Phigolf World Tour Edition an Entertaining and Relaxed Way to Introduce Newcomers to the Game
Whether you are an avid golfer or completely new to the game, imagine the opportunity to work on your swing in the comfort of your home with friends or family while enjoying light-hearted banter and perhaps a beverage or two in an entertaining Topgolf-style atmosphere.
Then expand your imagination to consider the prospect of playing a virtual round of golf on one of the world’s most iconic golf courses. Or, if you prefer, a round on the municipal course down the road to get in some virtual practice even in all weather conditions year-round.
All of the above is now possible thanks to the ground-breaking Phigolf Home Golf Simulator and the benefits of golf data initially provided by Topgolf’s World Golf Tour (WGT) and TruGolf’s E6 Connect and then, most recently, by pioneering mapping company iGolf.
Phigolf was launched in 2014 by PhiNetworks, a company that has been at the forefront of consumer sports technology since 2008. The main features of Phigolf include some of the most realistic graphics and gameplay anywhere, plus a unique swing analysis algorithm that allows users to improve their game. Add to that the opportunity to play virtually on any golf course around the world and the benefit of a home simulator that costs just $249, considerably less than the price point for traditional simulators, which can range from $5,000 to at least $40,000.
For Jae Yang, General Manager of Phigolf’s global marketing and distribution operation, the main appeal of the Phigolf Home Golf Simulator is its strong focus on entertainment and its ability to introduce newcomers to the game in a very relaxed environment.
“We wanted to be more of an in-home rather than a driving range experience, think Topgolf compared to Toptracer,” said Yang. “And I think we have succeeded. We are trying to get you to swing that club in the living room by yourself, with a bunch of friends drinking a beer, or with your children, introducing them to know what golf really is. Golf can be a very intimidating sport, to walk onto a golf course not knowing what’s what for the first time…I remember that feeling. I was a little bit afraid to even pick up the club and hit that tee shot, looking at those people behind me waiting for me to hit that ball. But with Phigolf, you don’t have any of that. You get to learn how the game is played, albeit in a virtual world, but you get ingratiated into the game.”
In some ways, Phigolf can be viewed as the Guitar Hero of golf. Guitar Hero is a series of music rhythm video games first released in 2005, in which players use a guitar-shaped game controller to simulate playing primarily lead, bass guitar, and rhythm guitar across numerous songs.
“That’s precisely what we thought of, though we are perhaps a little bit closer to the actual game than Guitar Hero is to playing a guitar,” said Yang. “Nobody is going to pretend that they are going to become a rock star playing Guitar Hero but it’s just very inspiring and it helps you enjoy playing that instrument and music. And that’s what Phigolf is. We want you to like the sport of golf, we want you to get your children to like the sport of golf by playing Phigolf. And with the online feature, you can play against other people who also enjoy this golf-themed game that you play in your living room.”
Phigolf is the product that really put PhiNetworks on the map.
“The conception was in 2014 but it wasn’t really launched in the market until 2017 when (PhiNetworks CEO) Young Hun Kim did a Kickstarter campaign,” said Yang. “And then, during the winter of 2017 and the early part of 2018, we started distributing. I was a consultant to Young at the time and I introduced the Topgolf relationship, and I did the Topgolf brand licensing and content licensing for Phigolf, and that’s when it really started to take off.”
MOST RECOGNIZED BRANDS
Initially, Phigolf worked with two of the sector’s most recognized brands, Topgolf’s WGT and TruGolf’s E6 Connect.
“WGT is a very popular game; they probably have something close to about 30 million downloads and a very large active user base,” said Yang. “Their demographics include a lot of avid golfers but we were more interested in the content. They have golf simulator content that is played with your finger gestures on the phone, and we wanted to let WGT users play the game by actually swinging a practice stick, like swinging a club, and that’s what we did. As soon as we licensed the Topgolf WGT content, we could say that we now feature world-famous courses, and that put us in orbit. And then we displayed the Topgolf branding on our box and that gave us instant credibility.”
But Yang did not stop there. He had a relationship with the management at TruGolf, a company that publishes E6 Connect, arguably the leading golf simulator software in the industry. Because Phigolf was not known for being a serious training aid product, Yang wanted to appeal to avid golfers with content they knew and were familiar with. TruGolf E6 was brought into the mix to elevate Phigolf’s popularity.
And yet that was still not enough for Yang. While E6 features amazing graphics of world-famous courses and WGT includes some of golf’s best-known layouts in an addictive game-like environment, Yang wanted users to have access to much more – perhaps to their neighborhood course or to a venue that was especially meaningful for non-golf reasons.
Enter iGolf, a brand that has established a strong global presence in golf data mapping spanning more than 20 years and is specifically focused on providing the golf technology sector with advancements in GPS content. Yang had known iGolf’s CEO and Founder, Brian Verdugo, for many years, and exploratory business conversations that first began in 2018 finally came to fruition last summer when Phigolf was given a development license. Phigolf was licensed to use iGolf’s 3D map data three months later.
“We only officially started working with iGolf this past November,” said Yang. “By utilizing their data, the Phigolf World Tour Edition was born and it’s already our second best-selling SKU. I’m hoping it will be our best-selling product in the near future. Thanks to iGolf, we can now claim to offer 38,000-plus golf courses on our simulators. That’s just about every golf course on earth, or every course that counts.”
iGolf, which is uniquely positioned to license companies Golf GPS maps for nearly 40,000 golf courses in 150 different countries, has invested heavily in adding a new intellectual property to its portfolio, including radar-based launch monitor technology, laser range finder sensors, trolley and golf car intelligence, 3D elevation terrain on 23,000-plus courses and virtual reality environments for the gaming sector. Over 60 licensees, including Fortune 500 companies, rely on iGolf’s technology to bring advanced products into the hardware, software, and mobile sectors.
“Being able to offer our user base any golf course on earth has been the biggest impact for us since we started working with iGolf,” said Yang. “Not just world-famous courses but the courses that matter to you. Courses that are interesting to you, not just a list of courses that is curated by some software development company. It could be a mundane municipal course or maybe where you met your wife. Being able to tour around virtually, travel anywhere as a golfer, to be able to play on any course, that’s just a dream for a lot of people.”
Phigolf currently produces the Home Golf Simulator, which offers WGT and E6, and the World Tour Edition, which includes iGolf technology and was recently upgraded to the World Tour Pro Bundle. The revolutionary Phigolf swing stick features a nine-axis motion sensor, providing the most realistic representation of a club.
“The weighted swing stick for the Home Golf Simulator is designed and balanced to feel like a seven-iron,” said Yang. “It’s a standard swing stick with a spring-loaded impact trainer feature at the end that clicks when you reach a top speed at six o’clock. It’s modelled after impact swing trainers but comes at a much more affordable price. Our latest SKU, the Pro Bundle, comes with a telescopic impact swing trainer that takes it up a notch and is much closer to a quality swing trainer.”
Two additional SKUs are in development: a Phigolf Ball Striker Edition, which will allow users to hit golf balls into a The Net Return net, and a Phigolf Ball Striker Edition HomeCourse Bundle, which will have a $2,299 motorized, rolldown golf screen.
North America is currently Phigolf’s biggest market worldwide, with Japan and Korea combined close behind, followed by Europe. Phigolf is mainly a direct-to-consumer business, and its products are currently available via its website, Amazon, QVC, Best Buy Canada, and Costco UK. They are also working on partnerships with Walmart and Costco USA, which they hope will be secured by the fourth quarter of this year. For more information, visit www.phigolf.com.