Is Hack Golf really the answer to grow golf?

15-inch cups to be adopted by 90% of courses in America by 2019, says King

Is Hack Golf really the answer to grow golf?

WHEN Golfmagic attended the 2014 PGA Show in Orlando earlier this year, TaylorMade-adidas Golf CEO Mark King revealed to the world of golf a new initiative between the PGA of America and TaylorMade called Hack Golf.

The idea behind Hack Golf is to make this finicky game a little more fun as the sport evolves in the 21st century, no matter whether you're a golfer or not. In short, it's about core golfers keeping an open mind.

So up steps the first concept. 15-inch cup tournaments. No, not 15-inch cups presented to victorious golfers for winning tournaments but 15-inch cups out on the greens... cups that are 3.52941176 times larger than standard.

Now Hack Golf, and this new 15-inch idea, is clearly going to divide opinion, particularly among golf traditionalists out there. At a young age, golfers are taught to play 18 holes, learn the rules - or to the best ability - and count every stroke until the ball reaches the bottom of that 4.25-inch cup.

Yet King's philosophy isn't about changing the game, far from it. He just wants to find an easier, faster, more alternative and more attractive solution to drive new players into our sport. I'm all for that.

King isn't trying to twist the arm of Tim Finchem and bring 15-inch cup tournaments into the FedEx Cup, he simply wants core golfers to keep an open mind on how best we bring the next stars of tomorrow into the sport. If truth be told, I think it's great to see someone finally doing something about it.

While this 15-inch idea hasn't yet taken off this side of the pond, I saw something similar down Hoebridge Golf Centre at the weekend when out playing the par-3 course with a mate of mine. There were two pins on each green. One was the standard cup, which I was playing for, and the other, a 15-inch cup for a junior event going on.

For the avid golfer, a lot of these initiatives are shocking. Golfers are taught at a young age to play 18 holes, know the rules - or as many as they can - and count every stroke until the ball reaches a bottom of a 4.25-inch cup.

Truthfully, that’s not necessarily how the game is typically played. Out of bounds balls are not properly re-teed. Clubs are grounded in hazards. Mulligans, breakfast balls and gimmes are more the norm than not.

These “rules” are not written, but are accepted. Hack Golf is counting on core golfers keeping an open mind.

Hack Golf’s first concept is the introduction of a 15-inch cup tournament. Held for the first time at Pauma Valley Country Club in Southern California, typical golf rules still prevailed with the exception that the cup was 3.5 times its normal size. The tournament was a huge success according to King.

Rounds took 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete on average and some golfers showed a 10-stroke improvement with plenty of “hero” shots: One woman chipped in seven times, another man shot a gross 58.

To introduce the big cup concept to the media, Hack Golf hosted its own 9-hole, 15-inch cup event at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., with TaylorMade staff players Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia the day after the conclusion of the Masters. You may think anything from 50 yards and in would be jarred by Garcia, who has 24 worldwide professional wins and by Rose, the reigning U.S. Open champ. Results, however, were a little surprising. Rose shot 3-under, while Garcia bested him by posting 6-under. There were plenty of chip-ins and long putts made, but no hole-in-one or slam dunk from the fairway. The takeaway? With a big cup, golf is more fun but it is still hard.

Over the next few weeks, 20 more courses will join in on the 15-inch cup concept, with another 80 are expected to receive the custom 15-inch cup kit from PAR AIDE by the end of May. Format participation will include weekend tournaments and fundraisers, but some courses will have both a regulation hole and 15-inch hole on each green at all times as long as green square footage will allow. In the next month, the Hack Golf campaign plans to announce one or two more experiments to execute in the future.

Only time will tell what, if any, of these experiments will work, but King and Hack Golf have dedicated five years to funding this concept, so no doubt there are more developments to come.

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