Erik Anders Lang, golfing expeditionary, visionary, documentarian and social media star, is at home in Austin, Texas. This is fairly unusual for a man who spends his life criss-crossing the world covering the game in its many guises. Erik’s most recent trip was to Washington where he spoke about municipal golf at the National Links Trust Symposium. While in DC, he also organised a Random Golf Club meet-up at a course in the shadow of the National Monument. “It rained, it got dark,” he says. “We played. We had a great time.”
Random Golf Club is a phenomenon, a true global community of golfers that exists and thrives in numerous ways and on multiple platforms. The new collaboration between Random Golf Club and Sounder (launching 9am on Monday 14 November) is, explains Erik, a product of shared values. So, here's Erik Anders Lang, taking time out from planning his next trip — Panama to Antarctica for a fresh set of films in his brilliant ‘Adventures in Golf’ series, and talking about the first Sounder x RGC capsule collection, the next chapter in Random Golf Club's extraordinary story, and what ‘Play Well’ means to him.
Tell us about how the collaboration between Sounder and Random Golf Club came about.
Erik Anders Lang: I'd known Cathal for seven or eight years, from before he was thinking about doing something in golf. Then, one day on a golf course in Scotland, he told me about Sounder and that was the beginning of it. When we came to London, I saw the pieces and we came up with this idea to make a Random Golf Club uniform with the patches. The pieces have got a real scout vibe.
The Random Golf Club has become huge. How did it start and how has it got as big as it is?
Erik Anders Lang: Random Golf Club started kind of backwards, I guess. The original idea was to create a club, which is where we're at now. Next year we're going to launch membership, which will be really exciting. But really, all we did in the beginning was make videos. We sort of created a brand in a backwards format. We had a brand but we had no real offering. When we ask why would anyone start a company, I think for me, kind of internally, it's how can we leave a world good behind? And you know, the message that Random Golf Club wants to portray to the world is that golf is going to be enjoyed with friends. For me, it may be different than for you or anybody else, but I think depending on how you come into golf and where you start, it's not necessarily pictured that way. I think a lot of times golfers picture it as a game to conquer alone. Random Golf Club really seeks to undermine that and remind us that the game is something that you do while you're with friends and you’re in a beautiful environment. The goal of membership is to create more of those opportunities for our members and new members in the community at large. So it started with that idea.
The Random Golf Club community includes chapters all over the world. When you open up membership, how many members do you think you might have?
Erik Anders Lang: I feel like a conservative number is half a million, which traverses members that listen to the podcast, members that regularly watch the videos, members that come to events, members that come to our shop. I look at it that way. I hope to see that membership is something that is so damn exciting that we can't even contain it, right?
RGC sounds like it's on track to be comfortably the biggest golf club in the world. Your events involve crowds of people walking down the fairways and playing together. It appears to be a very communal experience and a fairly profound one for a lot of people.
Erik Anders Lang: It's certainly once in a lifetime. The way that the Random Golf Club plays golf is different. I've heard it described as a moving cocktail party with a subtle purpose. We all play together. And what happens when you do that from a psychological or sociological standpoint is that the stranger danger goes away. And because you're walking and not just standing at a cocktail party, your ball is essentially the randomiser, right? Wherever your ball goes is whomever you're standing near and end up talking to. It's a bit like when you dress a salad and you mix it all up. By the last hole, we're all equally dressed with this concept of togetherness. There are two really gratifying moments. One is more common and that's at the end when people take out their phones and start exchanging numbers. That's the point. The other most gratifying moment happened when I went to the Las Vegas chapter's one-year anniversary meet-up. I didn't make an announcement that I was going to be there, I just showed up. There's about 50 people there and three different people came up to me throughout the evening and said, "Hey, are you new here? How did you find out about this?" And that for me was when I knew I had created something that was actually bigger than me. That was profound. I look for that experience. That's what I want to get to.
How important is it to share values with the brands you collaborate with?
Erik Anders Lang: Shared values are really important when we're doing any type of collaboration. Cathal and James and everyone at Sounder, they all have the exact same opinion of the game, which is to play well. For me, play well is a reminder to ourselves as adults that we were once children and we played very well then. As adults, we don't often. I think we misdefine that phase. Play well is something that’s said on a tee box: “Play well”. I think it's up to us to change what that means for the next generation. That's absolutely a shared value between Sounder and RGC, for sure.