Last month, GolfTec announced its first meaningful acquisition in 27 years of being a trailblazer in indoor golf instruction. The Colorado-based company bought SkyTrak, a leading consumer launch monitor and simulator brand that bills its product as a professional-grade at-home-and-office device available at a favorable price point.
The move continues a trend in the feverishly popular simulator and launch monitor space. In July 2021, Bruin Capital acquired the Tiger Woods-backed Full Swing golf simulator company for a reported $160 million while expressing a desire to create a user network similar to the Peloton model. A few months later, Vista Outdoor – the parent company to Bushnell Golf – acquired Foresight Sports for a gross purchase price of $474 million. Foresight is known for PGA Tour players using its launch monitors, as well as the brand’s “sim-in-a-box” strategy for delivering easy-to-assemble golf simulation directly to a consumer’s door.
Now comes another deal between two of the most successful names in the golf industry.
GolfTec has experienced record growth in the past two years, approaching 250 locations and 1,000 coaches. After giving some 1.5 million lessons in 2021, GolfTec is on pace to approach 2 million lessons in 2022. The company is the largest employer of PGA professionals in the United States, and its co-founder and CEO Joe Assell earned the PGA executive of the year award in 2021.
Having started with humble beginnings in a Denver-area strip mall near Cherry Hills Country Club back in 1995, GolfTec is among the most successful businesses golf has seen in the 21st century.
SkyTrak has sold about 60,000 units since launching in 2015, making it the highest-selling consumer simulator and launch monitor. The company, which had been owned in a 50-50 split between SkyHawke Technologies and SportTrak, reached record sales in 2021 as overall simulator sales surged around the world.
The National Golf Foundation reported that there were 12.4 million people who participated in off-course-only golf activities in 2021, a sign that the demand for nontraditional forms of golf continues to escalate. The launch monitor market size was estimated at $178.3 million in 2021 and has been forecast to reach $244.3 million by 2028, according to the recent “Global Golf Launch Monitor Market Report.”
Assell told Global Golf Post that SkyTrak approached GolfTec well over a year ago. It was a complicated transaction because negotiations had to take place with the two partners that owned SkyTrak. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“There was a lot of action in this space,” Assell said. “At first, we weren’t sure it was a great fit for us. But as we started thinking about it, we engaged with them more seriously and around November of last fall we began working on strategy in deal structure. And like most deals, that took a lot longer than we had anticipated, but we were finally able to announce it August 10 and the deal closed on August 31.”
“We see growth in off-course golf; that’s just booming. We want to be part of that.” – Joe Assell
GDO, a publicly traded Japanese golf conglomerate, is the majority owner of GolfTec. Assell said the announcement had to wait until after GDO’s second-quarter earnings call.
The specifics of how GolfTec will utilize SkyTrak are still to be determined, but Assell asserted that the deal is “much broader” than any potential connection SkyTrak would have with the standalone GolfTec facilities themselves. There are plans to improve the SkyTrak customer experience and the unit itself, while also delivering a GolfTec-style improvement experience to a wider segment of golfers.
The hope is to “significantly increase” the number of units being sold.
“We see growth in off-course golf; that’s just booming,” Assell said. “We want to be part of that. So we see this really as a way to expand our brand. Our mission statement is to help people play better golf, and we see this as a way to bring our brands together to help people play better golf everywhere if you have a SkyTrak unit.”
As part of the acquisition, SportTrak employees from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will be joining the GolfTec team. Tech services provided by SkyHawke Technologies, which is based in Jackson, Mississippi, will be replicated in Denver by the GolfTec team. Assell said that they will “unwind from the SkyHawke services” by the end of the year.
The only change in GolfTec’s corporate structure was the hiring of Jeff Foster as SkyTrak’s new CEO with a concurrent role as the chief strategy officer of GolfTec. Foster was the longtime senior vice president of GolfNow, the Golf Channel-owned online tee time booking service. He served as the president and chief revenue officer at Buffalo Groupe from January 2021 until last month when the SkyTrak acquisition was announced.
“For more than two decades, GolfTec and SkyTrak have been included among golf’s most well-respected and impactful brands,” Foster said in a press release. “This is an incredible opportunity to leverage the strengths of both companies and build an experience that provides limitless opportunities.”
The move doesn’t come as a surprise given current market conditions, but it does mark a milestone for GolfTec. Assell called it easily the largest and most significant acquisition in company history. Previously, GolfTec had only acquired franchise properties and maintained its focus on the expansion of its own data-driven golf improvement plans at standalone locations.
Now the company is looking to make an even bigger impact on the golf industry, expanding their focus beyond when they are physically with customers.
“We’re working now on integrating the two companies together and finding an exciting future,” Assell said.
Photos: Courtesy SkyTrak
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