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Up Close & Personal with David Wong

Social interactions are critically important for our overall well being and since the pandemic, more friends have drifted apart. The unpredictability of lockdowns have evolved our relationships by limiting our opportunities to meet up with friends and strike up new friendships, making it challenging to develop and sustain relationships. According to the May 2021 American Perspectives Survey, Americans reported their friendship circles have shrunk from what it was in a pre-pandemic world. 

However with lockdown restrictions slowly loosening, people have started seeking socially distanced outdoor activities amid the pandemic. This has led to golf gaining more popularity around the world. According to the 2021 Millennial Golf Industry Survey, golf has become increasingly popular amongst millennials, especially those who have work flexibility (84%) as a result of the pandemic.

While there has been a noticeable increase in interest in golf, many still struggle trying to coordinate games amongst their golf buddies. With everyone running on different schedules, they may not be available at the same time for a game of golf or worse, they cancel at the last minute which leads to the problem of a shortage of players. As a result, many people are more open to the idea of playing with new people while expanding their social circle. According to Sports Marketing Surveys, 71% of golfers confirm they struggle to find friends to play a game of golf with and are willing to play with people whom they do not know personally. Deemples aims to address that with their app which allows golfers to connect with other golfers through the creation of their own game or by joining an existing game - a great way to make new friends anytime and anywhere.

Share with us your most emotional moments while playing golf. What are the aspects of the sports that made it memorable to you? 

I guess it’s different for every golfer. But for most golfers, it’s usually their first ball that flies super nicely, their first experience on the golf course, their first purchase of golf equipment, their first par, their first birdie, when they break 100, when they break 90, when they break 80, their first eagle, and the list goes on. For me, I enjoy the time spent with friends on the golf course, whether it’s old friends that I’ve known for a long time, or new friends who I’ve just met for the first time at the tee box. Every person has a different story, and I enjoy learning about all of them! 

What one word sums up the essence of Deemples? 

Inclusivity. Long has golf always been viewed as an exclusive sport. Whilst it’s not true (since a lot of golf courses in Malaysia allow golfers from all walks of life to play), a lot of non-golfers still view it that way. Most of the time because the only people they know playing the game are their parents, or their uncles or aunties that play at prestigious and private golf courses. Today only 3 golf courses in Malaysia require a member to sign you in: RSGC, KGNS, and Saujana. All other private golf courses welcome non-members. 

Globally, only 30% of golf courses are private, and these golf courses also allow non-members to play. The game will only grow if golf is more inclusive, encouraging more golfers to join in, meet and mingle with other golfers. Deemples strives to put inclusivity into the game, providing a platform that allows golfing communities to grow, expanding the reach of golfing activity to the masses. 

What is your view on the evolution of golf hobbyists in a pre- and post-pandemic world? 

Golf was on the decline globally before the pandemic. Then in 2019, Tiger Woods won the Masters and everyone was interested in golf again. Then the pandemic came and there were very few sports that were no-contact and played on a wide area like golf. Gyms were shut, pools were closed, work-out classes were cancelled. People couldn’t travel, couldn’t dine-out, couldn’t watch movies, and everyone was working at home, and didn’t have to go to the office. So everyone had lots of disposable money, and lots of time, and golf seemed to be a safe sport to play, so everyone got into it. 

Golf saw the largest growth in history in 2020, and the growth continued but slowed in 2021. In 2020, golf rounds globally grew 25%. Equipment sales, golf academies, golf apparel and accessories also saw tremendous growth in revenue. In 2022, as more people go back to the office, and international travel opens back up, we see the growth of golf hitting a plateau again. However, the 2 year pandemic really did golf a favor by bringing many new players into the game, who whilst will not play as much as during the pandemic, will still play sufficiently to keep the golf industry going. 

How do you think the increased popularity of playing golf will affect our social interactions? 

New friends will definitely be made, and some friends will be lost since they don’t share the same interest. It’s inevitable that communities shift with interest and hobbies. Golfing relationships tend to always be deeper than non-golf relationships since we spend so much time on the golf course for each game, as compared to a dinner/lunch with friends. Because golf is such a difficult game to master, the journey is a tough one which bonds people even closer together, not only during the game, but conversations and activities around equipment purchase, golfing events, skill improvement, golfing trips, and so on.

Today’s fast-paced digital world, with so many people on Instagram, TikTok or WhatsApp, has made it increasingly difficult to focus on moments that matter in life, such as playing golf with your friends. How do you think we can ensure that the sports remain relevant to the attention-sensitive young generation? 

I think golf has evolved a lot and embraced the digital lifestyle that you mentioned. The younger generation consumes golf content like never before. Content on golf is in abundance with creators creating more golfing content than ever, be it professional golf tour highlights; education pieces on skill, etiquette, rules; comedy pieces on golf, and even inspirational golf content. There is no need to steal time away from social media to focus on golf. It’s all integrated into our lives these days, consuming content in different forms and channels. 

How Deemples has helped golfers of all levels navigate through the world of golf

Deemples helps golfers find games easily, so they can join in, pay, chat with golfers even before showing up to the game. This has allowed golfers to meet more golfers, play more golf, and also manage their handicaps on Deemples handicap system. Before Deemples, golfers who wanted to play golf had to have a group of friends who were available to play when the golfer wanted to play, otherwise, he/she wouldn’t be able to play since most golf courses require golfers to have a partner to play. But with Deemples now, finding a buddy has never been easier with 30k registered golfers on the platform :) 

What does Deemples have in store for the future? 

Deemples goals are to continue its effort in making golf more digitally accessible to golfers. It is very unfortunate that the golf industry is one of the most digitally backward industries. 10 years ago, we were able to pay for an airline ticket online, book hotels online, or even pay for our movies. 6 years ago, we all were able to get strangers to pick us up and send us somewhere, get food for us, groceries for us, deliveries for us, go on dates with us, travel with us, etc. However, until today, a lot of golf courses still require golfers to pick up the phone to call in and make a reservation without payment required, as you would for a restaurant. This is where the opportunity lies to help digitize the golf industry, and play catch up to the already savvy consumer. 

At GC we believe that there are certain codes that are part of a Gentleman. What is the first rule for a Gentleman according to you? 

Integrity. Everything falls apart when you don’t do what you say you’re going to do. As simple as showing up on time and being accountable. Everything else doesn’t matter as much, if integrity is lost.