There have been contrasting reactions to the emergence of Topgolf, but one thing is for sure, Topgolf has taken the traditional driving range to an entirely different level.
Some have likened it to a bowling center for golfers and it’s easy to draw the comparisons, but my favorite description is of a giant electronic dartboard.
“Topgolf is a mixture of food, music, sports and fun,” said Morgan Wallace, the Senior Communications Specialist for Topgolf. “The unique thing about Topgolf is that it’s entertainment for everyone; all ages, all skill levels, all year round. You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy your time at Topgolf.”
The first three Topgolf locations opened in the United Kingdom, starting with one is Watford in 2000, followed by one in Chigwell in 2004 and Surrey in 2005. The company came to the United States in 2005.
There are 30 locations in the United States and with several more scheduled to open in the future. There is only one in California – the one I visited in Roseville – but rumors put one in San Jose soon, as well as locations in the Southern California market. Topgolf does not comment on potential locations.
Wallace admits the growth is rapid.
“I am not sure what their projections were when we started, but we are growing very quickly,” said Wallace. “We are expected to open 7-10 locations a year for the next few years.”
The one in Roseville was stunning from the time I saw it from the freeway right through our experience.
The facilities are multi-level driving ranges, with the golfers trying to hit into one of 11 target greens. Each target is broken down into a dart-board type scoring system with points awarded for how close they get to the pin. Barely reach the green and the points are limited. Stick your shot and reap the benefits.
The balls all contain electronic chips and when they land within the targets located on the range, the score is transmitted back to the bay where the players are lounging.
There are a variety of games to be played, ranging from the basic, hit it anywhere type game to more specialized games demanding accuracy.
There are two televisions in each bay, one for keeping track of whatever game is being played and one for regular TV. Music is playing throughout the facility and it comes off as one big party involving hitting golf balls.
Some golf purists have demeaned Topgolf as a gimmick, but I take the opposite approach. It can be a valuable practice center for the serious golfer, but it also is a place that exposes the game to a new audience.
“We have something for everyone at Topgolf. We have great games and amenities for golfers and great amenities for non-golfers,” said Wallace. “There are many great membership options for those that are focusing on the games specifically. Our partnerships with PGA and LPGA are opening up many doors for us and we hope golfers and non-golfers alike will take part as well.”
The golf industry is certainly in need of any help it can get and finding a new way to bring people into the game is not a bad thing. The numbers are hard to argue with in terms of exposing people to golf.
According to Topgolf, 26,000 people a day visit one of their operations and of that number, 37 percent were non-golfers. On the day we were at Roseville, it was obvious that one group near us were not regular golfers, but they were having a great time.
Occasional golfers who play 1-7 rounds a year make up 28 percent of the users, with golfers who play 8-24 rounds annually making up 21 percent of the guests. Avid golfers who play more than 25 rounds a year account for 14 percent of Topgolf visitors.
The main age group is 18-34-year-olds, making up 53 percent of the users. The 35-44 demographic comprises 16 percent, with the 45-64 group making up 15 percent. The ages of 17-and-under makes up 14 percent.
If even a small percentage of the people that experience golf for the first time at a Topgolf transfer to playing the game at a course, it’s a win for the industry.
The rub for many of the purist is that it is more of a party than golf, thus taking any meaningful practice away. On the day of our visit we were situated right next to a local professional.
He uses the facility regularly and calls Topgolf “practice with a purpose.” Even the basic game allows for working on all types of shots and if you choose a more specialized option, the game and practice session intensifies.
The Roseville site opened in September of 2016 and has been going gangbusters since the beginning. We were there on an average Saturday morning and it was packed at 10 a.m.
What sets Topgolf apart from every driving range are the peripherals. In Roseville, the main level (level two) features a sports bar/restaurant and there are bars available on both the bottom and the third level.
The third (top level) features rooftop terraces with a fire pit. There is also a stage that is used for live or DJ music. On Friday and Saturday nights, the party rages.
There are private event spaces and meeting rooms, as well as free Wifi throughout. There are additional recreation areas (pool tables on the lower levels and a video game station on the top level.
It’s the type of place you can come to hit balls or just come to hangout without swinging a club.
The Roseville location is something to behold, but some of the other spots around the country go to a whole new level of entertainment.
Topgolf Las Vegas has 108 climate-controlled hitting bays, two swimming pools, VIP cabanas and a private suite, a concert venue that holds up to 900 guests and five unique bars.
Recently a press release was sent out announcing the plans for a Topgolf in Nashville that will also include a concert venue.
For more information or to check out everything Topgolf has going on visit http://www.topgolf.com.
By Dennis Miller