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Flogton: So You Say You Want to Start a Revolution?

Matthew B. Dexter Comments(2) 5/5/11

With the popularity of golf steadily decreasing or remaining stagnant since the turn of the century and many courses still wrestling with new ideas about how to attract new interest in the sport, Scott McNealy, Sun Micro Systems founder, believes he has discovered the solution: Flogton. What the heck is Flogton you might ask? Well, it’s “not golf” spelled backwards, but that’s only the beginning. Flogton is open to new name suggestions and seeks advice from anyone. Any direction is possible. Flogton is pioneering, or at least trying to, a revolution in the golf world.

Flogton: The Idea

Rolled out in January, the Flogton mission is to introduce a different demographic to the sport, breaking up the rigid monotony that has often alienated the younger and “more hip” generations. Enticing the youth and those looking for a less austere game of golf may be a challenge. However, with the support of eBay CEO John Donahoe and chairman and former Intuit CEO Bill Campbell, McNealy is banking on success by openly asking golf design innovators to create the finest equipment possible to elevate the game and encouraging the public at large to provide their suggestions. This unrestricted method might just be what the golf world needs most to get through this trying time.

These legendary Silicone Valley CEOs want to make the game faster. Yes, McNealy and his two associates happen to be accomplished golfers, but there is no getting around the fact that the average golfer is not a three handicap. Many Gen Xers and Yers are turned off by the authoritarian rules and the inherent lack of pace of the game itself. They want everything to flow as smooth as the songs from their iPods, and Flogton certainly introduces a faster and more liberal approach to the sport as we know it.

Speculate as you will regarding whether or not hardcore golfers with a respect for the traditions and history of the game are prepared for such an innovative departure from all which they have come to embrace in their pastime. To counter the criticism and concerns, McNealy uses a baseball metaphor and refers to how many Major League players were first introduced to America’s pastime via Wiffle ball to convey how some new Flogton players who take a liking to the game can be expected to evolve into playing “traditional” golf under USGA rules, therefore, making Flogton beneficial to the “traditional” game.

Flogton: The Rules

So what are the rules you may wonder? What is this beast all about anyway? Well, Flogton players are encouraged to select their own rules from many sets depending on their individual ability level and intentions. Trash talk is encouraged in some sets, while the most rigid adaptation might follow the USGA regulations to a tee, yet permit players to use special souped-up golf balls and specially designed clubs.

“Floggers” can take their pick from several sets of rules to best match their skill set. McNealy says this creative format would be popular with seniors or others who are happy with USGA golf but can’t hit the ball as far as they used to, or would like to play with their grandchildren no matter their age.

It is the more extravagant rule changes allowed by Flogton that have the potential to cause outrage amongst traditional golfers. These regulations are aimed primarily toward younger or new inductees to the sport, and may permit players to tee-up fairway shots, legalize six-foot “bumps” (though no closer to the hole) in order to clear free from natural and artificial obstacles such as trees and fairway ropes, allow a mulligan every hole, and ask that the second sand trap shot be thrown out. The great thing about Flogton is that the players can set up their own specific regulations, catering to the individual, collective whims and needs of the group.

Ever wanted to trash talk during the backswing? Now is your chance. What about wearing cargo pants or some other crazy outfit on the course? Let freedom ring. Flogton handicaps can be created and merged with traditional handicaps. Yet it would be no free-for-all. The rules would clearly be set before the round begins, so there's not a rogue group of degenerates aimlessly taking over the emerald insane asylum.

Scott McNealy insists that Flogton will not be “goofy golf.” He goes on to reiterate how: “If you hit a bad shot, it will still be a bad shot that you have to take personal responsibility for.” This esteemed pioneer of software and Flogton affirms that he wants to maintain the integrity of the game, explaining that accountability “is the core value of golf.” Like the world of innovation, everyone is accountable for their actions. “No excuses allowed,” insists McNealy.

Flogton: The Benefits

There are many benefits to Flogton. For starters, the entire family and those who never played the sport are on as equal terrain as possible, providing entertainment to those who would otherwise be whistling through their teeth after a couple hours on the course in traditional golf attire with no communication with the outside world. Additionally, using advanced technology and clubs to improve driving distance and accuracy could translate over into a serious golfer’s “normal” game. On the other hand, Flogton could be used as a novel and slightly different training program, a way to open up the mind to new possibilities and fundamentals that all great golfers must acquire.

You may wonder if golf is really dying? The true answer is: golf may not be dead yet. However, if your judgment is based on the number of participants, the number of golfers has declined or remained neutral every year since 2000, (dropping from 30 million to about 26 million in 2008) according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. Golf may not be dead or, in actuality, dying, but a boost in participation sure couldn't hurt, especially for the thousands of courses barely staying afloat in this tough economic time.

Each year there are more courses, discounted greens fees and incentives being offered to entice new golfers. Maybe “floggers” are the solution? Like the flappers of the Jazz Age, perhaps the 2020s will belong to “floggers”. Just don’t tell Grandpa if he’s not ready for the revolution.

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image 30x30 ssmart 1/04/12

great idea, although i have enjoyed all of the recent declines in green fees over the years!

image 30x30 zeke.zietak 6/20/11

As long as the flogtoners respect the other golfers on the course I think it's an idea worth throwing around. I'm a by the rules player who doesn't even give a 2' putt. If it's truly a gimmie then tap it in. I would love to remove the frustration of learning the game as I play it so that anyone could enjoy playing a modified form of the game and I could even play with my wife & daughters & each of us could enjoy it from a different perspective. Maintaining the courtesy to others playing the USGA version would be my main concern. Hell let's throw this idea around and try it.

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Matthew B. Dexter

Matthew B. Dexter is a 28 year old American freelance journalist living in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. His articles have been published in various magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. He also writes and publishes memoirs, novels, poetry, and short stories of literary fiction. In his spare time he watches the ocean, contemplates the waves, plays golf, and writes lyric prose in his mind. Matthew says that Los Cabos is a majestic playground on the edge of the earth. He says that there is simply no more ethereal golfing experience on the planet than land’s end, where the golden tropical aquatic desert submerges with the currents of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez.

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