ReelGOLF may be a solution to a problem you never knew you had.
Or, more likely, ReelGOLF may merely be something really cool you never knew existed.
Or, and I may be going out on a limb here, ReelGOLF is a technological flashpoint that will change the way golf is shared and enjoyed.
If I was writing a prospectus for ReelGOLF, I’d probably go with that one.
But I’m not writing a prospectus for ReelGOLF. I’m writing an article on ReelGOLF. And I’d say the real story of ReelGOLF probably skips over the first point above and lands squarely on that second one.
It’s pretty cool and I’m pretty sure you didn’t know, until now, that it existed.
OK, OK, enough foreplay. Let’s get down to business. What is ReelGOLF? And why should you care?
ReelGOLF: Scan, Shoot, Score
ReelGOLF founder and CEO Kevin Imes is one of those guys who’s a serial entrepreneur. He really can’t help himself.
“I’ve had the startup bug ever since I graduated from college,” Imes tells MyGolfSpy. “The first company I started created a mobile app for a Palm Pilot if you’re old enough to remember those.”
Most recently, Imes created a smart thermostat to compete with the Nest. After selling that company for a bundle to Samsung, his wife “requested” he take some time off.
“With startups, you tend to be pretty engrossed with what you’re doing for a pretty long period of time,” he says. “After selling, that’s when I took up golf again.”
Imes used some of his Samsung money to make the pilgrimage to St Andrews to play the Old Course. It was while he was approaching the first tee that the serial entrepreneur resurfaced and the idea for ReelGOLF was born.
“I really wished there was a way to memorialize that moment,” he says. “You’re walking to the first tee and there’s a gallery of visitors watching. There had to be a way to document that.”
ReelGOLF, you see, is a fully automated video system that can be set up on a golf course. As a golfer, you scan a QR code, access the ReelGOLF mobile app and hit “record.” From there, the ReelGOLF system records your swing and the result as it lands on the green. The system then overlays a shot tracer and adds your name, the course name and logo and the hole number. And within minutes, a nice little video is sent to your phone as a memento that you can share.
From Concept to Reality
Imes had promised his wife he wouldn’t start another company but he didn’t say anything about buying a new toy. You know, just to see how it would work.
“I bought a follow-me drone to follow me around the golf course. I came to realize there were two things in Austin, Texas, that really hate drones. One is a hawk and the other is a hummingbird. Neither situation ends well.”
As with any good entrepreneur, setbacks send him back to the drawing board.
“The engineer from my previous company said there may be a way to leverage some really good 4K technology with a fixed camera solution. We did extensive camera research and wound up partnering with Bosch to bring their first-ever military-grade, bulletproof and hurricane-proof camera technology to golf.”
The ReelGOLF system is entirely self-contained, wireless and automated.
“It’s also solar-powered,” says Imes. “And it doesn’t require any back-end integration because we’re using Star Link to upload all our video footage. It’s isolated from any operations requirements for the course itself.”
Imes says ReelGOLF has been in beta testing for a while, with its first permanent installation going on right now at Gold Canyon in Arizona. Another 20 courses are in line. One of the beta sites at the 19th hole at Payne’s Valley, where it miraculously captured two holes-in-one on the same day.
It’s Cool, But…
The concept is pretty simple. You go up to a par-3, scan your QR code to enable the system and play your shot. The ReelGOLF system, using AI and video image processing, creates your video and sends it to you immediately.
It’s cool, no doubt. But someone somewhere has to make money off this deal. Imes is offering courses three different options.
“First is the course that wants to pay for the experience for their golfers. We charge the course a fixed fee anywhere from $3.00 to $5.00 per video that we produce.”
The second option is for courses that hold a large number of events and the event host can sell sponsorship opportunities to raise money and to pay for the service.
“And then we have the classic Disney model. We can send players a watermarked mini-video and they can choose to buy it or not.”
Aside from creating another potential revenue stream for courses, ReelGOLF has the potential to be a marketing tool. Venues are competing for your buddy-trip dollars, after all. Courses like St Andrews or Pebble Beach may not need marketing help, but imagine sticking it to a foot-and-a-half on the seventh at Pebble? A video of that sucker is going on your Instagram or Facebook feed in a heartbeat.
“It’s really about the reach of an organic video created by the everyday Joe,” explains Imes. “That video we created at Payne’s Valley has been viewed over 1.5 million times. It’s definitely a marketing tool for the golf course and it’s a good experience for the golfer.”
But Wait, There’s More…
While a cool video is a nice keepsake, ReelGOLF has something else up its sleeve that might wind up being even more lucrative.
“Because we have the ability to find the ball using AI, we can actually triangulate the ball location to within 18 millimeters,” says Imes. “In other words, we can pinpoint the distance of that ball to the pin within half a golf ball or less.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
“We’ve created, in partnership with BetMGM, a daily on-course closest-to-the-pin challenge,” says Imes. “Say you’re on a guys’ trip to TPC San Antonio and you walk up to the 16th at the Oaks Course. You can throw down $10 to win $200.”
It’s all done on your phone. You won’t have to mess with a tape measure and, shall we say, creative math on the green.
The closest-to-the-pin challenge is part of the January rollout at Gold Canyon.
“Mid-tier courses we’re talking to have a really good opportunity to use this as a revenue accelerator,” Imes explains. “We’ll pay them based on the number of people who participate every month.”
Would YOU Use ReelGOLF?
That’s the entrepreneurial $64-million question, isn’t it? It’s easy to scoff and be dismissive but golf remains a social game. And “social” these days includes social media.
Logistically, ReelGOLF cameras are unobtrusive and can be mounted up to 100 yards away. Originally designed to be used on aircraft carriers and for border security, the cameras can detect people up to a quarter of a mile away.
And while a two-camera system is most common, ReelGOLF can add a third camera to get the reaction of the golfer. For now, the plan is to use ReelGOLF on signature par-3 holes.
“Eventually we’ll roll it out to longer par-4s and par-5s,” says Imes. “We’re starting with par-3s to crystallize the value proposition for golfers.”
Equally important to the system is the golfer interface. The course can mount the ReelGOLF QR code on a sign at the tee box or issue it at the clubhouse. That part needs to be seamless for two reasons: It has to be easy for the golfer to access and it can’t slow down play.
“You scan the code and enter your phone number and name,” says Imes. “Then you hit record. The cameras turn on and we use AI to identify you as the person taking the shot.”
What would you pay for a network TV level (or close to it) video of your first career hole-in-one? Sure, the stars would have to align perfectly but let’s just say it’s possible.
I’m guessing if you had such a video delivered to your phone within minutes of the event, you’d probably want to post it everywhere you could.
To borrow the punchline from a very old and fairly dirty joke …
“Father, I’m telling everybody!”