After 46 years of attending the PGA Show, Frank shares three of his observations from last week in Orlando.
1. Application of technology to teaching: the next wave in game improvement as far as I can see is the way in which the industry can utilize bluetooth and wireless technologies to change the way we learn the game, providing detailed information about our game, swing mechanics, kinematics and how we impact the ball.
Of course, having information is important. However, what is more important is how it is used by instructors and golfers.
2. The movement to make the game easier for golfers by providing oversized clubs and experimenting with different ways to grow the game. While I encourage the experimentation, we must ask ourselves if we truly want an easier game, or is it the challenge that makes the game attractive? Pace of play and modified courses better suited to the average golfer are areas in which we should focus our efforts. For more thoughts on Growing the Game, you should read my book Just Hit It
3. The cycle of product development and introduction seems to be increasing its pace, with very subtle changes that seem driven by marketing and the need to tell a new story, rather than substantive change driven by true performance.
Slow is brought on mainly by poor play and looking for errant shots. The game of golf is very difficult. It needs to be easier to keep people interested and to speed up play. It is a fact you can play a round faster when your using less total strokes, which also means you are not hitting it into the rubbish all day and hunting for stray balls. Like all things this sport is also driven by money and power, not sure the elites want change in spite of the rhetoric they spew. They have too much invested into the game for instruction, teaching, equipment sales, memberships, and tournaments. The play it forward initiative is good, but the reality is still the same, you have to keep your ball in play to score even when the holes are shorter. Much will be said and many things will be implemented, but how much will the quality of play and the speed of the rounds improve a year or two from now? Check the scoring for the last 20 plus years and the distance’s average players hit it, in spite of the technology improvements, USGA initiatives to grow the game, it still a hard game to get proficient at and very costly as well. If you chase the “technology gains” you will invest a lot of money to essentially only hit further in the rubbish. Hard work is what is required and most do not have the time or money to improve and if they do the improvements are minimal again for most. There are exceptions to all of the above but all the real numbers bear out the truth if you seek it.
Slow play is the most damaging factor to the growth of the game. In this age of immediate gratification, the thought of hitting a ball and then waiting laborously before you can hit again destroys any continuity or rhythm that someone tries to establish with the game. The ‘slow play’ plague is not discriminatory to the skill level of the player; I have seen good and terrible players be oblivious that they are taking too much time with their entire golf mannerisms.
Gaining better gear and mechanics to your game does nothing unless you are able to put them to use in an enjoyable setting. A round of 5+ hours is not an enjoyable setting.
The industry may have reached the end of the technology race. I agree with Bill that enjoying the game at a reasonable pace is the ultimate goal. Selfish golfers who plug up the course may be the root cause–just because you paid your money doesn’t mean you rented the course exclusively!
Now, a 4 hour round is pretty leisurely…3 hours would be better, but we have to be reasonable for all levels of play. 10 minute intervals for foursomes will help, and green speeds under 10, as well as requiring ready golf and continuous putting.
A larger cup (6″-8″) might work (Sarazen, among others, suggested this in the 30’s), but bigger clubs and 15″ holes are a little much to take. Maybe Adams can just repaint all the clubs purple instead of white for this year’s technological advance.
I agree that bigger hole cup size will speed up play. And slower greens too. Waiting for the game in front to do their putting adds hugely to the time spent on the golf round.
Often my group plays ‘One and Done’ on the greens. When the ball is on the green, the golfer must make a stroke to get the ball in the hole, no matter how close or far away the ball is from the hole. After that, the next putt is automatically conceded, again regardless of the distance. This allows each golfer 18 opportunities to properly read and stroke a putt – minus holes where he chips in – but cuts down tremendously on the time required to putt out on each green.
I think that a big problem is that the golf media is so beholden to the advertising from equipment companies that cannot exist without the $300 drivers and $200 dollar putters. Cannot expect honest ideas for expanding the game when the media must protect the money suppliers. Those clubs are all being made in China for $25 with the rest of the money greasing the palms of too many people to see any real change.
Of course the time it takes to play is a big issue in growing the game, but from my view so is the difficulty in learning to hit the golf ball. I believe frustration among those new to the game is a major factor that is impeding growth. I can’t help but wonder if there is some way to engineer “starter” clubs that would make it easier for beginners to launch the ball into the air and help with direction as well.
Or maybe club purchases by those new to the game should come with three 30 minute lessons in a small group setting. Get their hands on correctly from the beginning, maybe using contoured grips, and ingrain the sense of swinging the club.
And get those forward tees really forward. It is rare to find women who can reach all of the par 4’s on a course from the forward tees, move them up and give them a chance to really enjoy the game.
I can agree more. All these new elements take some of the fun out of golf, it isn’t suppose to be a perfect game, but a learning experience and to have fun
I also believe some of these innovations, aids, etc. only cause the game to get slower. Everyone wants to enjoy the game, but at a reasonable pace of play.
We need to play and have fun, not checking every thing. I Would like to at the very least get back to a 4 hour round, esp. at a public course where I play 99% of the time.
I agree it completely, No mater how you use tech information is never going to
human golfer as perfect and trying only spoils the enjoyment of this beautiful game of golf.