Communicating Change – USGA not so “old school”

The golf industry has been anticipating the ruling on long putters all year and finally the announcement came that the governing bodies of golf, the USGA and The R&A, are proposing a ban on “anchoring” the putter against the body.

I was not planning on writing about this announcement because I use a traditional putter and I don’t have an issue with the rule.  What I found interesting and what has compelled me to write is my surprise at how well the USGA and The R&A disseminated the information!

Obviously if you are a golf geek (as I am), you expected the news to unfold on the Golf Channel.  Both Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director and Peter Dawson,  The R&A Chief Executive were on TV.

What I did not expect was the variety of materials created to communicate and explain the proposed rule change, and the fact that they are promoting a 90-day feedback period to allows stakeholders to share their opinion on the proposed change.

INFOGRAPHIC

Proposed rule 14-1b Infographic USGA Infographic Anchoring Putter, Proposed Rule-14-1b

Infographics are a great tool for visually explaining the rule.  I’m a visual person so I love infographics.

From a communication perspective, the use of infographics in business is becoming more common but is still not really widely used and is not considered a “standard” in the communication toolbox. Therefore, it is nice to see the forward thinking of the communications folks (at the USGA and R&A) using an infographic to support the explanation of the rule change.

Video Explanation

The other visual I did not expect was the in-depth video explaining the reason behind the decision and demonstration of the putting options.  Yes, many videos are done but not all of them are done well or posted in a timely manner.  The USGA and R&A had the video posted on the websites and on YouTube ready for consumption and sharing.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a major company (or brand) announce a new product and not have a decent video demo posted to YouTube.  And, demo videos are a standard in communication toolboxes in business today.

Email and Social Media

The next thing that impressed me was the email I received from the USGA.  I am a member (just a regular golfer membership for $25/annual fee) so I was not surprised to receive an email, but once again the timing of the email was impressive.  It came at 8:52 a.m. (I was literally watching the golf channel listening to the live press conference at that time).  Again, this simple act of sending an email early to the members is “first-class.” The email included a link to the rules explanation on the USGA website and encouraged feedback via the website feedback tool.

I was not surprised at the USGA’s use of social media (Twitter and Facebook) because they have been using those channels; and the status updates on twitter and Facebook are always timely.  Of course, one key to successful social media is to have great photos or images to share so the infographic and video play nicely into the social media communication channel.

Impact on Reputation

Finally, I think many golfers think the USGA and R&A are “old school” with a bunch of “old boys” and “old traditions.”  I’m sure there are golfers that will view the decision on anchoring the putter as wrong and view the USGA and R&A leaders as hurting the game.

However, based on the execution of the communication of the proposed rule change, the USGA and R&A have shown that although they are protecting the traditions of the game of golf; they are modern in their transparency and communication of their initiatives.

Grow the game of golf by being kind to a new golfer

In the past ten days I have played two rounds of golf  in which one of the other golfers was a new golfer.  At the first tee, new golfers often and nervously explained their lack of skill, sheepishly saying, “I’m just starting out, I’m not very good, etc.”

My response was to smile and tell them it’s a great day for golf.  I told them if they have any questions about the game, ask away — I’m happy to help.  You could literally see their whole bodies relax when they realized I was not annoyed with the fact that they were beginners.  I also asked them if they would like me to let them know if they are about to break a basic rule of the game or if they would like me to give them pointers on golf etiquette.  Both said they would love the help.

Now, for me, this is the key to playing with new golfers; help them relax and let them know we are in this wonderful round of golf together.  By asking them if they would like assistance, I am creating a win/win.  They agree to the help and I can offer assistance to keep me from going crazy if they do something truly annoying (like talking in my back swing).  I look at it this way, the more relaxed they are the better the chance they will play well.

Each new golfer had their own set of questions, ranging from how high to tee the ball to how to read a putt, but the most valuable tips I shared with them allowed them to keep up with the pace of play.  I told them that it doesn’t matter how bad they think they play; what they need to avoid is playing too slowly.  The advice I shared was simple:

  1. Don’t think too much about your swing.  Take one practice swing and then go for it.  If you take too many practice swings or stand over your ball thinking about all the things you learned, it will slow things down (and it will tire you out both mentally and physically).
  2. Be aware of what the other golfers are doing. Watch them hit the ball off the tee so that if they do not see where their ball landed, you can save them time finding their ball.
  3. Be ready when it is your turn — as soon as you see the other person hit their ball (hopefully from the fairway) be ready to hit your ball.  In other words, you can be thinking about what club to use and where you want to aim when they are getting ready to hit their ball.
  4. Pick up your ball if you are struggling on a hole — don’t take 15 strokes on a hole. If you are not in a tournament,  just pick up the ball and take it up to the fringe and hit a chip and putt.  No one will think less of you, and in fact, will respect that you are aware of the pace of play and making a decision that will keep things moving along.
  5. Always put your clubs between the green you are putting on and tee for the next hole.  Then when you walk off the green you can pick up a club that you might have left on the fringe and get your bag on the way to the next tee.  If you don’t know where the next tee is, ask your playing partner (as you are walking up to the green.)

