Golf can be pretty weird sometimes. How many other activities does an adult partake in where they sit next to a stranger for five hours, exchanging conversation and high fives, only to shake hands at the end and never see each other again? Now, maybe you have a consistent crew to tee it up with, or maybe you prefer playing by yourself. But if not, it can be a pretty isolating activity. That’s where Fairgame comes in, an online community that wants to connect like minded golfers across the globe.
Founded by entrepreneur Eric Mayville, Hodinkee founder Ben Clymer and pro golfer Adam Scott, Fairgame is an app that can be downloaded for free through the App Store or Google Play. Think of it as an online clubhouse where anyone from freelance journalists, to skaters trying their hand in the sport or even veterans of the restaurant industry can organize a day on the links. “Fairgame is here to inspire a connection between people that wouldn't know each other otherwise,” says Clymer, whose media property Hodinkee is famous for democratizing the world of collector watches. Golf is undergoing a similar process of reacclimatization right now, evidenced by a wave of twenty-somethings picking up the sport and new brands breaking the plain khakis and polo mold.
Traditionally, country clubs have been the institutions responsible for creating social circles within golf. But if you don’t have the money to join one or aren’t interested in sharing cigars over a chat about the Dow, you’re left being paired up with strangers by the starter at your local course, which can be luck of the draw.
Fairgame’s solution to that is called Open Rounds, a feature that allows you to be your own starter. After starting a profile similar to any other social media channel, you can make a reservation at a course and list it on the app, allowing others to join. Alternatively, you can join a tee time that someone else has already made, checking their vibe first to see if you might get along. Once on the course, you can record your scores in the app, and it’ll generate a handicap, essentially a number to gauge your skill level, as you accrue enough rounds.
While stroke play is the standard format that most people play, there are plenty of others to choose from including match play, nassau, skins and nines. For Andrew Haynes, the brand's creative director, the whole point of that is providing golfers more options, and not being wedded to the antiquated concept that stroke play is the “right” way to play. “When I first started playing golf, I was very intimidated by stroke play, especially if you're not playing well. But I know I can play skins against Ben and have a chance.”
Finding the right balance between honoring golf’s traditions and providing a fresh perspective is how Fairgame hopes to build its community. Clymer believes it’s not just about the games on the app, but the content, aesthetic and messaging as well. “The output that you see from Fairgame on Instagram, on the app itself, a lot of that comes from somebody who has a really thoughtful but also really friendly taste,” he says, referring to his business partner Andrew Haynes. “Yes, there is real thought and real consideration given, but it's not pretentious. And I think it's really easy to confuse the two. Building a brand that is class agnostic, gender agnostic and race agnostic is really difficult.”
With time, the team is hoping that a significant portion of content becomes user generated, as the app evolves into a social media platform where golfers can flex their new gear, stealthy vintage finds and crossed off bucket list destinations. One of the users currently enjoying the app is Adam Scott, who was sponsored by Burberry once upon a time and is now an ambassador for Uniqlo. Scott was something of a debonair when he first arrived on tour, but these days he’s showing there are more layers underneath, co-designing an apparel collection with Uniqlo and collaborating with equipment company Miura on a set of limited edition irons.
“A lot of what you see in the app comes from his mind, and I think that is what makes it so special,” says Clymer. He’s also a frequent co-host of the Fairgame Podcast, one of the brand’s key intellectual properties that preceded the app itself. Past guests have included broadcast journalists, former pro football players, current pro golfers and seasoned photographers. In that sense, it’s essentially a survey of the Fairgame community.
Everything comes back to Fairgame’s central mission, which is to be a curator of community and a facilitator of connections. There are plenty of other golf apps on the market, but they tend to be more focused on game improvement. Having just launched in Ireland, Fairgame is planning expansions into more countries this fall, with Asia on the horizon for next year. “I've never been a member at a private club, and I think it's really cool to be able to land in a new city and know that there's gonna be some people that share your same interests,” says Haynes. And if you get along, you might just make a friend for life. That’s the whole point of golf, right?