From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

By Jim McNaney

Recently, Bubba Watson went on a media circus tour to unveil the latest “advancement in golf.” Watson, sponsored by apparel and sun glass company Oakley, hit all the media outlets to talk about the company’s new “flying golf cart.”
Yes…I said flying golf cart.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in…or better yet…pick your jaw off the floor.
Watson, speaking on CNBC’s show Squawk Alley, said, “You gotta change the game. Golf sometimes can be a little bit boring and so you gotta change it, you gotta get people interested and so the more technology, the more innovation we create, more people are gonna watch it.”

I don’t even know where to begin with this quote. In my opinion this is so far off the target it isn’t even in the right hemisphere. Seriously, THIS is his idea of how to make golf more popular? Does he honestly believe that having something so outrageously expensive and DANGEROUS is going to bring more people out to play? You actually would need a pilot’s license to operate one of these things.

This is not the first time Oakley and Watson unveiled a new innovative golf cart. Several years ago Watson was shown driving a hovercraft golf cart all over the course and even over a water hazard. I don’t recall seeing golf course owners clamoring to get more of these into production because of the title wave of new golfers demanding that they be available.

This line of thinking, by only a small number of folks in a part of the golf industry, that affects only a handful of people, is exactly the type of disconnect that keeps golf from growing with the masses.

Watson’s quote was very telling at the end. In his mind, and some others, this type of “innovation” is designed to get people to “watch” golf. Who does that really help?

Again only a small segment of the golf industry is helped by this line of thinking: the PGA Tour and the media outlets that cover golf. He continued his line of thinking that if more people see this thing and find it interesting then maybe they will be curious enough to try to play.

Though it is a small number of people that think this way, Watson is not alone. The European Tour in recent weeks floated the idea of a 6-hole event with music and a shot clock. While in no way am I saying that their idea is as ridiculous as Watson’s jet-pack, I am suggesting that if we want people to play more golf, it must be easier and less complicated. It also must take less time.

The innovations that I have talked about in this column; training aids, range finders, launch monitors and video-based teaching are all things that are designed to be accessible to the masses and benefit the most golfers possible. For the most part, they all aim to be affordable. They all strive to either make the game easier to learn or easier and faster to play. At their heart, they are designed for EVERYONE not just the Tour, its players or the media.

Oakley’s BW Air flying golf cart is, in short, ridiculous.

I am all in favor of innovations in technology to help people play golf better. New drivers that go farther, balls that spin less, irons that are easier to hit, training aids that help players learn the proper mechanics are all examples of ways technology can make the game easier and thus more inviting to play. I’m even a fan of places like Top Golf getting people to swing a club even if it is more so they can have a few cocktails and a night out. At least they are finding out what it feels like to hit a ball at a target and that it is more difficult than it looks.

Say what you want about golf in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter that many of the top male players are choosing to not participate. Many countries financially support and physically train athletes that compete in Olympic sports. Government money will be invested by these countries to develop golf as an industry and golfers as Olympic athletes.

That will grow the game.
The PGA of America and the LPGA are organizations in which their members dedicate their lives to growing the game.
High school golf coaches, parents and grandparents that play with their kids, community education classes that offer golf all grow the game.

OK…I’m climbing off my soapbox. But as I climb down, think about this, most people that saw Bubba and heard about the jet-pack already play golf. I asked one of my daughter’s softball teammates, who is a social media junkie, if she had seen the jet-pack. Her response, “Who’s Bubba Watson?”

Swing and a miss!
The count is 0 -2. We can’t afford a 3rd strike.

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