Pace Of Play Press Conference

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

JOE GOODE:  Good morning, everybody.  Welcome to the 113th U.S. Open Championship here at historic Merion Golf Club for a very special announcement from the United States Golf Association.  I'm Joe Goode, Managing Director of Communications for the USGA and we're pleased to be joined this morning by USGA President, Glen Nager and USGA Senior Managing Director of Public Services Rand Jerris.  They will provide updates on the USGA's comprehensive pace of play initiative which was announced back in February at the USGA's annual meeting.  And as part of that initiative discuss today's launch of an exciting new comprehensive program focused on this important issue.

It's now my pleasure to turn over the program to USGA President, Glen Nager.

GLEN NAGER:  Thanks, Joe, good morning everybody.  At our annual meeting in February we declared our intention to take dead aim at the frustration expressed by many golfers, including lapsed golfers, that golf just takes too long to play.

Pace of play has been an issue for decades, but it's now become one of the most significant threats to the health of the game.  Five hour plus rounds are common and they're incompatible with modern life.

Beyond the time involved, poor pace of play saps the fun from the game, takes too much time, frustrates players, and discourages future play.  In a recent study by the National Golf Foundation, 91 percent of serious golfers reported that they're bothered by slow play and say that it detracts from their golf experience.

More than 70 percent said that they believe that pace of play is worsened over time and over half admitted to walking off the course due to frustration over a marathon round.  As these numbers demonstrate, the golf community needs to act to address pace of play issues and they need to act now and they need to act more than ever.

Since February the USGA has started down this road.  Earlier this year the scientists at the USGA's research and test center initiated an ambitious project to create the first ever dynamic pace of play model.  A model based on real data applicable to both competitive and recreational golf.  When this model is completed later this summer, it will allow us to quantify the specific influences that impact pace of play:  Course design, course setup, course management, and golfers themselves.  And this content will allow us to advise architect, club owners, club managers, course superintendents, golf professionals, and golfers themselves, about how to promote a better pace of play.

Work on this model has advanced considerably at this point and is already yielding us valuable information that will help us bring focus to the industry's efforts to improve pace of play.

Beyond our work to advance a more scientific understanding of the pace of play issues, since February the USGA has been working to form partnerships and coalitions to address the pace of play issue.  At our annual meeting I referenced the PGA of America's vigorous support of these efforts.  And we've now expanded this partnership to include the R & A, the PGA TOUR, the LPGA TOUR, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the Club Managers Association, the National Golf Course Owners Association, the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and many state and regional golf associations.

Indeed, yesterday, 20 leading golf organizations from North America met here at Merion to discuss ways to organize and unify our industry's approach to improving pace of play.

Many of these same organizations will come together next fall when the USGA will host an industry symposium on pace of play where, among other things, we will share the findings that we have from the test centers pace of play modeling project.

I would like to acknowledge and recognize the leaders of a number of these organizations who are with us today to support our efforts and to express their belief in the seriousness of this issue and we thank them for their partnership on the effort.  The momentum that is now developing across the industry seriously to address pace of play issues was also evident in May when Golf Digest, together with the USGA and the PGA of America, launched the Nine is Fine initiative.  A program to encourage and promote nine hole rounds of golf as a complete, fun, golf experience.

To date our organizations have received more than 2000 nominations for nine hole friendly golf facilities.  And all of these nominations have now been vetted and a list of nine hole friendly golf courses is available on the Nine is Fine web site.

And more recently, Golf Channel dedicated the month of June as pace of play awareness month.  We applaud the leadership of Mike McCarley and his team at the Golf Channel for joining with us to take an aggressive public approach to the pace of play problem.

The USGA launched a pace of play resource center on USGA.org in April.  This resource center is now the comprehensive site for golfers seeking best practices and tips relating to pace of play as well as information about alternative formats of play.

And the resource center contains information best practices and case studies relating to managing pace of play and promoting alternative formats of play from a golf facility perspective as well.

We encourage all golfers and facility managers to make regular use of this resource center.

