For the uninitiated golf may seem like a difficult path to pursue. It can seem daunting or tricky to enter the system, participate and get involved in the sport. There wasn’t anything accessible to bring people into the sport and keep within the golfing ecosystem.
Future Golf is an Australia-wide golfing platform that provides a community for people to access the sport with minimal pain. The platform provides an entry point that sits below a traditional golf membership where people can access assorted golf courses, simulators, indoor practice facilities, pitch and putts and more.
To learn how the company evolved and how it helps grow the sport in this wide-ranging two-part conversation we talked to the Founder & CEO of Future Golf Ali Terai.
Was there was a frustration that sparked the establishment of Future Golf. Can you pinpoint the exact frustrations? Or is it just this sense that there was something that should be solved?
Ali Terai: “It wasn’t necessarily a frustration, it was probably more of a feeling of being lost in the golfing system. Going into the space it was more so not knowing anyone that played golf. There wasn’t an easy pathway into the game. So I think that was the big thing that stood out to me was that back then the majority of people that were playing golf had either a friend or family member, a grandparent, an uncle, someone that played the game that guided them through it. I would compare that with sailing, you don’t hear many people just getting into sports like sailing without having a family member or a close person ushering you into the sport and showing you the ropes before you get into that sport.
“In my early 20’s, there wasn’t a clear roadmap or pathway. I’ve now picked up a golf club, I’ve hit my first good golf shot, so what happens next? I had to figure it out the long way. I went to a couple of public golf courses, I went to driving ranges, pitch and putts and then I asked questions. I got paired with a couple of people that I sponged as much knowledge as I could then I decided to join a club. And then I had these three legends that were all in their 80’s showing me the rules, telling me stories and showing me the ropes essentially. From there, because I had no friends or family that played golf, I took all of that knowledge, I went to my mates and I’m like, ‘we have to play this sport. It’s so much fun, you’re gonna love it and we’ll get to play it for the next 50 to 60 years of our life. This is going to be phenomenal.’ But then this way I was able to hold their hands so that they wouldn’t get lost through that system which is a little bit complicated to get into the sport.
“From there, I just wanted to keep doing that for more people and provide this flexible alternative that you wouldn’t get too often.”
Ushering in the next generation is so important and my perception is that golf certainly grapples with that.
AT: “That’s always been a big one. We’re still in our early stages of this, but we’re creating something for the non-traditional golfer. Six years ago I would have said 80 to 90 per cent of golfers were essentially from a very similar demographic, over the age of 60 and had probably been playing golf for 20 to 30 years. That would have been considered the establishment, the ‘traditional golfer,’ part of a traditional golf club. Then there was a small group probably post Tiger Woods in the late 90’s or 2000’s were fans of his, they played the video game and I think that’s a lot of people in our generation and demographic, even pop culture like Happy Gilmore, helped with awareness! I’m sure even a movie like that lit a spark in some people.”
Well you’re right and that’s always got to be a good thing. No matter how you’re ushered into a sport whether it’s your peers, friends, pop culture, digital there is no wrong way.
AT: “Golf has those pop culture moments. Tiger Woods transcended golf for people born in the 70’s or 80’s they missed the era of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player but they may have caught a little bit of Greg Norman’s peak in Australia. Someone like Tiger who is a Michael Jordan type character heightened golf’s awareness and really brought more younger people into the sport.
“So for that group that are now coming in with a different lens, we’re trying to solve how do we guide them into the sport? Gaming, movies and exceptional athletes are probably the starting point.
“We’re also looking at gender diversity and equality in golf. We’re looking at getting more diverse ages of people coming into the sport and we’re looking at how do you get families involved because golf is actually perfect for families. If you think about it four people can play, a family of four and yet you rarely see a family out on the golf course.”
I totally agree, there’s a few participatory levers to be pulled here.
AT: “But the culture isn’t there yet, it’s still perceived that it’s four guys play together and go out with their cronies for a hit. It’s still perceived as something where you play to escape from the family has been the traditional kind of way. Golf is the thing that was done by older men or businessmen to go out and have their weekend away to relax, which is great, but it doesn’t bridge the gap to a more modern society where younger parents generally don’t want to escape their family.
“I think that there’s all these different types of opportunities that we’re starting to see and if I look at it, realistically, a big part of the vision is can we change the face of golf? Socio-economic, diversity, ethnic diversity, gender, you’re looking at all these things thinking how do we get people from all different walks of life into this sport because the core fundamentals is hitting a ball with a stick on a parcel of land. That is the sport in its simplest form and anyone can do it. You can still play golf at a pretty high level without having much athleticism!”