Breaking Eighty: Looking Back at 2022 and What’s to Come in 2023
It’s kind of wild to me that I’ve been blogging here on Breaking Eighty for over a decade now, and I’ve never done any kind of annual review.
No updates about what’s going on, no yearly recap, nothing highlighting what’s going well and what isn’t.
Sure maybe that’s not the point of this site. Most of you just want to read my golf product reviews and course recaps.
But considering 2022 was objectively the best year Breaking Eighty has ever had, I feel like doing a bit of a recap and also a look forward is time well spent.
So if you have any interest in getting a peek behind the curtain of this site and business – keep reading, today’s post is for you.
What Went Well in 2022?
From a site growth and revenue standpoint 2022 was by quite a long shot, the best year Breaking Eighty has ever had.
There are a variety of things I think I could attribute this to, but in the end, I think it really comes down to two things:
Quality and trust.
While I get free products to review and often make affiliate revenue by recommending these products, I’ve never accepted a sponsored post. No brand gets to see my reviews before they go live, and I always try and be completely transparent about both the good and the bad about any given product.
I even devoted a whole series to why you shouldn’t buy many of the most popular products on the market.
Working this way for a decade now has earned me a solid reputation (I think…) and helped establish trust with you, the reader.
That can go away in a second, but when you pair trust with high-quality reviews, photos, and videos – that’s a recipe for success. And I believe that’s the crux of where the growth has come from.
But let’s look at specifics, what made 2022 the best business year yet?
Launch of our YouTube Channel
I’d always been hesitant to launch a golf YouTube channel.
It’s hard enough to use the products, play golf, and do written reviews.
But my hang-up was I thought that I always had to shoot my videos on the course in order to make them work.
Then I thought, well, what if I just shoot them in my office as I do for my other YouTube channel?
I’ll just talk about my thoughts on each product and see what happens.
To my surprise, the channel took off much faster than I expected.
In about 9 months we went from 300 subscribers to over 8k, and have received well over 100,000 views on our videos.
My posting fell off a bit towards the end of the year, which started to slow our growth, but I’m excited about expanding this more in 2023 and doing more travel and course-related videos.
Here’s the latest video that I just published today:
Tech Product Reviews: Launch Monitors, Rangefinders, Swing Sensors
While we review all sorts of golf products on Breaking Eighty, we really went all in on tech products this year.
It paid off.
Our “best golf rangefinders” post is the highest-traffic post on the site.
At a certain point when I’ve personally tested so many of the top products in a specific sector, each review becomes more valuable because of it. When I’m able to compare and contrast different competing products and highlight the pros and cons as they relate to each other – it makes it easier to help you choose the best products for your needs.
This goes back to the quality and trust hallmarks of the site I talked about above. And focusing on building trust and making my reviews in these niches as high quality as possible has paid off.
In the early days of Breaking Eighty, I did a full blog post about nearly every course I played.
Between writing and editing the posts, editing the photos, preparing to publish etc. – each one is quite time-consuming, so I haven’t done as many over the last few years.
But the ones I did this year have received a tremendous response.
One of the coolest facts related to this is that Oak Hill, Baltusrol, and Atlanta Athletic Club all shared my post with their entire memberships. To have such highly respected and historic clubs appreciate my work enough to share it with their members was really special for me.
Site Traffic, Mostly
Early in the year, there were some favorable Google algorithm changes that helped the site. Then add the fact we posted more content this year than any year in the previous 5, and it led to our best traffic weeks, months, and year ever.
It feels like there may have been some more recent changes over the last couple months, as well as some increased competition that might have had a minor negative effect. But between the holidays and hardly posting this past month, there are a lot of variables that could affect this.
Eighty Club Events
In 2020 we had 6 events planned at some truly world-class courses.
3 more in 2021.
All of them were canceled due to obvious reasons.
It’s taken some time to get the motivation to jump back into them, but we dipped our toes in the water this year with two killer Eighty Club events.
