Back on New Year’s Day, three executives set out on a quest to create the “world’s best golf and leisure club,” and to do it with Web3 and DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) concepts underpinning the project. Mike Dudas (founder, 6th Man Ventures), Jim Daily (president, Teads) and Chris Maddern (co-founder, Button) sold about $10.4 million worth of non-fungible tokens within 48 hours (all ~8,200 that were available for purchase), a reflection of the enthusiasm that exists for their vision of private golf club membership (think: digitally connected, community governed, broader access). But the initial NFT sale is just the first step in their journey. “We are launching our raise, opening up our online pro shop and releasing many additional benefits to our NFT holders in the coming weeks/months,” Daily said. “We hope to have the physical property ready to go in the first half of 2023.”
JWS’ Take: People buy NFTs for three reasons. They are speculators expecting the value of the token to appreciate, they see it as a digital status play (think: an image of a Bored Ape as avatar), or they want to be a part of an exclusive community. As Daily pointed out, owners of Bored Ape get access to a Discord filled “with a lot of really fascinating people with interesting views.” Steph Curry, Justin Bieber and Gary Vee are among the athletes, celebrities and influencers known to be Bored Ape Yacht Club members.
Considering roughly one-third of those who bought LinksDAO tokens at the mint were first time NFT buyers, Daily said it is unlikely appreciation and clout drove the sales (note: OpenSea data does show leisure memberships up 177% and global memberships up 94% since Jan. 1). But he is convinced the community aspect (see: 14,000+ on Discord, ~5,300 NFT holders) is part of what made LinksDAO NFTs appealing to buyers. There are plans for an in-person meet-up and a members-only golf weekend at SXSW (a tech and media confab that is owned by Sportico parent PMC).
The NFTs do not give LinksDAO community members an ownership stake in, or membership to, a physical golf course or country club. However, it does entitle the NFT holder to a series of “real-life” benefits—a new application for digital collectibles. “We’re one of the first to [tie discounts and rewards to NFTs]. There is going to be a lot more of it in the future,” Daily projected, as the blockchain-based technology makes benefit programs more scalable than traditional methods. Jack Settleman (CEO, SnapBack Sports) agreed, saying he “absolutely expects real-life benefits and events [will] be tied to NFTs. The metaverse and those technologies are many years away, so in the meantime, we need to have in-person benefits or the NFTs will lack a lot of utility.”
LinksDAO NFT holders receive discounts on a series of golf-related products and services. “We did a deal with Five Iron Golf, where you get 20% off of everything if you own a leisure membership [NFT]. And global membership [NFT] holders get 20% off of everything, plus one free month membership [to Five Iron] and one free lesson. We also did a deal with Ship Sticks where NFT holders get a percentage discount on the Ship Sticks service, and we’re doing [similar] deals with [several] golf apparel companies,” Daily said. Organizers are also working on a partnership that would give NFT holders “access to a heck of a lot of great golf around the country, for a very small fee, less than anybody else would pay.”
LnksDAO sold some 6,000 leisure memberships for .18 ETH ($674) and around 2,200 global memberships for .72 ETH ($2,699). Daily called it a price that was “extraordinarily affordable versus the benefits we’re going to provide.” While that may be true, it was the larger vision of decentralized golf club membership and, potentially, access to a “world class course” that members were buying into.
While LinksDAO does not currently own a golf club, Daily said the plan is to “go out and buy one of the world’s best golf courses” and build an atmosphere around it that is “the most relevant, modern, fun and engaging golf course [experience] that we can.” If successful, NFT holders will have the ability to purchase membership.
They will also have a say in the decisions that govern the next-gen golf club. The DAO voting infrastructure ensures every member of the community will have the chance to easily make their voice heard.
Of course, it is going to take far more than $11 million to buy and retrofit the atmosphere around one of the world’s best courses—likely tens of millions more. So there will need to be a subsequent raise before the asset can be bought.
In theory, LinksDAO would invite its community members to invest in the follow-on round (and take some equity in the club itself). But because U.S. law prohibits anonymous raises for the purpose of buying physical assets, that won’t be possible. Instead, the money will need to come from institutional investors.
There are “really two different elements to this project,” Daily said. “The DAO, which is our community members who are putting forth [governance related] proposals and helping to steer decisions. Then we have a C Corp, which is the entity that will go out and actually buy the asset.”
The money raised in the initial NFT sale will not be used towards the purchase of a club. It is “dedicated to funding the organization [and some charitable endeavors],” Daily said.
It is not clear where the LinksDAO course will be located (assuming the C Corp. is successful in raising the capital needed). The focus to this point has been on getting a sense for the market and “the DAO [community] is going to have an important voice in the [decision],” Daily explained. FWIW, the highest concentration of NFT holders resides on the East Coast (see: New York, Miami).
And while there are are existing golf networks that provide members access to courses around the world, LinksDAO hopes to create a global network of clubs that NFT holders could play with a greater sense of community. “That’s our North Star,” Daily said.