough to bargain shop for used clubs because they haven’t been educated on the game yet. And they don’t want to or can’t learn enough about the game to gauge their true interest because they are either playing with junk or have spent so much money that they become disgusted with it. Widely available high’ish quality equipment should be a norm for golf or it’s growth will always be somewhat stagnant. The startup cost is too high for the average person to justify.

    2. Courses that feature tee boxes on every hole that play as par 3’s. You can either play 18 straight up or you can pay to play the “par 3” course from the special boxes. People playing the par 3 route would get automatic right of way in certain instances where making them wait would be unreasonable (par 5’s and such) and so they’d have somewhat of a fast pass around the course playing only par 3’s. The biggest problem I see with this is policing the people who pay for the par 3 and then attempt to play the full course on the sly. Marshall’s and self policing by the other players would be somewhat of a necessity.

    3. Easier access to instruction for beginners or high-handicappers in general. As someone who has almost no knowledge of how the golf pro career is currently structured I admittedly have no idea how hard this would be to implement in a large scale but it seems like there should be an easier way for the average beginner or struggling novice to get a little coaching without shelling out major bucks.

    4. A lot of courses need to be a little more lax on allowing outside refreshments. I know that insurance technicalities likely eliminate this but I frequent several courses that enforce this policy strictly only to turn around and charge 3-5x the normal amount for common food/drink items. This isn’t only a beer issue.

    5. A more lax set of rules should be encouraged for most amateurs.

    6. There needs to be an approved, sanctioned, whatever you want to call it (official maybe?) ball for amateurs that enhances distances off the tee. I know overall ball performance is important for most if not all reading here but the average joe plays back because he thinks/wants to try and hit it as far as the guys do on tv. There should be a legal ball for him to do that with. I know it will still be a different ball and people will still know but you won’t have to feel like you have contraband with you when you bust the nitro balls out of your bag on the first tee.

    I don’t think these are concrete by any means. Just tossing out ideas I’ve had at one time or another while riding 18 and waiting on the senior couple in front of me to hit their approach shots and move along so I could tee off.

  36. Derek

    Jul 25, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Hi Barney,

    Thanks for the well written articles. While participation rate in the US has dropped, do you have any statistics to show the same is happening outside the US? I understood equipment companies, like Adams, rely on the sport’s growth to support its operations and invest in R&D. If the US is dropping players (understanding that its the largest market), can other countries pick up the slack? If not in the near future, perhaps a few years down the line?

    thanks,
    Derek

    • barney adams

      Jul 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      There is this myth that overseas golf equipment sales will save the day.
      The underlying message is that Asia will save the day.
      “Asia” used to be Japan, in fact Japanese golf companies like Diawa,Yonex, and others used to sell actively in the US. To any degree of success, no longer. Bridgestone does a decent job with their golf balls and Mizuno irons have their followers.
      The troubled Japanese economy has severely curtailed sales there, South Korea is doing well albeit a relatively small market.
      China ? According to an Asian Golf report they just curtailed course building because of water issues. Add that to a society that is developing and you can safely say they are years away at best.
      Years down the line ? At best.

  37. Hellstorm

    Jul 24, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Honestly, I think the reason so many people have left golf is because they can’t bring a cooler and six pack out on the course. I know a lot of people that used to play a lot more that just quit going when they had to start paying $15-20 to have a few beers out on the course. I am sure that plays right into the enjoyment of the game…hanging out with a few friends and having a couple beers on a hot day. You can still do that but it just added immensely to the cost of a round. Here in Ohio, lets say you go to an average public course and play a round with your buddies. You pay $36 for fees, $3.50 for a can of beer, and another ten bucks in food at the turn. That adds up pretty fast and I’m sure it makes a bunch of people think that there is a better way to hang out with friends and have a few beers.

    Some of these responses are not well thought out. You want to make a tee box handicap based….good luck with that. Thats like going to a Ferrari dealership and spending 100K on a car and then after you buy it, they tell you you can only drive it 55mph. If they are charging the same price to play from the front tees and back tees, who are they to say where I have to tee off from. Growing the game is no different than growing a plant….if you don’t plant the seed, there is no chance of anything growing. Make the game easier for kids to get into. Figure out a way for a parent like myself to introduce a kid to the game and make it fun. Make it worth a players money to walk the course…..quit charging me $4 less to walk 18 than ride, especially when the course is cart path only. So many courses around here do not have junior rates so they end up charging senior rates and that’s just stupid.

  38. Hunterdog

    Jul 24, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Aren’t there shorter courses out there; called executive courses. Grab a handful if clubs and play; less expensive green fees, don’t need new or many clubs, most rounds are 9 holes that play at about 2000 yards. And you don’t need a hypothetical $100 million slush fund to do anything. Finally, get the USGA out of the golf business except for better players and pros; the rules are complicated and frustrating. Let the public have fun, maybe it’s not golf but might lead some to want to play golf.

