And a new program gives us a platform to offer ideas, fixes and brainstorms. The goal is simple-: a better playing experience for everyone.
Hack Golf was unveiled this past January, with a $5 million jump-start from TaylorMade and the backing of every major organization in the sport. Think of it as golf treating itself like a dot-com start-up, borrowing the open-source-innovation approach to solving problems and even some of its terminology.
Currently, the program is in its rollout phase, and the overall reception has been positive. “We’re happy with the reactions we’ve gotten with the introduction,” says Dave Cordero, public relations manager at TaylorMade. “We’ve had almost one thousand new contributions on the site, and the best, most thoughtful and well-developed ideas are being highlighted.”
Hack Golf seems to have found the fairway with many local golf pros, as well. “I like that we’re going to the consumer for ideas or opinions of what they would like to see,” says Jeff Kiddie, head golf professional at Aronimink Golf Club. “Rather than industry leaders and experts guessing what they think the consumer wants, the consumer is speaking. Hopefully, from this process, we’ll get an aha idea that has an impact.”
Without question, the top issue affecting the game of golf nowadays is pace of play. Over the past several years, the governing bodies of golf have offered up their own ways of dealing with it: the USGA’s “While We’re Young” campaign and the PGA’s “Tee It Forward” initiative. While the former just pokes fun at the problem, the latter actually has some directive behind it. “By playing the proper set of tees suitable for your game, this will help speed up play and grow the game,” says Eric Shillinger, head pro at Moselem Springs Golf Club.
“In order for golfers to improve their experience as they play, they need to remember that they’re not like the golfers they watch on the PGA Tour,” says Chad Dailey, Bayside’s associate pro. “Average golfers [should] play from a distance that fits their game, not their ego.”
Tony Hollerback, head professional at Baywood Greens, has a few basic pace-of-play reminders: “The player’s responsibility is to choose the right tee boxes from the information given to them from the starter, and they should be prepared to hit their shot when it’s their turn.”
The Ridge at Back Brook’s Clint Deibert mentions another way to speed up play: “If every player in a foursome could cut down just 15 seconds per shot, twice a hole, the group would finish 36 minutes sooner.”
But pace of play isn’t the only aspect of golf that could use some enhancement. The Hack Golf site provides many other ideas, addressing golf rules, types of alternative play, golf lessons, how to attract new players, dress codes, and much more. Visit www.hackgolf.org.
Are you up for the challenge?
Charlie King has one of the best “hacks” I’ve heard of this year, and it’s not surprising coming from a golf professional who’s been innovative his entire career. His idea: a nationwide short-game challenge.
King knows a thing or two about the short game. Based at Reynolds Golf Academy in Georgia, King is ranked one of “America’s Top 100 Teachers” by Golf Magazine and penned the popular book, Golf’s Red Zone Challenge: A Breakthrough System to Track and Improve Your Short Game and Significantly Lower Your Scores.
His idea combines his knowledge of teaching and his passion for short-game success with the overall objective of the Hack Golf initiative: Grow the game by creating new, more fun ways to get people to play.
King envisions a series of short-game challenges (putting, chipping, pitch shots) conducted nationwide, administered by golf professionals and open to all levels. “We’d have a priceless collection of top prizes, as well as conventional prizes, down the list, to give more golfers a chance to win,” says King. “I believe we can approach Augusta National with their commitment to grow the game as the ultimate priceless first prize. It would take something of this nature to make this contest unique and something most golfers would shoot for.”
King also sees the possibility for “a contest within the contest” for PGA professionals. “Prizes for most golfers entered, most creative local promotion and most golfers in the finals would motivate PGA members to get involved,” he says.
This idea certainly hits many of the hot buttons golf is looking for. It’s fun; it takes less time than a round of golf; it encourages lessons and practice; it gets new people into golf; it reenergizes people already playing golf; and it brings more young people out. Think of it as golf’s equivalent to the NFL’s “Punt, Pass & Kick” challenge.
