Looking for Alternative Golf Experiences

By: Cathy Harbin July 25, 2016

We love golf, it is a great game.  We love it for a variety of reasons; the history, the tradition, the honor, the integrity, the competition, we love that it is fun, it’s social, it’s welcoming and it’s a great recreational activity for us, our friends and our families.  It’s a game for everyone and a game you can play for a lifetime.

The truth is, if that last sentence was accurate, we probably would not have seen the decline in golf participation from its peak of 30 million to its current state of 24.1 million.  As an industry, we have been saying that golf is a game for everyone for many years.

final interested in golf 2

One of my favorite quotes is that we want golf to look like America looks.  The golf industry does indeed want participants in the game to look like America looks with more women, minorities and children playing. The golf industry also wants golf to be welcoming to all.  So with these good intentions, why does the game still struggle with growing overall golf participation?

What would golf need to do to truly make it a game for everyone?

There is nothing new here; golf still needs to overcome the barriers of cost, time and difficulty.  Even though these barriers have never been ranked in importance, I am going to say that my experience has the three barriers ranked with difficulty being the number one barrier, next is time and finally, it is cost.

What if we can offer a game that is easier and faster to play.  It seems golf would be very supportive of that.  We have been close with FLOGTON, but we have not found anything that has been sustained.  First, golf must always honor the core golfer by keeping the history and tradition of the game alive and well.

As a PGA and LPGA Professional, I value all that golf stands for and all that it teaches us about how to be better citizens.  Still, we have to accept the fact that some people want to play golf just for fun; not because it stands for something greater. What do we have to offer those folks, who may even be the majority of the 24 million participants? They just want to play the game for fun, recreation and for the social aspect.

How can we offer a more fun and relaxed alternative golf experience?

Barney Adams began a great movement when he suggested that the average golfer is actually playing a course that is more difficult than the Tour players because of the difference in driving distance.  Playing “The Right Tees” makes sense to everyone and some clubs have been able to implement the change, albeit a slow process with much resistance. While Executive Director of GOLF 20/20, I introduced the “It’s Okay to Play Golf for Fun” tips. These tips were handed over to the PGA of America and can be found here.

The “It’s Okay” tips are good when you are on the course exclusively for fun and skipping a hole or throwing the ball doesn’t matter.  What about the golfers who want to play real golf, but want rules that seem fairer?  The kind of rules we might create today if we were given the chance.

Rules where you are not penalized when you are standing over a ball and it moves or you brush the sand in the bunker on your backswing.  The best players in the world, from professional competition to amateur competition, can continue to play by the R&A and USGA rules.

Still, the conversation about how to make golf more fun for all the other golfers and potential golfers has to be paramount as we strive to keep golf relevant now and in the future.  Let’s not forget that a NGF report suggests that in addition to 24 million golfers in the U.S., another 37 million are interested in playing, an all-time high.

interested in golf

The NGF also told us that in 2015, 2.2 million people tried golf for the first time, more than any year since 2000(Source: National Golf Foundation).  That is a great sign and one we need to capitalize on by offering a game of golf that will keep them playing.

Enter QikStixGolf… A new format for golf that is fast, fun and easier to play.

The foundation of this alternative golf experience stems from the question mentioned earlier; if you were going to create rules for golf in this day and age, what would those rules look like?  We all imagine a set of easy to follow rules with the main criteria being FUN, FAIR, FAST, EASY with BETTER SCORING.

QikStixGolf is all about hitting a golf ball from Tee to Green without using complicated rules and as a result enjoying the game so much more.  As you read through the “quick look at the rules” below, you will see that they match the way many of us already play with our friends on a regular basis.



A quick look at the rules:

  1. The game is golf; played on a regulation course with regulation equipment
  2. Play the set of tees that best fits your driving distance
  3. Keeping safety in mind, play your shot when at your ball and no one else is hitting
  4. You can improve your lie, which includes using a tee, anywhere on the golf course except the green. Always move the ball out of danger, such as roots, pavement, etc.
  5. An 18” diameter ring is used for the hole, instead of the current small hole
  6. Continual putting until the ball is holed as marking and remarking slows down play
  7. Maximum score is a triple bogey and maximum number of putts per hole is three
  8. Lost ball or ball in a Hazard will be dropped on the fairway edge equidistant from green with a 1 stroke penalty
  9. The target time for 18 holes in less than 3 hours.

The rules could be called recreational rules, fun rules, flexible rules, fair rules or a number of other similar names. The bottom line is these rules are designed to ensure that all ability levels can enjoy the game of golf.  We want to make golf a game of a lifetime for everyone.

QikStixGolf accomplishes that for the current golfers and makes entry into the game smooth and easier for 2+ million who will try the game every year.  It is a fun and exciting way to play golf.  QikStixGolf is a Fair set of rules.  The rules are not a big change from what has been played, but the changes are crucial to making the game more player friendly. Many may ask “why the ring for putting” and Ben Hogan sums up putting with his quote below:

“There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground. It doesn’t make sense for those strokes to count the same.”

Well Ben, QikStixGolf solves that dilemma with the 18” rings around each hole.

Currently, QikStixGolf is hosting events in Dallas and Houston with the next growth area to be Austin Texas.  Also, QikStixGolf will be hosting the golf outing at the Golf Inc. conference at Barton Creek on September 14, 2016.  This will be the first look at the rules for the golf industry that has been looking for alternative golf experiences that will help grow the game for many years.

As many of you know, one of my life’s passions is to grow the game and ensure that it is indeed a game that everyone can enjoy for all of their life.  I am looking forward to seeing the positive impact that QikStixGolf can make on ensuring the future vitality of golf!

Watch the Video to find out more:

About Cathy Harbin:

  • Class A membership in the PGA of America since 1992 and PGA Master Professional status since 2000.
  • She is also a member of the LPGA and CMAA.
  • With over 20 years as an operator in the golf business, including 12 years managing the World Golf Village golf courses, Cathy has perfected training and operational systems that created a consistent world class experience and sustainable profits.
  • As Executive Director of Golf 20/20 for three years, Cathy helped drive the World Golf Foundation mission.
  • She lead the successful launch of Get Golf Ready, a national instructional program.
  • former Vice President of Public Golf, Golf Academy and Programming for ClubCorp in Dallas, Texas, provided operational experience working with over 150 clubs.
  • Golf Inc. magazine named Cathy as one of the Most Admired Golf Course Operators, Golf News magazine named her as Woman of the Year and United Athletes Foundation named her Athlete of the Year.