Golfing, Gaming Join Forces For New Internet Business

So it’s cold, snowy, icy, the middle of winter. Even so, why not play a round of golf on your lunch break?
Yes, even this week.

Golfing diehards who just can’t wait until the summer, months don’t have to. LuckyGolfer Inc., a virtual gaming site based in Stamford, provides new virtual golf games that can actually be beneficial to golfers who want to improve their skills, said Rick Perrone, president and chief executive officer of LuckyGolfer.

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Perrone attended a PGA show in Orlando, Fla. He is confident the game/business will be a success for two reasons: The growing popularity of online gaming, and the fact that golfers give a lot of attention to their game.

“Golf is a very passionate sport,” Perrone, said. “People live it and eat it and drink it.”

LuckyGolfer introduced a series of games, including a Longest Drive Contest, which caters more to men; and a Closest to the Pin Contest, which women prefer. Each game can be played for between $5 and $50, with first-place cash payouts ranging from $500 to $5,000. LuckyGolfer guarantees cash to an average of one in every 20 players, he said.

Course Management

Perrone said the game begins to pay off for the company faster than most startup companies. The $5 million investment the game will cost to create and promote will start to turn into profits in 12 to 28 months, he said, not too bad for a startup company.

Of course, this is not your typical business. Demand to play the game does not mean an increase in inventory, for example. The expansion will not mean bigger storage facilities or offices.

The $5 million to get the game off the ground included $1 million each to create the game and the Website and another $2 million for marketing the product. Putting the game together required the advice of golf professionals and teaching pros who provided stances and other elements to make the game seem more realistic.

“We had a lot of discussions with the golf community and the sports community,” Perrone said.

He is hoping to work with such big names as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and the Golf Channel to promote the virtual game. It may not be the real thing, but the virtual form of golf requires some adjustments — the use of the proper club, learning how hard to hit the ball. A virtual golfer, like a real golfer, must learn “course management,” Perrone said. “Each hole you go to has a wind pattern. You have to hit the ball accordingly.”

Of course, the game is good for golfers and video game addicts alike. Perrone said that games are the most popular destination for those who click onto the Internet. LuckyGolfer’s virtual games are aimed at both an audience of millions of golfers in the United States who play video games, he said.

“We really draw from two markets,” he said.

Test the Greens

The games have already been played all over the world, including in Scotland and in Canada, Perrone said. “Blue chip” companies were used to put the game and site together, meaning it will continue to operate smoothly, he said. “The infrastructure is as solid as it gets.”

In addition to marketing to both golfers and gamers, the games are ideal for a wide range of individuals, Perrone said. While golf is traditionally a game played by suburban adults, it has been exposed to city children through many programs. Plus, people, of all ages and backgrounds use the Internet.

If a golf enthusiast or video game player just wants to give the games a shot, there is an opportunity to test the greens on the site for no charge. Also, practice time is available for a discounted rate. “It’s like going to the driving range,” Perrone said.

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