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Brent Kelley

TaylorMade CEO: 'USGA Within 10 Years Will Be a Non-Entity'

By January 26, 2013

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Here's something that many golfers don't realize: The USGA and R&A - golf's two governing bodies - have no exclusive governing authority over golf at all. They govern our sport because everyone else involved in the sport agrees to let them do it.

Golfers, tournaments, tours, equipment companies, all abide by USGA/R&A rulings not because they are legally required to do so, but because they agree to do so.

Any pro golf tour can write its own rules; any tournament can set its own standards; any golfer can (and often does, at the recreational level) ignore the official rules; any equipment company can make and sell any equipment it wants whether that equipment conforms to USGA/R&A rulings or not. They'd lose USGA/R&A sanctioning, of course, but they could do it.

Now, having a governing body (or two, in golf's case) is a good thing, most people will agree, because without it you could have multiple, competing and conflicting sets of rules and standards and procedures. So everyone within the game of golf agreeing to abide by USGA/R&A strictures - to use a common set of rules around the world - is a good thing.

But it doesn't have to be that way. And it certainly doesn't have to be that the USGA (and/or R&A) is the organization in charge.

Is going down the road to "bifurcation" - two sets of rules, one for pros, another for recreational golfers - something that is already in progress, something that is desirable? Is golf heading down a road that will lead to many different forms of the game? Are we on the road to a different governing body springing up - of (let's say) the manufacturers and PGAs of the world offering their own, competing set of rules and regulations?

Maybe! I doubt it will come to that (I do believe bifurcation is inevitable), but some bigshots within the golf industry are starting to publicly speculate along those lines.

For example, TaylorMade CEO Mark King. King, in an interview with Canadian publication Score Golf columnist Rick Young, had some very provocative things to say about the future of golf, and the future governors of golf.

The jumping off point for King's comments was a question about the proposed anchoring ban. King said this:

"What we're (TMaG) going to do whether there is bifurcation or not is we will continue to make long putters for golfers. If they roll the ball back we're not going to roll our ball back. We will for a tournament ball but we're still going to sell you a ball you can play. Like I said, two sets of rules are coming. Whether they're sanctioned or not we are not going to stop making long putters and I'm not going to stop playing one. I won't. By the time it happens the USGA is either going to have to get with it or stand off somewhere all by themselves. And look, I'm still not convinced the PGA Tour is going to completely embrace the long putter rule. I'm not. So what's going to happen? If 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. That's where it's going and it's coming fast. The sadness I have for the USGA is instead of leading this they're fighting it, and for what reason? I don't know."

"The USGA is going over the edge," King said. At other points he added:

  • "What I think needs to happen is the industry needs to come together without the USGA. Leave them out."

  • "If I were running the PGA of America I would write my own set of rules. I'd do it with the PGA Tour."

  • "Here's a prediction: the USGA within 10 years will be a non-entity, they will be a non-factor ... They're obsolete."


It's also clear from King's comments that he thinks there is a strong possibility the PGA Tour will reject the anchoring ban, and allow its players to keep using long putters and belly putters. I remain skeptical of that, but King certainly has many direct sources (Tour players and others) within the PGA Tour.

Read the full interview on ScoreGolf.com. What do you think of King's comments and predictions?


January 26, 2013 at 11:42 am
(1) Dave C caddie says:

My impression- The PGA Tour will allow the current sets of equipment and current uses (anchoring). One cannot allow a use, for years, and then Dis-allow it. We’re talking about records in the books, real life players earning a living. To redefine a putting stroke after 100 years is foul. I’m not endorsing the anchor style, just sayin’
#2- They will be open to lawsuits, from manufacturers, and then players. Allowing manufacturers to make an implement, and then say its illegal is meat for lawyers.
#3- Here’s a stretch, but Americans w/Disabilities Act may come into play. If a player who clearly has “yips” from years of playing, resulting in neural pathway destruction, who then contends with medical evidence that he can putt and make a living with the long, anchored putter, may be able to argue under the ADA that this would be a “reasonable accomodation”, exactly the type of situation the ADA addresses. Lawyers and scholars knew Casey Martin was going to win, golfers didn’t think he had a chance.

January 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm
(2) Fred says:

The USGA is a small elitist organization and less and less representative of the majority of golfers. Most golfers would benefit from hotter balls, hotter drivers, anchored putters and performance enhancing grooves. We didn’t worry about technology for over 5 centuries and in the last 30 years we’ve focused on rules outlawing change.

