Joe Munsch, CEO of Eagle Golf
"If they don't have fun, they don't come back"
By Torleif Sorenson on 6/21/13
Last week, we told you about the USGA's latest anti-slow play campaign, "While We're Young." Part of the campaign includes USGA president Glen Nager encouraging golfers to tell course operators to widen their fairways and lower their rough.

Now, GolfWeek writer Gene Yasuda has published an interesting open letter from Joe Munsch, president and CEO of Eagle Golf, a golf course management firm based in Dallas. In his open letter of rebuttal, Munsch calls for less finger-pointing from the USGA — and for more cooperation and consistency, instead.

Munsch's rather lengthy letter takes awhile to get to the point, so we have placed Munsch's essential thought in bold text for your benefit.
An Open letter to Mr. Glen Nager, President of the USGA

Mr. Nager,

I heard your interview during the US Open regarding the USGA "While We're Young" campaign and, while I applaud the USGA for addressing the pace of play issue, I feel you have misplaced the blame regarding the pace of play issue in our game today.
As the president of a company that manages and operates golf facilities across the United States, we recognize that pace of place is one of the game's biggest problems. I have been very critical of the USGA in the past because I think the organization is out of touch with the real world of golf and the need to grow the game and make it more fun. And, last Sunday, the ideas expressed in your interview further support my argument.

You said the game at the recreational level needs to be fun. You said golf course operators need to slow down green speeds, lower rough heights, widen fairways, and generally make the courses more playable. These comments suggest you have not recently visited a course that was not set up for one of your tournaments, because golf course operators have understood these issues and done these things for years.

You further stated that the professional game is not the standard for the recreational game and that the recreational level needs to have a different paradigm. Those thoughts are surprising coming from an organization that recently ruled to ban the anchored putter, created unnecessary controversy when Callaway introduced the "non-conforming driver" and often frowns on the improved travel distances of today’s golf balls.

I am left to wonder what exactly is the different "paradigm" sought by the USGA? Most, if not all, of the organization's recent applicable rulings attempt to make the game more difficult and less fun to play.

Most disturbing to me was when you called for recreational golfers to visit your web site and unite with the USGA to send a message to the golf industry that the game needs change and become more fun.

Those of us on the front lines of the golf industry have understood this for years. Our courses don't have six-inch rough, 530-yard par-4s, and 270-yard par-3s. The best golfers in the world were unable to break par at your tournament once again, and nothing about the course setup looked fun to me or to the golfers, based on their comments and on-course reactions throughout the week.

In the golf industry we fight, scratch, and claw to get golfers out to our courses. If they don’t have fun, they don’t come back. We have known for years that time is a factor. I am glad the USGA has finally come to this realization as well.

Welcome, at last, to the real golf industry. Here, the golf ball doesn't go too far, short courses are not obsolete, the golf clubs are not too forgiving and even the recreational golfer enjoys an occasional birdie.

We're thrilled for you to join the effort to grow the game and make it more fun.

But understand that course operators are not the bad guys here.

Moving forward, let's all work together to make a difference in the game and the industry.

Joe R. Munsch

President and CEO

Eagle Golf

The USGA president is likely to be a bit peeved at Mr. Munsch for referring to the U.S. Open as "your tournament"; the standard USGA style guideline (especially for their broadcast partners) is to refer to this national championship as a "championship," not as a "tournament."

Munsch's letter is also twice as long as it should have been and deserves a few other comments and pieces of constructive criticism. But before I post those thoughts, I want to hear from you.