    • Carl

      Jul 24, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      I too question why we need to grow the game. Historically interest in golf has fluctuated. I am concerned it is just the corporate golf world that wants it to grow and that may or may not be good for the rest of us.

      I learned golf from my grandfather. Let’s get our kids and grandkids involved if possible and preferably at an early age. It will keep them off the computer for a few hours. The First Tee may be on to something.

      Instead of asking why some avid golfers have quit maybe we should ask why the rest of us remain. Should we change the game to suit those who have quit or change it – if necessary – to suit those who still play and support it?

      I would like to see all rules for all players – Pro and amateur – simplified dramatically. Do we really have to watch a player waiting 5-10 minutes for an official to show up so he can determine if he is entitled to relief from a sprinkler head? If it is not clear to them what hope is there for the rest of us?

      We all know amateurs skirt some rules not out of a desire to cheat but just out of necessity to keep their round moving along. Simpler rules built around the realities of golf would speed things up.

    • Dreg Golf

      Jul 25, 2014 at 12:40 am

      “the first order of business is to get a significant number of these folks playing at the avid rate again, because the industry needs their revenue.”
      Barney….STOP. This is not the golfers problem,mstop trying to act as if it is our problem.
      I….DON’T…….GIVE…..A $#!+ ABOUT INDUSTRY REVENUES!!!

      There are enough golfers to keep most of the existing courses open. I don’t need extra golfers clogging up fairways, I don’t need higher greens fees, I don’t need to call and find out that tee times are taken. I don’t care that Callway and Taylor Made can only afford to now put out a new driver once a year or so, or that their margins on the new wicking super fabric shirts are only meeting them double what they’ve paid their sweatshop labor in Mynamar.
      As you said , this is an industry issue, stop trying to deceive the public into thinking that its our problem.

      For me golf has never been better, cheap and plentiful….leave it alone. Let the companies who demand huge shareholder gains take a dump and or leave, golf actually ought to be merge mom and pop. Perhaps the corpratization of golf has turned out to be a bad thing? Maybe you guys just can’t wrap your head around the fact that the growth of the golf industry was a bubble phenomenon and those days are over, perhaps never to return?

  39. Lime Shark

    Jul 24, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    2. Golf needs to become a spur of the moment decision.

    Golf’s competition (particularly with younger people) is video games, movies, TV, concerts, sporting events, and amusement parks.

    According to GolfLink, on average it takes 4 hours to play 18 holes of golf (http://www.golflink.com/facts_4799_how-long-does-golf-holes.html)and even longer on a crowded course. Your time may vary, but the point is that for most people the decision to play a round of golf isn’t something they can make on a whim.

    People sitting around with nothing to do might say “let’s go see a movie,” but the mention of playing a round of golf will be met with “man, that’ll take too long” from at least one person.

    Many of those super-long courses recently built need to be reworked into par-3 “executive” courses which will play more quickly.

    We also need to start laying out courses so they can be played as:
    3-6 hole courses,
    2-9 hole courses,
    1-18 hole course.

    Plenty of people who wouldn’t have the time to play 18 or 9 holes often might find the time to play a “quick 6” on a regular basis.

    By opening up the playing options, more people deciding between a movie, golf, or playing a video game might opt for the quick round of golf.

  40. Paul Christianson

    Jul 24, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    The USGA could help itself by simply instituting new set of tee boxes that are based on a golfer’s handicap and not their sex or age. Currently, most men wouldn’t be caught dead playing from the ladies tees, even though many of them ought to be. As a way to help alleviate this stigma, the USGA/PGA ought to promote and support new tee boxes being installed at courses that are handicap based where golfers need to earn the right to play from a specific tee box. Want to play from the tips, you’ll need to be better than a 5 handicap for that privilege. 6-10 handicaps play from the blue tees and so on. Not only would this help to speed up play, it would also help to support the USGA with more golfers purchasing handicaps. Also, please stop with all of this talk about golf not being appealing to the millennial generation. It simply needs to be sold differently. If you really want to grow the game, give college kids free range balls one night a week and make the range more challenging. Top Golf is a great example about the opportunity that is out there for the golf industry. Golf could also learn a thing or two from other sports. If you look out into the outfield at a baseball game, what do you see? A boatload of sponsorships. If you look out at a driving range what do you see? You get my point… If I’m a golf professional, the first thing I do to start my season off in the black next next year is sell a range ball sponsorship in the off-season to a local company and saturate my range with a ton of sponsored targets. This helps my bottom line and makes the range more fun.

  41. Lime Shark

    Jul 24, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I normally don’t go on a rant about this kind of stuff, but since some is on this thread who might be able to make a difference, here goes.

    1. Golf needs separate sets of rules for amateurs and pros.

    The best analogy for golf’s situation is boxing.

    Amateur boxing: 9 minutes max (3-3 minute rounds or 4-2 minute rounds); protective gear is worn; heavier (more padded) gloves; has its own scoring system that differs from the pros.

