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TaylorMade and Titleist CEO's Speak Up about the USGA and Bifurcation of the Rules

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Recently Mark King (CEO of TaylorMade Adiddas Golf) and Wally Uihlein (CEO of Achusnet, Titleist) shared their thoughts on bifurcation, having different sets of rules for pros and amateurs.  Uihlein's message speaks about tradition and the importance of unification.  Mark King had a different message to put out there.  In a Score Golf interview , King comes right out and says the "USGA could be obsolete in 10 years" and " Whether they're sanctioned or not we are not going to stop making long putters and I'm not going to stop playing one. I won't".

King: "I know but it needs to be extreme. We have an industry that should be growing, it should be exciting, it should be fun and it’s not. And it’s not because the USGA won't let it. Now the USGA would tell you 'Oh, we don't have that power we only make the rules.' But the way this is constructed is the top of the pyramid is the USGA and until they support a new form of golf that is fun and engaging, nothing is going to change. Nothing."

SG: So what needs to happen?

King: "If I were running the PGA of America I would write my own set of rules. I'd do it with the PGA Tour. Right so then what would happen with the U.S. Open and those 11 tournaments? They would follow suit because they would have no choice. Because if they don't have any players they don't have any tournament and if they don't have any tournament they don't have any money."

Uihlein feels differently and roots his argument in the traditions of the game. In his blog he addresses three statements that support bifurcation

The three most common arguments advanced by bifurcation protagonists are:

1. “Today’s professional game does not mirror today’s amateur game.”

While some lament that PGA Tour players aren’t playing the same game as amateurs, this is more a commentary on the skill of the professional golfer than amateurs’ desire to play a different game. Part of the fabric of the game is the relationship between the game’s best players and all golfers who play. Today’s amateur golfers maintain the same appetite to emulate the swings of of the world’s greatest players and play America’s greatest courses as ranked by Golf Digest.

2. “Golf participation has matured and the adoption of different sets of rules will allow the game to renew its participation growth."

1990 to 2000 was the most innovative decade in the game’s history, yet during this period, golf participation in the U.S. and Europe flatlined. Golf is a game of the middle class, and golf has a demographic issue. In the Western world, today’s middle class is the same size as in the early 1990s.

3. “Golfers just want to have fun. They do not play by the rules today and the formalization of multiple sets of rules is just sanctioning what is already reality.”

If golfers don’t play by the one set of rules that exist today, why are two sets of rules required? If the argument is that golfers don’t play by the rules and bifurcation will help grow the game, then how will two sets of rules contribute to additional participation? The logic is flawed.

What we've seen happen the past several years is that the USGA is more focused on regulating the pro game than on amateurs (majority of the USGA's constituency) and growing the game.  From limiting driver distance, limiting the effect of the grooves,  and banning anchored putting because of what they are seeing on the various world tours.  Now there is even talks of limiting the golf ball distance, obviously because the pros hit it too far ;-)  I'm not saying I disagree with everything the USGA is doing, but I do enjoy his candidness.  Is some of it fueled because he want to sell equipment?  Sure but TaylorMade has a vested interest in growing the game as does the USGA.  You could make the argument that King is more in touch with what golfers want more than the USGA.

More from King,

SG: How do you go forward from this as a business then?

King: “What we’re (TMaG) going to do whether there is bifurcation or not is we will continue to make long putters for golfers. If they roll the ball back we're not going to roll our ball back. We will for a tournament ball but we’re still going to sell you a ball you can play. Like I said, two sets of rules are coming. Whether they're sanctioned or not we are not going to stop making long putters and I'm not going to stop playing one. I won't. By the time it happens the USGA is either going to have to get with it or stand off somewhere all by themselves. And look I'm still not convinced the PGA Tour is going to completely embrace the long putter rule. I'm not. So what's going to happen? If Tim Finchem says he's going to use all the USGA rules EXCEPT the long putter rule there you go. You have two sets of rules. That's where it’s going and it’s coming fast. The sadness I have for the USGA is instead of leading this they're fighting it and for what reason? I don't know.”

SG: So what's the message from your perspective?

King: “The whole world, not just golf, the whole world is about innovation and new and exciting and consumers only want what's new and exciting. They don't want last year, they want new, innovative cool stuff and if we’re going to stop that or limit that we’re going to kill the industry not just equipment but the playing of the game. So if the USGA doesn't jump on board and lead this new way of golf, like I said, they're just going to be obsolete. And if Finchem goes ahead and leaves the long putter in, it’s just the start. The USGA is going over the edge.”

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Mark King is a kook. And if he insists on playing with his anchored long putter, fine. Just don't post the score with the USGA sanctioned GHIN system and don't play in any sanctioned tournaments that uses the GHIN system.

