TaylorMade pledges $5 million to grow game

TaylorMade CEO Mark King (left) and PGA of America president Ted Bishop were two major voices behind the Hack Golf initiative Tuesday night.

— TaylorMade Golf pledged $5 million Tuesday evening to fund the collection and examination of new ideas to foster the growth of the game of golf.

This five-year effort will be conducted under the umbrella of something called Hackgolf (hackgolf.org).

TaylorMade chief executive Mark King – hosting a symposium that included PGA of America president Ted Bishop, National Golf Foundation chief executive Joe Beditz and noted business advisor Gary Hamel – announced the funding at the end of a presentation and discussion that lasted almost an hour and a half.

Several hundred spectators, many of them PGA golf professionals, attended the event in the ballroom of the Rosen Centre hotel.

"Our game lacks innovation," King said. "I'm talking about new ideas, new motivations, new reasons to get off the couch and play the game."

Neither King nor the panelists offered specific suggestions for attracting new golfers to the game, although the TaylorMade CEO promised he would unveil two specific programs Wednesday. Those initiatives, he said, will be funded with $1.5 million during the next 18 months.

King made it very clear that Hackgolf needs the participation of everyone in golf – players, courses, businesses and organizations. "This is all about launching an industry-wide initiative."

Beditz set the stage by using statistics to outline the decline of golf participation in recent decades. The number of golfers in the 18-34 age category, he pointed out, has dipped 30 percent after peaking in the 1980s. The total number of golfers in the U.S. has fallen from about 30 million to about 25 million.

Bishop, perhaps the most influential member of the panel, talked optimistically about introducing new concepts to the 28,000 members of the PGA.

Hamel talked about "open innovation" and "reengineering and reinventing the customer experience."

How to accomplish these goals is another subject, but King appeared to be willing to put his stellar reputation on the line by promising future action within the framework of his five-year-plan.

"We will not drop the ball on this one," he said.

photo

TaylorMade chief executive Mark King (from left), noted business adviser Gary Hamel, National Golf Foundation chief executive Joe Beditz and PGA of America president Ted Bishop announce the Hack Golf effort to grow the game, coinciding with the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.

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