TaylorMade chief urges golf to ignore USGA

TaylorMade Golf CEO Mark King
TaylorMade CEO Mark King believes that actions like the proposed anchoring ban will hurt golf, and that golf's governing bodies run the risk of becoming irrelevant if they continue to pursue them.
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | 1:14 p.m.

We're about two months into the three-month comment period that the USGA and R&A instituted after they announced their proposed rule to ban the anchoring of long putters.

Mark King, the CEO of TaylorMade, has a comment. And, wow, what a comment it is.

In short, King told The Telegraph newspaper in England that the anchoring ban is nonsensical, urged the tours to break away from the USGA and even predicted that the USGA will become a non-factor within a decade.

"The anchoring ban makes no sense to me at all," said King, whose company owns TaylorMade, adidas Golf, Ashworth apparel, Adams Golf and puttermaker Yes! Golf. "If I were running the PGA of America, I would write my own set of rules. I'd do it with the PGA Tour. The industry needs to come together without the USGA. Leave them out."

PGA of America President Ted Bishop issued a statement expressing his concern with the proposed ban immediately after it was announced. The European Tour has indicated it will go along with the ban when it goes into effect in 2016, but the PGA Tour hasn't yet formally established its position.

It would be a drastic move for the PGA Tour to flout the USGA and R&A, which establish the Rules of Golf worldwide, Telegraph columnist James Corrigan wrote. But, he noted, King feels it could happen because such prominent players as Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson have expressed strong opposition to the ban.

"I'm still not convinced the PGA Tour is going to completely embrace the long putter rule," said King. "Here's a prediction: The USGA within 10 years will be a nonentity. They will be a non-factor in golf because they are choosing to be on the outside and no one is signing up for what they represent. The industry is going to move away from them and pass them. They're obsolete. I hate to say that but that's their behavior."

Bifurcation – having one set of rules for professional players and another for amateurs – is not only inevitable, King told the newspaper, it's coming fast. "If [PGA Tour Commissioner] 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."

Regardless of whether the ban is instituted or not, King says TaylorMade will continue to make long putters. And if the USGA ever acts to restrict ball flight, as has been rumored, the company will keep making hot balls. There's no reason to doubt him, either -- TaylorMade has enjoyed record-setting sales in each of the past two years, and is by far the dominant company in the golf equipment space these days.

"The whole world, not just golf, the whole world is about innovation and consumers only want what's new and exciting," he said. "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, they're just going to be obsolete," he summarized. "And if Finchem goes ahead and leaves the long putter in, it's just the start. The USGA is going over the edge."

King is the first big-clubmaker CEO to come out so strongly against the anchor rule, and others might not follow. However, having the largest equipment company come out so strongly against them has got to at least furrow some brows at the USGA and R&A, and King's vocal opposition might encourage other opponents to speak out as well. It'll be very interesting to see what happens from here.

PGA.com

Comments

Tincup2010

There is a lot of discussion on the amateur and professional golf circuits on the subject of having different rules for each to make the game “more welcoming to the masses.” Should this happen, it would be tragic to the game. There is no question the heart and soul of golf is found in the ranks of the millions of hacks who struggle mightily around the course during their weekly games. It is they who buy the equipment, support the courses with their fees and purchase the clothing and accessories that keep the big wheels of golf turning. But to change the rules now – centuries later – would cost the game dearly in the long run. I know. I know because I’m still able to remember what it was like when golf first captured my imagination.

I started playing golf early on, teeing it up on the rubber mats at a municipal course with a tattered second-hand bag and an odd assortment of less than gently used cut-down clubs. From the moment I hit that first ball down the fairway, I was hooked for life. I had watched the greats of the game on television ply their trade and now it was my chance to test my skills against those who did it for a living. A half century later, I’m still doing it, and that’s the whole point of why one set of rules is so important. I want to measure my game against the best in the world even though I’ll never come close to performing the magic they accomplish with ease. It’s challenging that standard of excellence that gets hacks like me buying new clubs, paying $5 a ball and cutting corners on our weekly budget because we got in an extra practice round.

Golf does not need two sets of rules. One has worked well for centuries and there is no reason to fix what is clearly not broken. It’s why I occasionally play the back tees – to see just how good the professionals are and how bad I really am even when I’m swinging sweet on all cylinders. My best day pales in comparison with the professional’s worst day and that’s okay. I’m not intimidated. Instead, I am awed. It just makes me want to try that much harder to close the gap between them and me even though I know it will never happen except for that one special shot we occasionally hit that is dead solid perfect. And that’s what keeps me going – the expectation that my next shot will be the one hit as good as any professional ever connected on. It does not happen often. Some rounds, it never happens. But it happens often enough to keep my love for the game alive. It’s that incredible feeling you get when you swing and everyone present stares frozen in silence a ball perfectly struck. That silence is more satisfying than the loudest round applause and twice as intoxicating. It’s a silence we’ll risk not hearing again if we take the path of least resistance and switch to two sets of rules.

Golf has been a game of measurement since its inception. We measure distances from tee to green. We measure the breaks of putts and wind direction. We measure our scores against not just our playing companions, but especially those who are the best in the game. Because we dare to compare, we find challenge more fascinating. There is no reason to change how we measure the game. Two sets of rules will be a dark cloud that separates the amateur ranks from the professionals that will dim the clarity of what makes golf so special.

Don’t preach to me about how the professionals play a different game than I do. They don’t. We play exactly the same game they do, but with different results. We all place the ball on the tee and swing away. The balls may travel differently, but that gut feeling we get at the moment of impact is exactly the same, that feeling of great expectation and hope either realized or vanquished. It’s why we keep coming back, time and again, because we seek the unique and nothing is more unique that that one shot hit absolutely perfect.

Keep the rules as they are, one size fits all. I need to know just how good the professionals really are and how poor I fare in comparison. They might kick my butt a hundred times out of a hundred, but somewhere along the line, I’ll hit one that’s makes them jealous. That can only happen if we all play by one set of rules.

Tee it, guys. Seek that moment of silence. Until then, fore.

johnha

I think King has nailed it. I want to see the Pros play a consistent and reasonably traditional game, but the current trend is making that game less interesting. The PGA needs to take control of their rules and focus on the needs of their players, not the old suits. The bigger problem for most of us amateurs is that for our golf this set of rules makes no sense and forces the vast majority of us to pick and choose which rules we observe in our weekend games and weekday leagues. The sooner we have a "common sense" set of amateur rules that focuses on improving the pace of play, eliminating the unenforceable or widely ignored rules, and respecting the context we play in, the sooner we Ams can be reasonably sure that the people we are playing with are all on the same page.