Among the great things about golf is the fascinating folks I’ve encountered in my travels. Herb Rubenstein ranks near the top. A lawyer who represented students accused of honor code violations in college, Herb focused on business and entrepeneurship serving as counsel to start-ups and small businesses and taught at George Mason University and Colorado State. He’s co-authored the book “Breakthrough, Inc: High Growth Strategies for Entrepreneurial Oranizations,” published by Financial Times/Prentice Hall. He’s been the sole or lead author for three books. The one mentioned above plus, “Leadership for Lawyers” and “Leadership Development for Educators”. I could go on and on but want to focus on Herb’s golf-related activities.
After a successful career in law and business, Rubenstein, an avid golfer who captained the Washington & Lee University (VA) golf team became a PGA Golf Professional at age 68, passing the Player’s Ability Test (PAT) at age 65 – no small feat. To hear Herb say it, “I have always wanted to expand the game of golf to minorities, women, immigrants and youth.” By joining forces with the Brooklyn Golf Alliance in New York, he created the largest 100% scholarship based PGA Jr. Summer League in Brooklyn. During Covid, he was the only PGA pro authorized to conduct a full PGA Jr. Summer League virtually. This included shipping to 50 juniors SNAG plastic golf clubs and SNAG balls which are like small tennis balls and for six weeks had online classes where the junior and their families participated. Rubenstein serves on the diversity committee of the American Golf Coaches Association. As a result, he has been instrumental in promoting golf and the revitalization of golf facilities near campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s). He believes that the future of minorities in professional golf will come from HBCU’s.
Upon first getting to know Herb, I was intrigued by what motivated him to become a PGA Class A Professional at age 65. He answered; “I wanted to learn how to teach golf and eventually write a golf instruction book. I also wanted to become an investor in golf related businesses that use technology. I worked for Golf Pro Delivered (GPD) for my 18 month PGA work requirement and served as both a commissioned salesperson and general counsel. I am now a Vice-President of the company founded by Jeff Wibben, PGA. I also wanted to expand the game of golf and there is a great opportunity through the PGA to expand the game for women and minorities.” • Golf Pro Delivered is a new twist in the golf simulator business with the flexibility to rent, buy or have “portable”/inflatable facilities.
Rubenstein sees simulators playing a significant role in growth of golf participation. He says: “A golf course costs between five and fifty million dollars. A simulator can be purchased and set up for ten to seventy-five thousand dollars. Playing golf on a golf course is now a five or six hour activity. One can hit balls in a simulator for 30 minutes and see improvement. I have written an article based on an interview with Dan Rogers, the golf coach at Carnegie Mellon and he came up with forty-five advantages to learning the full swing and even shots as short as thirty yards in a simulator. A simulator cannot help much with putting and fine touch chipping and pitching, or bunker play, but for the time and money it takes it is a great investment in one’s home, school, community center, office building or for events.”
I first asked Herb about his target markets for GPD and he explained; “We received two patents in the mobile golf simulator market, providing one of the very first inflatable, easy to set up full golf simulator. We use a large variety of software including Foresight, Trackman, Unikor in our golf simulators. We have worked for the PGA Tour, KPMG, the Brooklyn Nets and many northeastern country clubs and event venues. Our target market for events is primarily the east coast, but we have done events in Las Vegas, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans and many other cities in the US. We also have an indoor, permanent golf simulator custom installation business and have done over 55 installs in houses, business locations, apartment buildings, recreational locations, country clubs and currently have a healthy backlog of over 20 installations on the books.” Most of GPD’s events are sponsored by companies for their employees, clients, tenants and for parties. They’ve helped “open” country clubs, been at county fairs, been hired by the PGA Tour to be at a neighborhood fair in Washington Heights in Manhattan to promote diversity in golf, and held events at resorts.
Rubenstein explains that there are three ways golf courses, clubs and pros can enhance revenues with GPD products. “Winter rental and purchase of a golf simulator can easily pay for themselves by charging members of people who want to use the simulator. Renting the unit with our own PGA golf instructors for special events, golf tournaments and off-site nonprofit fundraisers are ways that pros can enhance their revenue. The pro could purchase a simulator and since it is mobile take could it to places where they can give lessons.” There are also residential units that can be installed for between $20,000 and $30,000 or a mobile unit for less than $10,000. One needs an area 12′ in width, 15′ in length and with a minimum 10′ ceiling height. Many of GPD’s simulators are rented for special events, and in each case come with a minimum of 1 PGA Professional to provide 5-minute golf lessons to attendees. In 2019 (Pre-COVID) they provided over 20,000 such golf lessons, according to Rubenstein.
I was particularly interested in Herb’s efforts to grow golf and asked him about his enthusiastic interest in golf learning and instruction, especially to groups not traditionally exposed to the game. He answered: “The challenges to low income kids playing golf are well known and institutional as well as economic. In New York/Brooklyn, we had a nonprofit provide the kids, provide their transportation, provide a counselor for every six kids and we at the Brooklyn Golf Alliance provided the volunteers, the location, Marine Park Golf Course, the clubs and all necessary equipment. The PGA subsidized the program through the wonderful Dick’s Sporting Goods Store donation to the PGA.” When I asked how they get kids from the simulator to the golf course, Rubenstein suggested that this is best accomplished when the simulator is at the golf course and part of the warm up, practice or lesson routine. He notes that golf courses are rarely convenient to public transportation, expensive, and foreign to many minorities. They can often be perceived as unfriendly to beginners with little or no familiarity.
Lots of people talk about growing the game. Herb Rubenstein has devoted a unique skill set to actually doing it, and hasn’t forgotten about the groups often left behind in golf. A really interesting golfer.