Startup pitch: Golfscape offers a platform to book golf worldwide

While golf has recently been in the news due to declining player counts, the industry thrives when it comes to passionate players traveling on golf holidays.

Co-founded by Michael Galasso and Raghad Mukhaimer, Golfscape positions its service as “the modern golf concierge for luxury destination golf.” The startup has created what is basically a golf OTA, linking courses with golfers as a go-between. The opportunity here is appealing, as the startup says that only 14% of golf bookings are conducted online today.

Courses around the world have created packages to entice these players, and yet the industry is vastly monopolized, with 85% of the world’s golf holiday packages controlled by 553 tour operators. This means that courses must bend to the terms from these golf tour operators, without a clear way to offer access directly to consumers.

Golfers can also build and customize their own golf itineraries, choosing from among 15,000 US-based golf courses, and a smattering of other international courses.

The system offers on-demand booking, with the ability to request tee-times. Instant booking will be rolled out gradually over the year, with international markets such as Vietnam, Thailand, Bali, Costa del Sol and the Algarve coming online by the end of 2014.

Scroll on for the Vine video and Tnooz Q&A with the co-founders.

Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.

The vast majority of courses outside the established countries have virtually no online booking capability. That’s ridiculous, with so many beautiful courses there (Bali, Da Nang, Dubai, Portugal, Japan, China, etc.) and a huge opportunity for whoever get’s it right.

However we also wanted to grow the domestic golf industry by bringing a new breed of Asian golfer who likes to circumnavigate the expensive and limited tour operators that have entrenched golf travel. We want to do for the golf industry what Expedia has done for flights/hotel industry by making the booking process much simpler, while bringing some golf courses online for the first time.

What are your funding arrangements? 

Private angel at the moment with plans for funding in Q1 2015.

What is your estimation of market size?

It is estimated at $20B.

What is your competition?

Established markets: GolfNow, TeeOff, GolfHub. Rest of the World: virtually none. These websites focus on discount courses offering discount tee-prices. No-one else offered a curated selection and instant booking for high-quality courses.

What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability? 

Freemium model, charge a fee for sales referrals to golf courses, but free for users.

What problem does the business solve?

Provides a clear, instant, mobile bookings + bookings in most of the world where this does not yet exist. Also make sit easier to discover the best courses with peer-to-peer recommendations as well as the experienced Golfscape team’s recommendations.

How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages? 

We initially started in Asia but found a low technology adoption dragging us down. We moved West to gather learnings and establish agreements with golf course group companies to accelerate monetization. We also found that the US market for travelers is closed off and monopolized by tour operators, while golf in the US is still very old fashioned. We aim to change that.

Why should people or companies use the business?

We offer an order of magnitude better user experience and simplicity compared to our peers. We are a one-stop-shop for golf discovery, planing, and bookings (soon: worldwide) and we work on mobile. Have you seen our one-step-bookings?

What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?

We have 40K fans on social which has been very successful. We have sweepstakes prizes to win golf weekends at out partner courses.

Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome? 

We see ourselves processing a significant slice of golf bookings worldwide while having established a name and culture for being ahead of the tech curve (especially for the golf industry).

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?

Our niche market of golf is very broken and fragmented, and the industry as a whole is suffering as it has yet to move onto the Web bandwagon. We are streamlining many parts of this massive engine, driving profitability after the industry took a massive hit, and bringing many courses online for the first time.

What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?

AirBnB, having redefined an industry with technology that would have otherwise remained unchanged for another decade.

Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup? 


Describe your startup in three words?

The Gilt City/ for golf.

Tnooz view:

Golfers certainly spend a lot of money on their passion, and this startup is well-positioned to leverage this spend. The industry is fragmented and protected, with plenty of spoils to go to the victor. The website is also well-presented, and seems to be an engaging portal for the traveling golfer.

On-boarding enough courses to maintain interest is key, as is the back-end technology that ensures real-time inventory.

Niche-based travel is always a smart move, as long as the product is solid and the community-nurturing skills attract a formidable, committed customer base that returns for multiple purchases annually. Golf travelers are a good fit for that loyal base with disposable income.

NB: Golf image courtesy Shutterstock.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.



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