    Pro boxing: up to 45 minutes (15-3 minute rounds); no protective gear; lighter (less padded) gloves; has its own scoring system that differs from the amateurs.

    Do people look down on Olympic boxers, because they operate on a different set of rules than the pros? Hardly. Boxing has done pretty well for itself over the last century by establishing two distinct classes of participants: amateurs and pros. The different sets of rules (and expectations) for amateurs and pros and benefited the sport.

    Golf would do well to follow boxing’s lead and establish separate sets of rules (and expectations) for amateurs and pros. Even establish tournaments and championships under the amateur rules.
    Instead, we expect amateurs to start out under the same rules as the pros. How do you thing that would work for boxing? No better than it does in golf.

    The groove rule is an example. The typical pro (who uses a top end urethane covered ball) can make it back up with a smooth, grooveless iron. But, the typical amateur (who’s using a ball more like a surlyn covered Laddie or Noodle) couldn’t make the ball back up if their life depended on it. Applying the same set of rules to the amateur and pro’s wildly different skill levels (and equipment budgets) is ludicrous.

    Expecting the amateur to play under a set of rules designed for people with unlimited skill (and money) makes not sense.

    No more sense than expecting Olympic boxers to start fighting 15 round fights under pro rules.

  42. cn

    Jul 24, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Waiting for the 2nd coming of Tiger Woods … Golf participation will easily jump to or exceed your goal.

  43. Eugene

    Jul 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    I think it’s already been mentioned, but it has to be mentioned again… Stop ripping us off on clubs, balls, bags, shoes and all the other things we use. These high prices are a turn off to someone who wants to like golf. Shame on Taylormade for putting out 11 or 12 new drivers this year. They are confusing the masses.

  44. Chris

    Jul 24, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    I think many pro-shops and marshalls could do a better job of reminding golfers about the little rules of golf before groups go out. Whether they are new to the game and don’t know the rules, or experienced golfers, a simple reminder to “play ready golf to keep up the pace of play, let groups play through if the hole is open in front of you, and maximum score on a hole is 8 after that pick up your ball” would save a ton of time. I see marshalls driving the course all the time, but rarely do I see them tell a group to pick up the pace or let someone play through.

    I would be more inclined to play golf on weekends if I knew that I could easily play through slower groups without hesitation. If there’s a foursome playing slow but let’s me play through I don’t care, but when a group is too prideful to let me play through is when I get ticked. It takes them 5 minutes of waiting to let me play through, but if I can’t play through I could end up waiting an extra hour or more playing behind them.

    • Jeremy

      Jul 24, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Agreed. Before we go digging up and rebuilding tee boxes across the nation, how about a simply friendly suggestion from the starters to everyone going out on the course? Play within your limits, ready golf, pick up the pace. Heck, even a sign on the first tee reading “Back tees should only be played by experts” would suffice. At ski resorts you have color coded difficulty markers, and signs on the hardest stuff urging “experts only” with skulls and crossbones and other morbid warnings. And trust me, the average skier has a lot more fun confidently cruising down a blue trail than crapping their pants all the way down a double black.

      • Chris

        Jul 25, 2014 at 9:43 am

        Exactly, the common courtesies of golf aren’t talked about often, so I understand why many players don’t follow them. How are you supposed to correctly follow a rule that you don’t know about? A routine reminder to every golfer going out would surely save some time. Further, marshalls should really make sure that people are moving along instead of just driving around the course like they normally do.

  45. Doug Muir

    Jul 24, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Make Stableford the default scoring method — PGA Tour, USGA tournaments, everything. Have pros on TV pick up their ball after they’re out of a hole. Golf traditionalists will hate it (hell, I’ll hate it), but this would seem to be a big bang for the buck in terms of pace of play.

    Treat OB & lost ball as a lateral hazard instead of stroke & distance. Most casual golfers already play this way, so it won’t necessarily save much time over the status quo, but it also means that those of us who know the rule don’t have to worry about making a choice between keeping things moving and obeying the rules.

    I’m interested to hear what Barney has to say about the ball & equipment, and I’m not materials scientist, but it seems to me that we should be able to make a ball that has diminishing returns for swing speeds over X (say 100mph) — define a conforming ball such that my wife drives it 200yds, I drive it 240yds, and Rory drives it 260yds (vs. now where my wife drives it 170yds, I drive it 250 on a good day, and Rory carries 300+). There should absolutely be a reward for hitting the ball the way the pros do, but I think we should make the reward sub-linear. Doesn’t matter what you do in terms of promotion or advertising — I’m not convinced you can have people watching the pros on TV then expect them to go play the forward tees. So fix the ball and/or equipment so that there’s not as much variation in distance.

    • Lime Shark

      Jul 25, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Any rules that makes you walk backwards should be eliminated for amateurs.

      In fact, walking back towards the tee should be a penalty for amateurs. Walking back towards the tee more than 10 steps should be a 1 stroke penalty.