Over recent months we have also been actively engaged with the professional tours and elite amateur competitions as to how to identify best practices and potential solutions for improving pace of play in non‑recreational golf.  A particular focus of the discussion has been the USGA's Check Point System that has already been successfully used in USGA amateur championships.

In addition, with the PGA of America, the Golf Course Superintendents Association and others, we have been working to create the first formal education and certification programs for those who set up and operate golf courses and golf tournaments with regard to promoting better pace of play.

Importantly, our goal in all of this activity is to aggressively raise awareness among golfers and golf facility managers about pace of play issues and to provide accurate practical information that offers solutions.  As with all chronic issues, ladies and gentlemen, awareness is essential.  Helping people understand the causes of a problem, the potential solutions to the problem, and the collective effort that is required in response.  History is replete with examples of effective campaigns that have done just that.

Millions of dollars are donated annually to charitable causes because of an idea that inspired and mobilized a community of people to care and then to act.

Important political movements have been realized because leaders have introduced a campaign theme that galvanized a public to act on an issue.

Groundbreaking technologies have been inspired by the power of an idea that ignited the will of an industry to innovate.

And social boundaries in this country have been broken by the power of an idea that presented change, not as an option, but as a necessity.  And so, too, here we must mobilize the golfing public around an idea that causes them to demand action on pace of play issues.

For this reason, today the USGA is launching a national awareness campaign about pace of play.  Our effort borrows an iconic expression that has already made its way into the lexicon and ethos of the golf community, and beyond.  It rests on a 30 year old immensely popular idea that becomes more salient each time that it's seen.  The best way to introduce our effort and this idea is to reacquaint you with a moment in film with which I'm certain that you, millions of golfers, and even more millions of moviegoers are intimately familiar.  Please run the clip.

(Video played.)

While we're young, indeed.  This will be the theme of our new public awareness campaign:  While We're Young.  What I'm about to show you is a series of fun, inviting, PSAs that don't chastise, they entertain.  The purpose of our spots is not to lecture, but to relate, not to admonish, but to wink and to engage.

While We're Young.  The goal of this campaign is to rally the golf be public to demand effective solutions from our industry and pace of play issues.  Pace of play is an epidemic and the moment has come to attack it in a fun, innovative and cooperative way.  Let's run the PSAs.

(Video played.)

While we're young is a shorthand, it's the language of golf and of golfers.  It's designed to cut through golf's cultural conformity.  As you can see, iconic personalities and U.S. Open champions have donated their time and their voices to this campaign because, as we do, they recognize the significance of the pace of play problem and the availability of solutions to it.

One of these champions of this cause, Butch Harmon, feels so strongly about this issue that he's been gracious enough to not only donate his time to our PSA's but to appear with us today.  Butch, thank you so much.

(Applause.)

As some of you no doubt are asking, is this different for the USGA?  Yes.  Is it fun?  Absolutely.  Will it be effective in mobilizing the golf community to be part of this solution?  We believe so.  Particularly if you, the media, will embrace it and support it and promote it.

We all have to stop simply complaining about pace of play and instead agree to join together behind a powerful idea to mobilize the public and solve this problem.  While We're Young is the idea.

You'll note that each of these PSAs drive viewers to a new web site that we have launched this morning.  The web site encourages golfers and golf facilities to demonstrate their commitment to the While We're Young campaign by signing a pledge, a pledge to improve their own pace of play practices.  And if they sign this pledge they will be enrolled in an educational program developed in partnership with the PGA of America, the LPGA, and the Golf Course Superintendents Association that will deliver meaningful information to them about addressing poor pace of play practices.

Ultimately it's our hope that this campaign will create a new golfing culture, a culture in which the community unites behind a common appreciation of the importance of pace of play to the health of the game.  A true understanding of the integrated system of factors that determines pace of play on the golf course and a commitment to employing best practices so that a better pace of play becomes an integral part of our game.

The time for this shared call to action is now.  Let's fix pace of play together While We're Young.  Thank you.

JOE GOODE:  Thanks, Glen.  We would like to open it up to questions now.  Who would like to get us started?

(Pause.)

JOE GOODE:  While We're Young.

(Laughter.)

