Silicon Valley execs want to spice up your golf life

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With more players flowing out of golf than in, a group of Silicon Valley executives have developed Flogton — a radical vision for a New World Order they believe could boost participation numbers in the game, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

In the Flogtonites’ view, the US Golf Association’s sanctioned game is simply too difficult to attract and retain enough to keep the game growing.

In particular, they argue, golf needs better ways to appeal to video game-enamored kids and to casual adult golfers who lack the time, inclination or athletic talent to master the game.

"We’ve got the courses. The courses are beautiful and under-utilized. There needs to be alternative golf formats that will bring more people out to play these courses," said Scott McNealy, the frontman for the project and the co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems.

In Flogton ("not golf" spelled backward), players could take their pick from several sets of rules to match their skill levels. The most restrictive format might follow strict USGA rules of play but allow souped-up balls and clubs.

McNealy said this format would be popular with seniors or others who are happy with USGA golf but cannot hit the ball as far as they used to, or would like to.

The least restrictive forms of play would set purists’ teeth on edge: teeing up shots in the fairway, legalizing one mulligan per hole, allowing six-foot "bumps" (no nearer the hole) to get relief from trees and other obstacles and requiring the second shot from a bunker to be thrown.

 

These games would be geared primarily toward kids or rank beginners. For each format, Flogton handicaps could be established. Different social mores would also be encouraged, from trash-talking during backswings to wearing cargo shorts.

But it would not be "goofy golf," McNealy insisted. The rules for each format would be clearly established and enforced.

"If you hit a bad shot, it will still be a bad shot that you have to take personal responsibility for. That’s the core value of golf. No excuses allowed," he said.

McNealy is himself a three-handicapper. Some of Flogton’s other backers are also low-handicappers, including John Donahoe, CEO of eBay Inc., and Bill Campbell, chairman and former CEO of Intuit.

Their aim is not to replace USGA golf, but to provide an alternative, with the expectation that many Flogton players would eventually migrate to the regular game, the way tee-ballers grow into baseball.

"We know there will be resistance. A lot of old-line clubs will never allow Flogton play, and that’s fine," McNealy said. But skiing traditionalists at first resisted snowboarding, he pointed out, "even though by now almost everybody acknowledges that snowboarding saved the industry."

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