David Shultz, a veteran technologist, spent more than two decades as an electrical engineer and operations executive at General Electric. As an aviation electronics technician in the United States Navy, Shultz discovered a knack for problem solving on the avionics systems of A-6 and F/A-18 aircrafts. The seasoned technologist was also a key team member on the Boeing 787 development project while at General Electric. He has followed his passion for golf and began working to realize his vision for NextLinks and REALiTEE Golf, immersive golf experiences designed to make golf accessible to beginners as well as seasoned golfers.
THE SHULTZ STORY —
Like many of us still hard at work in today’s economy, I was hurt by the 2008 global economic collapse. After 20+ years of a very committed corporate career, I was left with the realization that it was going to take another ten years of work to recover. I found that thought unpalatable, to say the least. And so began a multi-year process of simplifying my life to prepare for something new, while dragging my family and especially my wife through an existence none of us saw coming. By early 2015 we had downsized from a 4,000 square foot house on 5 acres in rural New Hampshire to a small apartment in the city of Anaheim, California. I was ready for a change and just waiting for the trigger.
Playing golf at Spanish Bay with my son Ethan on his 21st birthday in Carmel, California, specifically, was the trigger. A sudden awareness that the emergence of Topgolf was going to have a catalytic impact on the golf industry, and that I wanted to be a part of it. “What was next” and is “anybody chasing it already?” was on my mind. Golf simulation was certain to be a component, but the short game sucks. Sorry, it’s true in a simulator. Why not integrate simulation play for the long-game with a true to life short game experience? That could be it. So I ran to the patent office to try to protect this idea.
That day was March 17, 2015. I have spent every day since learning the true meaning of grit, and preparing to launch growth into the golf industry on a scale few can imagine, although a lot of people are beginning to catch on.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
Living to fight another day.
What was the genesis for NextLinks?
An awareness that the emergence of Topgolf was significant to the golf industry at large, and that accelerated golf industry growth was within reach.
How long a time frame from prototype to final actual product?
After 3+ years of research & development and software development, we are now building a first of kind “new standard” which will disrupt the traditional golf simulation industry. We plan to debut our technology and a new fully immersive golf experience during 2019 Masters week. We also have a first of kind putting experience operating at Indian Wells Golf Resort in the Coachella Valley in California based in a large way on our technology and vision called “Shots in the Night.”
How does NextLinks differ from what is in the marketplace today?
There is nothing on the market today that resembles NextLinks — we are pioneering.
All of the major golf organizations — USGA, PGA of America, R&A, PGA TOUR, LPGA — are developing various programs to encourage new players to enter golf. This is especially so for Millennials, women and minorities. How does NextLinks plan to successfully bring such new players into the overall golf market?
We will work with these same organizations, as they begin to understand our capabilities, to integrate their training methodologies into our systems via custom software, technology, and media.
Do you envision a time when simulated golf supplants traditional golf in terms of total players and overall revenue?
I definitely do. There is latent demand for golf that far surpasses the current golf population. That said, they will feed each other like a bunny slope at a ski resort. Traditional golf will thrive, and off course participation will also thrive.
You are quoted in saying, “We start with attainable, fun skills that get people hooked.” Talk about the costs an individual will have to spend. Is the effort you’re doing simply going after those with the deepest of pockets?
Revenues in the “Experience Economy” are largely from special events, and many people will get to experience our offering while their employer or other sponsor pays the bill. That said, players should anticipate paying about $20 per hour of play per person. Nobody is complaining so far.
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally today — what would it be and why?
Nothing, our business was created to act as a conduit for growth and change, and partners will continue to emerge — we will all win together.
The biggest challenge facing NextLinks — short and long term?
Access to growth capital.
Best advice your ever received — what was it and who from?
From Author John Little, or Bruce Lee — indirectly — in his book The Warrior Within… “To change with change is the changeless state. You can’t drop a pebble into the same river twice!”
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