      Looking for your ball, and it turns out you passed it 10 steps ago–1 stroke penalty to go back to it.

      You walk ahead to get the lie of the land, then walk back to your ball–1 stroke penalty.

  46. Jeremy

    Jul 24, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    We can’t change the game from 18 holes. There are far too many clubhouse bars called “The 19th Hole” that would immediately become obsolete, and the expense to replace them far too costly 😉

    Kidding aside, I want to thank you Barney for putting yourself and your ideas out here where we can have a (mostly) civilized debate. I don’t agree with all of them, but overall I think you’re trying to make the game more enjoyable for everyone. I suspect most of the commenters feel the same, though I must say a few of the ruder ones would be unwelcome in any foursome of mine.

    One simple matter continues to elude me (and a lot of others by the sound of it), and I’d appreciate your answer. Why do I want to grow the game? I understand not wanting the game to shrink to death. But when I go to my home course in West LA on a Saturday and play a 6 hour round I’m certainly not wracking my brain figuring out we can add another 2 million people to the tee boxes.

    Recently a muni course up in the valley closed their clubhouse. Every time we’d play we’d grab lunch and beers in there. But to save money they closed it and replaced it with a snack truck where maybe I can get a bagel if they haven’t run out. So now we don’t play there at all anymore. At the risk of getting political, that kind of austerity doesn’t work on a macro scale for the economy as a whole, and it doesn’t work for a golf course. By trying to save money they’ve lost so much more. Maybe the course will close, a victim of budget cuts and poor management.

    So I get it, we don’t want the game to shrink to the point where none of us can play. But I’m in love. I’m not going anywhere, and as long as there’s courses to be played and I’m earning enough to play them, I’ll be out there. And the fewer people I have to share the course with, the faster I can play, the better as far as I’m concerned. So, again: what interest do current avid golfers have in growing the game?

  47. Blopar

    Jul 24, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Barney: these are my solutions–1. everyone should walk and play ready golf whenever possible 2. Play the tees appropriate to your skill level. This means only elite golfers should ever be playing further back than about 6300 yards. 3. Slow the stimps down to 8 or 9 so we can putt aggressively rather than defensively. 4. Widen the fairways and lighten the rough or cut it back.

    I guarantee with just these simple changes, more people will have more fun, play better, and more new golfers will continue to play more.

    • paul

      Jul 24, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      I just played a course for the first time and the rough had just been cut. Considering the difficult long par 4s and excess bunkers, the shorter rough made it playable for someone who gets lost between green and tees. I thought my 41 on 9 was a good start. Would have been worse with longer rough.

  48. JE

    Jul 24, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Like everyone else reading and commenting, we aren’t the ones you need to get to. We get it. It’s the people who don’t read this that you need to get to. That’s the trick.

    We (the avid golfers) have the responsibility of growing this game. Not the governing bodies, not the equipment manufacturers. It’s us.

    Maybe we should all take a non-golfing buddy out and show that person why we love the game. If we sit around and wait on someone else to do it for us we’ll be having this same discussion years from now.

    Charity begins at home.

  49. Pazinboise

    Jul 24, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    One area where I see a huge drop off in participation is the 18-30 year age group. I believe it has to do with greens fee costs. Once you hit 18 you no longer get a junior rate yet most people probably don’t make enough coin to play (on a consistent basis) at least until their mid 20’s. I believe this is where a lot of the potential avid golfer are lost.

    I think these things could help keep interest in the age group up:

    1. Courses need to offer better value for the 18-25 year crowd. Give them discounts, maybe not as much as Juniors, but enough where someone in school or at an entry level job could easily afford to play at least every other week.

    2. Leagues and clubs geared for the under 30 crowd. These need to be more flexible and dynamic than your traditional leagues.

    3. Rules and swing clinics targeted at these age groups. It’s always nice to be with people like you in a similar situation.

  50. 3putts

    Jul 24, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Focus on people with expendable income and friends. Not sure who they are as I don’t know too many people that still live close to each other and have money too. My dad and myself are part of the 50+ rounds/year avid golfers who just don’t play anymore. I play a couple times a year if I’m lucky and my dad none. Have multiple friends that play only once in a while for different reasons. The two prevailing reasons for people that left is the reason people don’t start. 1. The economy is being even further strangled by the powers that be so more and more people have no extra income. 2. Everyone has to move to a city to make any money and the friendships and family are the collateral damage. Not one of my golf buddies from high school live in my hometown now, including myself…. It makes me very sad when I think about how much I enjoyed the time on the course over the years. It was my outlet but part of growing up in my generation(I’m 31) is watching it decline and become a game for elites again. Guess we’re all victims of corp greed and so are the hobbies we love.

    • NicePutt

      Oct 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      There is truth in that. Life is circumstantial and I have seen many of the same things your referring to. I have been finding ways to get back up to atleast 35 rounds this last year. I also found a great new app called GolfRz that rewards me every time I go to the course. Actually, I have redeemed their reward “points” for free rounds of golf and free golf balls. Anyways, you’re right love and money often don’t align.