Q.  It's all good to get in the spirit of playing faster but what practical solutions are there?  Shorter golf courses?  Shorter rough?  What kind of practical solutions are you suggesting for people to play faster?

GLEN NAGER:  Great question.  As I noted in my speech at the annual meeting there are four major factors that affect pace of play.  Golf course design, golf course setup, player management, player behavior.

So we have to look at each of these four areas to actually have a practical impact on pace of play.

Our test center is now actually trying to quantify the different factors that actually affect pace of play, but we already know some of them.  All right.  We know that at many golf facilities we're sending players out on the golf course faster than we can get them around on the golf course so we create bottlenecks.  Our starting time intervals are shorter than the time that it takes to play a hole.  And we believe our test center modeling project will show this, but if you look at par‑3, par‑3s are the first bottleneck that almost always arises on a golf course because it takes 12 to 15 minutes to play a par‑3 for a group and yet we're sending players out on the golf course at eight minute intervals, nine minute intervals, 10-minute intervals.  So what we're going to do through the test center project is help develop a model that will allow a specific facility to determine the right intervals to send people out on a golf course.

We're also going to see in the area of golf course setup the types of golf course setup that creates bottlenecks and slows pace of play; rough heights, green speeds, hole locations.

In the area of golf course architecture we're going to be working with the golf course architects to look not just at the length of the course but of course we have our Tee It Forward program to get people to play from the right tees but also the number and location of hazards.

As our golf community has an increasing number of seniors playing in it, and we're trying to get women and juniors in the game, our golf course architecture is a little out of sync with that because we have a lot of forced carries, whether it be off the tee, or from the tee into greens.

These are the things that we're going to try to quantify and put together as a sense of not only best practices, but an effort to be able to work with individual facilities to identify the things that are practical for them to do within their budgets with the specific design of their golf course.  And we think that will have a significant impact on pace of play.

Obviously on player behavior, a player could already go on USGA.org and tee it from the right tee, move to your ball, be ready to play your shot when it's your turn, put your bag in the right place when you get up to the green, have read your putt before it is your turn to play, putt the ball, and do your score on the next hole, not standing on the green.  There are lots of practical simple things that cumulatively can do it a lot to reduce the amount of time it takes to play a round.

Q.  You mentioned the check point system.  Do you see this initiative perhaps helping to usher in the check point system here at the U.S. Open based also on its success at other USGA events?

GLEN NAGER:  Well, what I would say to that is that we are considering that and say that we're actively talking with the tours about our check point system and whether it would work for their tours, not just our U.S. Open Championship.  I want to tip my hat to Mike Whan and the LPGA who are expressing enthusiastic interest in this and actually sending representatives from their organizations to our championships to see how that system works as we use it and to assess whether or not it would work for them in their events, either that system as it is or some alternative.  There's industry‑wide concern about this issue and industry‑wide leadership being shown and I'm hopeful we'll be able to do something at some point in those regards.

Right now there are differences between amateur championships and professional championships and we have to sort through how that system would work well when have you a lot of people on a golf course and TIOs and those kind of things.

JOE GOODE:  Glen mentioned our microsite that launched this morning and URL to that microsite with a whole host of educational material is USGA.org/While We're Young.  Question in the back?

Q.  What do you consider good pace of play this week and how do you plan to enforce it?

GLEN NAGER:  Let me say that the professional issue is different than the recreational issue.  The reason we are focused on pace of play as an organization, the reason why we're launching this public awareness campaign is because poor pace of play is driving recreational golfers from the recreational game.  They have other things to do with their leisure time.

That's not a problem in the professional game.  I don't think you're going to see people who play in this championship not trying to qualify for it, play in it or walking off a golf course in hoards out of frustration over the pace of play of the U.S. Open or professional championships.

It is a mistake to equate the problem that exists in the game at the recreational level with the issues about pace of play that do exist at the professional level.

Now having made that sermon, let me answer your question.  What we're trying to do here at the U.S. Open and we have put a lot of effort into it, is to do what we can to avoid bottlenecks and move the players around the golf course without unnecessary delays.

