Further Review: The USGA is out of bounds
Column by Ken Cohen
June 28, 2013 Sometimes it's best to let someone else do the talking (or writing). I came across this letter that Joe Munsch, operator of more than 40 golf courses nationwide recently sent to United States Golf Association president Glen Nager.
I heard your interview during the U.S. Open regarding the USGA “While We’re Young” campaign and, while I applaud the USGA for addressing the pace of play issue, I feel you have misplaced the blame regarding the pace of play issue in our game today.
As the president of a company that manages and operates golf facilities across the United States, we recognize that pace of play is one of the game’s biggest problems. I have been very critical of the USGA in the past because I think the organization is out of touch with the real world of golf and the need to grow the game and make it more fun. And, last Sunday, the ideas expressed in your interview further support my argument.
You said the game at the recreational level needs to be fun. You said golf course operators need to slow down green speeds, lower rough heights, widen fairways, and generally make the courses more playable. These comments suggest you have not recently visited a course that was not set up for one of your tournaments, because golf course operators have understood these issues and done these things for years.
You further stated that the professional game is not the standard for the recreational game and that the recreational level needs to have a different paradigm. Those thoughts are surprising coming from an organization that recently ruled to ban the anchored putter, created unnecessary controversy when Callaway introduced the “non-conforming driver” and often frowns on the improved travel distances of today’s golf balls.
I am left to wonder what exactly is the different “paradigm” sought by the USGA? Most, if not all, of the organization’s recent applicable rulings attempt to make the game more difficult and less fun to play.
Most disturbing to me was when you called for recreational golfers to visit your web site and unite with the USGA to send a message to the golf industry that the game needs change and become more fun.
Those of us on the front lines of the golf industry have understood this for years. Our courses don’t have six-inch rough, 530-yard par 4s, and 270-yard par 3s. The best golfers in the world were unable to break par at your tournament once again, and nothing about the course setup looked fun to me or to the golfers, based on their comments and on-course reactions throughout the week.
In the golf industry we fight, scratch, and claw to get golfers out to our courses. If they don’t have fun, they don’t come back. We have known for years that time is a factor. I am glad the USGA has finally come to this realization as well.
Welcome, at last, to the real golf industry. Here, the golf ball doesn’t go too far, short courses are not obsolete, the golf clubs are not too forgiving and even the recreational golfer enjoys an occasional birdie.
We’re thrilled for you to join the effort to grow the game and make it more fun.
But understand that course operators are not the bad guys here.
Moving forward, let’s all work together to make a difference in the game and the industry.
Joe R. Munsch
President and CEO
You go Joe! The USGA needs to be called out for its hypocritical and archaic way of doing things. They still don't get that the game has evolved, that times change and that golf is now a mega business, not just a recreational sport. It shouldn't be governed by traditions but by common sense and reality. In order to promote the fun aspect of the game, but also preserve the real-world economics of golf as a business, the USGA needs to back off and let golfers play, not players golf.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.