My Shot: How to boost participation and make golf more fun? Make the hole bigger

December 7, 2010

Golf is my business. It’s also my great love. That’s why it pains me to say that the game today is too slow, too expensive and too difficult, in no particular order. No one seems to be doing anything about it, either, so I guess we’re supposed to sit back and enjoy the fiddle music while Rome burns.

Well, I’ve got an idea. I call it the Big Cup. It’s just what it sounds like, a portable device that expands the golf hole to almost twice its current size-from four and one-quarter to eight inches in diameter.

All I’m trying to do is increase participation and make the game better. I’ve already got a track record in this area. I helped Softspikes get started (it’s sold more than two billion non-metal cleats and saved millions in maintenance expenses), founded Laser Link Golf and helped get rangefinders legalized by golf’s ruling bodies, a tough fight we won after years of staying on the backs of the USGA and R&A.

We need the Big Cup in golf for the same reasons golf’s most popular format is the scramble and why 41 million adults play softball and only 40,000 play baseball. It’s easier (but not too easy). Maybe the Big Cup will keep more youngsters and beginners from dropping out of the game because it’s just too challenging.

You should test the Big Cup yourself. Carry one in your bag, place it over the cup on each hole (no one else on the course is the wiser) and try making a 25-foot putt. You’ll be embarrassed how few times you hit the Big Cup’s outer rim. It does not eliminate the challenge of putting. Good putters are still better and bad putts are still bad putts but the terror of the three-footer is gone. The Big Cup eliminates gimmies. You can’t hardly miss from close range so now you can enjoy the satisfaction of holing out on every green, as the rules require.

We had only one three-putt in our entire foursome last fall when I tested the Big Cup with a couple of assistant pros for 18 holes. What a refreshing change. For me, the Big Cup is worth two or three strokes a side, so my score drops from 82 to 76 and let me tell you, that’s all the difference in the world emotionally. The fun is back.

I’m not trying to change the world and I understand that the Big Cup isn’t for everyone. It’s not for Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and the tour pros. They don’t need it.

It’s not for purists and traditionalists. They won’t consider it. But everyone else, listen up: If you don’t want to have more fun, play faster and shoot lower scores, use the Big Cup at your own risk. You have been warned.

Rob O’Loughlin lives in Madison, Wis., likes cheese (naturally) and is president-owner-founder of Laser Link Golf, which produces laser rangefinders.