Thursday September 28, 2023

Why Atlanta Falcons, United Owner Is Buying Virtual Golf Team

  • Arthur Blank has purchased a team in TGL, which was co-founded by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
  • In 2022, golf saw incredible growth via “off-course” activities like Topgolf and simulated locations.
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Golf’s expanding popularity — both on and off traditional courses — has attracted the attention of an NFL team owner, as more money continues to be poured into the sport.

Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons and Atlanta United, has purchased a team in TGL, the upcoming virtual golf league co-founded by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. 

In 2022, golf saw incredible growth via “off-course” activities like Topgolf, adult-focused mini-golf locations, and simulated play — which will be a key part of TGL when it launches in 2024. Featuring top PGA Tour players, drives and approach shots will be hit on a simulator, while putts and shots under 50 yards will be hit in front of a live audience.

“I think the use of simulation will attract a disproportionate number of younger fans,” Blank told Front Office Sports on a conference call, “which I think are important, just generally, but specifically the game of golf.”

Blank notably stayed away from recent investment trends like esports, even as other NFL owners paid tens of millions of dollars for gaming franchises, some of which are now being moved off of. That makes his support for this emerging trend quite notable. 

“The whole notion of ‘how do you bring simulation in sports and other activities to a greater fan base’ … is important,” Blank said. “We continue to look for ways to expand our footprint in the world of football, American football, soccer, and now in golf.”

The new TGL team will represent the Atlanta market — although all matches will take place at the league’s facility in South Florida — and fall under the AMB Sports & Entertainment banner. The further investment in golf adds to AMBSE’s ownership of the PGA TOUR Superstore, which has more than 70 locations across the country.

While financial details were not made available, Blank called the TGL investment “significant” and said he expects to turn a profit.

Blank is the third team owner announced, along with Fenway Sports Group (Boston) and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Serena and Venus Williams (Los Angeles). Blank is also an investor in TGL’s parent company TMRW Sports, as are the other team owners.

TGL will add three more franchises and is in active negotiations with prospective ownership groups. The league is also in the midst of negotiations for a media rights deal. Golf Channel/NBC Sports could be a logical fit for TGL — TMRW Sports CEO Mike McCarley is the former president of Golf Channel.

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