So what are some of the things that we have done?  Well, we had our test center people and the consultants that we're using come out and spend time here at Merion doing modeling on this specific golf course so we could identify where bottlenecks might arise.  And the most ones that we are worried about are hole 3, hole 9, hole 10 and hole 17.

So you'll notice that we have a special procedure in place at this U.S. Open where the players on the third tee will have priority over the players on the sixth tee.  Because though two teeing grounds intersect.  That's not way it would ordinarily be done.  Ordinarily the people who are further out on the golf course would have priority.  So we changed that for this week to try to avoid that bottleneck.

Another thing you see happen at major championships and particularly the U.S. Open is players waiting on tees while crosswalks are being cleared.  So we have done extra training of the marshals who are going to be opening and closing crosswalks to try to reduce and hopefully eliminate the incidence of that kind of practice.

We have also done an examination of the whole golf course to look where balls might go so that we don't have to move crowds and have play slowed up during the championship so we have been very meticulous with our roping and staking and where we put the water coolers for the players so they don't have to waste any effort going in the wrong direction to get snacks or water as they're moving along the golf course.

We have changed our pace of play policy for this championship.  In past years at the U.S. Open in order for a group to be out of position and to get put on the clock they have not only have to be above the time that they're allotted for playing, but when they got to the next hole, if one player had put a ball in play before the group ahead of them had cleared the green ahead of them, they would be considered in position.

This year every player in the group has to have a ball in play before that group in front of them is off the green or they will be considered out of position and we'll start going through the process where we'll have a rover timing them and either getting them back in position or they will be subject to a warning and then penalty.

Also, if you'll notice, look at the tee times.  We have adjusted the starting times in the morning.  Rather than starting at 7:00 in the morning we're going to be starting at 6:45 a.m. in the morning, because, again, one of the things that our modeling effort that our test center has done is shown us that, again, if you get too many groups out on the golf course and you don't have enough spacing, you create bottlenecks and people have to stand around.

So by starting earlier in the morning, we're hoping to stretch the play out on the course some and it's challenging on Thursday and Friday.  We've got to get 156 players around the golf course.  You've got two waves.  And we have potential weather issue, so we're juggling a number of things.

We have done a substantial amount of training of our volunteers at every point with pace of play in mind.  Every aspect of this course has been examined and we will be strategically placing officials around the golf course so that as soon as a group looks like it may be getting potentially out of position, they will be put on notice even before they're out of position that they're getting on the verge.

How all of that's going to work and what times are going to come out of it is hard to say.  But what we are confident that we've done as proactively as we can, identify among the factors that affect pace of play at a professional championship, to have identified them in advance and to have managed them as far in advance as we can.

Q.  I'm wondering if pace of play is truly a relatively new problem in golf.  For example, have your studies shown that statistically that say the typical round of golf has increased in time a certain amount over a certain period of time, 10, 20 years and if so, why has that happened?

RAND JERRIS:  When we have looked at pace of play times ‑‑ the answer to your question is yes the research has shown that times to play increased historically, particularly in the last 30 years or so.  And the suggestion, the indication, is that it has to do with differences in the design of our golf courses.  We have made our golf courses longer, but I think more significantly we have made our golf courses more difficult.

There's been this obsession with difficulty and challenge in the game, which is actually a bit in opposition to what we're hearing from consumers.  Consumers are looking for fun.  We got into golf ‑‑ I think a lot of us got into golf because it's a fun game.  And the golf courses that we're providing are fundamentally harder.  We know that statistically courses today are harder, they're longer, their slope ratings are higher than golf courses that were built 40 years ago or 60 years ago.

So as an industry we have actually brought this problem on ourselves in some way by equating difficulty with being a better product.  In fact I think that we're ready for a cultural change and a cultural shift there.  And it requires reeducation of the golfer and reeducation of the golf facilities; that we need to make our facilities fun again and part of that is making them faster to play.

Q.  You mentioned the GCSAA is one of your allies.  Talk about how the superintendent can help in this initiative.

RAND JERRIS:  Sure.  The superintendent plays a very important role in pace of play.  Glen mentioned the four factors:  Course design, course setup, player management and player behavior.  And that course setup is a very significant piece of it.  Superintendents make choices on a daily basis about hole location, about rough heights and about green speeds.  And through the pace of play modeling project we're actually, as Glen mentioned, we're trying to quantify what those impacts are.

