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High-Stakes Amateur Par-3 Golf League Threatens to Further Shake Up Sport

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High-Stakes Amateur Par-3 Golf League Threatens to Further Shake Up Sport

Grass League, a new high-stakes amateur par-3 golf league, debuts Thursday (April 18-20). Teams participating in the inaugural Grass Clippings Open, a two-person, no stroke scramble at Grass Clippings Rolling Hills (Tempe, Arizona), will be competing for their share of a $100,000 purse.

The tournament’s abbreviated format (36 holes of <200-yard golf) has the potential to bring back some of the shot making and excitement golf has been missing.

“Everybody's fascinated with watching [PGA Tour and LIV players] hit the ball 350 yards. And it is cool,” Howard Lindzon (general partner, Social Leverage) said. “But if you took the driver out of John Rahm’s hands, or any of these top 50 players, it would open who would win on a given weekend up to thousands if not tens of thousands of great golfers around the world.”

Grass League is inviting those individuals to come out of the woodwork and participate. And the hope is the party-like atmosphere it creates under the lights will do the rest to draw millennial and Gen-Z sports fans alike.

“The 16th hole at Phoenix has always been one of the most exciting par-3s in golf, even though it’s kind of a throwaway hole, because they put stadium [seating] around it and the fans are drinking and booing,” Lindzon said. “Grass [League] is doing the same thing. You’re going to see 18 holes of rowdy fans watching high pressure shots.”

Social Leverage led Grass Clippings’ seed round. Grass Clippings owns the course, the new league, and it is building a software platform that will manage player-owner relationships and other course/tournament logistics.


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To be clear, there’s nothing revolutionary about par-3 golf. The sport has been around for more than 100 years. 

However, the way Grass Clippings is approaching it is. The company re-imagined a centrally located municipal course, added lights, and created a fun, casual playing environment for the next generation of golfers.

“It’s already very popular, it’s sold-out every day,” Lindzon said. “With night golf, you can’t get a tee time.”

Steph Curry is among the high-profile celebs who have enjoyed a round at GCRH in recent months. 

Now, Grass Clippings is launching a new league for amateur players. The plan is to hold 4-6 tournaments in 2025 and grow from there.

Grass League tournaments, including the inaugural one this weekend, will feature 75 teams (150 players in total) competing for their share of the total purse. The best duo over the two days will be crowned the winner. There are no handicaps.

Ten of the Grass League teams are permanent, market-based franchises. Each will receive an automatic qualifier to participate in every event. 

The rest of the teams will be comprised of players who must qualify (or receive an exemption). It costs $1,000 to throw ones’ hat into the ring. 

There were an abundance of amateurs eager to take their shot at winning the 2024 Grass Clippings Open, the tournament’s $40,000 first place prize, and the internet celebrity that would come it. Lindzon wasn’t surprised. 

“Finding [money] games is hard, and the whole handicap system sucks because most people cheat,” he said.

The Grass League model is similar to that of the World Series of Poker, which captivated player imaginations and general market viewership in the early 2000s.

“These people that no one had ever heard of, [local legends] who had been playing poker all their lives [but had full-time jobs doing other things], would show up to the WSOP and [make a name for themselves],” Lindzon said. “You're going to see the same thing happen here with this par-3 golf league.”

While Grass League will start as an amateur competition, there is a belief that some of the pros may eventually want to take their shot at winning some of these events too. Remember, the WSOP includes professional players.

“It’s still real, skill-based golf. They’re just not using the driver,” Lindzon said.

If that happens, the Grass League could further shake up a sport in the midst of a Civil War.

From a timing perspective, Grass League seems to have gotten it right. 

“LIV came along, showed the PGA was wreckable and had enough money to wreck it, and now [fans are forced] to track their favorite golfers on different tours and formats,” Lindzon said.

And with a unique form factor, its on-course product should stand out amongst the multitude of golf events already on the calendar. 

Whether fans will tune in to watch amateurs play remains to be seen. 

Night golf at Grass Clippings Rolling Hills should intrigue some.

“Golf has never been able to be broadcasted in prime time [before],” Pete Wilson (co-founder and CMO, Grass Clippings) said. 

GCRH is just the 20th lit course in America.

Grass League’s efforts to ‘sell the party’ will appeal to others. 4,000 ticketed fans are expected to show up at this week’s event.

But the participants’ individual promotional efforts are expected to drive most of the tune-in and interest. Many of the players are local legends (or influencers) with large social followings. Each will be expected to use his or her platform to their push fans to the broadcast.

“The scale of the internet is immense,” Lindzon said. 

For perspective, Good Good Golf (a performance golfwear brand with a loyal online following) recently held an amateur tournament at GCRH. Its broadcast, done in partnership with NBC, drew 100,000 concurrent viewers on the company’s YouTube page at 10 pm on a Thursday Night.

Bleacher Report is producing the ‘24 Grass Clippings Open. Fans will be able to watch on the B/R website, B/R’s app and social media channels, on Golf Digest, or TruTV.  

Grass League aligned with B/R and TNT Sports for the ad sales support and to ensure the inaugural event would be profitable. In the future, it could distribute events directly through the players’ individual social channels (see: Kings League’s streamer ownership model). 

“Wouldn’t it be cool if instead of building something with thousands of employees, [we had] this media licensing league in the cloud,” Lindzon said. “We could run [Grass League] like a traveling band that fills the stands, brings tons of traffic to [a given] course, a great group of golfers, and all this internet celebrity.”

It’s far too early to tell if that is the direction Grass Clippings leadership will go. Remember, Lindzon is simply an investor.

From an investment perspective, Grass League looks to be low-risk, high reward. It hasn’t taken on hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. 

Instead, the league was seeded with just $1 million and then leadership sold six franchises to family and friends for the balance of the capital needed to launch. Teams went for ~$200,000. Silverleaf Club owner Ben Herman, Eberg Capital’s Roger Ehrenberg and venture capitalists and entrepreneurs Kass and Mike Lazerow are among those who bought in.

“So, instead of giving up 40% of the company for $2 million, the team owners are [the ones] taking on the risk,” Lindzon said. In return, “they get this asset that is probably overvalued in year one but is unique [and will be worth significantly more if the concept catches on].”

The plan is to gradually increase the number of tournaments and purses each year (i.e. the money at stake)–and the number of teams competing will remain finite.

“If we do this right, teams in pickleball are trading at $10mm,” Lindzon said. “Golf has way more celebrity attached to it.”

Grass League may have been able to sell a few more franchises out of the gate. But it wanted to gather some additional data points and learn from its early mistakes before doing so. Presumably, there was also some hesitation about undervaluing the clubs. 

Of course, the risk in not selling and raising more money now is that an entity with deeper pockets could come along and try to do par-3 golf better in the interim.

Lindzon didn’t sound too worried.

“You can copy the format. But can you copy the experience? I don’t know,” Lindzon said. And “our [50-year] lease [at Rolling Hills] also makes [our model] very difficult to replicate.”

Constructing a par-3 course from scratch is costly endeavor.

“I didn’t like Pickleball, as an investor, because anyone with a warehouse or backyard could set-up courts and start a league,” Lindzon said. “Good luck finding a center of the city piece of land that you can turn into a golf course for less than $100 million.”

If Grass League is successful, look for fast followers to set-up other amateur properties around local legends. Sports is a copycat industry.

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