The background to Topgolf
Topgolf started at Watford in 2000. In truth there were several years of development before this point, but in 2000 it burst onto the golfing scene and changed the way that people can play golf and choose to play golf for evermore. In essence it took a large good quality golf range with floodlights and turned it into a high technology game centre with many people using each bay. The technology, which took years to perfect, has brought so much enjoyment and entertainment to golfers and non-golfers over the years that it has revolutionised the sport.
Each Topgolf ball has a computerised chip at its core. This chip is registered to a user, who hits the ball from a bay and most of the balls will end up in targets of varying worth. This allows the golfer to score and play against his opponent(s), all sharing the same range bay, sharing the enjoyment, and doing so much more than just practising their golf swing. At all Topgolf venues food and drink are available in each bay. People can play for as long as they like and share the experience and cost with their friends. Critically, non-golfers and spectators can join in with the fun of the game, even if they don’t want to play to start with. Many of these spectators enjoy their visit so much that they start to ‘have a go’ and catch the golfing bug for evermore.
In the UK the sport of golf is played by about five percent of the population. Topgolf reaches out to the whole of the population, as it is not limited to anybody who already plays the sport. Fifty-one percent of Topgolf guests describe themselves as “non-golfers.” The activity is strongly themed with golf, you hold a club and hit a ball, but it is not hamstrung by the ridiculous rules, the crazy etiquette and complex techniques which must all be observed and learnt before you can get some real enjoyment from the traditional sport of golf.
Following a major buyout and restructuring, Topgolf grew rapidly from 2011 onwards and today there are three venues in the UK, 37 in the USA, in June another venue will open in Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia, which promises to be the first of numerous other high-profile locations arriving in Dubai, Canada and Mexico in the near future. Topgolf is a fast growing business and some of the venues in the USA have a huge capacity – Golf Features will cover many of these in the future.
The secret of the game is that most shots that are struck from the bays will score points. Even a hopeless player, a novice, a child, or a relatively disinterested family member, will probably be able to shunt the ball forward and have it scuttle across the synthetic grass outfield into one of the first targets. This will register as points on the screen to the side of the golfer and not surprisingly, people like scoring points. Better golfers will attempt the more difficult targets towards the back of the range, which offer higher points. Other better golfers may well score higher points and a very good golfer can score a lot more points, but there is a real chance that in attempting the higher rated targets, the golfer will miss all together and score nothing. This is a great leveller and one of the main reasons why there are so many non-golfers enjoying golf at Topgolf.
It is brilliant and it is made for sharing. In the UK alone last year approximately 1.2 million visits were made to the venues. As many as 78 percent of these golfers regarded themselves as novices and certainly not serious golfers. A 2017 survey of Topgolf guests by the National Golf Foundation revealed that 23 percent of new golfers started playing after their first Topgolf experience. Of those, three out of four say Topgolf influenced their decision to play. It is one of the few good news stories in the industry today and it’s getting better.
In 2016, Topgolf Entertainment Group, the overall holding company, which includes all of the operating companies, the international venues and the media interests, acquired World Golf Tour and Protracer. Protracer, which many of us will have seen describing the blue arching trajectories of the tour pros’ shots on the television, has now been renamed Toptracer.
Over the last two years the Topgolf team have managed to integrate and improve the Toptracer technology, which is now available to driving ranges through the Toptracer Range product. This means that an interactive golfing experience can be had by almost all golf range users. The social Topgolf experience can now be enjoyed by everyone.
Toptracer Range uses high technology cameras, which combined with ultra-sophisticated algorithms, can track every single golf ball struck from a driving range simultaneously. The technology is offered on a 36-month lease basis. The lease payment depends on the number of bays and configuration of the driving range and ranges from £130 - £200 per bay per month. This lease payment includes everything: installation, hardware, software, support and maintenance, and brand license fees.
The golfer can select the game he or she wishes to play with six great options:
1. Launch monitor
2. Nearest the pin.
3. Longest drive
4. The Points game - very similar to Topgolf
5. What’s in my bag?
6. Virtual Golf - The chance to play your choice of several championship courses in simulator style.
But the best part of all is you can see the ball flight, so it is so much better than the traditional (and quite dull) simulators of yesteryear.
All of these games are super easy to play on the robust, weatherised outdoor touchscreens. It is child’s play and not surprisingly children of all ages love playing the new games. Toptracer Range brings a new dimension to any golfer wanting to either practise the game, work on their clubs, play with a friends, indulge in other competitions, have long drive competitions, score against each other in a league with the points game, check how far they are hitting the ball in relation to their other clubs, or - play the fabulous Virtual Golf.
Toptracer is a step change for the golf industry. For years people have admired Topgolf and the way that it managed to turn the dull activity of the golf range into a fun based game centre with all the enjoyment and additional spending that that involved. Unfortunately, the cost of converting to a Topgolf venue was prohibitive and the rights to that owned by just one company. Now via Toptracer Range, any sound golf range can offer this to their clientele and reach a completely different audience and…. a younger audience, which is what the whole of the golfing world has been waiting for. I urge you to investigate Toptracer Range for your golf range as soon as possible.
For those golf ranges with the space, it is possible to use the technology and the different activity that it creates on the golfrange and add seating and possibly even food and drink to the mix on the golf range. This is bound to drive other revenues as well as just the income from the golf range. Many operators are allowing customers to book a bay as a means of recouping their investment in this new technology. It is also quite straightforward to justify an increase in the ball price given the sophistication of the technology and the enhanced experience it offers.
For any well run golf range looking to drive revenue via better service and a better customer experience, Toptracer Range must be considered.
For more details contact:
Paul Williams, PGA Advanced Professional
M: 07824 873830