Can 'hack' concept save golf?

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2014, 11:45 pm

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

- Linus Pauling, world-renowned chemist

ORLANDO, Fla. – Behind the bright lights and big words, ideas are what this night was all about.

Before a packed house on the eve of this year’s PGA Merchandise Show, TaylorMade Adidas Golf CEO Mark King unabashedly announced that the answer to golf’s dwindling participation numbers rests among the collective and not the caverns of power that have for years tried, and largely failed, to stem the ebbing tide.

First, King – with the aid of National Golf Foundation CEO and statistician Joe Beditz – outlined the stark reality. Golf has lost an estimated 5 million players in the last decade. Even more concerning, 25 percent of the game’s core golfers have made their way to the exit.

“We’re leaking golfers,” Beditz announced to a crowd of mostly PGA professionals and golf course operators.

And like any good intervention, King – never one to shy away from a fight – offered the ultimate haymaker to any in the old guard who wish to cling to the last stages of denial.

“Our great game has been in a state of decline and a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge that,” King said.

The issue, as Beditz crunched it, is partly perception, partly relevance. “Research says they are just not having fun,” he said.

While “fun” may be a buzz word on Beditz’s surveys, it seems cost, time and degree of difficulty also factor into the game’s diminishing participation numbers, but now doesn’t seem like the time to get caught up in semantics.

Besides, as King sees it the “why” is not as relevant as what it will take to improve golf’s appeal to a wider audience, which is where Gary Hamel, who was recently called the world’s most influential business thinker by the Wall Street Journal, joins the conversation.

Hamel talks fast, eschews ambiguity for the frontal assault and views golf’s participation problem no different than if the game were a Fortune 500 company with a creativity issue.

“We have to listen to the canaries in the coal mine,” Hamel said.

To do that Hamel has been picked to help spearhead a new grow-the-game initiative called “Hack Golf.” King admits he’s not crazy about the name, but the concept is revolutionary.

Much like the tech companies that had hit innovation walls in the early 2000s, Hamel contends golf is ripe for crowd sourcing, or, as he explains, extended online brainstorming sessions.

“We need hundreds of mind-flipping ideas, not dozens,” he said.

Whereas golf “think tanks” have historically consisted of industry insiders who seem to have been mired in the flawed participation models of the past, Hack Golf will attempt to collect ideas from every corner of the golf universe and beyond.

Via the initiative’s web site,, and Twitter, @HackGolfOrg, King & Co. plan to take the best ideas and put them in play with a surprisingly specific plan.

Until April, which organizers are calling the beta phase, Hack Golf will cherry-pick the very best ideas, with no constraints from equipment and format changes to new technology and rules.

We have seen these types of “game-changing” initiatives before. From Golf 20/20 to Get Golf Ready to Golf 2.0, the industry has tried and largely failed, if Beditz’s numbers are to be believed, to stem the steady participation declines.

For his part, King has committed up to $5 million in funding for whatever ideas, or “hacks,” the concept produces and has dedicated an entire team of TaylorMade employees to lead the collection of data and implementation of ideas.

In fact, King seemed to begin the dialogue with his suggestion on Tuesday that golf’s current “pyramid of influence” should be redefined, with the PGA of America assuming the top spot over the U.S. Golf Association, PGA Tour and Royal & Ancient because, he points out, PGA professionals will ultimately decide if the game is able to break free of its current participation malaise.

This will ultimately come down to a confrontation between tradition and innovation. Breaking down preconceived notions that were centuries in the making is no easy task and this kind of outside-of-the-box thinking has not exactly been embraced by golf’s power brokers.

King, however, is convinced it is the only path forward.

“They are not mutually exclusive; tradition and innovation can coexist,” Hamel said.

Only time will tell if the old game can survive a new makeover, but as Pauling figured out long ago there is only one way to assure the creation of a good idea.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.