Origin of WRGA
In 1996, I was recruited to help start the Callaway Golf Ball Company and be its first Vice President of Research and Development. I did not join Callaway because I loved golf (I am a terrible golfer with a bad slice). I joined for the challenge of assembling a group of world class scientists and creating the best golf ball in the world – which we did and the ball was called the Callaway Rule 35. Low handicap golfers loved it, but for hackers like me, the Rule 35 sliced too much.
In 2007, I was hired by a start-up golf company to create a golf ball that would correct hooks and slices. I again approached the problem from the viewpoint of a scientist and along with Doug Winfield, we invented the Polara Ultimate Straight golf ball. The ball cured my slice! Now I love golf because I am able to keep the ball in the fairway and maintain an acceptable pace of play. It was the perfect golf ball for every slicer like me, or so I thought.
Most sports have recreational level play and professional level competition. In almost every sport, the recreational players players adhere to a different set of rules than those used at the professional level. For example, the NFL never tries to impose their rules on sandlot football. In golf it is different. The US Golf Association (USGA) makes the rules that govern the PGA Tour events and USGA sanctioned competitions like the US Open. All of the major golf companies only make products that conform to the USGA Rules of Golf. The PGA of America golf instructors for the most part still frown upon the use of equipment that does not conform to the USGA rules of golf. Most green-grass golf shops will not even consider carrying products that help golfers have more fun if the products do not conform to the USGA rules of golf (is that customer service?). The golf manufacturers make a point of labeling their products with the statement, “Conforms to the USGA rules of golf”. These actions and others have shaped the culture of golf to the point where today many golfers feel pressured to follow a set of rules that were not even meant to apply to them; a set of rules that can make the golf experience miserable for the average player. Some golfers even feel empowered to intimidate and ridicule those who elect not to follow the USGA Rules of Golf. All of this has created an unhealthy atmosphere in golf and has contributed in part to the decline in the number of golfers in the USA.
If you do not believe that the USGA rules have contributed at least in part to the decline in golf’s popularity, consider for a moment the 2014 USGA ruling on “anchoring” – this is the practice of resting the end of a belly putter against your chest and swinging the club with a pendulum motion. Despite the fact that this practice is part of the tradition of golf for more than 50 years, and despite the fact that anchoring is a recognized solution for golfers who have the “yips”, the USGA ruled that the practice of anchoring will soon be “illegal”. This was a devastating ruling to many recreational golfers, because it meant if they wanted to continue anchoring and using a belly putter, they would be labeled “cheaters”, excluded from a lot of league play, not allowed to compete in member-guest and club championships, play in the Thursday league golf, etc. Some golfers gave up golf because of this ruling.
I am a member of the USGA and completely respect what they do to govern serious tournament golf and run the many USGA sanctioned tournaments, including the US Open. They have a tough job and they do it well. So please do not get the idea I am anti-USGA. However, when the USGA tries to involve themselves in governing, or even implying that they govern recreational golf, they are out of their jurisdiction. Golfers have recognized this and called for the bifurcation of the USGA Rules – meaning having one set of rules for serious competitive golfer and one set of rules for recreational golfers. The USGA has always opposed this idea, and I do not blame them. This is not part of their mission. Thus there is a need for a new organization to put forth a set of rules that reflect how the average golfer plays the game – the US Recreational Golf Association has assumed this responsibility and created the 13 Rules of Recreational Golf.
The WRGA’s mission is to serve the needs of the recreational golfer, to be a voice for recreational golfers and to encourage them to follow a set of rules that is appropriate for their game and enables them to have more fun.
David Felker 10/29/14