Will Golf Discover NFT's?
Could lucrative digital collectibles alter player relationships with the majors?
Imagine the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lay down a non-fungible token and become the sole owner of Jack Nicklaus’ 17th hole birdie in the 1986 Masters.
You’ll pay a handsome price given the iconic nature of the putt. But think of the value. The royalties!
Wait, you say there are no royalties for the use of my $500,000 investment? It’s still on YouTube for anyone to watch? But I’m the owner.
Ok but at least for a huge amount, Nicklaus will endorse this, right?
No autographs on video. Sorry kid.
But in buying this highlight you’d be able to say you are the ONLY owner of this great moment in golf history. They’ll even throw in serial numbers that are graciously stored and maintained decentrally on a blockchain.
Take that, Franklin Mint!
Non-fungible tokens—NFT’s—have been in the news primarily because they seem like some futurist’s idea of an April Fool’s joke. Only this one has smart people taking it seriously.
Think Beanie Babies for Elon and friends.
NFT’s are digital collectibles you pay to own but don’t really own. They are stored on fancy servers where you better hope the backup generators work. In recent weeks the market has moved to its crazed phase.
More impressively, the NBA was out ahead of this and has created Topshot with Dapper, reporting $230 million in revenue that’ll go to the league and players. There are also plans to go back into the archives and sell old highlights as NFT’s. Looks like Michael Jordan is going to get by.
So What Is An NFT And Why Should Golf Care?
You don’t want me trying to explain Ethereum blockchains.
For an even bigger picture look at the recent investment “manias”, The New York Times Erin Griffith considers how they happen, the obvious bubble behavior and whether any of this threatens the traditional economy.
As for golf and the majors?
If NFT’s keep moving and action highlights remain a hot commodity, expect the golf organizations to eventually cash in on their treasure troves. Highlights of great moments have the potential to be more valuable that most sports “commodities” on the NFT wish list:
(A) Golf fans have money.
(B) The best golf highlights are way more fun to own than a great backhand up the line.
(C) The sport has plenty of golf VP’s charged with generating new “rev streams” for organizations hit hard by the pandemic.
I reached out to the groups hosting the four majors and their answers on NFT’s varied. I was merely gauging where “digital ephemera” lands as a priority in Far Hills, St Andrews, Palm Beach and Augusta.
One did not want to be mentioned in this item. Two of the organizations did not know enough about the emerging trend to add much. And one acknowledged listening to an NFT pitch but is passing on the chance to sell championship highlights. For now.
What about the PGA Tour?
The organization made up of players had a different answer.
“As with other potential revenue sources for our membership, we will explore whether NFTs make sense for us and our members,” said a spokesperson.
Golf is traditionally five years behind most trends and may only get serious about NFT’s after they’ve cratered. A bubble burst seems plausible given how some smart people are predicting an inevitable demise, like Seth Godin is here.
More shrewd types, like Mark Cuban, are bullish. He makes his case in this fascinating explanation. Cuban ultimately concludes that crypto currency and NFT’s are a new generation’s trading cards, fueled by an underlying revenge mindset against old ways of doing business by pushing a fresh way to create wealth outside of old methods and markets.
Regardless of the logic (or absurdity) of it all, there is the matter of what this means for golf’s five families, players, fans and media partners.
When players enter majors, they essentially sign away their likeness for the week. The broadcast rights and moments they create belong to the host organization. In return, a nice purse is offered for their time and the glory of victory is theirs to keep. Trophies, medals and other riches follow for years.
But the footage belongs to the major. Meaning the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA and Open Championship could conceivably turn their greatest highlights into NFT’s. Yet not that long ago PGA Tour members saw what Fox paid the USGA for 12 years of television rights. The players came away feeling underpaid at the U.S. Open and let the USGA know it. The purse was increased, but an unusually high level of player resentment remains.
This is worth remembering IF the non-PGA Tour families go forward into the NFT world.
Meanwhile the PGA Tour can easily mimic the NBA by partnering with purveyors of digital art and then distribute profits accordingly. There are plenty of great moments each week or in the archives that collectors and investors would want. Still, the very best moments are at majors and get shown over and over again for a reason. Like an absurd dunk, they can defy our imagination in the way a great work of art stays with us.
Anything from the 1986 Masters will be valuable. So will 1997 and 2019 and a bunch of moments in between.
How about Tiger’s putt at Torrey Pines? Watson’s chip-in at Pebble Beach? Shots to be determined.
Or what about Jack throwing his putter in the air at St Andrews?
Shoot, even Shaun Micheel’s shot at Oak Hill might appeal.
And in the non-major division, how about Tiger’s 17th hole putt in the 2001 Players?
Better than most!
These moments are works of art that until now could not be individually commoditized. Non-fungible tokens could change that while creating a fascinating quandary for golf’s leading families.
Two Masters Notes: No Par 3 And ESPN Surprise Doc
Augusta National made it official: no Par 3 Tournament in 2021.
John Boyette has the details here.
And in other Masters news, ESPN is debuting "The One in November," billed as a “first-ever look behind the scenes” at Augusta National Golf Club” in advance of 2020 Masters tournament.
The surprise news of this 30-minute doc landed Monday the 15th and the film debuts Tuesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. ET. with several more airings to come (including an ABC showing the Saturday prior to the Masters.)