The Non-conforming Golf Club Delimma

There seems to be a dilemma that the the golf industry will inevitably face: do non-conforming golf clubs have a place in golf?

Any time major golf manufacturers release a new driver that corrects your slice, that special hybrid that will cures your long iron woes, or the hottest putter to shave strokes on the green, golfers eat it up. But what about those prior versions that were not submitted for PGA approval: the so called “non-conforming” clubs? You think golfers want to see those? You bet they do.
So what’s the problem with getting these in the hands of golfers? They’re technically illegal, according to the USGA.

This remains a two-sided argument. Golf purists will argue that they ruin the integrity of the game and have no place on the course – the scores aren’t legit. Casual golfers may counter with the notion that interest in the game is waning and perhaps the introduction of non-conforming clubs will greatly increase the fun-factor. They’ll say, “If a driver adds a few extra yards to a drive and the golfer leaves the course having with more enjoyment, what’s the harm?”

No matter what your positioning, it seems that this subject is gaining some major traction and there could be some big movements in this arena soon. According to an article from GolfDigest.com, Bob Philion, the president of Cobra-Puma Golf thinks non-conforming clubs entering the market is inevitable. “There is a sense of urgency in the industry, whether from our competitors or the PGA of America, to be less intimidating and more fun,” says Philion. “Do I think nonconforming drivers will be out there in 10 years? I do. Three years? I do. I think the street signs for the game aren’t positive enough for someone not to try it.”

The technology that manufacturers are putting out there has improved greatly in recent years. Golfers now have the ability to adjust nearly every aspect of their driver to their individual liking. They’re also teeing up 5-layer golf balls with advanced core and dimple technology. Heck, even golf shoes jumped on the bandwagon and are now lighter and more stable than ever.

But are those advancements really increasing the amount of golfers entering the game? Or is it just improving the game of those already in it? It seems the elephant in the room is the fact that golf is facing a dangerously slippery slope of waning interest and participation. If it slides out of control, it’s bad for all involved. Golf shops close. Courses shut down. Round prices go up. Seems like a no-win.

Nobody is saying that the introduction of non-conforming golf clubs will absolutely be the solution to this problem. Again, the terms “cheating” and “unfair” begin to get thrown around. And those terms, no matter the context, aren’t good for any sport (just ask baseball). But just perhaps those novice golfers that attempted to enter the game previously and gave it up to it being too hard and just plain not enjoyable will give it another shot if they end up scoring a bit better.

Maybe non-conforming clubs can help them do that. Maybe they then tell their friends about it. Maybe golf rounds go up. Maybe more younger generation players enter the game. And maybe everyone has just a little more fun with a game that’s meant to be just that: fun.

Brad Pecot

Director of Marketing, Golfballs.com

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