Golf’s New Wave – “Gamification”​ for the Masses

There are 25 million golfers in the USA, which leaves 300 million of the US population on the sidelines. When you consider the world stage, “The Masses” are just that, MASSIVE. The emergence of Golf Entertainment, with roots back to 1997 when the Jolliffe brothers had the idea for Topgolf (The game), is now becoming a sensation thanks to explosive growth beginning in 2014. The business of golf is fast becoming a race to entertain The Masses. This article (It Took 600 Years for Golf to Return to the Masses) was published in the summer of 2015, and provided the original fuel for me to abandon everything safe in life to become a part of the solution. I was convinced that “the game” of Topgolf was not the final solution, but was a step in the right direction. Golf without putting is not golf at all! In product development, we call this “building a better mousetrap”.

Understanding the unit economics for “the game” of Topgolf was an imperative, and now several years later, is pretty easy to summarize. Topgolf spent several years between 2000-2012 experimenting with the “number of bays” to include in their brick and mortar venue as they built out 6-7 venues over that period. The first venue in the USA had 55 bays (Alexandria, VA), and iterated until in 2012 the company seemed to settle on 102 bays for their scalable standard. That is a lot of time, work, and money… Why do it? One thing that is consistent at the venues is a fixed area for the targets, and is typically about 180,000 square feet. With 102 hitting bays, the allocation per bay is about 1800 square feet before considering the area folks hit from which for simplicity lets call 200 square feet. A hitting bay rents for $30-$80+ per hour (location and time of day variables) and entertains 6-8 people. With these economics in mind, Topgolf identified 100+ locations suitable for success, and now has about 50 in operation, adding about eight per year to the portfolio. Also, there are now no less than 4-5 legitimate “copycat” concepts (Big Shots, Drive Shack, Flying Tee, FunGolf UK, etc.). This market is here to stay!

Unfortunately, the cost of real estate in the heart of cities is too pricey to justify based on driving range entertainment economics, and thus Topgolf has spent the past few years introducing Swing Suite. The game played in Swing Suite is a simulator (screen golf) version of the Topgolf game delivered by Full Swing Golf Simulators. To better attract The Masses, new games are being added that don’t involve golf at all. Simulators have been around for 15+ years, and founders of these companies were mostly focussed on golfers (the 25 million) as a way to practice and have fun, and thus this model has struggled to attract the non-golfers (the 300 million!). In terms of monetization, these bays typically rent for $40-$80 per hour and require about 500 square feet to entertain 6-8 people. If the game was exciting enough to attract The Masses, this would be a great model. Unfortunately, swinging a golf club (especially indoors) is still pretty intimidating for a large percentage of this population.

Enter NextLinks, where we have spent the past four years inventing the next generation of “Putting Gamification”. To attract The Masses, “putting” is already an obvious choice, and has already been broadly accepted in the form of Putt Putt or Miniature Golf. These formats, historically, do not compare well to driving range entertainment or simulator entertainment. They require large areas, and the players are constantly “on the move” so it would be difficult to cater to them with F&B during their experience. NextLinks has solved for all of these problems by creating a “play in place” answer using a specifically designed playing surface to delight non-golfers and golfers alike. When complimented by our patented technology a venue can entertain up to 8 players with seven insanely addictive games.

Please observe 30 of the more than 3000 available putts being rolled onto NextLinks’ Smart Green putting green simultaneously. The balls are headed to seven (7) locations where the cups will be located! This video is addictive to watch multiple times!
The longest putt is more than 50’ (the last blue ball to stop). My niece calls it “a rolling rainbow!”
During our four-year journey to bring forward a world-class playing surface we have become adept at the terrain design required to maximize the combination of FUN AND/OR COMPETITIVE PLAY on the smallest possible playing surface. With a total footprint of less than 600 square feet, you can now entertain up to eight players for 1-2 hours per visit, and they will return over and over.
Our greens roll at a true and brisk 11, and are supported by 100,000+ lines of “gamification software” ensuring our games are fun for everyone of any skill level, ages 3-100.

Our debut experience at Indian Wells Golf Resort in the Coachella Valley (Shots in the Night) has proven that people love our games and our technology. Now, with the addition of our first of kind indoor terrain (our game board!), we are able to distribute the FUN at a similar price point to a golf simulator purchase decision. It took us nearly four years of development to approve our first production standard for the market, because we wanted to be sure it would delight The Masses! At an initial price point of $60K USD, venues can now add putting entertainment on a 600 square foot playing surface, which easily entertains 8 people for 1-2 hours per visit, and our games never get old. Our most recent visitors from Las Vegas left our HQ in Santa Ana saying “We will take two please” and we believe they can easily rent for $40 per half hour to our guests. When you consider leagues, lessons, etc… we anticipate that owners will find that their systems are in use morning through night. It’s hard for us to imagine any business application not recovering their investment within year 1, and more likely within the first 6 months of operation.

If you own a luxury home, this is a system you will want to own!

Join in the fun, call us today. +1-714-951-7747 or learn more at www.nextlinks.com!

Have Some Friendly Competition with NextLinks Putting Games

Using the overhead spotlights and app driven technology, NextLinks takes fun well-known games and transforms them into putting versions. These putting games allow for competition between people of all ages, because the players are able to select their level of difficulty (easy/medium/hard) when signing into the game. Selecting the easy level will give easier putts and selecting hard gives harder putts. This allows serious golfers to enjoy friendly competitions with non-golfers and allows adults to compete with their young children. Here are some examples of NextLinks putting games.

9-hole challenge

This is NextLinks’s putting version of real golf. Overhead spotlights are activated and will symbolize the ‘Tee Box’ throughout the competition. The app and spotlights then combine for a seamless 9-hole round of golf, spotlights for the ‘Tee Box’ and the app tell you which hole to play. Once you finish a hole, you input your score via the app, and the spotlight will guide you to a new starting location. Who ever finishes with the fewest putts, wins!!

 

Golf Darts

Much like real darts, the objective of this game is to have your putt finish as close to the center as possible. Using the overhead spotlights, a dart board is displayed onto the putting green, and in this case, the center of the dart board is the cup (50 pts) followed by a series of three rings with varying point totals (10pts, 20pts, 30pts). Users can start from any location they desire with the intent of always shooting toward the dart board. Using the app to keep score. First one too 300 wins!!

 

Corn Hole

This game is very similar to the famous lawn game. The overhead spotlight shines down on the green in a way that illuminates a rectangular light with the hole being in the center. Players choose a desired stating location to putt from and rather than throwing 4 bags of corn at a wooden target as seen in the lawn game, each player will put 4 golf balls at the target. After all the putts are hit, players tally their score; 1 point if the ball is within the parameters of the illuminated rectangle, 3 points if the ball is in the golf hole.

Shuffleboard

Spotlight technology shines a board that looks similar to the game Shuffleboard. The game uses the same format as shuffleboard, with one minor difference… Players putt instead of push pucks. Players choose where to putt from. The same scoring format applies, but in this game there are extra points rewarded if the ball lands in the hole.

Around the World

Similar to a causal shooting game seen in basketball, players will putt rather than shoot a basketball. Otherwise, the game format is the exact same. The spotlight shines down on the putting green and navigates players through a putting course of 5 (or so) holes. Players will putt from the location that the spotlight shines down from. Players alternate turns and a player may not move on to the next putt until they have made the putt at hand in one shot from the designated spotlight location. The first person to complete all the putts on the course wins!

NextLinks continues to evolve the next generation golf entertainment experience in their new development lab in downtown Santa Ana, Calif. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, /Sullivan Photography)