  51. CJK

    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I have read all of the comments for all of Mr Adams’ columns thus far and to me it is very consistent what people are saying. The game is too expensive to play and it takes too long to play it (you can assume too expensive and too long translate in most cases to “no fun”). I am not sure how to solve the too expensive to play part, the price of everything in the country has gone up and up and up with no end in site. As for too long to play the game, I agree. I am an avid golfer who plays 8 times per month from April – November. Not bad for the Northeast. I get very frustrated with the pace of play, especially from late May – Labor Day when many of the courses get clogged with the non-avid golfers who only play a few times a year. My group’s efforts at ready golf go to waste as they just cause us longer waits for the turtles ahead of us. Non avid golfers are out there for a Social experience and have no interest whatsoever in playing any faster. Both carts go to all 4 balls after the tee shots and none of the players exhibit any ready golf behavior at all. We have to do something to educate the non avid golfers to play more quickly so they will enjoy it more and the others behind them enjoy it more. How can we do that? Simply moving up tees is not enough. Playing ready golf and picking up after 6 or 7 whacks is a mindset that must be taught.
    In our area here in Upstate New York, many of the courses require use of a cart on the weekends before 12 noon. I like to walk, I have a push cart and do not want to ride. Most likely, I will not be able to continue to play as much as I have been fortunate enough to play because of this rule. Adding $14 to every round because I like to play weekend mornings with my golf group of 20 years is just not something I think is fair. You can argue that I should go play somewhere else or in the afternoon but with who? It takes a lifetime to find guys to play with that you enjoy but this rule is pushing me out. Any ideas? I have presented alternative plans to my PGA Pro like paying a “trail fee” of $5 for the right to walk but he says he has no choice because he has to “meet the budget”. I don’t blame him, he is a slave to his superiors but it is another example of the game being too expensive.

    • rer4136

      Jul 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      How about a government golf bailout!

    • Philip

      Jul 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      I see that a lot – 2 carts that hardly ever separate from the tee. Any group I play with will often wait 5+ minutes every shot, then bang, bang, bang, bang – we’re off to the next wait. The groups I’m in often comprise of players shooting 90+, 100+ – not scratch golfers. If you take away the time waiting the rounds would decrease by 30 – 45+ minutes.

      I’m going to stop playing ready golf like many I play with. I’m sick of waiting, waiting, waiting – my course forces golf carts so I will now try to remind myself to leave it on the trail and walk to my ball.

      All it takes is one or two slow groups, whether social or slow, or just not ready for a golf course – then everyone else suffers.

    • Carl

      Jul 24, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      It is my understanding that Nicklaus won the ’72 US Open with a driver from the 50’s. Jack didn’t have to spend much money for equipment. Today with the constant introduction of supposedly longer, straighter clubs every few months, it is tough to stick with what you have very long without feeling you’re set is obsolete or you’re just not keeping up with the Joneses. Avid golfers want to improve and new equipment may help them do that. It isn’t just the $300 driver you buy today, its the one you’ll feel compelled to buy 2 years from now that helps drive up the expense of the game. Club design and manufacturing should be curbed by the governing bodies so a golfer has a reasonable expectation that his new driver will still be relevant in 5 years or maybe more.

      The money saved on equipment could be put toward lessons, or maybe the beer cart. Whichever is preferred.

      If golf courses were made smaller yet still challenging the cost of golf could be better contained. I would like to see some of the so-called genius golf course designers take on a local muni and make it smaller, less expensive, more challenging and more fun for golfers at all levels. That would be a better test of the designer’s skill than building something fabulous in the middle of Nebraska (no offense to the many nice people there) that few people will ever get to play.

  52. Titus

    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Like a lot of others have mentioned already, many courses are just too long for avid golfers. Also get rid of the white and red tees. A lot of my buddies should be playing from the red tees, but they are too embarrassed to do so. You keep hearing people say, “if you want to play like your wife, you can go to the red tees!” That just has to stop.

    At my home course, the “white tee” is almost 6300yds, and that is in foggy, wet, sea level San Francisco condition. We have 2 par 4’s where 90% of the members can’t reach in two. That’s just crazy! Also, the shortest tee box is 5200yds. My wife picked up golf last year, but has stopped playing because that’s way too long for her. Fortunately the committee has decided to redo all the tee boxes, so we will see how the improvements can benefit the members.

    Make the course easier from front tees, and more people will come back.

  53. Ctmason

    Jul 24, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    You could do all of these things tomorrow and you would see no change in participation. Nil.

  54. Carl

    Jul 24, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Golf is growing around the world, just not in the US. I don’t miss the people that quit. It just means they aren’t cluttering up the course.

    The big financial interests in the game – equipment manufacturers, PGA tour, course builders and TV – should not be allowed to control golf like they currently do. They will put the dollar ahead of the well being of the game.

