Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The PGA Tees it Back While Telling Us to Tee it Forward

Adam Schupak had an interesting tweet recently that I’ve been thinking about.  It said:

@JoshuaJTGA True but a mixed msg to say avg golfer should play fwd while pushing the pros back. If pros at 7700, whose going to play 6500?

There was intriguing dialogue back and forth about this concept between industry vets I know well and good points were made on both sides.  But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with Schupak’s stance.

When you’re a kid shooting hoops in the backyard, what does everyone dream about?  Scoring 60 and hitting the game-winning shot in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, of course.  Or, at least that’s the scenario that played out in my mind almost every afternoon for years.

Fast-forward to adulthood and the same concept applies.  When you’re on the putting green lining up 8 footers, what do you imagine?  Is this the putt to win the U.S. Open or to shoot 88 instead of 89 on the local muni?

Kiawah's 9th Hole, a 494 Par 4

Tee It Forward is a great program and one that I want to succeed.  I bet we’ve all had too many bad experiences being behind a player or group that was playing inappropriate tees and holding everyone up.  A recent NGF study determined that the average round of golf takes 4 hours 17 minutes and 30% of golfers think that this is too long.  This is important considering most golfers cite golf’s time commitment as one of the two main limiting factors in how much they play (the other being cost).  Therefore, speeding up and maintaining a healthy pace of play is critical to the industry.

People want to play the courses the pros play.  The want to play under the same circumstances as the pros to gauge how far away they are from being as good as them.  It’s the kid in us that still likes to dream and play make-believe every once in awhile.  And telling folks to tee it forward while the pros are teeing it back eliminates the opportunity to do so.  Which is why people don’t play from their appropriate tees as it is.

Of course, the PGA of America has an obligation to the players and fans to provide a tough and fair test of golf, as does the PGA Tour and USGA.  However, I agree with Schupak that they’re sending a mixed message by using a 7,676 yard course for their national championship while promoting Tee It Forward during commercial breaks.

Next year the PGA Championship is at Oak Hill in NY.  Wouldn’t it be neat if they kept it at the length currently listed on the PGA’s website of 7,134 yards, or even shortened it to under 7,000, to align with their campaign?  That would send a powerful message, especially if they used other means besides length to challenge the players.  Otherwise, as long as the pros keep teeing it back, I believe the PGA will have a hard time convincing the weekend warrior to tee it forward.

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