King has presented the idea to the PGA and is still working out all the details, but he’s received great feedback so far. Concurrently, he’s thinking outside the box—in this case, overcoming the tunnel-vision approach to golf instruction—with his new book, Anti-Method Golf: No Two Golfers Are the Same, cowritten with his lead instructor, Rob Bowser. Visit www.antimethodgolf.com.
“We’re starting a Wednesday-night league for members to play nine holes. We hope this encourages more members to play golf together and also translates into more mixed play at the club. Additionally, we’re starting a program called 30N3, which is offered to new golfers only. Each of six lessons will consist of 30 minutes of golf instruction and three holes supervised by our professionals. Students will get on-course instruction about rules, etiquette and technique.” —Scott Nye, Merion Golf Club
“Facilities need to make an investment in having a teaching pro, or pros, on staff. Having people dedicated to helping others play the game better will result in people wanting to play more.” —Jim Smith Jr., Philadelphia Cricket Club
“We conducted pace-of-play audits every weekend during the 2013 season. We posted results in the locker rooms and sent letters to individuals who may have exceeded the expectation. The result: a greater awareness by the membership of pace of play and better playing experiences.” —Scott Reilly, Philadelphia Country Club
“The game of golf is difficult and can be intimidating, so we utilize our PGA professionals by having them host beginner clinics to introduce the game in a friendly environment. We have multiple events each year that utilize an eight-inch cup, and events where we make every hole into a par 3.” —Chris Boos, Deerfield and Garrisons Lake
“I think the biggest thing is creative ideas to get players and future players on the course—even if it’s an ‘open court’ kind of thing. Wyncote offers an evening membership, starting at 4 p.m., that encourages beginners and families to play. It also includes unlimited practice time.” —James Pepple, Wyncote Golf Club
“Golf needs to be viewed as a family-fun experience that removes all of the stereotypical pictures that have been painted. The days of the regimented nine or 18 holes must be erased, and a new picture of ‘time spent’ created. Making golf a fun and memorable experience for the new golfer will retain golfers and sustain our industry.” —Jeff Haas, French Creek Golf Club
“The rollout of Hack Golf is exactly what the game needed. Just the ability to have a place to share ideas to help the game is a great achievement. My thought is that golf courses for the past 15 years have been made too hard and too long, and it’s deterring players from enjoying the game. I think golf professionals everywhere should besupporting the PGA initiative of ‘Tee It Forward.’” —Michael Rushin, Bear Trap Dunes
“We’re constantly looking for ways to get new golfers hooked—activities that take a shorter amount of time and aren’t as intimidating. Last year, we had a ‘Five & Dine’ for graduates of our women’s beginner clinic program. It was very successful and only took a little over an hour. This year, we have plans to have a family par-3 tournament where we play six to nine holes—all inside 150 yards—and have a barbecue afterward.” —Chris Wilkinson, Llanerch Country Club
“You absolutely have to play it forward. I rarely play the wayback tees, so why would amateurs want to punish themselves? Move up and have some fun. Speed up play with just one practice swing, then whack it.” —Ryan Lagergren, Stonewall
1 I Get rid of the out-of-bounds rule. It’s the worst penalty in golf, and it forces a player who’s already hit a bad shot to reload from the same spot. Pace of play is arguably the biggest problem in the golf industry. Turn that white stake into a red stake: Make it a lateral, take your stroke, and hit from the point of entry.
2 I Golf is a hard game. Why make it harder? If we have technology like belly putters and no-slice golf balls, why not make them legal for the amateur player? We can always keep the specs the same for the pro game. The ski industry looked at the snowboard phenomenon as a nuisance when it first came onto the scene—even banning snowboards at most mountains. Today, it’s a driving force in mountain sports. Golf should look similarly at its own equipment.
3 I Design golf courses with a warm-up hole that precedes the next 18. Groups play that hole first, and you can use the results for team pairings, gambling stakes, etc. It gets you in the swing of things scorecard-free. It also gets the bad swings out of the way before you proceed to the real first hole.
Have some great ideas to fix golf? Share them with us. The best will be posted online, and winners will receive some cool golf swag. Visit www.delawaretoday.com/golfsweepstakes.