The other area in which they needed a lot of advice was on the green.  Both of the beginners had putting lessons, but the lessons only explained the putting stroke, so we had a quick class on managing the green. Advice included:

  1. Make sure you have a ball marker to mark your ball — one of them didn’t even know that their glove had a built-in ball mark.  Always ask if you need to move the mark for someone else putting.
  2. Repair ball marks — I showed them how to lift the grass and tap it down with the putter.
  3. Tending the Flagstick — I explained they must remove the flagstick when their ball is on the green (or it’s a penalty).  If you can’t see the hole, you can have someone tend the flag.  I tended the flag, giving them little pointers, like if their body casts a shadow, stand so the shadow is not over the hole. Or, if it is a windy day, hold the flag against the pole so it does not flap in the wind.
  4. Never walk in between the hole and another players ball mark — explaining that you want to always know where the other ball marks are so you avoid making any footprints in another golfers putting line.
  5. Ask if you can finish out your putt. Don’t just assume you can “tap it in”…make sure your playing partner doesn’t mind if you tap in before he takes his/her turn.

Both rounds of golf where enjoyable and the new golfers were very happy when I left them in the parking lot.  I felt good about helping them and remembered friends that had helped me when I was a beginner.

A lot of seasoned golfers dread being put with beginners. This always amazes me because we were all beginners at one time, and let’s face it, on any given day our golf swing can let us down and our game can “look and feel” like we have never held a club in our hands.  So if you love the game of golf and want golf to grow and prosper — do your part to help grow the game of golf by being kind to a new golfer.

Moments of glory in golf – some forever and some fleeting

The best advice my mother ever gave me is that life can be tough (with lots of ups and downs) and we live through the tough times to experience “the moments” that make life worth living.  So here are two stories that are perfect examples of the ups and downs of life as a golfer.  One story of a golfer making history and the other who should have made history except for a heartbreaking lapse in concentration.

Let’s start with the moment of glory for Rhein Gibson.  Gibson is not someone you should know.  He plays on the Golfweek National Pro Tour (frankly, a mini-tour I have never heard of before now).  So what did Gibson do for his moment of glory?  He recorded a 55 (or 16 under par) at his home course, River Oaks, in Edmond, Oklahoma.  His scorecard is all over the internet but if you have not seen it here is a great shot of it from the Australia Broadcasting website article (Gibson lives in Oklahoma but is Australia).

Australia Broadcasting Company Image of Rhein Gibson Scorecard

How good is a 55?  The world’s best female golfer is known for shooting a 59 (in tournament play) and her nickname is Annika59 (yes, Annika Sorenstam).  She often talked about her personal goal to shoot a perfect round — the elusive score of 54 (which would be a birdie on every hole).  But this has never happened for any golfer.

Now, Gibson was not playing in a tournament but Gibson’s score of 55 could still go into the Guinness Book of World Records.  We will have to wait and see if it accepted; but what an amazing site to see.  Six birdies on the front nine for a 29; followed by 2 eagles (the triangles) and 6 more birdies for a back 9 score of 26.  Will Gibson ever make it to the PGA?  Who knows, but he has his 15 minutes of fame and a moment in his life that he will never, ever forget.

Now to a story that should have been history making for a young high school female golfer.  Caroline Inglis was on her way to winning the Oregon state tournament for the 4th year in a row. She finished with a 3-under 69, a score that was nine shots better than anyone else in the tournament.  But she was disqualified and lost her title.  How?  Read on…

In golf, a player must sign the scorecard at the end of the round and if the player signs an incorrect scorecard they will be disqualified.  This is what happened to Inglis.  According to news reports, her playing partner recorded a par for Inglis on the final (18th) hole but Inglis shot a bogey (1 over par); and Inglis did not catch the error and signed the card.  You can see the disbelief in the young golfer’s face in the photo below.

Churchill golfer Caroline Inglis after being disqualified for a scorecard violation — Jesse Skoubo/AP/Corvallis

(Photo by Jesse Skoubo/AP/Corvallis).

You wonder how could this happen; but according to an article written by Mike Tokito of The Oregonian, it happens more that you think.  He interviewed the University of Oregon women’s golf coach Ria Scott.  Inglis will play college golf for the University of Oregon next year. The quote from the article is:

“From my experience, it seems to happen when people are really emotional about their round, one way or another,” Scott said. “Either you’re really frustrated or really excited.”

In other words, the young player was so excited that she lost her concentration and did not focus on making sure the card was correct.  That’s a tough golf (and life) lesson to learn.

I’m sure Caroline Inglis will recover and go on to bigger and better things in golf.  Although we can’t predict her future; I think we can predict she will always double check her scorecard.