“We feel we are democratising golf"

And how are we doing this? By "bringing online gamblers back in play" with online golf gaming!

Chris Nuttall of the Financial Times delivers the breathtakingly good news.

American executives frustrated by online poker bans have been taking to the virtual golf course, where they can work on lowering their handicaps and make money at the same time.

Utour Golf and World Golf Tour are two sites exploiting a developing demographic of casual gamers: males over 30 looking to compete with one another online.

Utour has staged more than 500,000 games on four different online courses during its beta testing phase and allows wagers of up to $100 on a single hole. There is stroke play or match play for pairs and tournaments where thousands of dollars can be at stake.

Groove Games, the company behind Utour, says the golf prizes are not classified as gambling as golf is a skill-based game rather than one of chance.


“We’re just like real golf leagues funded by player-entry fees and the PGA’s prize pools subsidised by advertising,” says Jon Walsh, chief executive. Groove takes a 15 per cent cut of every dollar staked and sells advertisements placed around its golf courses. It says the average player is a 34-year-old male.

World Golf Tour will go fully live this summer with its Kiawah Island’s Ocean course in South Carolina. The company took the unusual step of taking high-resolution pictures of every inch of the course with helicopters and radio-controlled drones to create the imagery, rather than use artists to render the landscape.

The photos were then matched up pixel-by-pixel with the 3D topology of the course and rendered in high quality within a browser window. Over half a million people have already played the beta, spending at least 20 minutes per session.

“They are very affluent, college-educated, mostly male, average age 35 and average income of $110,000 – not your typical gaming demographic, but middle-aged professionals are great for advertisers,” said YuChiang Cheng, chief executive.

Strong demo! Not long before the PGA Tour wants a piece of that.

World Golf Tour’s business model is based on in-game advertising, sponsorship and sales of virtual items such as new clothing and clubs. It encourages foursomes among friends and will introduce social networking elements.

“We feel we are democratising golf,” says Mr Cheng. “For those who think it’s too expensive and takes too much time, this is free and you can just play from your desk.”