ORLANDO, Fla. – TaylorMade-Adidas Golf president and chief executive officer Mark King is fed up, frustrated and fuming about golf’s lack of growth.
He’s lobbying for a new set of rules to make the game easier for beginners and recreational players, like using 15-inch cups and letting them toss their golf balls out of bunkers.
King’s ideas may be a bit exaggerated, but he’s dead serious about creating a new way to play.
“We are not getting new people to come into the game. If we’re going to change their behavior, it’s going to have to feel like it’s completely radical,” said King, during an interview at the PGA Merchandise Show. “Even when we do attract new golfers, they leave within a year. Do you know why? It’s not because it takes too much time. It’s not because it’s too expensive. It’s because it’s no fun. It’s really hard.
“And the new golf courses that have been built in the last 20 years are all championship courses. Those golf course aren’t for you and me. We can’t even play the damn things.”
At the root of King’s frustration is the financial support the manufacturing community has contributed to various grow-the-game initiatives, which, he says, have produced underwhelming results.
“Golf 20/20, Play Golf America, The First Tee – all of these things that were supposed to grow the game, none of them have worked,” King said. “The game is shrinking. Golf courses are closing at an unprecedented rate. Less people are playing.”
Now, he’s imploring the USGA, PGA Tour and PGA of America to take greater action. And he has specific assignments for each of them.
“It has to start with the USGA,” King said. “They have to change the rules of the game, bifurcate them (one set for “serious” golfers; another set for recreational players). Make it easier to play golf.
“Second, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Tim Finchem have to endorse (an alternative set of rules so recreational players will embrace them as legitimate). They have to say, ‘This is real golf. It’s not funny golf; it isn’t weirdo golf.
“And the third thing is, the PGA of America has to execute it. All of the PGA golf professionals who are here have to say, ‘What’s your handicap? 22. Great. We’re going to use the 15-inch cup and the yellow tees, which are way up there.’ “
Asked whether he believed golf’s leading organizations will fulfill such roles, King conceded he wasn’t optimistic.
“The USGA says its responsibility is to protect the history of the game, but it should be to protect the future of the game,” King said. “I think what they’re going to suggest are tweaks, and tweaks aren’t going to work.”