Growing the game of golf with the 15-inch cup

TaylorMade 15-inch cup event at Pauma Valley Country Club. Photo Credit: Bernie D'
TaylorMade 15-inch cup event at Pauma Valley Country Club. Photo Credit: Bernie D’ /

The above picture doesn’t do it justice.  Increasing the cup size from 4 ¼ inches to 15 inches is a huge development in the golfing world that will help make the game more enjoyable for recreational golfers.  I had the privilege of playing in the first 15-inch cup event hosted by TaylorMade CEO Mark King at Pauma Valley Country Club, and I had a great time trying to make shots from around the green and down the fairway.

You don’t need to convince me that golf is the greatest game, but others may need a gentle nudge, and the 15-inch cup is one of the best ideas to get more people on the links in the coming years.

Why increase the cup size? 

Participation in golf is down, and it is possible that the difficulty of the game discourages would be recreational golfers.  If you want to be a good golfer, then you must practice several hours a week.  Once you learn how to hit the ball fairly straight and understand how to manage your misses, the only way to score is by having a good short game.

The short game is a lot easier with the 15-inch cup.  Instead of being frustrated on the greens, the enlarged cup makes chipping and putting the most exciting part of golf.

When I played in the 15-inch event, I tried to make every chip and putt.  Call me crazy, but I believe that is a great mindset for any golfer, especially when playing tournament golf.  Dr. Bob Rotella says in his book, Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect, that you should be trying to make everything inside 120 yards.

In addition to playing with a positive mindset, there is a real buzz around the course when people are knocking in shots.

There were over 100 chip ins at Pauma Valley, and people were cheering each other on throughout the course.  One of my playing partners hit a pin seeker from 175-yards that went in.  The pace of play was also exceptional, which is normally absent from tournament golf.

The Hack Golf Initiative

The Hack Golf Initiative was founded by TaylorMade and the PGA of America in January 2014.  The 15-inch cup is one of several ideas that serve “to re-invigorate the golf experience to ensure the game continues to thrive in the 21st century.”

The enlarged cup helps create action not normally experienced on the course (think 100 chip ins), increases the pace of play, and the players are able to focus on enjoying their round instead of worrying about the small margin of error associated with golf.

It is important to understand the 15-inch cup is meant to help grow the game.  It is entirely possible to have both a 15-inch cup and a regulation hole on the green, and the players can choose which hole to play to.  This does not distract the players on the course who want to play a traditional round of golf.  In addition, it will help with pace of play because the golfers choosing to play the 15-inch cup will not take their time to line up four-footers.

Understanding the criticism

Golfers who do not like the concept of enlarging the hole have a good point: Why change the game we love?

Golf is a difficult game, but the satisfaction of hitting a good shot and making a birdie is a great feeling.

Most golfers enjoy the challenge of breaking 90, 80, or 70 for the first time, and they hold onto that memory for the rest of their lives.

I can also see hesitation from parents who want to introduce their children to golf.  I remember how driven I was as a young teenager to get better at the game so I could make the high school team, and eventually go on to play college golf.  Parents who see the spark in their children should encourage them to play with the traditional cup so they can prepare for junior golf tournaments and beyond.

The main point

The main point of the enlarged cup is to attract more people to the game so they can experience the values of playing golf.  Honor, integrity, perseverance, etiquette, friendship, and charity are all values I have learned through golf, and the 15-inch cup will help introduce a new wave of people to the lifelong benefits of the game.

See a video of the 15-inch cup event created by the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA).

Stay tuned for more discussion on the 15-inch cup, and other initiatives growing the game of golf.  Please comment below to continue the conversation.