What does the future of golf look like? These nine influential voices are helping bring it into focus

With an eye toward the decades to come, we spoke with nine of the most influential and important new voices in our sport.

Roger Steele knew his engineering job in Chicago was stifling his creative instincts, and he knew he wanted to do what creatives do: pack up his life and move to Los Angeles.

Now he rubs shoulders with professional athletes and SoCal CEOs at L.A.’s swankiest courses; back when he was a kid, it was munys near his home in Austin, a no-frills neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.

“As a Black man, you feel like your presence is already one strike against you, and you have to be quiet on certain topics.

Sometime along his professional journey—which took him from the ad agency world in New York City to creating the Malbon Group, a parent company that housed a creative content agency and a lifestyle brand/magazine called Frank151—he rekindled his golf flame and vowed to bring some coolness along with him.

The page evolved into the clothing company Malbon Golf, although the “Golf” part is optional.

By putting their one brick-and-mortar location on L.A.’s ultra-hip Fairfax Avenue—where, according to Erica, “golfers don’t go”—the Malbons made a statement: Golf can indeed be rad.

One measure of architecture junkies is their familiarity with Golf Club Atlas, the online forum for purists to read about Golden Age designs and ruminate on differences in green surrounds.

It highlights renovations, sends a thrice-weekly newsletter, produces high quality drone videos of courses, analyzes PGA Tour venues and more.

When golfers start to appreciate golf-course architecture, “they get something other than a score to base their experience off.

Open, Johnson wrote that “the use of the concept of par is perhaps the biggest farce in golf,” and the site’s Bang for Your Buck series highlights architecturally interesting courses that don’t require a membership or a $250 green fee.

There’s an audience for that message.

You see it with ESPN; it’s hard to cover every sport, every team, in a broad sense.

They come from two different corners of the golf-course design world—Rob Collins from the architectural side, Tad King from the contracting side.

“As a sport, we are way too attached to the 18-hole model,” says King, 53.

The final product stands proudly as Sweetens Cove, a strikingly dramatic nine-hole facility that has developed a cult-like following for its meticulous architecture—particularly among a younger subculture that’s willing to travel for golf experiences.

“Things like a course needs to be 18 holes and have four par 5s, you have to see every hazard, or the greens have to be sloped back to front and be receptive.

He began writing about fantasy golf in 2011, long before million-dollar DFS contests and the advanced statistics revolution that deepened our understanding of players’ games.

He’s also a co-founder of Fantasy National, a website that allows users to dive into advanced golf statistics—a tool to figure out how a player scores in windy conditions or how he putts on Bermuda greens.

“The biggest barrier to entry is price—people don’t want to spend $100 every week or even every month.

In addition to playing on tour, she has an undergraduate degree from Yale—where she played on the team as a freshman, then quit, then re-joined as a senior before turning pro—and an MBA from Wharton.

SportsBox AI’s app, now in betatesting, allows users to capture a 2-D smartphone video and, through computer vision and deep-learning neural networks, convert the video into a 3-D avatar that can be analyzed from six points of view.

Sportsbox AI intends to charge users $10 a month, which ought to make it popular among instructors who don’t have access to more expensive machinery such as ForcePlate.

A year later, he co-launched Fore Play, which draws top-level PGA Tour talent as guests and frequently charts as the top golf podcast in America.

Long-simmering tensions with more traditional golf writers blew up at the 2019 Presidents Cup, where some media members labeled him a “fanboy with a press pass” and bemoaned his rooting interests and close relationships with players.

“There’s a huge contingent that wants the game to grow only in the way they believe it should,” Riggs says.

His mission is to make golf more approachable.

Abby Liebenthal, 30, grew up playing the game and immediately plunged into the golf industry after college—first at the AJGA, then the Tiger Woods Foundation, then Titleist, then a pit stop at Northwestern for grad school, then back to golf.

“None of my peers growing up or in college played golf at all,” she says.

A full 70 women showed up at that first event; this year there are 10 Fore the Ladies intro-to-golf clinics on the schedule, with approximately 500 women expected to participate.

At the clinics, the idea is to provide a welcoming atmosphere for women.

Today Shiels, 34, has five full-time employees working for him and no longer sees any students at all.

He also says a key is his lack of sponsorship and the lack of overt advertising in his content.


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