During the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL last week, Taylormade Golf, along with PGA officials and others rolled out their new initiative, Hack Golf - with the goal of making "golf more fun".
I'll be honest, at first, when I read about this and watched some video about Hack Golf, my first reaction was "We do NOT need to change golf!"
When you're passionate about something, I think the natural reaction to someone wanting to change it is to be defensive...but after really contemplating this Hack Golf concept, I think it's really more about providing more options and opportunities to be on the golf course versus wanting to change the traditional game and rules that we know.
It's a complex challenge. The definition of "fun" can be very different for different people, which tells me that there won't be just one idea that may help, but rather, depending on where you are and who your market is, golf courses and organizations may implement many different ideas to bring more people out to "play golf".
I love the game of golf, just the way it is. I love that it's a mental and physical challenge to try your best each time. I love that even when I've had my best round ever the first thing I think of is "now I have to be 1 shot better than that".
But what I think I love most about golf is that even if you are playing in a tournament with 100 competitors, golf is really about you and the golf course.
But that said, I also love when I get the chance to be on the golf course with my golf pals and play any number of games or formats - before we've stepped on the first tee we've hacked up the rules of golf and made our own. Gimmies are rampant, mulligans show up and sometimes we may not even finish a hole. I'm sure we're not the only golf pals that have their own language for different rules or shots during "the game".
So I guess we've been manipulating traditional golf for a long time, and that's okay!
If I had to guess, this motivation to make golf more "fun" is so that everyone in the golf industry can make more money - or in some cases, to just try to recover from economic downturn golf has been experiencing for almost 10 years now.
And believe me, this hits close to home.
I'm guessing you've all heard those in the industry lament about the barriers to golf...slow play, accessibility to courses, the cost of greens fees and equipment, and the general stigma that golf is for the "elite". On the user end, we know that people are challenged for time (we're all busy all the time!), the game is hard, there are a lot of rules, and sometimes new golfers are not welcomed.
Geez, when you look at that, I can see why folks might not be banging down the door of your neighborhood golf course. But even with all that, I'm not sure a week goes by for me that I don't talk with someone who will tell me that they either want to learn how to play golf or want to play more often. That tells me there is still a market for new golfers. And if those that have the passion for the game can share it, I think you can find even more people who haven't yet thought to move golf up on the priority list.
So what do we do?
Well, I think the first thing every course has to do is identify their barriers, opportunities and the stakeholders that can help craft a plan to make the game better. As I am writing this I realize it's important to first include your current members and loyal customers, because if you go all out to find "new golfers" and you create barriers for your current members you may never see growth because your current players may go somewhere else. So bring in your golfers, show them how important it is to attract new golfers, and ask them to help.
I don't think making golf fun is a new idea - use your favorite search engine and find out what other courses are already doing - at our course last year we did a "big cup" event and a par-3 layout for all 18-holes and both were fun and brought out new players. Our scrambles have always been a hit and there are probably chances to do more...skins games, match play, team play, etc.
I've been pondering some ideas for the course I play at and I'm getting excited to bring out some of the concepts - but I've got a little time since I don't think any of our snow will be melting soon! But even for those of us that have "off seasons" I think it's important to keep golf on people's minds all year!
My brain is bubbling over with all kinds of thoughts right now, but I will leave you all with this...to me, more than anything else, I think bringing passion for the game to others can be the most important first step - passion for not only "the game" but also for your local course and golf community. Enthusiasm is contagious and a great first step to share golf fever with others.
And this is a perfect weekend to talk about passion - the Waste Management Open is on and has been deemed the funnest party on grass! I'd better go take some notes.
I hope you plant a golf seed and start letting it grow - I know I'm going to!!
I love golf and I love to write, so I can't think of anything better than having a happy place like this to write about golf to my heart's content. Thanks for joining me!