There are some who believe, for example, that every foot on the Stimpmeter adds 20 minutes to a round of golf.  That's a pretty significant statement if that's true.  We're going to work through the modeling project to try to actually quantify that and determine that.  But these are the types of decisions that we are entrusting to our superintendents.  And a lot of times they have a lot of knowledge, they have a tremendous amount of expertise.  On occasion their hands are tied by the green committees and by other important decision makers at the club.  And we what we can understand as we move forward is that we need to provide the proper education to all of the decision makers that are working at a facility, whether it's the owner, the club manager, the professional, and the course superintendent is an important piece that have puzzle.  So that everybody understands these factors, the way that they work together and we're providing them with accurate, relevant information to make smart decisions.  The decisions they make are particularly important and Glen referenced the bottleneck holes on the par‑3s.  When we know we can anticipate problems, we can make smarter decisions about hole locations.  Maybe we reduce the rough height around the green at a par‑3 when we know it's going to be a busy day and there's going to be heavy traffic on the golf course.

So that superintendent can be an important part of the conversation that goes on with other club officials to help facilitate and enable better pace of play through the golf course.

Q.  Two things.  One, we have heard a lot about the Grow the Game initiatives and then when you ask about the measurement to see if the programs actually work you get very little information if they actually do work.  One is how are you going to measure this program that you're talking about and if it actually does work?  And then, two, in the discussion you were talking about obviously length of golf courses has lot to do with equipment.  The reason why courses have been lengthened is because of equipment.  How will you affect or deal with that?

GLEN NAGER:  The second part of your question faded out, can you repeat it?

Q.  The second part is length is an issue but it's because pace of play is a lot of it, but it's because of equipment.  If equipment doesn't go as far we wouldn't have lengthened the golf courses, at least that's the argument that many would talk about.  How will you address that issue or will you address that issue as part of this initiative?

GLEN NAGER:  I'm going to ‑‑ with regard to the metrics I'm going to ask Rand to address that.

RAND JERRIS:  We're working with The National Golf Foundation to identify the most appropriate metrics for the industry moving forward.  So have had extensive discussions with Joe Beditz and his team at NGF and we are going to start to quantify on an annual basis actual pace of play.  We're trying to determine the right number of facilities, but we will identify 50 or a hundred facilities across the country that represent geographic diversity as well as diversity in the type of facility, public courses, resort course, private golf course, and we will ask them on a regular basis to collect information and report it back to us on pace of play so would we can document what is actually happening in the industry in a way that we have never done before.

At the same time we think it's important to measure golfers' perceptions of pace of play.  Because after all this is about the experience of the golfer and the customer.  They need to be enjoying golf and having fun out there.  So we intend to measure both actual pace of play data and consumer perceptions about the issue, moving forward.  We're going to implement that later this year start, that data collection later this year, and continue that forward on an annual basis.

GLEN NAGER:  With regard to your question about distance and its interaction with pace of play, we are obviously awaiting anxiously the results of our test center, the scientists' work, to see what the actual consequence of that issue is for this issue.

We certainly know from our Tee It Forward program that when we get people to Tee It Forward to the tees that are most suitable for their game they play faster and they enjoy it more if we can get enough people on the golf course to be doing that.

We are doing distance studies in the context of our overall sustainability issue.  Our test center is also doing those.  So I think you're right, there will be, there likely will be some interplay and overlap between those two studies and whether or not that results in any equipment issues we have to wait for the facts.

Q.  You said earlier that you believe it's a mistake to equate the professional game to the amateur game when it comes to pace of play, but what responsibility do you feel that professional golfers have?  A lot of people watch a TOUR event and see a player look at a putt from four different angles and say, well, I'm going to do the same thing when I play on Saturday.  What responsibility do the professionals have in the pace of play discussion here?