    The typical modern American wants things quick, easy and cheap. Golf is none of that and should never be considered to be any of that. It wouldn’t hurt to be more affordable but never cheap.

    If we want to speed up the game we should enforce the guidelines for fast play. In bygone days people let a faster group play through and would typically let you hit into a par 3. Those days are long gone as is much of the civility and good manners once common in golf.

    The ball and equipment need to be de-juiced and courses adjusted accordingly. We can then get back to the basics of golf which is a target game, not a distance game. Did anyone really enjoy watching the pros hit a driver and then a 5 iron into the middle of the 18th green at Hoylake then make a routine 2 putt for birdie? I think a driver and a monster 3 wood to get there would have created more excitement.

    Or maybe we should just look back to 1985 and ask what changed that has resulted in the decline.

  55. CM

    Jul 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    No “avid” golfer will play up. Stop that non-sense now. Fix what you can, slow play and price. My stupid muni (were the future avid golfers come from) books every 8 minutes. Can’t work. Too many people on course and too many backups on certain holes. No fun. No future avid golfer. Promote ready play golf. We do not need to wait for someone to hit just because they are 1 yard longer from the pin. Price. Are we supposed to believe there is $500 worth of technology in that new driver that will be old in 6-12 months. Czar, spend your money on convincing the cheaper munis to book less, ready golf, and get TM and Callaway to knock it off.

  56. Mat

    Jul 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Very simply, the USGA and R&A need to make 9 holes the handicap norm, and the golf norm. If you wish to play a traditional double (18), no problem.

    NINE IS ENOUGH. Nine needs to seem like you finished, not like you quit half way. Do this, and your numbers will soar. Every course is now two courses. Everyone with two hours to burn will consider playing a full nine, where they would not bother with 5h 18.

    Change the game to be 9-hole complete, 9-hole friendly, and 9-hole handicapped. Tournaments can be doubles (18’s), and should be expected to be that. But real people with real time concerns… it isn’t that we can’t play nine now. It is that everyone acts like they are quitting early. Change that, and you change golf for the next 250 years for the better.

    • CM

      Jul 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      I agree with premise but waiting on every shot for 9 holes and 3 hours is just as frustrating.

    • Philip

      Jul 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      I prefer 18, besides anyone can play a quick 9 if they want, but making the handicap system apply it better would be nice. However, it won’t speed up play as it pretty much takes the same length of time to play the front 9 as the back 9.

      It is the people on the course and how they play more than anything. If a group is looking for one or more balls for the allowed 5 minutes every other hole – they will hold everything up.

      And don’t forget, if the courses now charge by 9 holes, then they will have to have starters at both the 1st and 10th tees to ensure people have paid. What if someone plays nine and is on a roll, then they have to go pay for the 2nd nine. So I’m not too sure if changing to 9 holes will be a net gain for a course.

    • Regis

      Jul 28, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      Yup! Have courses create and promote 9 hole leagues-All are welcome. Happy hour afterwards. Make up 2 man teams mixing experience with newbies. Match Play. Factoring handicaps can be tricky but it can be done.I played in two leagues years ago and a lot of beginner/newbies went on to become regular golfers years after the leagues folded. A lot of the problem is golfers at all levels don’t have anyone to play with on a regular basis.

  57. Chris

    Jul 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Mr Czar, how about an incentive program where avid golfers get rewarded for bringing new players into the game… ? Not just bringing a new player into the course one time but actually sticking around until the new player becomes an avid golfer as well…. Think about it like a 5 year program… It could be your son or daughther, a friend outside of golf or even a total stranger… Become the mentor for this person, teach him the basic principles of the swing, ettiquete, and provide advice on everything else such as equipment, lessons, courses etc…. Just Share what you know, share what made you an avid golfer… Perks in the long run might be discounts on green fees when playing together, preffered tee times, someone to buy / inherit your used clubs whenever you upgrade, discounts at the pro shop (say for example, x% off for buying 2 dozen balls instead of 1…. When buying 2 pairs of shoes etc…. I dont know, creative minds can come up with with other incentives exclusive to the folks who are growing the game in a particular region…)

    In 5 years…. Even if only 10 – 15% of current avid golfers succeed in this program, it would still be significant increase down the road

    • Jeremy

      Jul 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Not a bad idea. Would have to take steps to prevent gaming the system, but I like the theory.

  58. Jon

    Jul 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Don’t change the game to grow participation, but less focus on the professional game and more focus on the recreational game nuances. Educate new and experienced participants on different formats of play, educate golfers on ready golf, maximum strokes per hole, post expected pace of play per course, bring back caddies (jobs, opportunity for junior golfers), tee time spacing and rates that reflect the traffic on the golf course. And train players assistants to help groups get through difficult portions of the golf course to promote pace of play and enjoyment (if no caddies). Affordable clinics that include rules, etiquette, course management and playing skills.

