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Online Dating Magazine > Interviews > Gary Kelly

Online Daters - Ready to Date a Golfer?
An Interview of Gary Kelly

Interview conducted by James Houran, Ph.D in April 2006

When I was a kid, I both anticipated and dreaded spring time. My parents would always encourage me and my brother to try some new activity. “Encourage” here is a nice way of saying “signed me up.” So, I anticipated being able to get of the house and try something new, but I didn’t always have control over what that “something” was. Coming from a sports family, that typically meant something related to sports and physical fitness – bowling, basketball camp, “Punt, Pass & Kick,” soccer, and even scouting.

I guess I was 8 or 9 years old when I was enrolled in my first golf course (no pun intended!). For many weeks, my brother and I attended a class that taught us how to play golf. My brother took to it well, and at that time I wanted to be just like him so I stayed with it. Actually, we stayed with it for years. He always loved it, but frankly I was pretty awful at golf. But, I did like the scenery and non-competitive nature of the game!

I’m telling you about my childhood memories, because I still anticipate and dread spring time. Maybe you do too. Spring time is the period “when a young man’s fancy turns to love” as they say. Spring time is also a period that naturally conjures up images of hope, renewal, and rebirth. Those sentiments hold positive anticipation, but no venture comes without risk. Therein lies the dread – the apprehension of the unknown and the anxiety of unfulfilled dreams and wishes. I hear these sentiments a great deal from online daters. They’ve high hopes and great expectations as they post their profiles and make contact with others. Yet, their expectations are often unmet. Finding love and the right partner is a journey or a process – and one that some singles don’t enjoy. That’s unfortunate in my view. Meeting others and taking chances can be great fun and tremendous learning experiences. That’s what this month’s column is all about.

Now that it’s spring, I challenge all of you to take a new risk in online dating. You’ve tried the big, popular sites and perhaps one or two of the more serious-minded sites. Now, why not venture further and try casting your attention to one or two niche sites? “Location, location, location…” is a mantra for business and marketing and the same is true for online dating. The search for your ideal partner is much like a lottery, with the goal for you and that special someone to be at the same place at the same time. That’s the beauty of online dating – the power to see and be seen by millions of eligible prospects! You can effectively expand your “location, location, location” through a niche site.

I recently joked during a recent radio interview that all one needs to do is type in the type of niche site for which you’re looking and you’ll undoubtedly find it – go ahead and Google “short Republicans who love dogs” and there’ll likely be a niche dating site for this demographic! But jokes asides, I want to follow a theme I had last month and introduce you to an industry insider who’ll help us visit this concept of niche dating sites. Introducing Gary Kelly, the co-founder of Golf lends itself well to the feel of spring time, and it’s an uncommonly good example of why niche sites work so well for some people. To better understand this all, Gary kindly took the time to answer a few pointed questions I posed to him and his service and how it illustrates the power of niche dating.

As always, Online Dating Magazine brings you interviews like this for your education and awareness – they’re not necessarily specific endorsements of the services being discussed. But I can say this… I would have been considerably more motivated to attend the golf lessons my mom signed me up for had girls and dating be involved.

Dr. Jim: How many active members do you currently have and how do most newbies find out about you?

Gary Kelly: As a relatively new website, we are happy to report that we have almost 3000 members who have joined

It’s been an interesting challenge for us to acquire new members over the last 6 to 8 months and we’ve approached acquisitions in several different ways. Obviously, search engine optimization is extremely important and we continually tweak and monitor our keywords and rankings so we achieve a good location within the search results of Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

Because we’re operating within the specific niche of the golfing world, we have developed and continue to explore partnership opportunities with other golf related websites. We’re working closely on mutually beneficial relationships with and for example and we strongly believe that these relationships will not only help us to attract more interest, but will also lead to added value benefits for our members.

Finally, because golfers as a group tend to be quite dedicated to their sport, we’re fortunate to have many referrals from our current members. Nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising, and we strive to provide the best possible customer service so that if someone on our site meets another single golfer, they won’t hesitate to tell others about

Dr. Jim: Let me play ‘Devil's Advocate’ and ask whether niche sites like yours are too narrowly focused? I mean having a common interest is good, but is a relationship initially built on a single interest or passion too fragile?

