Detroit-born app keeps golfers on course

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

Huntington Woods — After a couple years practicing law, Jason Pearsall realized his true passion wasn’t in the legal world. It was on the golf course.

“Last year was the first year I felt comfortable enough in my job to start playing golf again,” he said. “I was getting up earlier to go golf before work and trying to get in nine holes after work.”

Growing up with a father who managed golf courses made him aware of the challenges in the golf industry. So he decided to start his own company and launch an app to meet those challenges.

The result is Golfler, a Detroit-born product that, despite being available to the public for a few short weeks, is winning accolades and awards.

There are plenty of golf apps on the market, but Golfler combines their functions, and is free.

Some of the features include a 3-D range finder, shot-plotting, a built-in communicator to chat with other golfers, maps of nearly 1,300 U.S. courses, weather forecasts and the ability to allow a golfer to order food and equipment deliveries. The delivery service has a fee that allows the company and the golf course make money.

Golfler has piloted the app at Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods for more than a month. Although adoption has been slow, those who have used it say it helps their game.

“My favorite feature is the GPS range finder, because finding the range is hard to do if you are eyeballing it,” said Livonia resident Joe Murray, who was golfing with friends at Rackham on a recent Friday. They ordered hot dogs and had them delivered on the course.

“You can always order when you get to the turn, but having them come out here with it is really convenient,” he said.

The app also is useful for the golf course, said Michael Rawlins, assistant golf pro at Rackham.

Because the app is able to keep track of how many users there are on a course, it can alert managers if there is a hold-up on the course, he said.

“We’ve had it here for the past month or so and the word of mouth has been positive,” said Rawlins.

On average, he said, 40 golfers use the app every day out of 300-400 rounds played.

“Once someone downloads it, they see how cool it is,” he said.

Pearsall, who is one of six co-founders for the app, quit his job as a lawyer in March to work on the company full time. It’s not his first foray into entrepreneurship. He successfully started and sold a high-end computer company back in the early 2000s.

“I saw all the startups forming in Detroit and how they’ve gotten a lot of traction nationally,” said Pearsall. “And I wanted to see if I could recreate the success I had before, or if it was just a fluke.”

Full swing

Golfler recieved the 2015 PGA Show Top Buyers Choice Award during a conference in Las Vegas last week. And this week, the team took second place out of 10 companies invited to pitch to Google as part of the tech giant’s Launchpad incubator program.

Although the app download is available to the public, Rackham is the only course in the country that is fully operational with all of the food and equipment delivery services. Pearsall said the company is in talks with courses in Arizona, California, Colorado and other states to roll out services there.

Pearsall says Michigan, and especially Detroit, was the best location to start the company.

“We wouldn’t have been able to start the business in most cities; we wouldn’t have this great space we have now,” he said. “It creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs to succeed where they can’t elsewhere.”

One of the signs of success is that Pearsall was actually able to hire his father, John, to join the company and bring in his expertise from his time managing the Muskegon Country Club and the Pine River Country Club in Alma.

“To me this was a no-brainer,” said John Pearsall. “It would be an easy sell to any golf course and I think it’s going to take off.

As for working for his son, Pearsall says, “he’s a great boss.”

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