The USGA: Advancing the Game of Golf in a Complex Ecosystem

By George Foster, Madie Chou, Gerzain Gutierrez, Dave Hoyt
2021 | Case No. SPM60 | Length 43 pgs.

The United States Golf Association (USGA), operates among a network of associations and organizations in the game of golf. In the ecosystem of golf, there are many stakeholders, but no single governing body with overarching power to direct the action of other stakeholders. While the USGA works to improve the health of the golf industry, and the experience of participants, the actual experience of golfers is dependent on their local facilities, which are not under the control of the USGA. The golf ecosystem includes governing bodies, course owners, equipment manufacturers, professionals, and recreational players. During the first half of the 21st century, the recreational sport was in decline in the United States, as measured by many metrics, while it was growing in Asia.

To guide its decision-making, and to inform key stakeholders, the USGA developed a strategic plan for 2020-2022, which it released in October 2019. This case discusses the role of the USGA in the complex golf ecosystem, its management, and the initiatives it undertook to grow the game of golf. The case draws on an earlier Stanford case study, SPM-52: The USGA and Golf Participation in the United States.

Learning Objective

This case is designed to help students understand and evaluate a complex business ecosystem. While focused on sports, it is useful for a broad range of business situations, particularly in the non-profit sector. It can be used to discuss strategic planning in a complex environment, and also for discussion of the relative roles of non-profit boards of directors and management.
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