It all started in December 2021 with a tweet, a Discord server and a shared Google Doc. In a little over two weeks, the founders spun up a team, fostered an online community, crowdfunded over $10 million and established a vision to create the world’s preeminent golf and leisure club.
Fast-forward to today, LinksDAO has officially announced the purchase of Spey Bay Golf Club, a Scottish Links designed by Ben Sayers dating back to 1907.
LinksDAO—the reimagination of a golf and leisure club—is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) that raised over $10 million by selling 9,090 Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). If you’re lost when it comes to the world of web3/crypto, don’t worry. This article won’t go too far down the technology rabbit hole.
Full disclosure: I joined the LinksDAO Discord in December 2021 and subsequently purchased an NFT during the initial mint.
Golf on the Blockchain
LinksDAO simply put is an online community leveraging blockchain technology to raise funds and govern decisions to achieve a goal. In this case, the goal is to own a top 100 golf course.
What sets this effort apart from the established golf memberships model is the permissionless nature of the underlying technology. None of the gatekeepers traditionally associated with private club golf apply here. Anyone can participate, as long as you can navigate the technology. Admittedly, this is new technology requires a degree of adoption, but underlying technology will eventually become ubiquitous. Remember when the understanding of C:\ was critical to operating a computer? Thankfully, “point and click” has replaced such an archaic method of pushing around 0s and 1s.
Watching the process evolve over the last 18 months has been interesting to say the least. Going back to the early days, there was plenty of internal debate and discussion in the Discord. What should the club embody? Where should it be located? Should it be an existing top 100 site? Perhaps a course in need of some renovation? How about a raw site with the potential to deliver a top 100 new build?
What became evident is that any attempt to build good golf will take time. Speed to market, a common notion in the startup world, is not something natural to golf development (However Pinehurst No. 10 might be changing this concept)
In the interim, LinksDAO established over 30 brand partnerships (Callaway, Bridgestone, Puma, Arccos and Top Golf among the most notable) offering varying discounts and benefits to NFT holders.
The initial fundraising effort has been further bolstered by a number of additional revenue streams including: royalties from the resale of NFTs, a subsequent equity funding round of which Callaway participated in, a catalogue of golf merchandise and a new non-NFT level of membership. The current value of the treasury is not publicly known.
Another unique aspect of this endeavour has been observing the golf course development process and the journey of a technology minded team getting up to speed in the golf industry. For example, on a Twitter Spaces a few months ago, the core team admitted they embarked on this endeavour with “less than zero” knowledge of the golf industry. No experience in sourcing, evaluating, acquiring, maintaining, operating or renovating a golf property.
Much to their credit, the LinksDAO team engaged experts early on in the process. I would say early and ongoing support from a cast of top architects, agronomists and golf industry partners helped a great deal. Pursuing such a transaction in a rather public way no doubt added an extra layer of complexity that seems to have been navigated successfully.
Approximately 120 courses have been evaluated to date, with an unnamed course somewhere in the US is currently in late stage discussions for acquisition. I would be very pleased if this list was ever disclosed.
Acquisition of Spey Bay
This takes us to the current purchase of Spey Bay. Listed for £750,000 in February 2023, the listing generated a fair amount of interest and resulted in a competitive bidding process. Even discussions on Golf Club Atlas contemplated the submission of a bid.
Ultimately, LinksDAO was the successful bidder and entered into an exclusive negotiation period in March 2023. The deal was finalized earlier this week, as announced on a Twitter Spaces hosted by LinksDAO on May 19th.
Some might say Spey Bay is an average course, with land peaking at a Doak 6. Regardless, Spey Bay is golf on the Scottish coast with potential to be something more. LinksDAO is well capitalized with strong partnerships in the golf industry. They intend to complete initial improvements in short order, including improved maintenance, adjusting mowing lines, and some gorse removal. More significant improvements to the course should be ready for play by Spring/Summer 2024.
There are a number of details still to be sorted, like food and beverage, clubhouse amenities or how existing members of Spey Bay and local community will be considered in the plans moving forward.
It’s important to note the architect (with numerous top 100 credits) and agronomy team have been selected, however they have yet to be formally announced. IMG will manage the onsite experience and hospitality. Beyond The Contour will bring you updates as they develop.