Welcome to A Quick Nine. A weekly Q&A series that deconstructs the journey that golfers and entrepreneurs alike take on their road to success. Their achievements – as well as their trials and tribulations – serve to inspire us, and our goal is to pass that inspiration along to our readers.

This week, we have the pleasure of introducing you to Don Bostic of The Friars Golf Club.  We enjoyed learning about this unique concept, and we know you will too!

Matt:  Thanks for joining us, Don!  Before we get into the Friars Golf Club, why don’t you fill us in on your background?

Don:  Sounds good!  I grew up in a blue-collar household in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  Basketball and Tennis were my two passions as a kid.  My first job was working at the neighborhood Seafood Restaurant.  I worked there for 6 years doing just about every job in the building from busboy to bartender to manager.  I attended the University of North Florida in Jacksonville on an academic scholarship and majored in Business.

Matt:  That’s awesome.  So, basketball and tennis… when did you pick up golf?

Don:  My introduction to the game started as a skinny bespectacled kid.  My dad was an average hack who never broke 90, but he knew the pleasures of a $5 Nassau and a cold beer after a hot Florida round.  I have a distinct memory of my dad and uncle cutting down a set of clubs with a saw in our kitchen and slipping grips on the end to rig up my first set.  Master club fitters they were not and these primitive weapons were no doubt next to impossible to get airborne.

I took these crude instruments to a golf camp at Jacksonville Beach Golf Club in the Summer of 1989.  It was run by the now deceased Hugh McCracken – a man with incredible patience that was taken from this earth far too soon.  I won the par 3 contest that concluded the week, and I still proudly display the trophy in my office.  After all that, I officially got the golf bug. 

A fairly regular routine was established with Dad and I on Saturday mornings with a trip to the 9 hole executive course at Jacksonville University, which was always followed by a cheeseburger and a cherry coke at Cecil’s Bar and Grille in Arlington to cap it off.  My dad knew how to motivate.  These quick nine hole rounds evolved into me joining my dad and his buddies on Sundays, which, needless to say, required a different code of conduct and taught me the value of golf for its role in friendship and business relationships. 

Summers in high school were spent at junior golf tournaments and countless rounds at Jax Beach Golf Club.  I was never good enough to compete with the top players in the area, but I knew even then that golf was a game I’d play my entire life.  From a young age, I recognized how golf was a great connector of people.

Matt:  That’s great.  Nothing better than a round with your dad.  So, how did you get involved with the Friars Golf Club?

Don:  Sure – I met the owner of the club, Jeff Renzulli, at a Georgetown University event at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV about 8 years ago.  He became a friend and later a client as I booked Friars events at both TPC Sawgrass and at Pinehurst Resort in my role as a Sales Manager for both resorts.  He made me an offer to join the club as a way to network and entertain clients.  I was able to invite some of my top clients in DC and Chicago to golf outings at Olympia Fields and Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.  It was a great way for me to be able to show my clients my value and also introduce them to the Friars.

Matt:  Well, you just named a few courses on my bucket list… Let’s back up for a second.  Can you explain the concept of The Friars Golf Club?

Don:  Absolutely!  It’s a club without a golf course.  Our members find value in being a Friar for a number of reasons.  One, they no longer have to coordinate golf travel.  No more finding a destination, negotiating pricing, or wrangling up friends.  They trust us to do it and know that it will be done right.  The “no asshole” policy ensures that once on location, members can enjoy the company of their playing partners.  The second and most important aspect is the social component.  Our members and their spouses form relationships on our trips.  The trips tend to act as petri dishes for ideas for other trips which is a natural occurrence when you get a group together for 4 or 5 days at an inspiring location.  The question of the day becomes:  “Where do we want to go next?”

Matt:  That’s a revolutionary concept!  Do you see decentralized golf clubs becoming more mainstream as the game grows?

Don:  I think you are seeing growth in our space already.  Clubs like The Friars, The Eighty Club, Eden Club, Outpost Club and others are gaining in popularity as people like the idea of networking and traveling with fellow golf aficionados.  In addition to the trips, our club can help a member open doors to places like Oakmont, Merion, Olympia Fields, Concession, Chicago Golf and many others, which has a strong value that a local private club simply can’t match.

The model is not dissimilar to what Airbnb has done to the hotel industry or Uber to the cab industry.  We own nothing but can deliver much if not more value to our members than a traditional golf club.

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd, tree, sky and outdoor

Matt:  I can see that for sure.  So what kind of experience can a Friars Club member expect?

Don:  Our calendar is pretty full with all kinds of events ranging from 1-day events to events like our 2018 Club Championship at Sawgrass that will have 72 players and over 90 attendees including spouses.  The mainstays are our 4 Majors:  The Caribbean Masters at Casa de Campo, Spring Team Championship, Summer Solstice, and Club Championship.  The latter three events rotate around.  Domestically, we move around the country using both private clubs and top resorts.  Internationally, we have been to Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, England, Dominican Republic, Canada, Portugal and Spain in the last 4 years.  Next year, we will be in Paris, Germany, and Austria.

A Friar’s trip is about high-quality golf, but more importantly, it’s about connecting with your fellow members. Camaraderie and friendship come well before status or competition in our club.

Matt:  Wow, you’ve really been all over the place!  So what is your vision for the future of the Friars Golf Club?

Don:  We want to continue to grow domestically and internationally.  We have members in 35 states and 9 countries ranging in age from 17 to 85, all of differing abilities and net worth.  

I think we can play an important role in making the game more fun and accessible.  Our model works great for not only well-to-do professionals but also young people that want to see the top courses and meet new people.  The country club model doesn’t seem to speak to millennials, but I think The Friars definitely does.  We just have to let them know that the door is open and on the other side of that door is the amazing world of golf.

Matt:  That’s admirable, and you’re definitely on to something at Friars Golf Club.  Now we’re going to hit you with a few rapid fire questions.  Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

Don:  I try to find motivation from people all around me.  As a kid, I might have answered this question with the name of a great leader or my favorite sports heroes.  But now I see the value that my colleagues, peers, friends and business associates all bring to the table.  If you keep your eyes and ears open, you can learn from just about anyone.

Matt:  What a great answer.  Definitely a new one!  If you could play 18 with anyone, who would it be?

Don:  Easy answer would be some icon of the game like Palmer or Tiger.  But I would choose my Dad.  He’s still alive, but our last round together was over 15 years ago.  He’s given up the game due to health reasons.  He was never much of a player, but he knew enough to teach me, and it would be great to get out together one last time.  My dad had some swagger and loved Arnold Palmer… who doesn’t?  He was never very long, but had some talent with the wedge and was known for holing 8 footers backhanded with a stogey hanging from his lips!

Matt:  Nothing like a father-son round.  Thank you for joining us, Don.  We really appreciate you sharing your story and introducing us to The Friars Golf Club!

To learn more, check out The Friars Golf Club, or check them out on Twitter or Instagram @FriarsGolfClub.