H Town Run Tourist Honorable Mentions
Speedgolf USA Founder: Scott Dawley
Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx
It is not often that I meet someone who, when telling me his story, had me at the edge of my seat. It was a story I knew all too well and I loved hearing it all over again. I'm talking about Speed Golf USA founder, Scott Dawley.
Let me back up to 2015. I had just decided to take the leap of converting my blog, I Hope I Come Back Alive to Houston Tourism Gym (I went through a few iterations). I had just become a tourist of Houston. One night, I was on the internet looking for a race. I stumbled upon this race called Links Run. You got to run a foot race on a golf course. I immediately signed up.
So, I did the race. I had the time of my life and I got some amazing pictures. At the end, they were serving hot dogs, chips and sodas. I was looking for my first project as I Hope I Come Back Alive Tourism Gym. I started looking for the person responsible for the race. His name was Scott. I went up to him and pitched my amazing idea. A pop-up restaurant and farmer's market called the Green at the Finish Line. He loved it and brought me on.
I had not seen him since the end of the project. Needless to say, I loved connecting with him again. I swear to God. It is like I'm talking to white, male me.
Courtesy of Scott Dawley
One of the main reasons why I say this is because Scott and I are prodigal children. We started out good, but given a little freedom, we went buck ass wild. But, like myself, he is resilient. And he is doing something truly amazing. Let's hear it from him.
Last week, I wrote an article on Speedgolf. For those who missed it, what is Speedgolf?
Speedgolf is the funner, more fitness oriented game of golf. It takes way less time and because you are in constant movement, you become a keener, sharper player. Players run or jog to each hole instead of using a cart. The score is the number of strokes and the running time combined. The lowest score wins.
If you talk to Scott, you can see how passionate he is about this sport. He is dedicated to disrupting the traditional game of golf.
Courtesy of Scott Dawley
You and I are both pioneers. You for Speedgolf and me for long distance walking tours in Houston. When you are one of a few people doing something new, you have to learn how to take a punch, insults, and the sting from your own mistakes. Who are you to think you can succeed at what most people will not even try? Wink, wink.
After leaving my job to become an entrepreneur, I learned to wear all the hats and solve many different problems. I brought that mindset into speedgolf and couldn't help but see a huge opportunity: commercialize the sport.
And I'm just too damn crazy to know any better.
What is it about Speedgolf that attracted you so much?
Well, I played golf my whole life, but I had never been a runner before June 2012. When I decided to leave my job and play professionally again, I was almost at 200lbs. I went Vegan, and pretty soon I had so much energy. One night, I could not sleep so my wife told me to get up and go for a run. I fell in love with running that night. A few months later, I saw a banner ad for Speedgolf and the idea was immediately attractive to me. After my first tournament in 2013, I was hooked. The community was so welcoming and passionate. The concept was new, fresh, and it felt like I was meant to find this sport and help it grow.
What does it take to organize the Speedgolf championships?
Like any other event, there are logistics, advertising, volunteers, and registration. Speedgolf is unique because each player needs their own volunteer to follow them around and attest to their score. In golf, competitors play in a group and keep each others score, so you don't need a scorekeeper for golf tournaments.
Also unique is arranging the tee sheet. Because half of the score is the running time, we try to avoid faster players passing through slower players. The fastest players have to tee off first, regardless of where they stand on the leaderboard. In golf, the leaders go last.
Of course, keeping score is unique because you're adding together strokes + time. A Speedgolf-specific technology platform had to be developed to enable live scoring and a viewable online leaderboard. We named it SpeedScore.
Courtesy of Scott Dawley
How hard is it to convince a golf course to let you play on their course?
Not hard at all. Speedgolfers tee off first before any other players so we don't get in the way. We also have to tee off the back. We usually tee off before the first tee time. Without Speedgolf, this is new money and revenue that the course would never see. Because we play 3 to 4 times faster, we can negotiate lower rates for playing Speedgolf. Usually $20 or less.
So, Scott, I love your resilience. You have described to me how you have had to start over. How so?
I went to the University of South Carolina. it was 5 states away from my parents and any authority figure. Well, I hit rock bottom in my sophomore year. I would stay up all night partying and then stumble to early morning golf team workouts totally drunk. I even missed workouts sometimes. Finally, I got kicked off the team. (I love his honesty.) I knew if I wanted things to change, I had to tell the one person in the world I didn't want to tell: my dad. I waited until the end of the year to tell him, after failing out of school for the 2nd year in a row. He didn't judge me. He loved me and asked me to come home to surround myself with family and a support system. He encouraged me to go to AA. I went sober before my 21st birthday and haven't drank since.
You seem like you have an amazing relationship with your father.
My dad has been a constant. A real Polly Anna. Never seen him get upset, down, depressed or negative. He's been to hell and back and yet he always focuses on the positive an the opportunities in front of him. He has been my biggest fan.
How has your dad supported you through the years?
I can't count the ways. He introduced me to the game when I was around 10. He's paid for lessons with renowned instructors like Butch Harmon. He financed all my equipment, my trips. I even had a sports psychologist. He supported me when I wanted to go pro and on my mini tours. He also pushed me out of the office and a job he knew I didn't love so I could make a living on Speedgolf. He has always believed in me especially now as a Speedgolfer and entrepreneur. Today, he is my business mentor.
When you meet Scott, it doesn't take long to see how confident and charismatic he is. Having a conversation with him is like lighting a match to a handful of firecrackers. Don't let it fool you though. He is as humble as they come.
After I came home, my focus was to stay around the game that I loved. If I could not play professionally, for the lack of funding, I could work at a golf course, give lessons, work on my game before and after work, and meet potential sponsors.
You have had some other really cool projects as well. Talk about LinksRun.
Links Run was my evangelical tool to get people onto the golf course. If you never played golf, you could run on the course and hit some balls before and after the race.
Kinda like me with my sneaky volunteer projects. Just ways to get people to think of running in a different way.
So, what about Altered Course? Explain what it was.
On the Golf Network, was a reality show called Altered Course. Two weeks in Jamaica filming with a close knit crew of 110 people. It was a series of challenges that golfers competed for on a golf course.
Think America Ninja Warriars for golfers.
That's right. I was hired as an expert consultant, helping to design and test the challenges, and to provide expert knowledge and insight to the viewers.
And you have a podcast? What is it called?
The Pace of CHANGE…is a podcast dedicated to the sport of Speedgolf and the players and people influencing its growth. It is hosted by Ben Taylor, Troy Levier, and myself.
Where, in Houston, can I play speedgolf?
Blackhorse in Cypress. Sweetwater in Sugarland and Woodlands Country Club are coming soon.
So, what's your running time?
I ran 18 holes at the USA Championships or 5 miles in the heat index of 105 degrees in 59 minutes and 57 seconds. I shot 73 + 74 = 147.
Not too shabby. Is there anything else that you want to say?
Anyone can play and enjoy Speedgolf. It isn't a sprint, it's exercise regardless of your fitness level. There are many reasons to play. Try Speedgolf in 2020.
To learn more about Speedgolf, visit SpeedGolfUSA or listen to Scott Dawley, founder of Speedgolf USA, on his podcast Pace of Change which can be downloaded from iTunes. Contact him directly at 832.524.9994 or by emailing email@example.com.