If You Were the Golf Czar…

Changing the Game

If you’re a regular listener to the Plugged In Golf Podcast [listen HERE], you know that most episodes end with a rapid fire segment we call the Back 9.  One of our staple questions is, “If you were the golf czar, what’s the first thing you would do?” 

The answers run the gamut from practical to off-the-wall and give us a great insight into the way that people think about the game.  At the request of a reader, we’ve compiled some of the best answers here, organized from mild to very spicy.

Fairway Divots Be Damned

Noelle Zavaleta, Social Media Specialist at Cleveland/Srixon, “You can remove your ball if you’re in a divot in the fairway.”

Jason Bruno, Founder of LinksNation, “If you hit it in the middle of the fairway and your ball is sitting in a divot, I feel like that should be ground under repair.”

Tyler Standifird, Biomechanics Professor and sports performance researcher, “Being able to pull balls out of divots in the fairway, without a doubt.  And I would somehow create a system where every recreational golfer played from the right set of tees.”

Corey Gerrard, Director of Marketing for Vokey Wedges, “I’d let people move it out of a divot.”

Pace of Play

Dan Ridgway, Founder of GOAT Grips, “I would try to get away from five and six hour rounds.  That takes away a lot from the game.”

Johannes and Fredrik, Founders of Koger Golf Bags, “Slow play is one thing, but I think I wouldn’t change anything.  I would rather look at going back to our roots.  There is a reason St. Andrews is very popular.  More keeping to our traditions, I think.”  “I would put in the shot clock on the PGA Tour.  I can’t understand at all why they haven’t.  Nobody likes this slow play, and they still don’t do it.”

Sam Bettinardi, President of Bettinardi Golf, “I would figure out a way to speed up play.  You can’t do that in amateur golf with a shot clock, but maybe not booking so many tee times eight minutes apart.  I know it’s less revenue for the course, but we’ve got to figure out a way to not have five, five and a half hour rounds.”

JJ Van Weezenback, Director of Player Promotions at Titleist, “It would have to be something pace of play related.  Maybe eliminate honors on a casual round – first to the tee is first ball in the air.”

Brian Schielke, GM at Srixon Golf, “It would probably be something to do with pace of play and having foursomes go out every ten to twelve minutes instead of eight minutes apart.  Keep the pace up and make sure we can finish in four hours or less.”

Matt Barksdale, Head Pro at Pinehurst, “I would make sure everybody plays ready golf”

Focus on Fun

Terry Hanley, GM of Cantigny Golf, “Add music and make it fun.  Stop all the stuffiness.  The world’s changing everyday.  There are some pure golf courses that will stay pure, and you can go to Augusta and do that.  But for the most part the world’s changing.  I have kids who are 30 years old, they play golf in a different manner than I used to.  You can’t fight it, so you might as well embrace it and have fun with it.”

Garret Krynski, Founder of GEOM Golf, “I would throw away the dress code rule book.  It’s not in the rules of golf, but it’s on the back of every local score card.  I would literally burn it.  Dress code rules are the most ridiculous non-rule rule in the game of golf and I think it’s killing it.”

Jeff Pelizarro, 18Strong, “The dress code thing.  I like being able to go out to a muni course and play in a t-shirt and just have fun with the guys.  I think some places end up being a little stuffy.”

Grow the Game

Keith Karem, Senior Vice President of Marketing, KemperSports, “I’m going to make golf easier to play for kids who otherwise couldn’t.  I think the biggest downside to our game is the location, the cost, where it is; it’s not as accessible as it should be.”

Preston Toulon, Mitsubishi Golf, “I have a lot of people in my life getting into golf, and when they play, they’re so intimidated by golfers behind them or in front of them.  If I could change anything, it would be to make it a lot more welcoming to people who are learning.  I wish people would be more cognizant of new golfers trying to learn the game and help them along.”

Stephanie Luttrell, Director of Metalwoods Development at Titleist, “Make golf affordable and accessible to all.

James Patrick Harrington, Founder of JP Golf, “I’d make it more accessible for kids and everybody to enjoy their version of golf because at the end of the day golf is supposed to be fun but anybody can find enjoyment in golf in their own way.”

