Alternative Golf Assoc Seeks to Widen Game's Possibilities

Spotted this story over at Geoff Shacklefords site:

I think all I can console myself with in this news story is that it illustrates a wider dissatisfaction with the way the game is today and the desire to set up a separate governing body. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the proposed direction though you could argue its more intellectually honest than the prevailing status quo! BTW you can get Rod Morri’s Talking Golf podcasts via iTunes now at This weeks show includes an interview with the initiators of the new Alternative Golf Association as well as Geoff Shackleford and John Huggan discussing.



NNNNOOOOO…we need to reign it in not make everything about distance…Unfortunately these guys have money so could do this sort of thing…maybe…

Interesting they played their experimental round at The Metro in Oakland where Barkow and I often play.

It might be fun for me to go play in one of their events with 1950’s gear, play it down, not take mulligans or gimmies and still beat them.

Might be fun.

I will say this… I like the idea of thinking outside the USGA box. I think there is room for silly golf like this and also a return to the games traditional values for purists. People need to start questioning the USGA.

The problem with the USGA is that they are so hypocritical, trying to enforce silly archaic rules that follow no logic or reason in the name of tradition, then they allow all the space age stuff too. You can’t have it both ways… because you upset both the purists, and the techies.

I agree that there should be room for various forms of golf.

Cross country skiing had a turbulent period after Bill Coch started to skate on his skies. He was quite successful with his rediscovery of an old technique but this went against the style ideals of cross country skiing.

To make a long story short, cross country skiing today competes in two different styles: Classic and freestyle. Most of the competitors participates in both style forms and most are clearly better in one than the other. They also have combined forms that are perhaps the most prestigeous to win. The change did nothing but good for the sport. I don’t see why this shouldn’t be the case in golf as well.

I listened to the interview with Rod Morri, and I think some good points were made. Shackleford makes the point that people look to the experts for inspiration. Not fellow hackers. Making the game easier makes golf less of a game. This may attract more people, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with the game say in the 1950’s or 60’s even through the 1980’s when players, courses and gear were all working harmoniously together.

Rod makes the distinction that it is not golf that is hurting as much as “The Golf Business”. The business end is not the game. It may provide a platform for the game to be played, but it is not the game itself. Calaway, or Taylor made could close their doors tomorrow and it would make zero difference to most golfers with a tee time next week.

Shack brings up the point that maybe a big correction needs to take place, courses need to close, the players who were attracted to the game for all the wrong reasons go away also… and you might be left with a game where courses are less crowded, the game more affordable, and I would argue that sometimes less is more.

I still enjoy playing persimmon and blades. I just wish I could play a balata golf ball again so I could fully enjoy my own skill set. I certainly keeps my swing fit, and in good shape, something the modern gear could not offer me. I like using the same swing from wedge to driver. It’s simple and it feels good.

John Huggan brings up the point that in the last 20 years, he has never felt the connection to any modern club that he had for his oil hardened persimmons.

The round they all played together with Jeff Ogilvy using hickory and a gutta percha or feathery found Ogilvy only 20 yards ahead of their tee shots… not 80 yards or more that would be the case with the modern gear.

The modern game suffers such a disconnect from common player to tour player in a way that is unprecedented in the game’s history.

Barkow told me a while back how he would watch the tour guys play, and would see that they were playing from only a few yards ahead of where he would… often only 10 yards… sometimes 20. It made one feel more connected to the game… and in a way, false or not, that if you had a good day… you could play the hole basically the way they would.

It’s good that more and more people are starting to think about fractioning the game in some way. It’s a shame it needs to happen, but monopolies tend to work irresponsibly at times.

I think the TRGA is a better solution because it simplifies, yet maintains the games essential traditions… and brings relevance back to the great historic courses, and both pros and amateurs can play off the same rule book from top level competition to a solo round in the late afternoon… same rules, no need for officials, and perfectly self regulating.

