The Golf Industry Had a Banner Year During the Pandemic. Robin Golf Hopes to Add Diversity to the Sport.

Sarah Favot

Favot is an award-winning journalist and adjunct instructor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She previously was an investigative and data reporter at national education news site The 74 and local news site LA School Report. She's also worked at the Los Angeles Daily News. She was a Livingston Award finalist in 2011 and holds a Master's degree in journalism from Boston University and BA from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

The Golf Industry Had a Banner Year During the Pandemic. Robin Golf Hopes to Add Diversity to the Sport.

Ali Marler and her brother-in-law Peter Marler found themselves in a pro golf shop, intimidated and out of place as they tested their swings, feeling as though they were being judged by staff and more experienced golfers in the store.

"For a golf novice, it is the scariest place you'll ever step foot into," Ali said.

For Peter, there were hundreds of clubs to choose from, while Ali was directed to a back corner that had only a few options of pink and purple clubs, one named "Azalea."


"I felt so put into this bucket of 'you're a girl, here's what you golf with and this is all you get'," she said.

It was the beginning of a business venture dedicated to creating a direct-to-consumer golf club company with an eye on increasing diversity in the mostly white male sport that drives the $84 billion industry.

Andrew Marler, Ali Marler, Peter MarlerRobin Golf co-founders Andrew Marler, Ali Marler and Peter Marler.Courtesy of Robin Golf

They teamed up with Ali's husband and Peter's brother, Andrew Marler, a more experienced golfer who played in college, and launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2019 that raised $32,000. Robin Golf went online in March.

Then a global pandemic effectively halted the economy. The Marlers worried about the viability of the company.

"What we didn't realize is come May — once golf courses were deemed socially distanced approved — the golf industry would have its record year in its 1,000 year history," Andrew said.

Golf playing was up almost 100%, golf equipment sales were up 30% and there has been a record number of new golfers entering the sport, even more than when Tiger Woods became a professional, he said.

Those new golfers needed clubs. They sold out their inventory in two months and saw a 900% increase in sales from April to May.

And they've raised $1 million through angel investors, including dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff, recently turning down a term sheet from an institutional venture capitalist. The company said ultimately their "visions were misaligned," and that they're not focused on the hyper growth approach the VC was looking for.

Driven by how Ali and Peter felt at the golf shop that day, the L.A.-based ecommerce startup has marketed its clubs to beginners, women and a diverse and inclusive audience to make it easier to enter the golf world, typically dominated by affluent, white men.

The fastest selling club is the female set. Of Robin's customers, 45% are women or kids. Those groups make up just 5% of sales industrywide.

While the major golf equipment companies, such as Callaway or TaylorMade, are targeting the 7 million avid or skilled golfers in the U.S., Robin Golf is marketing to the 27 million casual or beginner golfers, Andrew said.

Robin Golf

For an example of just how intolerant golf can be, Peter pointed to pro golfer Justin Thomas' recent use of an anti-gay slur under his breath when he missed a putt at a tournament.

"Golf has a long way to go in terms of embracing diversity," Peter said.

He also recalled how he and Andrew were playing with a "major golf influencer," when Peter mentioned his husband in conversation.

The golfer said, "Oh, I'm sorry I didn't realize gay people golfed," Peter said.

"It's very personal to us in terms of creating sort of new communities, new accessibilities for people who previously felt as though golf was not for them," he said.

Lane Demas, a history professor at Central Michigan University and the author of "Game of Privilege: An African American History of Golf," said, there are "many barriers to expanding golf participation."

Among them: Many neighborhoods don't have golf courses nearby, while urban golf courses often charge high green fees and there is a lack of golf programs in K-12 schools that serve predominantly non-white students, Demas said.

Often, the golf tradition is passed down by family members, making it harder for novices to enter the sport, he added.

And while Robin Golf clubs are not as well-known as some of the bigger brands, they are much cheaper. The clubs are sold as a set rather than individually. The men's and women's set cost $699 each. A junior set sells for $259.

Cognizant that people may be hesitant to buy clubs online, Robin has a generous return policy, giving customers 90 days to test out their clubs. They describe the business model as the Warby Parker or Casper mattresses for golf, a direct-to-consumer business with products sold online. They've found that many millennials prefer to buy things online and golf clubs are no different.

This year, Robin Golf wants to expand into selling golf balls and accessories as well as apparel, allowing first-time golfers to purchase everything they need before they step onto the links.

These days on the course, Peter feels less intimidated and Ali now enjoys the game on vacation — with three rules: Always have a drink in hand, it's okay to stop if you're frustrated and remember that no one else is looking at you.

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

LA Venture Funds


Download the dot.LA App

Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

LA Venture Funds


Download the dot.LA App

RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
Trending