Dan Hershberg’s lifestyle is about as busy as it gets.
The entrepreneur and South Philly resident has started multiple thriving businesses while helping raise a couple of young daughters at home. He knows first-hand how tough it can be for busy dads to sneak in 18 holes of golf, let alone play competitively in a league.
“I know with my schedule, I have two young kids at home and weekend golf just really isn’t an option,” Hershberg said.
So, Hershberg teamed up with his Cornell University buddy Andrew Cleghorn to start Amateur Golf Society, which gives golfers of all levels the flexibility to compete in golf tournaments in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey on their own time. The Amateur Golf Society 2023 Tour, which is in the early stages of its season, is in partnership with the Golf Association of Philadelphia.
Hershberg said the idea surfaced during the pandemic when he was trying to find new outlets to distribute his beer company, Workhorse Brewing. He thought golf might be the perfect solution since more people were getting out on the course while still being able to social distance.
“I was running the brewery, and with most businesses with the pandemic hitting, we lost the ability to bring people into our tavern and event space, so we had to strategically pivot to keep the business alive,” he said. “We were lucky that we had a good distribution network and we were able to sell a lot of beer to grocery stores, but we tried to think of other ways to connect with our customers in a pandemic-proof manner, no matter how long it lasted, and we immediately thought about golf. People are playing in record numbers and they sometimes enjoy a beer during and after a round of golf.”
But instead of just sponsoring an event or two, Hershberg and Cleghorn, who is the former senior director of NBC Sports, decided to take a mightier swing by creating their own tour.
Memberships cost $75 a year and give golfers a variety of perks and the opportunity to win some pretty big weekly and season-long prizes.
The tour is set up to allow golfers to play in weekly events on their own schedule, meaning they have a seven-day period to play their round. Scores are posted on a leaderboard in real-time scoring on the AGS app, and each golfer’s score earns points toward weekly and seasonal prizes.
Competition is broken down into four tiers of men’s skill levels, while there is also a women’s and a seniors division. The tour started in late April but newcomers are welcome to join at any time. There are multiple events each week so you pick the one that is best suitable. There’s no minimum commitment.
“It’s not a matter of how many events you play, it’s how well you play,” Hershberg said. “So there’s still more than enough time to earn points for weekly and season-long prizes.”
And those prizes are some pretty sweet deals, ranging from weekly gift cards and equipment from places like Golf Galaxy to end-of-the-year prizes like trips to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. And any player from any division can win.
But don’t even think about cheating.
“When we first started, that was the single-biggest solve for us,” Hershberg said. “We are partnered with the Golf Association of Philadelphia so we have very detailed access to handicap-management tools. After every round, we post the scores, which are publicly visible to our members. We post all net scores better than even par and we do a running chart to see how that compares to their handicap over time. We can easily flag things. Like if you post a bunch of rounds that are better than par but your index remains stagnant because you are posting higher scores off the tour, we’ll flag it.”
Hershberg said they rely on the other 600 members to help police discrepancies, but the tour puts in exhausting efforts to maintain the integrity of the game.
“We also have round verification,” he said. “You are welcome to play by yourself but if you post a score that won an event and you weren’t able to have it verified, we wouldn’t let that score count.
“We have a pretty detailed and rigorous system in place and I think at the end of the day, I’m sure there are people that have picked up a two- or three-foot putt and that might slip by us on a once-a-season type thing. But as that aggregates over time, the handicap systems’ designed to catch things and flag scores that don’t jive with data. And we spend a lot of time educating our members. We have rules and regulations posted and we do regular town halls and send out emails to explain policies.”
And even if you aren’t totally serious about the competition aspect of it, the AGS tour gives common golfers the opportunity to play some great courses. The tour takes place at some of the most prestigious courses throughout the area and members are able to book tee times that normally wouldn’t be available to them. Since the pandemic, golf courses have experienced a significant boom in participation as tee times fill up quickly.
And if your normal golf buddies can’t play on your schedule, you might even meet a new friend on the tour.
“If I can sneak away on a Tuesday or Wednesday, it can be hard to find people to play with,” Hershberg said. “Our community has a wide mix of people with different availability. It really helps you grow your golf community and helps you meet new people .”
The AGS Tour is running a Father’s Day promotion for $10 off a season membership. Everyone who signs up with the Fathers10 promo code is entered to win a full-bag fitting and gift certificates to Golf Galaxy. For more information, visit amateurgolfsociety.com.