We had 16 of us stay in the cabins at Oak Hill for 3 nights.
A couple months later, 12 of us did our Breaking Boston event at Boston Golf Club and Old Sandwich.
To meet members in person again, and do so at some of the world’s best golf courses was truly a joy.
But for as well as they went, with only 2, there’s a lot of room to grow in 2023 and beyond.
Travel and Top 100 Progress
Between 2010 and 2019 there were only 5 calendar months where I didn’t get on an airplane.
Starting in March 2020, it would be 20 months without getting on a plane.
So to say I was ready for some golf adventures would be an understatement.
I have a 2-year-old, so scheduling is still tricky, but I’m happy with the relatively small, but high-quality number of new courses I played in 2022.
Those new courses were:
- Pacifico Course at Punta Mita
- Bahia Course at Punta Mita
- Baltusrol Golf Club (Lower)
- Glens Falls Country Club
- Oak Hill Country Club (East)
- Oak Hill Country Club (West)
- Monroe Country Club
- Kittansett Club
- Atlanta Athletic Club (Riverside)
- The Oconee Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee
- The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee
So depending on the list, that’s 4 new Top 100 courses. Which historically is a low number for me, but I was very excited to get back on the road and set the stage for an even busier 2023.
At this point “Top 100” is a pretty broad target, as I’m enjoying just playing as many new, high-quality golf courses as possible. If you’re checking lists, at my best I’m at 54/100 on the 2019 Golf.com USA list. I’m also at 44/100 on the current Golf.com Top 100 in the world list.
Not bad, but hopefully 2023 will put a dent in both of those!
What Didn’t Go So Well?
I could go on about other things that went well with the brand. Overall I feel really positive about the direction things are going, and I’m excited to get back to work after a bit of a holiday hiatus.
But what about the things that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped
Eighty Club Growth
The Eighty Club might be the most fulfilling and enjoyable thing I do. As I’ve learned over the years, it’s all about people more than anything else. That’s why it was so special to be able to finally tee it up with some of our members again this year.
But between COVID and becoming a dad, my effort in our golf society has definitely dipped over the last three years.
Having to cancel so many events definitely was a bummer. And with me not traveling as much as I typically would, planning more events felt like an uphill battle.
Some of our members have been in a similar situation as me. Less travel, expanding families etc. which has led to a membership plateau this past year. We still have a very healthy membership, but it hasn’t grown as much as it has in previous years.
This all comes back to me. I haven’t talked much about it, and more importantly, I haven’t been as active in our community continuing to provide new opportunities and new forms of value to the Club.
This thing started out as a fun side project, and I’m still amazed and proud of what it’s become. We have some of the most fun, knowledgeable, well-traveled, and generous members in the world.
But now, it should be a full-time job of it’s own, and in 2022 it didn’t get the full-time attention it deserves.
I’ve been working to make some changes across my businesses, to allow me to spend more time working specifically on the Club. I’ve also been looking to bring someone else on to help out. So I’m feeling really good about the direction it’s heading.
This is shaping up to be the first true “post-Covid” year, and with that I can’t wait to continue to grow the community and help more people play great golf courses with even better people – that’s what it’s all about.
Time Management and Systems
If you know me, you know I’ve never been the most organized person. I’ve been successful because I’ve put in a little bit of effort, nearly every day, for a decade+.
But each of my two businesses have multiple facets to them: they both have growing YouTube channels, they both have membership communities, they both have active blogs – and everything associated with all of those things.
So being mostly a one-man show, is starting to take its toll in the form of dropped balls and missed opportunities.
Bringing on a little bit of extra help is one big way to alleviate this, and as I mentioned, is something I’m open to.
But having better systems around everything I do is going to be important if I want to keep things growing this next year.
Over the first 5-7 years of Breaking Eighty, Instagram was one of the biggest drivers of growth.
I posted photos nearly every day, and stories continued to get a ton of engagement.
In 2022 I posted the least I ever have since starting the account in 2013.
