Bruin makes golf simulator company fourth acquisition of year

By Adam Stern
Jon Rahm is among the endorsers of Full Swing’s simulators. With Bruin’s backing, the company plans to target other sports for its products.Bruin Sports (2)w

Bruin Capital is riding its recent acquisition wave right into another purchase, reaching an agreement for a controlling stake in the Full Swing golf simulator company that aims to become like a Peloton for golf.

 

California-based Full Swing is one of the main players in the golf simulator space, with a range of products and partnerships with the PGA Tour, The Golf Channel, Top Golf and Tiger Woods. Bruin is buying the controlling stake from North Castle Partners, which will remain a shareholder.

The sides declined to disclose financial terms, but a person familiar with the agreement valued the deal at $160 million. The deal will be announced this week.

The investment by Bruin is designed to grow Full Swing, according to executives involved, both by going deeper into the golf industry and by expanding its capabilities and products to other forms of sports and entertainment.

The management team of Full Swing — including CEO Ryan Dotters — will remain intact, which is a normal procedure of Bruin when it acquires companies, according to founder and CEO George Pyne.

Pyne’s investment firm has now acquired its third company in the past five months, joining the purchase of advertising technology company TGI Sport in March and the purchase of online odds comparison and data platform Oddschecker in July. The common thread throughout, Pyne said, is technology/software companies with growing businesses, direct-to-consumer products and strong management teams.

“No. 1, you can see where our investments are: we like technology and software platforms … and we believe Ryan and his team can unlock value through having access to more capital and Bruin’s global network,” said Pyne. “They’ve got a pretty special product where we can help develop the relationship with the consumer like a Peloton and add gamification, meaning one person can experience our golf product in one location and compete against someone in another location.”

The simulator company was founded in 1986 and sold its first product in 1991, a year in which it says it sold six of them. Full Swing says it is now the largest U.S.-based producer of multi-sport simulators and that its differentiator is its dual tracking technology, which uses high-speed cameras and infrared light waves to make the experience ultra realistic. One example Dotters cited was working to make the flight of the ball very realistic to meet the demands of PGA Tour pros who they wanted to align with.

Full Swing sells indoor simulators meant for houses, and this year it’s also debuting a new monitor that golfers can take with them to real-life golf courses to get analytics on their shots. Its flagship simulator, the Pro Series, starts at around $55,000, while its Sport Series starts closer to $40,000 and its Virtual Green is around $71,000, according to the company’s website.

Moreover, its simulators are in Topgolf Swing Suites throughout the country via a long-term deal.

Pyne said other appealing elements were that Full Swing’s proprietary technology can be taken and applied to other sports, and there is room for international expansion at a time when golf is growing. Recreational participation in the sport saw large jumps during the worst days of the pandemic because its socially-distanced nature made it one of the few sports options for consumers.


Bruin's Bonanza

Other recent deals by Bruin Capital

July 2021: Makes its first move into sports betting, acquiring odds comparison and referral site Oddschecker Global Media from U.K.-based gambling company Flutter
Entertainment in a deal valued at nearly $220 million.

March 2021: Becomes co-owner of sports technology, media and marketing company TGI Sport through a $100 million investment.

January 2021: Bruin’s data and marketing agency Two Circles acquires Sports Ink Ltd. to bolster its ticket and hospitality marketing capabilities.

November 2020: Two Circles acquires U.K. agency TRM Partners in a deal valued by industry sources at $40 million to $50 million.

“When you sum it all up – the technology and software, golf is a booming business, it’s a platform that can be further enhanced with exciting extensions, gamification and other sports — it just seemed to make a whole lot of sense,” Pyne added.

Full Swing has about 160 employees, adding 30 this year alone on the software side, and is set to make more hires in the coming months, according to Dotters. Other endorsers of the company include golfers Jason Day, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth, as well as the NBA’s Stephen Curry, a noted golfer in his own right. Full Swing will remain based in the golf hotbed of Carlsbad, where other companies in the golf industry, including Callaway, are also headquartered.

Other companies that make golf simulators include Foresight Sports and TrackMan Golf Simulators.

Baseball, soccer, hockey and lacrosse are among the possible sports that Full Swing could expand into. One big upcoming initiative is to strike deals with the top leagues and governing bodies of the other sports that the company is targeting for expansion.

Bruin began talks with Full Swing in January when the company initially sought minority partners. Are more deals coming soon for Bruin? The company remains active in talks with other prospective acquisition targets, and more deals this year are possible.

“Change of media is coming, and there will be opportunities around those changes led by technology, software and direct-to-consumer marketing,” Pyne said. “If you look at all our investments, they reflect that thesis. Full Swing is no different.”

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