Thursday, May 23, 2013

Two Sets of Rules Are Better Than 20 Million

Hi All,

It’s been a while, but I’ve been gone for good reason.  2013 is turning into a memorable year for me and TGA.  We’re in the throes of building the TGA Sports Foundation, YTD franchise startups are double any previous year, we’re undergoing a shift in corporate structure as well as organizational culture, and it’s all given me a lot to write about.  I just need to (and will) do a better job of allocating time for it.

There are several half written blogs saved on my computer from the past four months, things I found interesting and started writing about but never finished.  One involved anchoring and bifurcation, topics that came full circle this week.

Anchoring has never felt right to me, but there’s also no evidence (even according to the USGA) that it helps.  I understand on a philosophical level why they decided to make and uphold this rule change, but from a practical level it makes little sense to me for a governing body to allow something for decades and then decide to abolish it.  Seems like they need to sleep in the bed they made as opposed to negatively altering the most important part of the game for dozens of professionals and thousands (millions?) of amateurs.  There’s a reason the USGA wrote their ruling the way they did and have been hording hundreds of millions of dollars (while simultaneously eliminating their grants program), and I wish the magnitude of the legal battle they’re preparing for served as the writing on the wall about their wisdom (or lack thereof) with this decision.

More disappointing to me is the opportunity lost for the USGA to have strongly considered adopting two sets of rules – “bifurcation” – to prevent the anchoring ban from making the game of golf even harder for many amateurs. 

I’ve heard great arguments against bifurcation, but at the end of the day my belief is this – golf doesn’t have one set of rules, it has 20 million as most amateurs create (knowingly or unknowingly) their own versions.  Therefore, it makes sense to me to have one set of simplified amateur rules that the most casual of golfers can understand and follow.  Make it three pages max.  Allow anchoring.  Play all OB, lost ball and hazard penalties like lateral hazards.  Allow winter rules year-round.   Etc.  All of these things would make the game less difficult/frustrating and speed up pace-of-play, two of golf’s most painful ailments.  And they would make the rules less confusing and create more conformity.  Seems to me that steps like these would be the ones that are really "for the good of the game."

For the professionals, keep the existing rules unchanged and make them theirs.  Every other major sport – baseball, basketball, football, etc. – has separate sets of rules for amateurs and professionals, even up to the competitive college level, so what’s the big deal about doing the same with golf?

I think it’s going to be a fascinating several months/years as this plays out with the PGA of America being angry about the decision, the PGA Tour claiming it will consider adopting its own rules, equipment companies considering lawsuits and amateurs facing the decision between worsening their game or being possibly labeled a cheater.  Not a good situation, in my opinion, for the USGA to put everyone else, and themselves, in.  For those of us in the industry and all the golf entrepreneurs out there, it’s worth following closely as the outcomes will have a big impact on what threats and opportunities exist.

Thanks for your patience with my lack of blogging, hope you’re doing well and I look forward to having a much more engaging dialogue for the rest of 2013.  Happy entrepreneuring…