Connecting golfers was and still is a great idea

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It’s still a bit painful to think about, even 18 years later, but back around the turn of the century, I launched a new golf concept that I thought would be revolutionary, in a small kind of way.

I’m sorry to say it flopped.   Right out of the gate.  I lost a considerable amount of money (for me), and four investors lost fairly small sums (for them), but it was my concept and my push, so I took full blame.  Except I don’t think the idea was wrong at all, and I still don’t.

It now appears that somebody else has launched a very similar concept.  And I really hope it succeeds, because then I can feel a little better, all these years later.

My concept was called The Greenfield Network (TGN).  It was to be a “members club of private members”, whereby members of private golf clubs could hook up with other members of private golf clubs in other cities, and play.

For example, through The Greenfield Network, Bob from Kansas City Country Club could seek to play a game at, say, Seminole or Loxahatchee, if TGN had a member at either of those clubs, and if that member was willing and able to play on the day that Bob was hoping to find a game.   TGN would receive a request from Bob, then TGN would email all Network members who were members at these two Florida clubs, and hopefully one would be willing to take Bob as his guest.  To make the decision easier, we would include a brief profile on Bob: his age, profession, and handicap, so potential hosts could determine whether they’d be interested in hosting the guy or not.  Let’s say Gord, from Seminole, decided that Bob seemed like a compatible guy, so he (Gord) would notify TGN that he’d be available to play with Bob on Thursday, March 10, as Bob had requested.

Once arranged, Bob would pay TGN, via PayPal, the Seminole guest fee, plus a $25 TGN fee for arranging the game.  TGN would forward the guest fee to Gord, via PayPal, once we received confirmation from Gord that the game had been played.  The whole transaction was member-to-member, not requiring any approval from the golf club itself.  Aside from providing avid private golfers a chance to play good courses, it also presented friendship and networking opportunities.

As I said, I still think it’s a good idea.  (Some of my most enjoyable games have been those where I’ve played with people I’ve never met before.)

But, as I say, the concept flopped when I tried to make something of it.  Why?  Because we launched it on a shoestring, with about one-fiftieth of the advertising money we should’ve spent.  And neither I nor my investors were willing to pony up any more dough.

A lesson learned the hard way.

And now, according to a story in GOLF Magazine that my friend Tom sent to me today, a gentleman in California has launched a private club member liaison service, with a slightly different concept model, and it appears to have found some traction. (the full story can be read HERE)

The name of this group is Thousand Greens, and it’s entering its third year of existence.  According to the article, “nearly 1,600 golfers, representing nearly 1,000 clubs in 15 countries” have already joined, which is commendable, in my view.  Private club members can be very protective of their hospitality, so the founder of Thousand Greens has done a good job of spreading the word to the more sociable ones.

One of the questions often asked about my concept, back then, was “how do you prevent Bubba Doofus, a member at Hick’ry Holler Golf Range in Arkansas, from trying to get on Pine Valley or Cypress Point?  Wouldn’t those members avoid your Network like a plague, or get inundated with requests if they did join?”   To be honest, I didn’t have a valid answer, although I would’ve had my staff exercise a little discretion in their liaising, so that the Thurston Howell IV’s at Pine Valley wouldn’t get too many requests, or requests from inappropriate people.

When you join Thousand Greens, and they verify your club membership, you’re categorized by the “level” of your club – i.e., from best in world, to best in country, best in state, best in city.  When seeking games elsewhere, you must stay within your category, which seems quite fair.

My concept was jokingly described as a dating service for golfers, but in reality, that’s pretty much what it was, and so is Thousand Greens.  But I’d say Thousand Greens, on paper, may have refined and improved upon the idea by these categorical filters.

From a 10,000-foot perspective, the fact is that golf is generally a sociable game, and when two strangers get together, if they find they have golf in common, well, the conversation suddenly gets easier, and longer.  Putting people together over a game of golf means, at worst, you’ve got someone to play with, and at best, you’ve made a new friendship that could last till you die.

Thousand Greens looks like a great opportunity for golfers who love to play new courses, and who like to make new friends.

That includes me.  I just joined before I started this column.

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