Brian Doyle, Founder of AXIUS Core, “I’d do everything I could to make the game more accessible.  I would remove barriers of entry – more courses that are easier to find tee times at lower costs.  More people playing, I think that’s where golf needs to go.”

The Hottest Takes – Rule Changes, Equipment, and More

Dean Dingman, CEO of SuperStroke, “I would have no limits on drivers or golf balls.”

Liam Bedford, Tour Department at L.A.B. Golf, “Add a ring around the cup.  You can – and I don’t know how we do this – have circles around the hole and you can accept a certain score to finish the hole and you can pick it up.  Having some more quirky rules in there.  It’s not for stroke play, but for the casual match.”

Mike Romatowski, creator of Mach 3 Speed Training, “Caddies are not allowed on the green.  I don’t think a Tour player should [let someone else read the putt].  You’re the best of the best.  Why do you need somebody else reading your putts?”

Bradley Hughes, Tour Pro, Instructor, Inventor of the Down Under Board, “Two sets of rules.  The pros are just destroying golf courses with the technology that they’ve got.  The pro is not challenged anymore.  It doesn’t matter how long you make a hole.”  *This answer goes on for several minutes and is worth a listen HERE.

Tom Olsavsky, VP of Research and Development at Cobra Puma Golf, “It always struck me that two footer is worth as much as a 300 yard drive, so if I could wave a wand, I’d make all the holes bigger.  It would speed up play.  We did some experiments with that and it would take a lot of frustration out of it, especially for players higher up the handicap scale.  I wouldn’t go to 15″, but I would go double the size of today.”

Dan Erdman, Founder of Uther Supply, “I would reduce the amount of clubs.  I think that’s a barrier to entry because it’s expensive so if we could simplify it and have seven clubs as opposed to fourteen, it would offer more creativity as well.”

Reed Dicks, Founder of LA Golf, “The game has dozens and dozens of rules that are completely outdated.  There’s things that have nothing to do with giving you a competitive advantage.  There’s a lot of modernizing the rule book.  If I could only change one thing, the idea that a fan can call in because of HD television and call a penalty on a player, I think is the most appalling, abysmal, unacceptable injustice in the world, but when Bryson couldn’t find his ball at The Masters in November, they couldn’t do ask the camera to help him find it, he had to walk around like it’s 1900.”

Jesper Thuen, GM at ECCO USA, “I think the length thing has gone too far.  I would like to see the golf ball rolled back a little bit.  I think it’s a shame that a lot of these fantastic old golf courses are a little bit obsolete now because they’re not long enough.”

Andy Staples, Golf Course Designer, “As a player, I’d bring back anchoring because I was a decent putter when I could anchor.  The fourteen club rule.  I still don’t carry fourteen clubs.  I don’t know how many golfers use all fourteen clubs.  And when you actually get down to the amount of clubs you actually need and are forced to play the game with less options, I think that’s better.  I’d go to probably ten.”

Mark Stewart, CEO of Stewart Golf, “One thing that’s done way better in the US than it is in the UK is the different tees.  In the UK you have reds, the front tees for ladies and juniors, yellow, for mortals, and white, which is competition.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  The distance of the golf course shouldn’t be based on your sex or your age, at all.”

Brandel Chamblee, Former Professional Golfer, Golf Analyst, “In professional golf, I would eliminate the exemptions for top 50 and top 25 career money earners.  It’s a safety net that has no place in sports.  Sports should be based on merit and what you can do right now.”

If you were the golf czar, what would you do?

Share your thoughts in the comments

Matt Saternus
Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

15 Comments

  1. I would like to go back to pre-covid golf, when I could book a decent tee time less than a week or two in advance. People constantly complain about the pace of play, which is totally legitimate and I agree, but then they go on to talk about wanting to grow the game. Where I live, everyone decided they wanted to be a golfer during covid and now courses are all booked up with people who can’t get off the tee. Wish they would go back to whatever they did for fun before covid. Those of us who are decent golfers but don’t belong to a country club are getting hosed, as the increased demand has not only led to 5 hour rounds being “normal”, it has also let to a huge increase in the price of tee times.

