ORLANDO – The popular rumour heading into a big announcement last night at the Rosen Center which is right next to the Orange County Convention Center, where the PGA Merchandise Show gets underway Wednesday, was that TaylorMade was about to introduce non-conforming clubs.
It wasn’t about that at all.
As CEO Mark King pointed out, the announcement wasn’t about TaylorMade either and, other than his association with the company, it really wasn’t.
For the past few years, King has been an advocate of innovation, not just the kind that goes with golf club research and development, but rather, new ways to grow the game that stray from the traditional.
What he helped to introduce Tuesday evening was the next step in that thought process, but it wasn’t just about King either as he was joined on stage by PGA of America president Ted Bishop, National Golf Foundation CEO Joe Beditz and renowned management consultant Gary Hamel.
What they gathered the golf industry together for was to introduce the Hack Golf initiative. Hack, by their definition, means to improvise something new and highly effective and has nothing to do with bad golfers or bad writers.
Of course, the improvisation centres around golf’s dwindling participation and how best to lure those who have left the game and those who have never played into golf.
Hack Golf welcomes input from active golfers and the industry, but it is focused on obtaining input and ideas from people on the perimeter and beyond about what made them leave, what would draw them into the game and what keeps them out of it right now.
It is designed to make golf fun for everybody without threatening its traditions and ideals. You can read more here, including a blog by King, who says innovation stalls when “the same people keep talking to the same people.” Fresh ideas are needed, he writes.
Two years ago, I sat in on the Golf 2.0 conference at the PGA Merchandise Show and as I said here, Golf 2.0 had plenty of good ideals, solid industry backing, but it rehashed what we already knew with few real solutions.
In many ways, Hack Golf is the same.
At Tuesday’s conference, there were a lot of numbers thrown around about the decline in golf participation, but its objective is not to present immediate solutions to the problem, but to find them from the very people the industry is attempting to lure.
So, it has the potential to be just a feel-good initiative with good intentions but no real solutions, but there are two factors that will contribute to its success or lack of success.
One is the willingness to make it work and that seems strong.
As mentioned above, King has been an advocate of finding new ways to grow the game for years. TaylorMade’s commitment of $5-million over the next five years to Hack Golf speaks to the company’s commitment to Hack Golf.
Two Hack Golf initiatives will be announced Wednesday during the first day of the show.
TaylorMade has even said it would welcome strong support from a rival golf club company for Hack Golf, but it remains to be seen how the rest of the golf industry will react to Hack Golf.
It also remains to be seen how the industry will react to these new ideas that come from Hack Golf. Granted, it’s in their own best interests to grow the game, but will they react to what may be seen as a radical idea?
For example, how many golf operations would warm to this concept as Haggin Oaks in Northern California did? According to Bishop, Haggin Oaks made $100,000 in new revenue through foot golf.
There are a lot of moving parts that can still break down and success won’t be immediate. Communication with the industry and people inside and outside of golf is critical if Hack Golf is to establish momentum this year and beyond.
As it stands, Hack Golf is filled with good intentions just as others have been and they are to be admired for trying. Resolve to transform those good intentions into something meaningful will be needed big time, as will cooperation from the industry.