Golf Monthly Editor's Letter April 2014 Issue

Editor’s Letter April 2014 Issue 

The PGA Merchandise show in Florida every January is one of the highlights in the golf industry calendar – a meeting of the clans where equipment brands show PGA Pros and the golf media their latest, greatest inventions. Heaven for a gear nut like me, who loves shiny new golf stuff.

Usually, the highlight is Demo Day where every golf manufacturer you’ve heard of, and many you haven’t, invite pros, retailers and media to an incredible 360˚ driving range to trial their latest ranges. It really is as cool as it sounds.

This year, though, one event stood out above even Demo Day. Entitled ‘For The Love of the Game’, it was hosted by Mark King, TaylorMade CEO, who shared the stage with some heavyweights of US golf – Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America and Joe Beditz, CEO of the National Golf Foundation.

The speakers took it in turns to give us their personal ‘warts and all’ pictures of the game.

You can probably guess it wasn’t rosy – dwindling participation among those who do play, and fewer newcomers.

The trio were united over the main reason – golf just doesn’t offer enough fun.

Final word went to renowned business thinker, Gary Hamel. He reiterated the problems golf faced, but then highlighted how other industries facing similar challenges had reinvented themselves.

Music, film, telecoms and banking have been radically reinvigorated by iTunes, Netflix, Skype and PayPal, and all are healthier for it.

Hamel advocates ‘open-source innovation’ where suggestions from anyone and everyone (golfers and non-golfers) are collated and assessed to generate new thinking. The ‘open-source’ platform Mark King hopes will provide the answer is ‘HackGolf’.

This isn’t a society for woeful golfers  chopping it round, but a nod to the business meaning of ‘hack’, which is to generate radical-yet-practical ideas to solve problems.

It’s about tearing up the rule book and inventing new golf formats to act as entry points to the game we all know and love.

That’s not to say established golfers should start taking unlimited Mulligans, dropping back in bounds or putting to bucket holes.

Rather, it’s about the birth of a new form of golf to halt and reverse decline. Changes need to be radical enough to provide a step change to spark and sustain growth in the next decade and beyond. Doing what we’ve always done just isn’t going to work.

The ideas need to venture so far from tradition you’d probably get laughed out of the 19th hole as a heretic if you aired them after the Sunday roll-up.

But if you have any ideas, I urge you to go to HackGolf.org and share them, as long as they involve hitting a ball with a club-type implement to a hole. Beyond that, let your mind run wild!

For ideas to be runners they should address three big issues: golf is very pricey compared to other sports; the current format takes way too long; and for most, it takes a long time to reach a level where enjoyment exceeds frustration.

We should also encourage non-golfing friends and family to share their views at HackGolf as they’re the ones golf needs to entice away from the TV, bike or whatever takes up their leisure time.

I’ll sign off by conceding my last two editor’s letters could be viewed as knocking our sport. But I’m writing about these issues because I want to see the game I love flourish, and effective and lasting change requires radical thinking at every level.

I know everyone reading this loves golf too, so in between honing your slinging draw and signing up for the summer knockouts, can I ask you to spend a little time thinking up ideas to help the game which has given us all so much.

Email: michael_harris@ipcmedia.com
Twitter: @MikeHarrisGolf