  2. Completely agree, Brandon. I wonder when the last time all of these “grow the game” clowns (usually equipment manufacturers or real estate developers) actually had to call a golf club to book a tee time to play a 5 hour round of golf. I played in several charity scrambles this past season with two groups teeing off on every hole. 0ne of them took 6 hours to complete….a scramble. Yeah. Let’s grow the game. lol.

  3. Let players carry as many clubs as they want to.

  4. Some great ideas!

    Love the fairway divot rule. That needs to change immediately! So stupid!

    Im intrigued by the idea of a bigger hole.

    I love courses that spread out the tee times to 10 or 12 mins, but golf is so inaccessible right now (at least in so cal) that it would make it even more impossible to get a deal time. I spend an inordinate amount of time stalking tee times.

    I’d like to see pros all play the same tournament ball. Roll it back..do whatever. But have them all play the same ball. Let us amateurs have as much fun as the technology will allow us too.

  5. Pace of play:
    – 10-12 min tee times.
    – Prior certification of etiquette & basic rules before playing on a course. (An entity like Top Golf
    might be a good venue.)
    Dress Code:
    – Maintain. Dressing down encourages reduction in discipline & comportment. (Dress down Fridays
    monitoring when first initiated)
    Distance Issue: (Pros and elite amatures): Designate only certain length and loft of club on tee shots
    depending on length of hole.

  6. The thing I have been saying for years is if your ball lands in a fairway divot that should be ground under repair and a free lift. 2 players are in a playoff and both hit the fairway 6 inches apart and 1 gets a perfect lie and the other player is in a piece of crap divot, is that fair. I don’t think so.

  7. TurtleHacker

    The divot rule for sure. That way everyone plays the same conditions on the same course.

    No limit on number of clubs, embrace change.

    As far as on the pro tour it should be a penalty for a touring pro to mark his ball 1-foot away, just to line his ball up for a tap in.

  8. You should be able to move your ball out of a divot as long as it’s not closer to the hole.

    No thanks on playing music, even if it’s music that I like. I want to hear nature. Peaceful. And keep a dress code…I don’t want the golf course to look like Walmart.

  9. Pace of play. Free drop out of a fairway divot. Those are two that most immediately affect the average golfer the most. Additionally, according to IBISWorld, approximately 1500 golf courses/country clubs have closed since 2014 in the US. Just in my town, San Antonio, we lost 3 golf courses in the last few years, including Pecan Valley where the 1968 PGA Championship was played, where Arnie finished one shot back of Julius Boros. Our courses are so crowded now and rates have increased so much it’s both 5-6 hour rounds and too expensive on the weekends. Not sure how to reconcile “grow the game” with 1500 course closures and a bunch of new golfers, many of which know nothing about the game or its traditions or even care to.

    • Mark’s point about golf course closures is a good one. If the course isn’t bringing in enough money, or is being played by enough people, some real estate developer or political group is going to find a more profitable or “appropriately sustainable” use for the land.

      That said, I had a >5 hour round the other day too. Which wasn’t great. A big help would be for people to play their own ball, play ready golf, and not drive to each member of their group and watch them hit. All of which I didn’t see with the fivesome in front of me all day.

      Lastly, sell 9 hole 1/2 rounds. I can’t spend 6 hours + (counting drive to/from course, warmup, putting green) on a weekend. I usually can spend 3 hours though.

      • Matt Saternus

        George,

        I’m all in on playing 9. The only course near me that offers 9 is the course with 27 holes. I understand there’s a logistical challenge to it, but it’s not insurmountable, especially if the course did a better job monitoring pace of play.

        Best,

        Matt

        • I understand that would be more challenging—you’d need to have at least double the number of starters. And people would still cheat it.

          OTOH, so many courses around me talk about the different 9s they have. “Combine the Challenge Loop with the Whirling Zephyr Loop! Or with the Shepherd’s Bobbin!” But they won’t sell times to play on just one of them. Shrug.

          Do you think the new Blueprints (either S or P) are going to pry you back away from the PXGs that, IIRC, you’re bagging now?

          • George,

            Or, hear me, out, we could get rid of the starters or the pro shop counter guy because their jobs are redundant, and we could instead have marshals on the course that could A) make sure you belong there and B) enforce pace of play. But I know I’m just talking crazy.

            I haven’t seen anything official on the irons which you speak of, so I couldn’t possibly comment. :)

            Best,

            Matt

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