Oobers, what say you about Munsch's letter?

h/t Geoff Shackelford

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Image via Eagle Golf

[ comments ]
DaRupp13 says:
Sooooo is this anything more than a rant about how he's not to blame? While I agree with his position, man he sounds like a whiner. Offer a solution...
Werepuppie says:
The equipment industry runs the show when it comes to the type of equipment that "conforms."This has been the case for years.
All the talk of toning the ball down for the pros will come to nothing.The reason is because recreational golfers compare themselves to the pros.This may not be reasonable,but it is nonetheless true.
If they were to introduce a pro ball,everyone would buy it,or less expensive versions built similarly.All the existing stock of balls would be useless.
This is true with clubs as well.How many non-conforming"clubs are made or sold?Not many I would bet.Why is this?I believe it is because nobody wants to shoot 90 because they used the illegal super driver along with the new super ball.
I guess it is just human nature.ProV1s sell like crazy even though they probably hurt the game of anyone over a 10 handicap.
mtgolfidiot says:
Golf is a hard game. I have played behind beginners at my local muni and I cringe as I watch them hack, swat, punt, push, and generally struggle with making the ball go towards the hole in an acceptable number of strokes. I can say with a great deal of confidence that golf is not a fun game for beginners. For the most part, when I see fairly accomplished players (let's call them people with an established USGA handicap) they tend to play in an acceptable amount of time.

Beginners/hackers will always take too long at a public course when they play from the incorrect tees, don't pick up after 8-9 strokes, 4 putt greens, take 3-4 to get out of sand and don't understand the basics of playing quickly (be ready, go directly to your ball and be ready to hit, only search for a lost ball for 1-2 minutes, etc.)
legitimatebeef says:
Wonder why Mr. Munsch is protesting so hard.

At first I was harsh on the USGA's initiative... until I heard Glen Nager talking about it during the USO. Now there's a straight shooter with upper-management written all over him. Anyways something about trying to rally golfers to speak up and demand a better experience from the golf course business. Which I can get behind. Most of the courses I've experienced in the NYC/tri-state area don't give a rip about pace of play or providing a solid experience. It is patently obvious that a lot of courses are falling way short of their potential in this way. It would only take a modest effort and minimal cost to improve things for everyone, both golfers and courses. I don't really buy into the USGA's supposed research and data on slow play (its so obvious a phenomenon it transcends the need for science)--but I think its all part of a effort to make people (i.e. management) aware that its a real thing and that many people are pissed off about it.
mjaber says:
I don't think the letter really had a point, other than to say "It's not our fault. We're trying." He did not offer an ideas for a solution to the slow play epedemic. In truth, I don't think there is a solution...
1slander1970 says:
In Europe and some Asian countries like Korea for instance, golfers are not allowed immediately on the best courses in town. There are different levels of courses in Scandinavia that require certain levels of handicaps to play on. In Korea, I was just told, you have to be able hit the ball X yards prior to going out on a golf course. How many times do beginners not pick up there ball on US courses after they hit it 6 times for a total of 100 yards. We all paid to play and would like to get home before dark.

I believe that the US should institute rules such as having an X handicap prior to stepping on certain public golf courses. Or restrict the times. Sunday morning at the local muni is not a good time to bring a beginner out to the course for the first time.

I don't believe that it is golf course set up. I believe that individuals slow up play. The courses either need better marshalls or more intrusive handicap restrictions.
1slander1970 says:
I do like the idea of cutting down the rough...playing on 1/2 inch cut fairways (instead of 1/4 inch) and teeing it forward...would definitely make the game faster. You could always leave some tees back for the low handicappers...
Wes11point5 says:
Beef, I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there. He's been really flakey lately and I'm jsut not sure he's the caliber person that we would want for upper management.
Duke of Hazards says:
So I read it and I disagree that 'recreational' (i.e. - public/muni?) golf courses are 'set up' too difficult. If Nager implied that course conditions at most munis are too difficult for amateurs, I would agree with Munsch that that's inaccurate.

Most I've been to have low-cut rough, reasonable greens and they often will move up the back tees to compensate for knucklehead hackers who can't hit it past the lady tees. However, and as Beef commented, aside from that, they don't seem to otherwise care about pace of play, sending out 5-some after 5-some and I can't remember the last time I saw a course marshal on any of the tracks I play.