Agree. Actually the latest rules dustups gives TRGA a perfect platform to get your messages across. If you haven’t thought about it already, you should use this window to advance your messages for a saner, more rational approach to golf.

Take advantage of this. Hone your messages and look for opportunities to generate publicity through press releases, position statements, interviews, etc. Develop a strategic communications plan and then use your contacts and reach out to golf media to get TRGA points across. Hoping that key golf opinion leaders might come across this website won’t get it done.

One key message: TRGA is about more than just a saner, rational approach to golf rules. TRGA also stands for saving golf courses that have been made irrelevant by golf equipment pushed to the limit of what is legal by today’s standards. Just some thoughts, and maybe not doable…

Had a great casual chat with Lag about some of this stuff earlier today and to be honest, the issues are so big and diverse they can sometimes make your head spin. As one who earns a livelihood from the industry my natural inclination is to feel that growing the game can only be good. Because by default it would be good for me.
However, scratch the surface of the arguments being presented by some (not just McNeely and co) and common sense tells you that that is not the case. Growing the game by adding people who are genuinely interested in the challenges it offers, and the lessons it can teach, is good for the soul of both the individual concerned and the game itself. Dumbing everything down to make the game easier and supposedly more appealing to a greater number may result in a product that resembles golf in some physical fashion but, to my mind, can in no way be called golf. And I have my doubts it would appeal to that many people anyway (though I may just be an old party pooper).
As Lag said earlier my gut feeling is that it isn’t golf the game that’s in trouble but golf the business and the two are very different. Perhaps what we’re really seeing is a market correction, something that won’t really impact those of us whose interest is the game and not the dollars that drive it (even though I do have a foot in each camp!).

Part of the change is because the best players have started to behave more like athletes. The pint has been replaced with personal trainers and a systematic workout regime. The boys are getting bigger and stronger all the time. And they are hitting the ball harder than ever. Something similar seems to have ocurred in tennis since the days when Bjorn Borg returned everything handed at him from the base line.

The difference between the elite and the average enthusiast is not big in golf compared to other sports. Haille Gebreselasse has run a Marathon in under 2.04 hours. That’s under 3 min / km over 42 km. I used to be a decent long distance runner in my youth and I still get out once or twice a week. I think I can keep Gebreselasse’s pace for one minute but then I’ll be toast afterwards. Most male marathon geeks around the age of 40 struggle to break 3 hours on a Marathon. And then we’re talking about people who run 60-100 miles a week and has done so for years. If you go to weight lifting and other muscle sports the difference beetween elite and mass is even bigger.

I agree that this partly accounts for the “separation” between the pro’s and the general populace. But you’re leaving out the equipment part of it which, though not entirely unique to golf, seems much more of a factor compared to other sports where the players have also gotten bigger, stronger, and faster.

My take is that the newer equipment is most advantageous to those who can truly compress the modern ball and who can get the trampoline effect of a high COR head to “do it’s thing”. That probably ain’t happening at 95 mph clubhead speed, so the “distance game” between an amateur and a Dustin Johnson becomes laughable.

Can we please have just ONE event where the pro’s have to use persimmon and balata!!! Just for the hell of it. Give em a month to prep and let’s see how good they are! Who knows, maybe their slogan “These Guys Are Good” would still apply. There were plenty of big strong players back in the day that could hit it over 300, but I think it was based more on strength AND precision.

Just one event!



Maybe you’re right that the new gear gives the long hitters an advantage. But on the other hand, maybe not. Jack Nicklaus in his hay-days had a huge distance advantage. He said that he preferred to hit a wedge out of the rough instead of a middle iron from the short grass. When the titanium drivers hit the scene it created a stir because “everybody” could hit the ball a long way with those clubs - and this took away the distance advantage to those who earned it through proper ball striking and athletic ability.

My only big problem with modern gear is great golf courses are overpowered. But that’s a big issue.

An easy fix would be to lower the COR of the competitive ball. But I would welcome a classic tournament format as well. Balata plus persommon would be fun to watch.