  59. MWP

    Jul 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    TLDR

  60. EF

    Jul 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Mr. Adams,

    I’ve responded to a few other of your articles. You lost me here.

    #1 = Tee It Forward in sheep’s clothing. Been debated to death. Many agree it’s worthwhile in concept. Few abide by it in practice.

    #2 – So does the USGA have “real” and “fake” handicaps? What rules govern the “fake” ones? How many mulligans do you get? How many gimmes. How many good for good? How many foot wedges? Here’s my point – does the second set of looser rules still need rules? If so, what’s the point in having 2 sets?

    #2(a) – private courses have to have caddies? I don’t even understand this. Private courses don’t have issues with slow play in my experience.

    #3 – Fine, agreed. Courses will think it affects their bottom line, but it’s the old buffet mentality – kids eat free, adults absorb the costs in their buffet.

    #4 – I get that you’re trying to think out of the box, but this is completely ridiculous. You’re going to take a game that you concede is suffering and make it more expensive to affiliate with it by a forced contribution to a course re-do slush fund? How many corporations will drop their sponsorships altogether on hearing this? What almighty entity will govern this slush fund? Why do I have a feeling that the money will be hoarded for Top 100 courses that don’t need it while all the other low profile courses paying into it are overlooked. This is just a very strange idea for a lot of reasons.

    • ca1879

      Jul 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Pretty much my takes on the items too. I understand that Barney is doing this as an “If I were King” kind of thing, but without realistic ideas on motivating and implementing change it won’t do either.

    • barney adams

      Jul 24, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      1) Tee It Forward ; why I proposed a 5 yr education program
      2) Two sets of rules properly done has immense potential
      3)Caddie programs are great learning experiences and a vehicle to get young people into the game.
      3A) see above, get young folks into the game. I know of at least one course that does this.
      4) why I proposed a “credentialed committee” to be sure funds go to the right places for the right reasons.
      5) I have lots of “strange” ideas.

  61. pm

    Jul 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    how about lower the price for golf greens fees and golf equipment… I’d say about 90% percent of the population is priced right out of golf.

  62. w

    Jul 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    So is no one getting it…? The golf industry is blaming you, the loyal golfer, for all its problems. Play faster they say. Tee it forward they say. Yes, slow play sucks, but it’s secondary compared to the overall cost of the game and the difficulty of the courses being built. A 15″ cup isn’t going to solve any problems. Golf is hard. And a bad swing is just as bad from 6400 as it is from 6900. A swing is bad with a $500 driver the same as it is with a $200 driver. The problem isn’t distance. Its the carry and approach. Carries off the tee box are too long and there are too many things in front of the green. Most courses have eliminated any chance for a senior to run the ball up. The industry keeps driving up the cost on us, keep making the game harder, and then tells us we need to play faster to save the game. Sorry Barney, stop protecting the equipment industry and get on the real issue. I see it first hand every time I play with my 70 year old dad. He can’t always carry it to the fairway and balls that would normally bounce up to the green get stuck in a bunker placed right in front. He hates playing. and the only reason he still plays is because he has no other hobbies. So the problem is not us, its definitely you. Stop the equipment barrage. Stop designing courses for the top 1% golfers in the world.

    • Mike T

      Jul 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      Hey W, great comments. Your perspective is an eye opener about course design which I never considered. Course redesigns are crucial, but one fundamental element has to change, we need fourteen hole courses and a lot of them. That’s right, I want 14 hole courses.

      The “Tee It forward” program is/was just a joke, it doesn’t solve anything. As golfers we all know, “ready golf” is always quicker. Time is too valuable and waiting out five and half hour rounds is just brutal. The pro’s set the bar and they need to speed it up, a lot. Dump the caddies and let them push carts.

      Ok, that’s a rant, but back to the magic 14. We can play quicker more enjoyable golf, where 9 is never enough and 18 can be to many. There’s a lot of par 3 and exec courses that could be a whole lot better as 14’s. And 27 hole courses need just one additional hole and that’s two 14’s. That’s faster and cheaper golf, and more rounds and revenues for the courses. Throwing kids under the bus may save golf jobs for awhile, but it does nothing to fix what is fundamentally wrong. Think 14, it’s the future of golf.

      • w

        Jul 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm

        my thought on that subject has always been, have a front 6, middle 6 and back 6. so you have your choice of playing 6,12 or 18 holes. i think that would be easier for most courses to convert to.

    • brandel

      Jul 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      You make excellent points. Greater enjoyment comes from improving play or at least playing to an acceptable level and the only way to make substantial improvements is through lessons. Getting old sucks, it happens to everyone and in your fathers case and other ultra low swing speed players maybe retiring to a par 3 course. Tee it forward, super game improvement clubs, easier courses, all can be addressed by improving golf mechanics. But to improve mechanics these days seems to require individuals to take out second mortgages or use their kids college fund. The going rates in my area seem to be about $80 to $180 for 30 to 45 minute sessions. Playing lessons range from $150 to $350 and most of the rates don’t include the greens fee. Group lessons are only slightly more affordable. My question is are these instructors curing cancer? Tee it forward, while we are young. . .not addressing the real issue. For those that want to grow golf it needs to be both enjoyable and AFFORDABLE.