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He'll take himself out of the running for pro-ams if he keeps that attitude.   The guy is obviously a loose cannon.  Makes me glad I don't have any TM gear in my bag.

I have nothing but respect for Uihlein though. I do have Titleist AP-2 irons and one Vokey wedge, all purchased long before this particular controversy came up.

(I have Callaway, Mizuno, Bridgestone, Titleist and Cleveland clubs - no TM's at all.)

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There have been a lot of rumors about the need to reduce the distance the ball goes. The anchor ban will be a small ripple compared to the trouble that will cause. While a 10% reduction in the distance the pros hit the ball might not be that big a deal, that might mean moving to another set of tees for the recreational player. This loss of distance across the board will cause a lot of players to quit. Add a ball that spins more, and that will lead to more crooked shots, and more time looking for balls. The difficulty of the game, and the time it takes to play are already hurting the game. I think the rules of golf are fine, but I don't see any problem having different equipment standards for pros and amateurs.

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Originally Posted by Fourputt

He'll take himself out of the running for pro-ams if he keeps that attitude.   The guy is obviously a loose cannon.  Makes me glad I don't have any TM gear in my bag.

I have nothing but respect for Uihlein though.  I do have Titleist AP-2 irons and one Vokey wedge, all purchased long before this particular controversy came up.

(I have Callaway, Mizuno, Bridgestone, Titleist and Cleveland clubs - no TM's at all.)

I do like their equipment, as I have three woods, a hybrid and a set of TaylorMade irons. And my pro recommends their ball, but I haven't tried it.

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Originally Posted by caniac6

There have been a lot of rumors about the need to reduce the distance the ball goes. The anchor ban will be a small ripple compared to the trouble that will cause. While a 10% reduction in the distance the pros hit the ball might not be that big a deal, that might mean moving to another set of tees for the recreational player. This loss of distance across the board will cause a lot of players to quit. Add a ball that spins more, and that will lead to more crooked shots, and more time looking for balls. The difficulty of the game, and the time it takes to play are already hurting the game. I think the rules of golf are fine, but I don't see any problem having different equipment standards for pros and amateurs.

I would be surprised if they rolled the ball back for recreational players, but I can see them doing it for the Tour and high end amateurs.

My course is 105 years old and we used to play it at around 6100 yards (regular tees). Over the last 15 years we have added tees that have made the course play at around 6500 yards (pushing 7,000 from the tips), so combining that with a rolled back ball would be tough.

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Originally Posted by phan52

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fourputt

He'll take himself out of the running for pro-ams if he keeps that attitude.   The guy is obviously a loose cannon.  Makes me glad I don't have any TM gear in my bag.

I have nothing but respect for Uihlein though.  I do have Titleist AP-2 irons and one Vokey wedge, all purchased long before this particular controversy came up.

(I have Callaway, Mizuno, Bridgestone, Titleist and Cleveland clubs - no TM's at all.)

I do like their equipment, as I have three woods, a hybrid and a set of TaylorMade irons. And my pro recommends their ball, but I haven't tried it.

My first metal driver was the original TM Burner (9.5°) back in the late 80's, and I also used a same generation TM Tour Driver (8.5°).  I still had the Tour Driver until I sold all my extra clubs off when we moved to the island.   I kept a fresh grip on it, and I'd take it out on the course from time to time just for the fun of it.  The photo is my old TM next to my Callaway Diablo.

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While I don't own any TM gear I agree with Mark King 100%. Right now anyone that cares for this game needs to sit down and think about how to grow this game and quit worrying about the "tradition of the game". The USGA is killing golf with all their rules on how they think a ball should spin or how a putter should look. If you can't make the game fun no one will play, especially today's youth. Now anybody can say what they want but the youth are the only ones that will save golf. Not the 75 year old that has played the same clubs for 15 years. I'm not saying I mind playing with those guys, but eventually those guys won't be golfing anymore and we will wonder why courses are shutting down everywhere.
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I'd blame the economy, the cost of a round of golf and the cost of equipment for the lack of participation more than I would the game having too many rules or not being fun.  The average person that golfs has very little clue about all the rules of golf, nor do they care.  They do know that a round for four people with green fees and carts costs at least $200 assuming they already have their own clubs.

If Mr. King is so concerned about the health of the golf industry why doesn't he consider dropping the price of his drivers by 50% so when someone walks through a golf store they don't die of sticker shock when they pick up a driver that costs $400.

Originally Posted by Jspangler

While I don't own any TM gear I agree with Mark King 100%. Right now anyone that cares for this game needs to sit down and think about how to grow this game and quit worrying about the "tradition of the game". The USGA is killing golf with all their rules on how they think a ball should spin or how a putter should look. If you can't make the game fun no one will play, especially today's youth. Now anybody can say what they want but the youth are the only ones that will save golf. Not the 75 year old that has played the same clubs for 15 years. I'm not saying I mind playing with those guys, but eventually those guys won't be golfing anymore and we will wonder why courses are shutting down everywhere.

