We’re decades, not years, past the point of pearl-clutching about sports becoming businesses as opposed to merely games people play. Professional and amateur sports are businesses generating billions around some competition products. A private equity analyst might sooner be running your alma mater’s athletic department than the retired baseball coach. The latest executive change at one of golf’s governing bodies further illustrates golf’s move into a billion-dollar business that requires “expert” management as such.

The R&A announced that someone who has never worked in golf (but is nevertheless a golf enthusiast who keeps a fairly low handicap) will take over for Martin Slumbers as the governing body’s new CEO. Mark Darbon’s golf credentials are beside the point, and probably have very little bearing on whether he will be successful in his new role leading the game. If they mattered, he would not have gotten the job.

What did matter, however, is a lengthy and impressive resume of sports business management over the last few decades, most recently as CEO of a Premiership Rugby club. He’s also been an advisor to the IOC and held multiple roles in leadership with the London Olympics. He seems like a fine choice. Slumbers’s tenure, meanwhile, should be considered an objectively successful run. He was a strong executive with both a golf brain and executive brain.

Darbon joins Mike Whan as a fellow golf enthusiast, just like you and me, turned chief of one of the world’s two governing bodies. Whan was a Procter & Gamble marketing ace that moved into golf with TaylorMade, worked his way into a leadership role at the LPGA, and now runs the USGA. These are both probably great people to be leading these bodies. It’s just a departure from the previous pathway of golf nerds who grew up playing high-level competitive golf, reading the rule books, and studying its cathedrals. Golf has certainly had commissioners and executives who had a recreational love of golf come from the business world before, but the governing bodies are often left to the real golf geeks. Those geeks remain, just staffed as colonels and deputies throughout these larger corporations.

This is not to say either of these two new/newish governing body chiefs does not love golf, or doesn’t want what’s best for the game! It’s probably for the best they’re in there now! The Darbon announcement is just a further signal that in 2024, governing the sport is less about knowing the rule book and more about running a corporate bill.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.