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On the eve of the golf industry’s largest trade show, a group of industry leaders presented a plan to more than 1,000 industry members to call on golfers everywhere to “hack” the sport by submitting their ideas to revitalize the game. Since 2004 nearly 5 million people in the United States have left the game for a variety of reasons. Core golfers are down almost 24%.

The group, including Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade adidas Golf; Ted Bishop, President of the PGA of America; Joe Beditz, CEO of the National Golf Foundation and Gary Hamel (Wall Street Journal recently ranked him the world’s most influential business thinker) recognized that current industry initiatives are not working and unveiled an online forum designed to receive ideas from golfers everywhere. 

“Innovation stalls when the same people keep talking to each other about the same challenge over and over,” said Hamel.  “We need to open the conversation up to a wider audience instead of continuing to try and innovate in the same ineffective vacuum.”

The golf industry has spent tens of millions of dollars over nearly two decades and created a myriad of programs including “Tee It Forward,” “Get Golf Ready” and the “First Tee” among others.  While the programs are engaging new consumers, participation on a national scale continues to decline at every income level.  The largest reduction in golfers is in the critical 18 – 34 year-old demographic.  In 2000, 399 golf courses opened, that number shrank to 14 in 2012. 

“We have to recognize the fact that we (the industry) have not been able to fix the massive exodus of consumers from our game,” said King.  “Traditionalists are resisting concepts that will elicit real change, so it is time that the people have a voice and can share their ideas to reverse this trend.”

TaylorMade adidas Golf pledged to fund one or more “crowd sourced” ideas.  The company said it would devote up to $5 million towards this project. In addition, the company has pledged support for a series of tournaments nationwide that will utilize a 15-inch cup among other rule modifications designed to make golf more fun for golfers of all skill levels.

“This is an industry-wide experiment,” said Bishop.  “We don’t have the answer, but by tapping the collective creativity of the millions of golfers who love this game as much as we do, we will find the solution.  Then, as an industry, we need to demonstrate the courage to implement non-traditional solutions.”

Hamel has used insights from various industries to showcase the behaviors exhibited by organizations or industries that are unsuccessful. Chief among them are a lack of understanding of what customers want, a lag in innovation, ineffective management and outdated business models. As a sport steeped in centuries-old tradition, golf is plagued by many of these destructive traits.

The group has developed a framework for reviewing and determining next steps that will be unveiled in the coming weeks.  For more information on the program, or to submit ideas visit