GLEN NAGER:  Well, I would answer that question by saying the following:  One is, if our objective here is to make the recreational game more enjoyable and faster, then we need to identify what the truly significant contributing factors to poor pace of play and in the recreational game is.  And preliminary information that we have from our work is that the golf industry has been placing way too much blame on both recreational golfers and professional golfers for this problem.  That much larger aspects of the pace of play problem at the recreational level have to do with course design, course setup, and the intervals at which we put people out on the golf course.

So it is important to, in trying to solve the problem, to put aside our past presuppositions about what causes the problem.

Now, with regard to the professional players, they have an obligation as well, because it is true that people look at professional golfers and model them.  Now there are fast professional players and there are slow professional players.  So who chooses to model whom, we don't know the answer to that.

What we do know at the professional level is that there are actually pace of play policies in affect.  And if the players in a professional event are playing within their pace of play rules, they're fulfilling their responsibility in the event that their playing in.  It's the people who put the event on that have to set that policy.  It's the people who put that event on who have to do the kind of things that we have done in anticipation of this championship to keep them from being delayed.

So the reason I'm giving you this answer is, yes, they have a responsibility, but the reality is, is that these players are playing by a set of rules and should be judged against the set of rules that they're being subject to.  And we shouldn't try to blame them for playing consistently within those rules when we're the ones who set the rules and we're the ones who set the golf courses up and we're the ones who design the golf courses and we're the ones who control the spectators.

Q.  This is an unusual alliance, USGA and Rodney Dangerfield.  How did that spring forth and was there a lot of debate about whether it was too radical?

GLEN NAGER:  Well, the idea sprang from the need.  We have a big problem in the game and we're a governance organization.  And with our partners at the PGA of America and these other organizations, we have talked about, we said it's time to stop just talking about the fact that a problem exist, it's time to figure out what really causes the problem and to come up with a solution or solutions.  And out of that conversation came a recognition that we need to unite the industry and we need to unite the golfing public around an idea.  And at that point it became pretty obvious.  The idea was something iconic.  It stood out on its own, above everything else, that millions of people, golfers and non‑golfers have seen and can laugh at and can entertain us.

The way to solve this problem is not by pointing fingers at people, it's by finding out facts and coming up with solutions to deal with those facts and getting people to want to join together around a different way of playing the game and looking at the game.  And this iconic expression was it.  And if that's different for the USGA, well then the USGA is going to evolve to embrace the difference because we need to fulfill our mission of protecting and preserving the game and that's what we're trying to do with this campaign.

Q.  Does Caddyshack make you laugh?

GLEN NAGER:  Oh, absolutely.

Q.  To some extent it sounds like the pace of play initiative you're talking about does dovetail with Tee It Forward when you start talking about course design.  But here's the problem:  A lot of the older courses, are set up, you still see courses in my area with one teeing ground and the blue and red and white and they're all like ten yards apart.  So to implement this you got to build new teeing ground.  Now how is that going to happen?  Because I talked to local pros and they said that's a great concept but where do we get the money to build new teeing grounds?  Is there going to be any support for local courses either from the USGA or the PGA of America to do that kind of thing?

GLEN NAGER:  Great question.  First of all, it doesn't cost anything to take two wooden tees and put them up at the beginning of the fairway so that juniors can play the game from a course that's more of a length that they can play and to put the tees up for women or seniors who just need a shorter golf course to play.  Doesn't cost any money to do that.

Secondly, if you are convinced, as we are, and I think our partners in the industries are convinced that pace of play is one of the major factors causing people to drop out of the game and play less, this is an easy business proposition.  If we can get more people into the game by making the game faster and more enjoyable, the revenues that will be generated from greens fees, food and beverage sales, merchandise sales, will far outweigh the cost of building a few new teeing grounds in places where you want to build new teeing grounds and don't just want to put a few stakes in the ground to create appropriate distances.  And it is important to say here, and I know you're not really questioning it, that it's not just length, okay?  It's green speed.  You don't have to build a new green, you just have to cut it to the height that we used to play golf at.

The point Rand made is critical, for the last 30 or 40 years in this country, more difficult has been equated with better.  And as a result we have longer golf courses, faster green speeds, greater rough heights, more hazards, more difficult carries, and everything that makes the game more difficult to play and more time consuming.  And we need to change that paradigm.  While We're Young.

