Barney Adams has come up with some very good ideas in a long and fruitful golf life. The Tight Lies fairway metal, for one. But his latest, a concept dubbed “Tee It Forward” that is designed to enhance enjoyment and bolster participation by getting golfers to play from more handicap-appropriate markers, might be his biggest. Assuming, of course, that the movement and its message can take hold throughout the game.
A key to doing that is engendering the support of the sport’s governing bodies, and Barney has already moved mountains in that regard by getting the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association to embrace the effort – and to begin working together to make it grow. It’s an unprecedented collaboration between those administrative powerhouses, and their backing of “Tee It Forward” through promotions and publicity campaigns bodes well for its long-term health and success.
But “Tee It Forward” needs more than sponsorship from a pair of organizations that for all the good they do in golf are still big-time bureaucracies that occasionally suffer from bouts of institutional inertia and ineffectiveness. It has to have a face and spirit behind it, someone to whom the general golfing public can see and relate. At the same time, the initiative must deliver a consistent message and be overseen by a big-picture, no-nonsense manager with an entrepreneurial heart and can-do soul who makes sure the good idea does not die.
That’s where Adams comes in, and as a good first step, the USGA and PGA brought him to last week’s U.S. Open at Congressional to spend a couple of days talking to journalists about his idea. But they need to do more, and if it were my call, I’d immediately and officially bring Adams on board as the movement’s spokesman as well as its CEO.
His idea is simple and smart: by moving to more forward tees, golfers have the chance to play courses at the same relative distances tour professionals do. Once they hit their drives, the thinking goes, recreational players will then be making 6- and 7-iron approaches into the greens of par 4s, just like the big guys on tour.
Better play and scoring are natural consequences of that because it is easier to hit shots from 100 yards than from 225 (and because the greens on the vast majority of courses are designed to receive shots hit with the trajectory of those shorter irons as opposed to woods and hybrids). Then, there is the matter of speedier play that comes from “Tee It Forward.” Fewer shots means less time spent on the course, as does having to walk or ride shorter distances during a round.
According to Adams, “Tee It Forward” is not necessarily about creating new sets of tees, as most facilities already have several per hole. Rather, it is about creating a new mindset among golfers to realize how far they really hit their drives (more likely 220 yards than the 250 yards many single-digit players feel when they crush their tee shots) and to understand they should really be playing courses at, say, 6,100 yards and not back at 6,600 or 6,700 yards, which Adams says is the proportional equivalent of a tour pro competing on a track measuring 8,100 yards.
And the reason for having Adams drive this effort is that he has taken ideas and run with them to paydirt before. Remember those wildly successful Tight Lies clubs? The infomercials? The television interviews and magazine profiles that help build that concept into one of the hottest products in the history of golf? Adams has done it once, and he can do it again (even if he is a guy who admits he knows little about the modern magic of social networking and needs to be schooled on the best ways to use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well as more traditional marketing tools).
Though he stills serves as chairman of Adams Golf, Adams is for all intents and purposes retired. He says he is not looking for another job and claims he is inherently lazy. But he is a man who loves the game and cares deeply about it. He would do anything for golf. As a result, there’s energy in his voice and a sparkle in his eye when he talks about “Tee It Forward.”
That’s why the good folks at the PGA and USGA should make Adams “Mr. Tee It Forward.” Build on his appearances at Congressional and get him fully engaged in that role by the time they engage golfers in a national “Tee It Forward” initiative July 5-17 and encourage them to move up a set of tees when they play those two weeks.
Barney Adams is the man. Their man.