Gary Kelly: This is a great question and one we tend to be asked a lot by non-golfers. I can’t disagree with your opinion, but we believe golf is a much different niche than say baseball as an example.

Within the United States alone there are almost 30 million golfers and the total number worldwide is over 60 million. While those numbers alone are impressive, more impressive to me is the type of people that golfers tend to be. They are very serious and dedicated to their game, tend to be more affluent than the general population, and share many other interests outside of the golf course including travel, fine dining, and other sports. Not to mention that the fastest growing segment of golfers right now are females in the 40 to 50 age group.

Another great thing about the golf niche is that you have an easy first date location. A round of golf represents one of the greatest ways to get to know a person that I know of. Most golf rounds last between 4 and 5 hours and are usually followed up with a quick drink at the 19th hole. If the date goes well, things move on. If the date doesn’t go well, you still spent the day doing something you loved.

Having a relationship built on a single interest can be very fragile but it stands to reason, golfers have a great deal in common with other golfers besides the game. Golf can be a great starting point for a conversation about other common interests, beliefs or hobbies. Golf may not be the best foundation for a relationship but it could be considered one of the best starting points for a relationship.

Dr. Jim: You describe your site as one that caters to those with a passion for golf. I have a question about the implications of this. It seems to be a stereotype that sports and similar activities tend to cause tension in relationships, such as a guy who wants to stay at home to watch the game with the guys instead of taking his lady out dancing. Do you find that members ' passion for golf takes precedence over other interests in their life -- including courting romance?

Gary Kelly: Based on our early feedback, we definitely have members who eat, sleep, and drink golf but they express their passion for the game in various ways. Some members are beginners and some are former golf pros but the key similarity seems to be the related interests that are consistently expressed in our member’s profiles. Golf and romance are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Sports and related activities can cause tension in some relationships and that is why we see the relevance of If you love golf or if you’re interested in learning to play the game, wouldn’t it be nice to have a partner that understands the game and the time commitment rather then have a partner that is constantly complaining about the amount of time you spend on the links.

Sure there will be guys that say the Saturday round on the links with the boys is sacred male bonding time but quite frankly, those guys are not our target market. We have all kinds of members, both male and female, who register on our site and say they are looking for a golf partner. These single golfers are the people who would be most interested in our site.

Dr. Jim: Finally, some niche sites like yours seem to lend themselves naturally to offline events. Marrying online dating with offline activities and events has been a lofty goal for many online dating services... and not always a successfully accomplished one. How does address this issue? And, does a platonic and "safe" activity like golfing increase turn out or actually reduce it?

Gary Kelly: We agree that promoting offline activities are an important factor, but we decided to focus all of our resources getting our online business in order first. Over the winter we’ve had more time to move towards our offline events and are pleased to announce we are organizing what we believe is the world’s first International Singles Golf Tournament in Myrtle Beach. This event will take place from September 27th until October 1st, 2006. We have worked hard to make this event a reality, and it was mainly conceived with the urging of our current members.

We’re also negotiating with several golf courses in the United States and Canada with the idea of setting up singles golf leagues so our members can meet as many other people as possible in a less intimidating environment.

I can’t officially say at this point if the activity of golfing will reduce turn out but I’m convinced it’ll increase turn out significantly for the following reasons. First, we know our members like to golf. Second, our members have been asking us for both local and travel events since the day we launched. Finally, we know that there are other singles leagues around the United States and Canada that are already doing this. We’re simply trying to do the same thing but on a larger scale.

Gary Kelly and his team have shown that all types of people use online dating and that there’s a niche that everyone can find that can improve their chances of finding their ideal partner. But on a deeper level, Gary also reaffirms what I’ve already said – the search for that partner should be enjoyable as well. The goal to finding love is not just connecting with one special person. It should be about connecting with another special person as well – yourself. Have fun in the process of searching and getting to know others. Niche sites can help you do this by expanding your “location, location, location” and also by helping you have “fun, fun, fun” while doing so.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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