The USGA’s Mike Davis Writes An Open Letter To Members

The USGA’s Executive Director Mike Davis has penned an open letter to the membership.

Dear USGA Member,

As another year comes to a close, I would like to thank you for your support of the United States Golf Association and all of our activities to preserve and protect the wonderful game of golf.

Since 1894, one of our primary missions is to conduct national championships, and there was plenty of memorable action in 2012, including Webb Simpson’s gutsy play at the U.S. Open, Na Yeon Choi’s remarkable third-round 65 in the U.S. Women’s Open, and the stirring finish at the U.S. Amateur by Steven Fox, who won the last three holes of his 37-hole triumph over Michael Weaver.

While those three champions were first-time USGA winners, we had several golfers who added to their USGA championship trophy cases. U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi and U.S. Mid-Amateur winner Nathan Smith captured their respective championship for a fourth time. Paul Simson won the USGA Senior Amateur for the second time in three years, while Ellen Port added the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur to four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur victories.

In addition to helping us to provide arenas of competition for elite golfers, your Membership allows us to serve all golfers at all levels through our support of numerous activities that make the game more fun and welcoming. TEE IT FORWARD has received an overwhelmingly positive response from participants, while programs such as The First Tee and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf have introduced the game to thousands of youngsters around the country.

In 2012, we collaborated with The R&A to publish the latest edition of the Rules of Golf. For the first time, the book has the same look and design regardless of where you are in the world. We also collaborated with The R&A on a proposed Rule that would prohibit anchored strokes, in an effort to preserve the traditional character of the golf swing and the challenge of the game.

All of these programs and initiatives help make golf more sustainable, as do the efforts of the USGA Green Section, which promotes responsible course-maintenance practices and funds research to develop new grasses that are more resistant to heat and require less water.

The availability of water is a major concern for golf courses in many parts of the country. In November, the USGA convened a summit about water that brought together experts from golf, science, industry and government to lay out a road map that will address one of the game’s biggest challenges.

As a USGA Member, you play a valuable role in helping our staff and volunteers perform these and many other important tasks. All of us at the USGA look forward to your continued support in 2013 and beyond. To learn more about everything that we do for the good of the game, visit

Thank you again for your support of the USGA, and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2013.


Mike Davis
USGA Executive Director

A few critical observations:

  • I think that it is telling that the letter starts with two paragraphs on the national championships. As Davis says, these are “arenas of competition for elite golfers.” If I were writing an open letter to the general membershi, I would start with something addressed to the general membership—the 99.9% who are NOT elite golfers and who don’t play for national championships.
  • My takeaway from this as a member is that I’m supporting Tee It Forward and the First Tee and maybe some other things that apparently increase fun, but don’t rate a mention. How about a discussion of the really important things to the membership, such as pace of play and efforts to stop bleeding of golfers leaving the game?
  • As for collaborating with the R&A on the look and design of the rulebook … big whoop.
  • I don’t see the belly putter debacle as something to brag about. I don’t play with a belly putter, but I know players whose enjoyment of the game is increased by those anchoring strokes. There is no scenario in which reversing decades of past practice and making the game less fun is “for the good of the game.” Unless you’re an elite player, of course.
  • Sustainability is good (see below), but if the USGA wants to fire a shot at course designers and owners, how about taking aim at increasing course playability? Few clubs are ever going to get a pro stop or a major, so there’s no need for 7,000 yard tracks. The 99.9% suffer, not benefit, from courses with aspirations as “arenas of competition for elite golfers.”

    On the positive side:

  • Sustainable golf is a good idea. The USGA could do much in that direction by convincing American golfers that there’s nothing wrong with seeing a bit of brown on a course. If a course isn’t sustainable in its environment, it’ll have to either change or go out of business. Unsustainability is expensive.
  • More on sustainability: there’s no need for course owners to water, fertilize and mow the areas between holes. I can think of three courses in my area in particular that are guilty of that. Let those areas grow in prairie grasses and wildflowers. It will add some interesting texture to an otherwise visually bland sea of green. Further, anyone who is twenty yards off the fairway doesn’t deserve a watered, manicured landing zone.
  • Mentioning the volunteers was nice, but need appear higher in the letter. I’ve now observed two USGA Senior Open Championships up close as a member of the media, and the thing that impressed me the most was the dedication of the army of volunteers who made it possible. For every “glamour job” of marshaling a hole, or acting as a walking scorer, there are a dozen standing in parking lots, tidying up and doing unpleasant grunt work.
  • The First Tee and the Tee It Forward initiative are indeed very worthy efforts, and deserve top billing. They directly affect far more people than the Championships. Curiously, the two efforts Brown mentions are organizations that the USGA was but one of several founding members. The First Tee’s organizing group includes the USGA, PGA of America, the PGA Tour, the LPGA and The Masters. Tee It Forward is a joint effort with the PGA of America. Is there nothing the USGA has done on its own that deserves mention? There must be.

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  • 3 thoughts on “The USGA’s Mike Davis Writes An Open Letter To Members”

    1. Just wanted to let you know that I thought that your blog comments were “right on” as respects the letter from USGA. Maybe he just doesn’t get it, as to the real direction that golf is going.

      Oh well, Happy New Year, keep on writing, and hit em’ straight when the snow melts in Michigan.

    2. Dear Mike –

      I am dropping my USGA Membership this year because of the decision on anchored putters.  I have tried belly putters and went right back to standard putting, but it is wrong for this organization if it is going to promote growth of the game to change equipment rules forcing playing form changes and equipment purchases every few years.  The pro-circuits are welcome to create their own local rules, or the USGA could use the existing biforcation in the rulebook for pros to address this, assuming it had to be addressed at all.  This manufactured debate by some elite pros who are aging and losing their edge should not take the entire golfing world with it.

      Thanks, your bud, Marty

    3. No renewal for me either. I don’t play with a belly putter, but know guys who do. I want a golf club that watches out for the little guy.


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