It was interesting last week to see a story in the Wall Street Journal talking about how more golfers in 2022 played at driving ranges or facilities like Topgolf than played on a golf course.
The WSJ based its story on data from the National Golf Foundation and it was data that while it may have been a surprise initially, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
It kills me to admit that as I am someone that loves golf. I mean loves golf to the extent I would play at least twice a week for an entire year.
The feeling of being out on the course was a stress-relieving outlet – for me at least – that was simply a necessity for my life.
But as I have gotten older – and busier – the chance to play a round has diminished. The love of the game is still the same and when I do get out, the feelings are even more appreciated due to the lack of time to play golf.
While the desire to play never wanes the reality is, I have played twice since August 1.
I have been to Topgolf and loved it. It’s like playing golf in a video game. My initial story likened the experience at Topgolf to being a bowling center for golfers.
It does have something for everyone, golfers, and non-golfers alike. On the day I was there one stall had a pair of local club pros working on their games. On the other side was a group I doubt had ever walked a real golf course. The key – everyone was having a great time.
What plagues most golfers is the ability to clear time for a five-hour round. And if takes an hour’s drive to get to the course, you are in for at least a 7-hour day.
Throw in a beverage or two with buddies after the round and you could be staring at an 8-to-10-hour day. That might fly once a month or maybe once every two months, but in most cases that would be it.
But throw in 1-2 hours at Topgolf with the entire family or with friends where everyone takes part, and you have a winner.
Initially I thought something like Topgolf would result in a new wave of golfers turning to golf out on a course. Now, I don’t think that will be the result.
People who are introduced to golf via Topgolf and love it are hooked because of what Topgolf offers.
The people who make up business outings or heading to Topgolf with a group of friends are there for the total package. The food, drink, fellowship, and oh, swinging a golf club every so often.
Honestly, I see very few of those people transitioning to a real course. Think about it – if you have never played golf, then go to Topgolf and that spurs you on to watch to take it to the golf course, you are now dealing with the following: Getting golf clubs (not cheap), golf balls, golf shoes, golf clothes, and of course, carving the time out of the day play a round.
Of course, the driving range is out of the question as the sheer boredom for this group will be overwhelming.
I am asked constantly about what it takes to be good at golf. When I tell people, it’s all about pounding balls at the range, it’s as if I can see them thinking, that’s not for me.
A more realistic view of what Topgolf might do for the novice golfer, is it might bring their interest to televised golf events. It could be something that piques their interest on the weekend even if it’s for a short time.
One thing I think Topgolf has done for the golf industry is getting some courses to relax about their policies.
Remember when it was frowned upon when music was part of the game? Now it’s getting more regular and even finding its way to driving range/practice areas.
Policies relating to dress codes have also been relaxed and we are seeing a more casual approach to how people dress to play the game.
For some, these are annoyances, but they must realize that if the game of golf is to survive and even grow then we must bring the game to the masses and not the elite.
As for Topgolf, I think it’s wonderful. Even though it is experiencing a decline is say weekday rounds, that is because the newness is rubbing off, much the same as it does with any retail facility.
When something is new, it’s popular and it becomes the “go-to thing to do.” Eventually when the novelty wears off, it drops into the category of other family entertainment centers.
Moving forward there will be a niche for places such as Topgolf, and there will be a demand for real golf courses. I just hoped they are viewed as complimentary to each other, rather than competition.