January 26, 2013 at 7:33 pm
(3) Colin MacGillivray says:

There could be 3 sets of rules;
Current USGA/R&A Rules of Golf for amateur comps and for handicap.
Professional rules (already they have their own, called local rules- no change there)
Casual or Social Golf Rules, this is the new set we need for S-Golf
Like perhaps
1 Place donít drop.
2 When a ball is unplayable for any reason or lost, use the Lateral Water Hazard Rule. (Drop a ball near where it went and add one more shot)
3 Make Hazards through the green so the club may be grounded and any stuff may be moved. (Delete all rules on hazards.)
4 No flagstick rule.
5 No advice rule but be quick.
6 Play when ready.
7 Plugged, dirty or embedded balls may be cleaned and placed, anywhere on the course.
8 Putts inside a putter length are given, as is the third putt.
9 Use Strokeplay rules even when you are playing matchplay.
10 Penalty for moving your ball only if you moved it.

January 27, 2013 at 3:57 am
(4) Jean-Pierre says:

To Collin: I don’t understand your proposal as when I am playing a “casual or social” game with friends, of course we use some of the “rules” you are proposing. This is obvious for me. In such circumstances nobody is behind you to tell you what rule has to be followed.

Regarding the other comments only one thing: golf is not only a game but also a culture. I don’t think that a better equipment will compensate for a poor swing. Some players who only want to impress their family or their friends are seeking the newest or the most expensive equipment, but at the end of the day their results won’t be better if their swing is not improved.
To conclude, I think that Mark King the Taylormade CEO should be a poor golfer or that he is ready to give his right arm for earning some more money. His proposals are ridiculous. He forgets all the golf culture. To go further in his way, why not to allowed players to wear a shorts or jeans during official tournaments, to walk on the putting line of their co-competitors. No, to be the CEO of an important golf manufacturer does not give any legitimacy to propose new rules, especially when the only goal of such proposals is the profit increase of his own company.

January 30, 2013 at 3:30 am
(5) Colin MacGillivray says:

Hi Jean-Pierre
I’ve played golf for over 50 years and used to be a hawk on rules enforcement.
The reason for my idea is so that there a “rule book” for casuals and beginners. I’m now a casual.
So when you shoot 6 under your handicap and someone asks you if you were playing the Rules of Golf you say we were playing S golf rules. And S golf rounds could be legally submitted for handicap. Strictly speaking if you don’t follow the RoG the card isn’t valid.
For very casual golfers (as you may be) it truly doesn’t matter I agree.

February 1, 2013 at 9:41 am
(6) Frank Taylor says:

Oh the mighty dollar. As Gordon Gecko said, “greed is good”. So if you are in the business of selling golf stuff, it all makes sense. Sense for the industry, but not the game.
If you need to “bend” the rules to save a few strokes or if your foursome allows for some “variances”, you are going to do it anyway so there is no need for a new set of rules to legitimize your version. Besides, can you imagine how many versions of the rules there would be if we try to consider long putters, anchoring, side saddle, drop a ball where you think it should be and take a stroke, third putts are good, winter rules all the time everywhere, ad nauseum.
Leave the rules and the culture and history of the game alone.

February 1, 2013 at 9:51 am
(7) Frank Taylor says:

I am now ashamed to play Taylor Made clubs. I will be changing equipment. Mark King is evidently willing to change or ignore the rules to get what he wants. An honorable man plays by the rules.They say you can tell a lot about a man by his behavior on the golf course.

February 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm
(8) TenBirds says:

First Brent, let me say Great Topic! Oh Ya I have an opinion!

It’s always the “Same Old Song and Dance” from the one percent of people in golf whose primary motivation is to fleece the rest of us for every penny they can get out of our pockets.
The USGA and the R&A are not organizations that have the ability to tell anyone what they can and cannot sell.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded in 1754 and the United States Golf Association was formed in 1894. Both of these orginizations were formed to form a set of rules for the game of golf.
Golfers ahere to the rules they set not because they have to but because they choose to, because they see the value in having rules that the millions and millions of golfers in the world can play by.
I’ve been playing golf for forty six years and this type of innane commentary from the golf industry is nothing new. It happens every time there is a rule change that these people making the big bucks see as an infringemant of their ability to line their bulging pocket with even more of our hard earned cash.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, because that is their primary motivation they have been kept out of the ruling bodies, much to their chagrin.
As for the long putter, the committee has three years to make a well researched decision. They don’t take rule changes lightly. I have tried the long putter, it’s in my garage if anyone is interested in buying it. I don’t see any real advantage to it’s use, but should the governing bodies deem it non-conforming I will abide by their decision as I have for the last forty six years. As I tell my playing partners, we can play golf or Whack F*ck. If you want to play Whack F*ck that’s fine too, but you won’t be playing with me.

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