TaylorMade LogoTonight, the night before the official start of the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando Florida, TaylorMade CEO Mark King announces their newest attempt at shocking the golf industry’s heart, HACKGOLF, an open source innovation initiative.  The presentation following a cocktail reception for invited guests was held at the Rosen Center Ballroom.  Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade began the evening with a prelude of what was to come with introductions of the speakers and a hint at the launch itself.

Dr. Joe Beditz, CEO of the National Golf Foundation began by giving us a look at the golf industry’s past and possible future if nothing changed.  In his words, in the 80’s, golf participation was growing at about 4% per year so golf course development began to flourish.  In the 90’s, a flattening of growth occurred and there were about 30,000,000 participants in the game.  With the multiple recessions in the 2000’s participants dropped about 5 million but the more alarming statistic was that the industry lost 25% of the core golfers – those who play more than 8 rounds per year.  Another huge change in this time was the age of golfer shifting to a much older demographic.  The research done at the National Golf Foundation has found that after all of the interviewing and number crunching of all that data, the number one driver of a person’s opinion of this game is how they answered the question, “How much dun do you expect golf to be for you?”  Dr. Beditz said that Golf as a game has a real image problem in that 57% of the comments received by non-golfers were negative.  The number one word the used was “BORING”.  Their research has concluded that another 5 million golfers today are at risk to leave the game in the next two years.  In his words, we have to stop this slow leak.

Next, Mr. Ted Bishop, current President of the PGA of America, took the stage with Mr. King.  He said that we must have new initiatives, we as an industry must change the experience of the game of golf.  He mentioned several of the current initiatives out there and the success rates they were having including: Get Golf Ready, PGA Junior League, Play it Forward, 1st Tee Program and a new one called Foot Golf which is seeing success in California by combining soccer and golf into an hour long experience.  Mr. Bishop said that all of these programs, except for foot golf, are all geared toward teaching the same game with the same rules for people to have the same experience that we have been teaching forever and while there is a small success rate in most, there is nothing yet causing a paradigm shift in the game of golf’s popularity.

So we started with an overview of numbers, followed by an overview of current programs, the perfect setup for what is to come – the announcement that TaylorMade is launching a new initiative – HACKGOLF – whose mission is to be an open innovation initiative at making golf more fun.  That is it taken straight from their handout from tonight’s announcement.  They are inviting everyone who has an opinion to pull together to voice their ideas to reinvent this sport.  According to their handout, “We want the initiative to include a broad cross-section of the industry (as well as voices form outside the industry)…”

The Director of Management Lab, Gary Hamel, took the stage to explain how and why this would work citing sources of open initiatives from the technology field to crowd funding of individual projects.  His question was how do we make this game relevant again to a larger number of people?  In his words, the goal of HACKGOLF is to raise the Fun/Frustration ratio – to re-engineer the customer emotions, the expectations and their experience with the game.   He was also quick to point out, as was Mr. King, that we do not have to give up tradition for innovation.  The slide behind the speakers had “They can Co-Exist”.  The how is easy for the everyday user and for once someone is really listening.  Just go to the website www.hackgolf.org, join the discussion and give your opinion or two or three or ten.  Simple.

Tomorrow TaylorMade, who has committed up to $5 million over 5 years to this project, will announce two experiments.  Stay tuned for more information as we continue to follow this story.  You can also keep up with the news as TaylorMade announces more about HACKGOLF their open source innovation initiative at www.hackgolf.org.  Join in the discussions as well.  They are, after all, looking for thousands of ideas to consider.  For once, someone not only wants to listen but stands ready and waiting to dissect, categorize and analyze all ideas.  Refreshing.