This crypto-backed start-up golf club just raised $11 million. Next up: buy a golf course.
Psst! Wanna join a first-of-its-kind private golf club?
Mike Dudas is among those who would love to have you.
He can promise you fellowship and friendly competitions, without any stuffy application process: no cocktail-party vetting; no interrogations by membership committees; not even any need to pay initiation dues — not in dollars, anyway.
There is a caveat, however, and it might be a deal-breaker, depending on your patience and tolerance for risk.
What Dudas and his cohort can’t guarantee is that the club will ever have a course that you can play.
“It’s a grand experiment,” he says.
Dudas, 42, is a native of Connecticut and graduate of Stanford who grew up playing golf and now lives in Manhattan, an entrepreneur with a handful of start-ups under his belt. He is also a driving force behind LinksDAO, a virtual community that aims to shake things up in the real world by reimagining the country club. Central to LinksDAO’s plans, as outlined on multiple online platforms, is to buy a Top 100-caliber course and transform it into a modern golf and leisure club: a playground for “a global community of thousands of enthusiasts.”
This crowdfunded purchase would be made with cryptocurrency.
Whatever your gut reaction to this concept — excitement, eye-rolls, something in between — you probably have questions.
Where, for instance, would this course be located? When would the club open? How much would it cost to join?
A “community of thousands” is a lot of golfers. How would the tee times be distributed?
What about other aspects of the daily operations?
Would the staff draw their salaries in crypto?
Would you need to pay in bitcoin for a hot dog at the turn?
Dudas can answer some of these questions, and he’s forthright about the ones he can’t.
If all goes according to his hopes and expectations, he says that LinksDAO will acquire a course by mid-2022 and open it for play by the end of the year, maybe early 2023. Though the exact location has yet to be determined, early indications point toward areas around New York City or Miami.
That could change.
As for other vagaries around the concept, some clarity can be found in the term DAO itself, which sounds like Confucian philosophy but isn’t. It stands for decentralized autonomous organization: a governing body without a top-down leadership. Decisions are community-based instead and carried out on the blockchain, a secure database for recording transactions.
If you’re of a certain age or analog mindset, the previous paragraph may have left your head spinning. But the gist is this: All the key decisions around the club — from its location and its price points to its daily operations — will be made by community members.
“There are obviously still a lot of uncertainties,” Dudas says. “But this is how startups work. People just usually aren’t privy to this much detail this early on.”
None of the questions surrounding LinksDAO have done much to dampen enthusiasm for it. Though it is not the only crypto-based golf club concept currently floating around the ether — The Token Farm and the Good Miss Golf Club are among the others testing similar terrain — it does appear to be the farthest along.
This past weekend, shortly after the ball dropped on Times Square, LinksDAO conducted an NFT drop (an NFT is a non-fungible token, a unit of data, often an image, that doubles as a certificate of ownership or membership). In a little more than 24 hours, more than 9,000 NFTs were snatched up, generating the rough equivalent of $11 million in the cryptocurrency Ethereum. (Though the original batch sold out, the NFTs can still be purchased on the secondary market).
Ownership of a LinksDAO NFT does not constitute membership in the golf club the community hopes to establish. But it gets you into the DAO and gives you the right to buy a membership down the line.
Nor will the money raised by the NFT sales be put toward buying a course. It will be used instead to fund other DAO operations, including course scouting, acquisition planning, marketing, legal compliance, community development and more.
Dudas concedes that there is a still a way to go.
But LinksDAO, he notes, has already progressed quickly.
Dudas started pondering the details of the plan only about three weeks ago, shortly after posting the idea on Twitter. He was inspired, in part, by another crypto-real world convergence called Flyfish Club, a private dining club concept in New York that has been selling memberships through NFTs. But Dudas says his thinking around LinksDAO also arose from his aversion to the stodginess and strictures of traditional country clubs: the exclusive memberships, the uptight customs.
“As a kid, it was my least favorite part of golf,” he says.
Much of the momentum behind LinksDAO, he believes, is fueled by people who feel the same.
We have people who are clear-eyed and skeptical and very committed to wrestling with tough questions.
In recent weeks, Dudas and others committed to the cause have held virtual town halls to field questions and bat around ideas. The conversations have sounded at times like sophisticated tech-talk and at others like naively utopian chatter, laced with abstract mentions of equality and community but light on details on how things might work when that community confronts thorny choices or gets together in the flesh.
It doesn’t take a cynic to imagine that a private club composed of thousands of golf- and crypto-fiends from around the world might turn out less like a laid-back National Golf Links and more like a members-only Lord of the Flies.
Dudas isn’t blind to the challenges ahead.
“We understand that this won’t work through pure utopian belief,” he says. “Fortunately, we have people who are clear-eyed and skeptical and very committed to wrestling with tough questions. We’ll see how it goes.”
Meantime, the LinksDAO community keeps growing, with plans in the works for fantasy golf leagues, virtual tournaments and other digital offerings as the quest goes on to acquire a course.
As with all things crypto, you can get involved with a few clicks of your mouse, or sit back and watch it play out on your screen.