I’m in Colorado for a few days and I find myself thinking about the USGA.
The organization has been a hot source of news lately.
On a personal level as the COO of a junior golf company, I was disappointed to learn that their foundation (based in Colorado Springs) was ceasing its grant program in 2011. The USGA had previously given over $67 million to development programs across the U.S. since 1997.
Then, on Christmas Eve last year, David Fay announced that he was abruptly retiring at the end of 2010 after 21 years as the Executive Director. Mr. Fay did some great things for golf during his tenure – including bringing the U.S. Open to municipal courses and recently helping to reinstate golf in the Olympics after a 100+ year absence.
The incoming ED, whenever hired, will have big shoes to fill and will likely leave a large footprint on the game. In my mind, there are three immediate and significant issues he/she will face:
Equipment – most equipment manufacturers have maxed out their products within the USGA’s limits. The 460cc driver is the most prevalent example. There is little room left for innovation. Thus, as the focus shifts from R&D to marketing, will the USGA consider loosening its rules or creating separate guidelines for equipment played by amateur players?
Handicap system – rounds, players, etc. are all down and have been for years. From personal experience as well as talking to others, the main issue is time. 5-7 hours for golf (including travel, warm-up, etc.) is too long in today’s world. Will the USGA and its affiliates sponsor a 9-12 hole format (or some other expedited golf set-up) and create supporting handicap systems?
Rules – with the recent examples at Kapalua and Abu Dhabi of fans calling in rule violations on PGA Tour players, a real question arises about how stringent the USGA should be about enforcing its rules. I’ve heard recommendations from colleagues about the need for a separation between tournament rules, recreational rules, street-golf rules, junior rules, etc. Will the USGA consider a tiered rules system that accommodates the different levels/aspirations of its players?
As an entrepreneur affected by the USGA’s decisions, I am anxious to see how these issues unfold. They will play a large role on how entrepreneurs look for opportunities within the industry for years to come. I look forward to expanding on these ideas and hearing your thoughts in future blogs.
Until then, happy entrepreneuring…