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Musings on digital media, urbanization and politics from Seattle, Wash.

In praise of ‘No Laying Up,’ a digital media empire done right

October 16, 2020

Being into golf isn’t original. It’s been around forever. Old people love it. A lot of young people, too. In American culture, it borders on being ubiquitous—particularly given certain demographics.

So as I spent a chunk of this year getting back into a sport I played a lot when I was younger—a bunch of rounds with my brothers, a nice new driver, even an official GHIN handicap—I couldn’t really do the natural fallback people do these days when they’re newly passionate about something, trying to share it with others and saying stuff like “Have you tried this thing called golf? It’s amazing!”

About everyone’s tried it. Not everyone loves it.

But No Laying Up is a group of guys who do, and their content is made for those who feel the same.

Who they are, what they do

No Laying Up started as a group of four guys. I’m not going to do the whole backstory because others have done it better than I could. Like The Cincinnati Enquirer, for example.

But the gist is that three friends met in college at Ohio’s Miami University—Phil Landes, Todd Schuster and Chris Solomon. Schuster’s kid brother, Neil, joined the group later.

What started as a text thread mostly about golf became a Twitter account in early 2013. By New Years Day of 2014, Neil—the Google Account Exec turned Kramer of the bunch—built the crew a WordPress-powered blog.

And the rest is history. Loads of views and sponsorships and bags of money from there. That simple.

I kid, I kid.

This line from that Cincinnati Inquirer piece stands out.

“At any given time over the first year to 18 months somebody would get busy or burnt out,” said Neil. “And nobody’s reading any of this. It’s like 500 Twitter followers but we’re all reading it and we’re laughing and helping each other out. 

“I know I’m gonna spend two hours writing this weekly preview for the Valspar (Championship) and my brother, Randy and Soly are gonna read it and laugh so that’s kind of enough of a reason to do it.” 

It’s really the philosophy—the persistence—you have to have with this type of venture.

Early on in that first year, they started a podcast. Because that’s just what you do. Especially when they weren’t that many golf podcasts out there.

After a lot of hard work, what started as a venture to have some fun and maybe get some free rounds had the entire crew leaving their day jobs to pursue this full time. And not, like, bad jobs either. Well-paid grown-up jobs, that surely assisted in providing them with the business acumen to make this new effort a successful one.

And then came video – really, really good video

I’ll be honest, this the only medium of their content I’ve consumed all that much. And it is so good.

This a super relatable analogy but their shows are to golf with ski movies are to skiing—successfully capturing the vibe and getting you excited to partake in the activity they’re portraying.

And the quality, the quality is just outstanding. Here’s the trailer for the most recent season of a series they call Tourist Sauce.

Tourist Sauce features the whole gang traveling to various locales and, well, golfing. There’s a heavy amount of (low-stakes) gambling mixed in, with each player given a pool of money—like $100 in ones—that adds a light-hearted competitive element.

The most impressive part of it is how they’re able to do so much with, relatively, so little. D.J. Piehowski joined the crew, previously working with the PGA Tour, and leads the team’s video efforts—but it isn’t as if they’re traveling with a big squad of shooters and editors. A lot of times, it’s just him on the video side, and each ‘golfer’ chips in to shoot as well—with extra editing take place back home.

On the crew’s second-most popular series, Strapped, it’s even more barebones as only Piehowski accompanies Neil Schuster and Phil “Big Randy” Landes on a trip where the pair is tasked with spending only $500 total (travel included) on an appealing golf getaway.

And if I could capture the essence of Strapped, maybe all of No Laying Up, it’s this from an episode of Strapped: California I watched last night—

Upon hearing where Neil and Randy were playing, PGA Tour Pro (and fan of the program) Max Homa takes a red-eye home from Hawaii to join them on a couple courses he played as a kid.

Because he played this particular course all throughout high school, he did this with an eagle putt on a short par four:


It’s so good.

Why it’s good

If I were to leave anyone with one takeaway—specifically one takeaway from the straight from the crew—it’d be this, from Todd Schuster in that Cincinnati Enquirer piece:

“Our intent has never been to get views or clicks. We just want to put out quality content that we would watch and that we feel serves golf fans, and the other stuff will take care of itself.” 

Focus on the right stuff—and trust the process. They’ve done that and then some.

But, a few more quick bullets on why I believe they’re succeeding:

  • They have fun. Above all else, this is what they’re trying to do, and it comes across in everything. They’re hilarious, have entertaining personalities, and it shows. Hell, a lot of their post-round recaps are conducted as they have beers back at wherever they’re staying at.
  • Don’t undersell quality. On the video side—and maybe overall—they wouldn’t be as far as they are without the quality of their content. And not just in the substance of it, but the technical quality. It is extremely well-shot, well-edited and well-produced. And this is never a clear, formulaic measurement by content creators—like, you won’t get X more sponsors if your video is Y better-produced. Gotta just trust it and put in the work.
  • Make the most of what you have. This closely overlaps with the quality side of things, but they’re awesome at having everyone chip in—and using modern tech (the drone footage is unreal) to take things up a notch. Just because someone isn’t professionally-trained doesn’t mean they can’t hold a camera or conduct an interview. Also, if you put together good stuff, you can get it out there on mostly-free platforms—whether that’s WordPress or YouTube or a multitude of others.
  • Build community. I haven’t dived in on this front but it’s more than clear they’ve managed to develop raving fans and keep them engaged. For example the destination for a recent season of Strapped (Peoria, IL) was decided in a contest to see which destination could raise the most money for a good cause. At each and every destination, they’re talking to people about why that spot is so great and so unique.

•    •    •    •

There’s certainly so much stuff I’m missing. But if you’re a fan of golf, check ’em out. They’re a group I’ll be keeping an eye on as an example of a crew that’s doing it right in digital media.

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