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That's a valid point but I'm pretty sure he does that for you every year doesn't he? I believe you can get an R11s for 299 probably 250 if you looked around or an RBZ for 199. Titleist's is also 399 but they care for the tradition of the game so we will let it slide. I will also agree with you about the price of a round $200 a month ($50/week) is something that needs be budgeted for. But golf rounds can be had for cheap also if you look around, between twilight, golfnow,groupgolfer, and any other deals you might find, you are just plain dumb to spend $50 a week every week. So I don't really blame the economy either. I blame the people that don't make the game enjoyable for everyone, that includes the slow player, the play by the word for word rules guy, the guy that only drives the ball 200 but insists on playing from the blues, etc. I am normally a single and I get paired with all types.
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Originally Posted by Jspangler

While I don't own any TM gear I agree with Mark King 100%. Right now anyone that cares for this game needs to sit down and think about how to grow this game and quit worrying about the "tradition of the game". The USGA is killing golf with all their rules on how they think a ball should spin or how a putter should look. If you can't make the game fun no one will play, especially today's youth. Now anybody can say what they want but the youth are the only ones that will save golf. Not the 75 year old that has played the same clubs for 15 years. I'm not saying I mind playing with those guys, but eventually those guys won't be golfing anymore and we will wonder why courses are shutting down everywhere.

Pure bull.  Nobody coming into the game even considers the rules or what constitutes legal equipment now days any more than they did 40 years ago.  They do it because they swing a club, hit a few balls, and think "Hey, this is cool!"  Then they find out how much the game costs, and they either figure out how to incorporate it into their budget, or they find a cheaper hobby.  At no time does any thought about the USGA, the Rules of Golf, or what a conforming club is ever come into the decision.  Those things only become a consideration long after they are hooked.

Most players don't worry about the rules even after playing for years.  I didn't until I decided to join the Men's club at my home public course.  I started learning the rules the year before I joined and have played by the rules ever since (going on 24 years now), regardless of the import of the round.  By the way, that doesn't make me a slow player either.  I'm probably faster than you are.

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I was talking about a family going out to play a round of golf.  If you want to attract kids to the sport you have to factor the costs of a parent playing too.  The cost of a family of 4 to go play a round of golf is $200.  Most people new to golf don't know about golf websites that offer cheaper rates like golfnow, groupgolfer.  They also likely don't plan their outing like you and I would because they aren't going to want to play in poor weather.  They wake up, drive down to the local muni or public course and if they can even get on the course they will have to pay the full price plus cart fees.

New golfers also likely don't know that they could look online for the R11 and get it for $300, instead they walk into Golfsmith, Golf Galaxy, PGA Superstore and all they will likely see are the latest and greatest at $400.

Golf rules aren't the issue, I'd bet a lot of money that a family going to the golf course for the first time doesn't have "The Rules of Golf" in their hands and are worried about submitting their scores for handicap.

You're thinking like a golfer, not like a person that's considering playing the game for the first time.  There's a number of issues that work against golf before the rules ever become an issue.

Originally Posted by Jspangler

That's a valid point but I'm pretty sure he does that for you every year doesn't he? I believe you can get an R11s for 299 probably 250 if you looked around or an RBZ for 199. Titleist's is also 399 but they care for the tradition of the game so we will let it slide. I will also agree with you about the price of a round $200 a month ($50/week) is something that needs be budgeted for. But golf rounds can be had for cheap also if you look around, between twilight, golfnow,groupgolfer, and any other deals you might find, you are just plain dumb to spend $50 a week every week. So I don't really blame the economy either. I blame the people that don't make the game enjoyable for everyone, that includes the slow player, the play by the word for word rules guy, the guy that only drives the ball 200 but insists on playing from the blues, etc. I am normally a single and I get paired with all types.

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Once again valid points. I do look at it from a golfers standpoint, I see the USGA as a group of old men sitting in a room saying back in my day we never seen such a thing as belly putters, or wedges spin that much we must mandate a change. I group of people telling you what's best to play. Where will it stop? As for me taking my kids, I am yet to go to a course where they don't offer a junior rate and if not twilight normally starts at 3, go off then. In today's eBay society I also find it hard to believe a 20 year old doesn't scour the Internet for a good deal. Does every new golfer know the rules, but give a new golfer a wedge with old style grooves and when he hits that shot that hits a sticks 2 foot from the cup, he will come back. Easier golf is funner golf.
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I don't hear golfers, no less new golfers complain about the wedge groove rule change or banning of belly putters (no one I know uses one).  I belong to a private club but prior to joining there most people I know that golfed didn't follow the rules.  If golfers use a foot wedge, mulligan, and gimme on 3' putts they probably don't care what the USGA says about wedge grooves or belly putters?

