King: Bigger cup, larger ball can grow golf

TaylorMade-Adidas Golf CEO Mark King

TaylorMade-Adidas Golf CEO Mark King

One day after pledging $5 million for programs designed to attract and keep new golfers, TaylorMade CEO Mark King announced the first two programs Wednesday morning.

The first – and the centerpiece of initial efforts to grow the game – is a 15-inch cup. The normal cup is 4.25 inches in diameter, so the 15-inch version tends to look like a wash tub to most players.

“It saves time, it saves strokes,” King said. “It makes golf more fun for a lot of people.”

In an informal tournament at Pine Needles Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., King said players averaged 11 strokes lower than their normal average scores. In addition, the average playing time for foursomes – holing out every putt – was three hours and 10 minutes.

The second program uses a new ball and new clubs invented by TaylorMade engineers. The ball is oversized, and so are the clubheads (the set includes only four clubs, one of them a putter).

“It’s easier to hit the ball. It’s a great way to get started in the game,” King said. “The ball goes about two-thirds the distance of a normal ball.”

The new ball and clubs would be used on courses with the 15-inch cups. King said about a dozen courses are poised to immediately install the larger cups. Many more courses, and golf-course management companies, have expressed interest.

The plan at this point is to cut two cups on every green: standard and oversized.

“We want to hear everyone’s ideas on how to bring new players to the game,” King said. “The key here is innovation. What we are doing is just a start. We are committed to spend $1.5 million in the next 18 months and $5 million in the next five years.”

TaylorMade is displaying the oversize ball and clubs at the PGA Merchandise Show, today through Friday at the Orange County Convention Center.

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