The 'While we're young' campaign is a great idea, although it could use some serious spit and polish. People's complete lack of awareness is the issue. You can hack your way to a 120 and still play fast, you just need to eliminate the 9 slow-mo practice swings before you chunk your 3-wood forward 20 yards.
legitimatebeef says:
wes11point5 LOL
Kurt the Knife says:
"While we're young"...hmph. Kinda weak.
I like, "Move your ass!"
mmontisano says:
beginners are not picking up after 8 strokes because most of the time they've paid good money to play these courses and they "want to get their monies worth." they didn't pay that money to give up on their score every hole.

I think all arguements can get boiled down to that it's just too damn expensive to play golf.
toothid says:
Lots of issues here. There are several courses in my area (northeast PA). That take "tee times" but will constantly let a "walk on group" get right in line. A 10AM start could find 8-10 carts ahead of you. I have also seen this on Jersey Shore courses too. Resort type course (the POCONOS) will constantly allow groups of 5-7 people tee off together. You could ask will a group of 7 play faster than a group of 3 and one of 4. Fact is when a group want to tee off with 7, they are usually only out to bat the ball around the course. They will all congregate around the guy hitting before moving to the next players ball....painful at best. I have watched rangers just drive past and wave. The pro shop knows that they won't be back so "let 'em have at it."
Even at private clubs (I do belong to a 9 hole private). The pro lets the ruff grow long for the "Big tournament" ( about every other weekend).
As the saying goes, "we have met the enemy and they are us"
birdieXris says:
There was a course i played back in the day. I think it was one of the Bear's courses. Anyway, when you arrived they had you state your average 18 hole score and asked your handicap index. If you did not have a valid HCI, they added 3 or 4 strokes (i forget which, but it was a strange number) to your average score and assigned you to a tee color. If you went from a tee longer than your assigned you were warned, then on the second time you were asked to leave. I think that's a great idea and wish more courses would do it. It wouldn't solve the problem of mis-teeing completely but it would do worlds to help it.
Matt McGee says:
I like the idea of a course asking for a player's handicap or average score, and at least suggesting an appropriate tee.
On the other hand, I really get tired of playing courses with low-cut rough and slow greens. I understand the reasoning behind it, but I'd rather be penalized for shots that aren't in the fairway, and actually have to play for some break on greens.
Scott Shields says:
I think there should be a "Practice before you Play" campaign. The problem with golf is that it is hard. Aside from the just the swing alone, there are lies, weather, wind, equpipment, rules, ettititquete and other things that need to be learned and managed.

That said - its hard to learn the game w/o playing it, and playing it is really the only way to get some experiences. But for god's sake - if you've neve swung a club before, have your uncle take you to the local range, not the local course. People are too quick to try to play without at least a funcional swing.

My first year playing I was awful, but I stuck to TWO rules to learn the game ... 1.) more range time than play time
2.) play time only on par 3 and exec courses.

ONce I could hit driver and longer reasonably consistent -- then I would start playing 5000-5500 yards. Then eventually 6000 ... then 6500 and so forth.
PaulJordan says:
I find logjams caused more by old timers arrogance than by beginners ignorance. Too many guys don't think they're slow, don't care if they are slow, and will take issue with anyone that calls them on being slow. Having even just one ranger to ride the course and prod the slow players makes a world of difference. Unfortunately too many courses just crank out foursomes one on top of the other and the only course personel you see out there are the maintenance workers endlessly blowing leaves and mowing up and down fairways during peak round time.
Werepuppie says:
Most resort courses do have a info section which will "suggest" a tee for your handicap level.It rarely works.Most players would be suggested to play the Red tees and they will not do it.They should do it,but Ego gets in the way.Most of the time,the guy who shoots 100+ did so because he did not hit the ball straight enough,not because he did not hit the ball far enough.
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