How to Successfully Run a Golf Business Online During the Pandemic

This is a blog about small business and golf.

Luckily for you, you do not read my stuff to get golf tips because I am not able to even follow a sensible tip like “keep your head down,” let alone legitimately give it. But fortunately, my business acumen has proven to be quite a bit better than my golf swing and that’s what today’s “golf lesson” is all about.

Because in today’s lesson, I am going to teach you how you can take a physical business (like a golf brand for example), digitize it, and succeed, even in a pandemic.

In my last blog, I shared how PayPal and I have teamed up to highlight some of their merchants who have successfully pivoted and thrived during Covid. One of those merchants is Malbon Golf, whose trick shot is really rather extraordinary:

They took a very material business like a golf brand and figured out how to grow it virtually. And if they did, so can you.

Erica and Stephen Malbon launched Malbon Golf only three short years ago so if you think navigating a pandemic was challenging for you and your business, just imagine what it was like for the Malbons, who had a startup that was necessarily a hands-on, physical business – two golf shops (in L.A. and Seoul) and in-person events as part of their “Malbon Golf Club.”

Turn that into an online business? Talk about having to make a trick shot.

But the Malbons did the opposite of what my golf advice is and kept their head up and in so doing, figured it out. As Erica told me, “We really had to rethink things. [The start of the pandemic] was definitely a very scary time for any small business but at the same time we had to look at it as an opportunity.”

For starters, they went for the low-hanging fruit first and smartly drilled down into the e-commerce part of their business. With the help of PayPal, they doubled online sales in the past year.

Next, they took the community portion of their business, the Malbon Golf Club, and transformed it into an online, Zoom-based, social club.

And this last idea really impressed me: Malbon Golf started hosting virtual putting tournaments. What began as a putting contest at home between Stephen and one of the Malbon boys soon morphed into what they dubbed, “The Quarantine Classic” – an online, Zoom and Facetime putting competition.

Think about that for a moment.

Instead of giving up and saying, “We have a physical business and Covid prevents physical events and so we are out of luck,” the Malbons got creative.

  • Yes, they had to close their physical stores . . . so they re-ignited their virtual store
  • Yes, they had to stop having social get togethers . . . so they launched virtual ones
  • Yes, they had to stop having golf tournaments . . . so they launched Zoom putting tournaments instead.

The golf lesson then is this:

Think outside the green.

Brainstorm ways that you can take what you used to do in your off-line business and consider ways to re-invent them online.

Do that, and like Malbon Golf, you just may get that elusive hole in one too (or, I will sadly admit, even an occasional birdie would be fine too!)

You can watch my interesting conversation with co-owner Erica Malbon here.

By: Steve Strauss

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