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Garbedian: It should be women and children first to expand the game, even if it's not in traditional ways—three-hole rounds, six-hole rounds, nine-hole rounds. Golf courses with unused tee times need to make it easier for women and kids. When I was a kid, I went to a course in the morning, played golf all day and came home at dark. I don't know any courses where that still happens.
Stine: If you owned a golf course, would you want someone to drop their kid off for the whole day?
Garbedian: Probably not, but I'm not talking about straight babysitting. I'm talking about programs to teach juniors how to play and get them on the course so they catch the spark and stay interested in golf instead of sitting in front of a computer game.
Stine: That's what the PGA of America's Play Golf America program is designed to do. It's been somewhat successful, but it's still fairly new. It comes down to each golf facility. If a course doesn't embrace a new-player program, it probably won't get many new players.
Clinton: As John's data showed, if you play better, you play more. Golf is a hard game and it takes a significant amount of time, practice and good instruction to get better. There's where we're lacking as an industry. Our mission at GolfTEC is to help players get good at golf, which helps keep them in the game.
Finding a Groove
Van Sickle: How did the new grooves rules affect the industry in 2010?
Stine: I guess the USGA thought it was worth the trouble, but I'd guess fewer than 1% of golfers in the U.S. thought so. All it did was raise questions and cause confusion. But that confusion did generate sales because wedges were the buzzword of 2010.
Garbedian: Customers wanted to know how long the old grooves were good for, and I'd tell them 2024. They'd say, Hey, we may not even be playing then. So it wasn't an issue. The grooves rule certainly drove sales of wedges.
Stine: A lot of players bought new wedges and maybe weren't even sure why. You also saw golfers stocking up on the old models so they can play with square grooves for a long time.