While at the PGA Merchandise Show, I find many different things to report on. This year there was an idea throw out to those in attendance. An idea so odd and out of the norm, that most of us laughed when we first heard it. That is, we laughed until we realized the man tossing the idea out there was Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade Golf.
At first I thought perhaps he had stayed out far too late the night before entertaining clients. Or maybe one of his kids switched the numbers on his notes in an effort to be funny. None of that was the case. He was quite serious.
The idea? King would like to make golf a little bit easier for the high handicapper and the beginner. The way he thinks would best work is to make the hole bigger. A lot bigger! Next time you bring home a pizza, toss it onto the floor and imagine putting to a hole that big.
The regulation golf hole is 4-1/4-inches in diameter. Under King's proposal, courses would cut holes 15-inches in diameter. This would speed up play, because fewer putts equals less time on the green... especially over those knee-knocking four-footers. It would also make the game much easier once you got onto the green as well as when chipping. This, according to King, would keep more people in the game once they start.
We all want to shoot lower scores. But do you honestly think someone breaking 80 for the first time because every putt they hit fell into a wash bucket instead of missing a standard hole is going to feel that they have truly accomplished something?
Golf is struggling. Ask any course owner, general manager or head professional and they will tell you rounds are down. Golf is a difficult game and making it easier may bring more people in the door to try the game.
A bigger cup will only solve one problem. Sinking putts with become easier. But what about hitting a fairway from the tee or even the green if you get the first step right? If it takes you six or seven or 10 shots to get to the green, will one-putting really make your day?
If you ask the companies making clubs or the stores selling them and they will tell you that people are not buying new clubs, balls and so forth. The price of admission is pretty hefty. Fourteen clubs, a bag, shoes, and some silly plaid shorts come at a cost. Granted not everyone gets en expensive set of clubs right off the bat, but even the cheap stuff runs a few hundred dollars. If you go for used, there is a chance the technology isn't new either and won't help you when you most need it, which is when you are first learning the game.
Even if you pick up some decent clubs or are fortunate enough to have some given to you, there is still the price to actually play. Just a bucket of balls will run you around $10. Once you decide to play, you are talking much more. Coupons and off-season rates may run you $25 or so, but get into the season here in Florida and the rates climb faster than an F-16.
How many courses are going to want to invest in new cups? Would you use them once a week? Would you have two holes on each green? What is the risk you run off more players than you bring in by trying this idea?
We do need to bring more people to the game. I don't think that a 15-inch hole is the answer. Maybe we need a different set of rules to help those just beginning the game. Maybe we need equipment that allows them to play better with less skill. Perhaps courses should consider allowing for players to play six holes instead of at least nine. Some new routing designs are doing just this making for cheaper fees and play that only takes about an hour.
Truth is a vast majority play this game for the love and fun of it. They don't really follow the rules and they enjoy themselves without worrying just what rule 13-1 says. I don't want to take away from those who want the challenge and wish for the winner to be the one with the most skill. But we have to do something or this game will become even more elitist than it is.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Let me know what you think and I'll publish the best ideas.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.