Do you use a belly putter?

Originally Posted by Jspangler

Once again valid points. I do look at it from a golfers standpoint, I see the USGA as a group of old men sitting in a room saying back in my day we never seen such a thing as belly putters, or wedges spin that much we must mandate a change. I group of people telling you what's best to play. Where will it stop? As for me taking my kids, I am yet to go to a course where they don't offer a junior rate and if not twilight normally starts at 3, go off then. In today's eBay society I also find it hard to believe a 20 year old doesn't scour the Internet for a good deal. Does every new golfer know the rules, but give a new golfer a wedge with old style grooves and when he hits that shot that hits a sticks 2 foot from the cup, he will come back. Easier golf is funner golf.

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No i don't use a belly putter of old grooves for that matter. the issue is someone sitting in a room telling me what is best for golf, a game I love. Now lets say 5 years from now my back is worse than it is npow and I move to a belly putter. My club championship says we are going by USGA rules you can't use that. Now they are talking about putting rules on how far the golf ball can go, yep that sounds great for the game. You can't use your normal ball in club championship because it doesn't conform to USGA. Then what? What else can they change? Um Rickie Fowlers clothes bother me and aren't good for the game of golf lets ban the color Orange.
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Originally Posted by Jspangler

No i don't use a belly putter of old grooves for that matter. the issue is someone sitting in a room telling me what is best for golf, a game I love. Now lets say 5 years from now my back is worse than it is npow and I move to a belly putter. My club championship says we are going by USGA rules you can't use that. Now they are talking about putting rules on how far the golf ball can go, yep that sounds great for the game. You can't use your normal ball in club championship because it doesn't conform to USGA. Then what? What else can they change? Um Rickie Fowlers clothes bother me and aren't good for the game of golf lets ban the color Orange.

They may be sitting in a room when they meet, but they are all avid golfers, and they all love the game too.  That's why they do what they do.  They get into the USGA just as anyone gets into any similar endeavor, to give something back to the game they love.  And a large portion of USGA workers are doing it as volunteers, not as paid employees.  People like you who rant about the USGA don't usually have a clue about what they do or what they stand for.  It isn't the USGA that you have an issue with, it's anyone telling you what you can or can't do (which is obvious from your last sentence, pure silliness - I don't like Fowlers clothes, but I would be the last to legislate them out of the game - it simply isn't a rules issue).  Well guess what?  If you don't like it, then don't do it.  Nobody is holding a gun to your head.  But if you want to compete , then you buy into the program.

And, by the way, it isn't just the USGA, but the joint rules committee with the R&A; that sets the standard.

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Every organized sport has a rules committee that makes determinations it believes are in the best interest of the sport.  It's a bit of a unique situation in that the USGA makes the rules for Tour Pro's and amateurs but many golfers, including those on this board like a single set of rules for both.

Your argument has no impact on new golfers since new golfers aren't likely to know any of the rules of golf and likely won't even be able to keep their score the first few times out.  There's also nothing to prevent a course owner from adopting 8" holes on their greens and encouraging the use of belly putters if their interest is in attracting new golfers to the sport and they aren't worried about the USGA rules.

The only time the USGA rules matter is if you're maintaining a handicap or participating in a tournament, neither of which is likely a concern for a person that's interested in playing the sport for the first time.  I have new conforming wedges, but I wouldn't be able to tell if a player in my group was using a non-conforming wedge nor would I care.

I don't see the issue here, more golfers play by their own rules than follow the USGA rules, so belly putters and non-conforming wedges won't matter to the majority of people that play golf today.   If you play for handicap or in tournaments you'll have to conform to the USGA rules, which we all agree aren't perfect.

Originally Posted by Jspangler

No i don't use a belly putter of old grooves for that matter. the issue is someone sitting in a room telling me what is best for golf, a game I love. Now lets say 5 years from now my back is worse than it is npow and I move to a belly putter. My club championship says we are going by USGA rules you can't use that. Now they are talking about putting rules on how far the golf ball can go, yep that sounds great for the game. You can't use your normal ball in club championship because it doesn't conform to USGA. Then what? What else can they change? Um Rickie Fowlers clothes bother me and aren't good for the game of golf lets ban the color Orange.

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His clothes are distracting and effects his oppents giving him an unfair advantage, is that really to ridiculous to think of. Other sports have uniforms does that mean the USGA should pass rules stating the uniform rules is blue slacks and a white shirt. I'm really done debating about it, I think mark king is right. I'm gonna ask one last question, how does banning the belly putter make the game better? I want a real answer not "because the integrity of the game" BS either.
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