Golf, know for decades as stuffy and tradition-bound, might be in for a shakeup. That’s the sense conveyed at a meeting led by Silicon Valley legend Scott McNealy, founder of Sun Micro Systems, whose latest venture is the Alternative Golf Association and an associated new business venture, Flogton.
By design, “Flogton” is the reverse spelling of “not golf.” What McNealy is proposing isn’t exactly “not golf,” but it is a lot less old-fashioned than the game with the lawyerly rulebook that takes five hours (and a lot of money) to play and that drives players nuts because it is notoriously hard to master.
The setting was the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, but this gathering of 60 industry insiders was looking for a bigger vision of how to save and grow the game than was available from the equipment manufacturers, course operators and apparel retailers gathered in the exhibition hall. For years, equipment supplies have railed against the USGA for inhibiting technology that might be useful to everyday hackers. And golfers are seemingly required to uphold Victorian-era codes of behavior, running the gamut from a banishment of cell phones to strict dress codes.
McNealy is not the first to rue this Luddite mentality. It’s all done by the game’s ruling bodies, mainly the U.S. Golf Association, in an effort to limit the tools available to a Tiger Woods or Lee Westwood while creating one set of guidelines for every player.
But as McNealy points out, there are different kinds of baseball games, from T-ball to softball to slow-pitch. And if kids are going to learn a game as hard as golf, why not create some flexibility as to equipment rules and social codes. The idea would be to build a more inclusive game that’s more fun and that’s not so resistant to technological innovation. Adjustable heads on clubs? Golf balls with different flight characteristics. Irons with spring like effect?
McNealy and is business associates have nothing against the USGA. He just wants golfers to have more fun. The exact dynamics of the business model he’s talking about have a lot of detailing to be fleshed out. But it’s great to hear folks here at the PGA Show looking seriously at trying to make the game easier, more fun, faster and more palatable to Gen-X and Gen-Y.