A few highlights from the USGA presser prior to the 2012 US Senior Open regarding their initiatives to expand the game:
The USGA has competed a “strategic planning initiative” to “to make the game more enjoyable, more affordable, and more inviting and welcoming.”
One part of that initiative is the “Tee It Forward” program, which encourages players to play from tees that offer a more reasonable chance chance of success—and thus more fun.
- I wholeheartedly support this notion. Longtime readers of GolfBlogger.Com know that I’ve been writing about the need for players to play from tees that fit their game for years. This will not only make the game more fun; it will speed up play significantly.
The USGA believes that the rules are “simply too complex” and can be “barriers to playing enjoyment.” To combat this, they have developed a “five year education process and campaign to build greater understanding and greater appreciation for the rules among all golfers with the goal of making it less intimidating and more enjoyable for players at all levels. ” Videos have been added to the USGA site to help with this.
- I’m not sure about the role of the rules as a barrier to enjoyment of the game. The hackers I know have plenty of fun without knowing diddly squat about the rules. In fact, none of them could ever be accused of letting the rules stand in the way of their enjoyment.
Making the game more welcoming for women and minorities is another element. The USGA says it has “actively supported programs like the PGA of America’s Get Golf Ready, a grassroots initiative that teaches all the basics that an individual may need to know to play the game in just a few short lessons.” They tout the fact that women make up 60% of the participants, and minorities, 29%.
- I like the idea, but it is not just women and minorities that need to learn the basics in a few short lessons. Everyone who is a potential golfer—women, minorities, youth, retirees—needs to have access to a quick way to start playing the game.
The final active initiative is to improve golf’s sustainability.” The idea is to reduce the number of resources that golf courses consume, resources which “put added stress on the economics of the game.”
- Comment: Anything that can help to make the game more affordable is a good thing.
The USGA says that “additional programs are in development.”
- I hope that one of these is an initiative to reduce and contain the cost of playing the game. Greens fees are one thing, but there’s also the problem of pricey clubs, balls and most of all, lessons.
- Manufacturers have won the war for the minds of golfers, convincing them that the latest technology is necessary for true enjoyment of the game. “Ten More Yards!! is their Battle Cry. The USGA should work to let players know that it is ok to play with second hand clubs and $12 a dozen balls. That, however, will put the USGA in conflict with the manufacturers and retailers who drive the economics of the game.
- Of all the expenses in golf, however, I think lessons are most telling. Players won’t get any better without professional help, and players who don’t improve are likely to become a dropout statistic. Unfortunately, lessons can run $90 or more an hour. That, I think is an insurmountable barrier to expanding the game. I don’t see the cost of lessons changing, because PGA Professionals have as much right to a good living as anyone else.