  63. Jason

    Jul 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

    A big obstacle for many families is cost of clubs for juniors. They grow out of them too fast so people don’t want to invest in sets for the kids so many tend to not buy them. Golf courses and golf club companies need to get together and provide junior sets that they provide for a nominal fee or even free with a greens fee for juniors to rent during their round. I predict if things like this were available we would see more rounds being played and bring more juniors into the game. There also need to be significant changes to the way we introduce juniors to the game to make it more fun.

  64. Evan

    Jul 24, 2014 at 11:42 am

    If I were a struggling golf course operator? I would abandon the current stigma attached to golf. That it has to be played one way and can only be considered golf if the PGA or USGA is affiliated. I would simplify the game and make the golf course as friendly and inviting as possible while trying to maintain a challenge for better players. I would focus on environmentally friendly practices and offer group lessons and youth lessons at very low prices and occasionally for free. I would be family friendly and willing to try two cups/ larger cup/ larger cup day on the greens.

    If the alternative is closing? Why not try a few things to make the game more fun… most courses are stuck in outdated tradition that a breath of fresh air is what many people want.

    How about having a stableford tournament with a BBQ and a band afterward. In this part of the country it is the SAME OLD scramble/ best ball/ skins followed by a boring buffet afterward. Very little event or celebration type atmosphere. Look at marathons, they have a blast even though they are doing something much more strenuous than golf. Not only are the participants involved, but their families get involved in the event, too. Meals, drinks, entertainment… golf should be a much easier sell when it come to community involvement/ entertainment.

    Have a classic golf tournament where you can dress up in retro golf fashions and everyone must carry a couple wooden clubs in the bag. Have a small parade with golf carts before the tournament for the costume contest. Invite the community/ family/ friends to have fun with it.

    I’m sure this type of thing happens in parts of the country at some golf courses… NONE of it happens within a couple hours of me.

  65. Mike

    Jul 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I finished playing around a week ago and the owner asked/told me “Mike you don’t want to play a sissy course where you are hitting 8I or less into par 4s right”. I said no Joe you are wrong. My goal is to have fun and shoot low scores. I’m never going to compete in an elite event as I am 57 and a 8-9 handicap. I want birdie and par opportunities. I get just as much satisfaction if I hit driver, wedge & 1 putt for birdie as I do if I hit driver, 3 hybrid & 1 putt for birdie. I was playing the white tees and we had 4 par fours that were over 410 yards. The finishing hole is a 90* dogleg left and you had to hit it 260 just to get to corner for a clear shot to the green. Only 3 of 29 players were able to do that.

    At my home course we have a set of tees that are a combo of the senior/women tees. The Friday group, usually 8 foursomes, won’t allow the 80+ year old men to play them.

    Shorter courses mean more pars & birdies = more fun = more golfers.

    Pretty simple to me.

  66. Philip

    Jul 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Add to list – get rid of WHITE and RED tees! WE can no longer allow golf courses to use them as the are unfortunately seen as men and women’s tees. Instead be creative with new colors. I recently saw the Cabot Links scorecard and they went with the following and have valid slope ratings for them:

    Black – 6854 yards (Men 73.7/132 – Women – n/a)
    Green – 6455 yards (Men 71.6/125 – Women – n/a)
    Silver – 6020 yards (Men 69.1/124 – Women – 74.9/135)
    Orange – 4942 yards (Men 64.6/110 – Women – 68.8/118)
    Royal Blue – 3691 yards (Men 60.4/97 – Women – 62.3/99)

    Brilliant!

  67. Chris

    Jul 24, 2014 at 10:58 am

    $100 million fund for a down trending industry… okay good luck with that.

    • KK

      Jul 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Doesn’t golf fundraising bring in something like $3 billion a year? $100 million is cake in comparison.

      • EF

        Jul 24, 2014 at 11:47 am

        So let me get this straight, we divert money from charities to pay for course re-dos? Great plan.

        • KK

          Jul 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm

          If it’s to grow the game and ends up bringing in $4+ billion in charity funds, absolutely.

          • EF

            Jul 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm

            What a joke. Ever heard of causation and correlation? Tell me which one golf raising money for charity is.

        • AW

          Jul 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm

          Absolutely. Interest in the PGA and participation at the amateur level go hand-in-hand. No new generation of golfers means less interest in the pros which means less money raised for “charities.” A lot of the “charity” money already goes into First Tee programs. This isn’t meaningfully different than First Tee.

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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

Published

on

In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Akshay Bhatia

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny chats with rookie phenom and Walker Cup Player Akshay Bhatia.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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