HAVING a hole larger than a dinner plate could be the answer to golf’s growth problems, according to TaylorMade CEO Mark King.
King said golf was been in a state of decline because “the game lacks innovation”.
So convinced is King the 15-inch (38.1cm) cup is a way to attract new players that TaylorMade has committed $US5m to fund the experiment over five years.
Golf purist reading this will no doubt be loosening their club ties and trying to keep their gin and tonics in the glass.
Still, King is pushing on and has even created a website, hackgolf.org, to generate ideas about how to get more people playing golf and make the game more fun.
“We need to come together not through the same lens that we have all been looking at this game for the past 30 years,” he said.
“We need to create a new lens – a lens that allows us to see a game maybe we can’t picture.
“We need new ideas, new innovations and new reasons for people to get off the couch and start playing again.
“Every single person has their story of when golf captured their imagination … when it captured their heart.
“Our role is to ensure that generations to come have the same opportunity to enjoy and love the game we all love.”
King has the support of the PGA of America and the National Golf Foundation.
Right after the Masters, King invited Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose to a round where 15-inch cups were in play.
The bigger holes were added at a US country club and King found they reduced the length of an 18-hole round by 45 minutes.
“No one is trying to drive away the many millions of people who play traditional golf,” he said.
“But what harm is there in offering an alternative?”
The oversized hole would be ideal for corporate and charity event, which often attract novice golfers.
PGA of America president Ted Bishop said time-poor golfers needed a new product.
“We need to come up with something that is a golf experience – something that is 30, 45, 60 or 90 minutes.”
In the US, 25 per cent of golfers who played at least eight rounds a year, have quit the game.
“That’s one out of four,” said National Golf Foundation CEO Joe Beditz.
“We’ve lost five million out of 30 million golfers over the last 10 years.
Those core golfers are responsible for over 90 per cent of spending and rounds played in golf.
“The research tells us the answer is very simple – they are just not having fun.”
So, can traditional golf and new innovations co-exist?
Gary Hamel, a world-renowned business strategist, thinks they can.
“My gosh, can golf be tough,” he said.
“There’s so many rules, all those intimidating rituals, the puzzling kind of etiquette and the stuffy elitism.
“The goal for Hack Golf is to identify and address those barriers that are keeping millions from enjoying the game and that are keeping millions more from even giving it a try.
“Here and there you see some notable efforts on the way to accelerate the pace of play, to experiment with new course layouts, with new competitive formats to try to expand the demographic reach of the sport, but clearly there is scope for a lot more.
“That’s why we are launching Hack Golf.”
King says the same industry people are looking at the same problems and coming up with the same solutions.
“It’s time to open ourselves up to new ideas.”
Hamel believes that new comers to the game could create the future.
“Think about it – it wasn’t the record labels that invented iTunes, it wasn’t the movie studios that gave us Net flicks, it wasn’t the telecom giants that gave us Skype, it wasn’t the banking industry that came up with PayPal,” he said.
“What really matters is not resources, not how big you are, it’s resourcefulness. Innovation is always a numbers game.
“It’s hard to invent the future unless you have a way of creating thousands of new strategic options.
“Maybe we could use a global community to generate ideas.
“In Hack Golf we want to share the challenge of reinvigorating this game with anybody who cares and make sure that 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now golf will forever be the greatest game.”
The PGA of America believes team golf is the way forward when it comes to attracting juniors.
In 2012, the PGA of America backed the Junior League Golf (JLG) concept, which has seen a participation increase of more than 350 per cent.
JLG is a team format designed to attract kids to the game. The concept features team jerseys with names and numbers on the back and allows for player substitutions.
“It’s the Little League Baseball version of golf,” Bishop said. “We have reached a point where we have to get as far out of the box and get as innovated as we possibly can to try to bring new players into the game.”
FOOTNOTE: Late last year PGA professional Grant Garrison launched a Junior Golf League pilot program on the Gold Coast with positive results.