Q.  Just had a question on your pace of play in competition, a lot of your qualifying sites for your events players don't have caddies or the courses are poorly marked with yardages.  I haven't heard anything about range finders.  Might this pace of play lead the USGA to reconsider it start using range finders in its qualifying competitions?

GLEN NAGER:  Yes.

Q.  Do you anticipate hearing from any municipal course operators who might say, this is all well and good, but we need a lot ‑‑ we need to maximize the number of people on our golf courses to keep the greens fees down and the intervals might not be conducive to what we want to do.  Do you anticipate getting any of that type of feedback from people?

GLEN NAGER:  Yes, but the good news is, is that the course operators, the club owners, were at this industry meeting, are participating in this initiative are the ones who are feeling it on the bottom line the most of the decline in participation in the game, and are looking for solutions.  So that has been and continues to be a problem of perception of, well, we need to get them on in the short‑term, but they're not having as many people to put on.

So that to some extent the problem is starting to change that perception and the leadership within that organization as well as other organizations is realizing that we need a new paradigm.

In our discussion with the leading organizations it was incredibly wonderful to hear the support and embrace of our nine hole alternative.  It's not just a matter of it being too long a time, it's like we have open spots, how can we get more people on the golf course?  And maybe we can provide people options for playing and fill up the golf courses.

So one of the problems with this issue is there's not a single solution, either across the industry or within particular golf courses, because different golf courses have different problems, they have different customer groups who want different kinds of experiences.  And I think that what we're trying to do is first of all have a call to action.  The consumers need to speak out.  They need to ‑‑ the While We're Young campaign is not just a fun, entertaining way for people to realize they need to play faster.  It's a way for them to hold the people who they're playing with accountable to play faster.  And even more importantly it's a way for them to hold the facilities at which they play golf accountable.

What we're hoping for, encouraging, trying to catalyze here is a call for the public to those club owners to those golf course superintendents, to those club professionals, to those golf course architects, we want to play faster.  We will play more golf, we will enjoy this game more and we will spend more money on this game if you'll provide us a better experience.  And I think everyone in the industry is listening and trying to figure this out.  So we're excited about the momentum that's being created on this, you've, you have, your question poses one of the preconceptions that I think has to some degree frustrated progress on this issue in the past.  We're breaking through that now.

Q.  I've had been lucky enough to take a couple of trips to the U.K. to play golf over the years and one of the things that always struck me about playing golf over there is that most of the facilities the back tees were closed to recreational play.  And I wonder, I've always thought that's a great solution to getting a great way to get people to play faster.  Have you thought about a more proactive approach to like eliminating the back tees or closing them?

RAND JERRIS:  Absolutely.  And that speaks to the heart of the issue here and Glen's talking about awareness, and the anticipate next step is education.  And I think that we need to be able to demonstrate to golf facilities, to the decision makers and to the players that playing from that back set of tees, having that back set of tees open is not in their best interests.  And that's awareness issue and an education issue.

So as part of the messaging the programming that we're developing in addition to the consumer campaign that we're introducing today we're going to be developing and rolling out later this year an educational program for facility managers for those key decision makers and that will be one of the important messages that we need to communicate to them and educate to them about is, again, it's the smart decisions like lowering green speed, lowering rough heights, it's taking the back tees out of play as an option.

Q.  A numbers question.  Are rounds down and handicaps up?

RAND JERRIS:  Rounds are down.  Handicaps have been somewhat steady.  Historically the trend has been steady on handicaps, but rounds played are down.

JOE GOODE:  Thanks everybody.  We hope you go to our microsite USGA.org/While We're Young and enroll in the program and take the pledge and we look forward to seeing your coverage.

           

Current Leaders
PosPlayerTodayThruTotal
1ROSE, J.EF+1
T2DAY, J.+1F+3
T2MICKELSON, P.+4F+3
T4DUFNER, J.-3F+5
T4ELS, E.-1F+5
T4HORSCHEL, B.+4F+5
T4MAHAN, H.+5F+5
T8DONALD, L.+5F+6
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