There’s still plenty of opportunity there, but it’s completely shifted. Photos no longer matter, and stories aren’t what they once were either.
If you’re not posting consistently and doing videos/Reels, then you’ll struggle to do well on the platform.
I really enjoyed the handful of Reels I created. When traveling the conversations I had with people as a result of the Stories were also a ton of fun.
This year I’m planning to devote more time to Reels and sharing on a more consistent basis.
Actually Playing Golf
It’s a joke among my regular playing partners that golf is my job, yet I rarely play it…
There’s a lot of truth to that right now!
I used to average over 100 rounds a year, and in 2022 I probably had 35-40.
As the product review business has grown, I’ll spend more time at the range, or doing 12-hole loops specifically to test products than to play 18 holes with my friends to – gasp – golf for fun.
For most of the year my golf game was in shambles, but for the last 3-4 months things really started to come together and golf became fun again after I figured a few things out with my swing.
I’m looking forward to playing more golf both at home and on the road in 2023.
What’s Coming in 2023?
So that was 2022, but what can you expect in 2023? Fortunately, a lot 🙂
Content Updates and More Reviews
Our reviews have continued to get traction, so we’re doubling down and doing just as many if not more this next year. I’m planning to go more in-depth with some of the most popular products on the site, and create content beyond just review posts and videos – including more in-depth comparisons of similar products.
This will be similar to what we did with the R10 vs. Mevo+.
We’ve also got posts and content that haven’t been updated in years, so I’ll be doing a full site audit and updating posts that need it.
After the holidays and a bit of time off I’ve got a long list of products sitting next to me waiting on reviews. In the coming weeks you can expect reviews of:
- Payntr X 004 RS shoes
- DeWiz Swing Tracker
- TRUE Linkswear FS-01 shoes
- SkyTrak+ Launch Monitor
- Every Leupold Rangefinder
- Precision Pro Nx9 Update
Upcoming Course Reviews:
I’ve also got some course reviews and recaps I’m going to publish. Some that come to mind are:
- The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee
- Glens Falls Country Club
- Quaker Ridge Golf Club
- Estancia Club
- Bar Run Golf Course
- Tetherow Golf Club
- Boston Golf Club
- Old Sandwich
One of my biggest focuses this year is growing the Breaking Eighty email list.
For as much as the site has grown, the email list is still relatively small since I rarely promote it. But we get over 50% open rates, and extremely high click-through rates – so the people who are subscribed seem to love it.
But the plan for this year is to do something much bigger.
In the next month or two I’m going to launch something fun. It will be a series of giveaways. One sweet golf product a week, for a year.
We’re talking good stuff too: rangefinders, launch monitors, swing trackers etc.
All you have to do to enter is be on our email list. Then every Friday I’ll announce the winner from the previous week, along with what the giveaway is for the following week.
Sound interesting? Sign up here!
The responses to our YouTube channel have been super positive, so I’ll be doubling down on video this year. More reviews, and more course content as well.
I’m excited to do more on-location stuff, and really bring in a travel element that hasn’t been overwhelmingly present on the channel right now.
Speaking of travel, there’s some fun stuff planned for the year. A lot is still not set in stone, but right now here’s what we’re looking like:
- Late January: Bandon Dunes
- Early February: Mayakoba
- Rest of February: Australia
- Late March: Central Oregon
- Early May: Tetherow
- Summer: New York
- July: Alberta
- Late September: Ohio
- Mid-November: Bandon Dunes
I know there will be some other stuff in there as well, but right now that’s what we’re looking at.
The whole reason I’m able to do this is because of you. It means a lot that you read the site and trust me enough to take my recommendations and buy products based, in part, on my opinions.
I don’t take that lightly and will continue to provide the very best reviews and content I can in 2023 and beyond.
There’s certainly been some ups and downs, but overall, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so good about the site and where everything is heading.
Here’s to some wonderful golf in all of our futures, and to seeing what’s to come over the next 12 months!