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The Hack Golf initiative: Is the game of golf primed for a change?

This past December, I celebrated my 30th birthday with family and friends. As a present my wife Eva plans to take me to Bermuda for a few days in the spring. Since it’s my birthday trip, we’ll probably play one round of golf together and spend the rest of our time by the beach. But what I’d really like to do is play every day that we’re there. It’s just not going to happen.

Here’s the thing. Eva’s got a great swing. Off the tee she can move it about 110 yards. She has two sets of clubs, a few cute outfits, some nice Puma golf shoes, and a well-fitted golf glove. She loves driving around in the cart.

But she can’t understand why the courses are so long and difficult, and more than anything else, why we have to play 18 holes – which ends up taking at least 5 hours out of the day. For Eva, even 9 holes seems excessive. And if I’m playing a round of golf without her, which is most of the time, half the day is gone by the time I get home.

As much as I love golf, I get where she’s coming from.

Eva’s line of thinking is pretty much on par (no pun intended) with most people being introduced to the game these days. The difficulty, amount of time it takes, and cost of golf are all major factors that keep the game from growing.

The numbers don’t lie. Since 2004, almost 5 million people in the U.S. alone have left the game. Golf has too many barriers to entry, and changes need to be made.

A collective effort has been introduced by some of the game’s biggest behind-the-scenes names to reverse the trend. Just before the PGA Merchandise Show this week in Orange County, FL, a group of “industry leaders” including TaylorMade adidas Golf CEO Mark King and Ted Bishop, President of the PGA of America, opened their boardroom doors to the general public with the launch of www.hackgolf.org.

The concept? Come up with an idea that will make the game more fun for everyone.

Right now, anyone can go on the site, pitch a concept, or vote to support another’s idea on how to make the game more fun. King said his company will not only fund one or more of the ideas that receive the most votes, but also start a series of tournaments that will utilize a 15-inch cup.

Since the site’s announcement on Tuesday, King’s 15-inch cup idea is leading with a paltry 34 votes.

The average golfer won’t be that interested in Hack Golf, which is not that surprising. Most people feel that courses are crowded and expensive enough as it is, so less demand doesn’t bother the average player as much as it does someone like Mark King, whose club sales are decreasing every year.

Personally, I’m a fan of Speed Golf. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend getting the first tee time of the day or trying to squeeze in 9 holes just before dusk at a course that’s about to close for the evening. Every once in a while I’ll get out on a course by myself with just an hour or two of daylight left and see how many holes I can get in before complete darkness. When you don’t have time to over-think each shot, you rely on your natural instincts, and end up playing better.

I’ve shot a sub-80 round or two in under an hour and a half, but those scores wouldn’t have a prayer at the Speed Golf World Championships, where running golfers have competed at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon Dunes, Oregon for a $50,000 purse over the last few years.

Speed golfers follow all the same rules as players on the PGA Tour – except you are allowed to leave the flagstick in on the greens. Score and time are added together for a final score, each stroke carrying the same weight as a minute of time spent on the course.

Just this past October, Rob Hogan opened with a 77 in 39:31, followed by a second round 79 in just 41:24 to win by 6 over runner-up Eri Crum. Christopher Smith holds the Guinness World Record for lowest round and fastest time, carding a 65 in just 44:06 with only six clubs in his bag. Think about that – in the time it usually takes a PGA Tour threesome to complete about 4 holes, Smith not only played an entire round of golf, but was well under par.

Speed Golf won’t appeal to everyone. And traditionalists will probably scoff at the idea of a 15-inch cup. But I have faith that someone out there has a great idea - the idea that might get your son, or mother, or brother (or my Eva) out on the course.

So head over to www.hackgolf.org to share your big ideas, and quick.

My trip to Bermuda is coming up soon!

Follow Jonathan Kantor on twitter at @JonathanKantorA