Golf may be dying, but there’s no question that Topgolf is booming. Here’s what’s working about this business model, and why women especially will love it.
MY FRIEND KELLY and I had a sweltering August day to spend together in her hometown of Phoenix. With a baseball game on tap under the Chase Field roof that evening, we decided on an all-sports Friday that would start with golf.
No, not golf on a golf course. It was 115 degrees! We headed for Topgolf to see why it was the new figurative hotspot in the Valley of the Sun. And while we noticed a bachelor party and a corporate gig packing in the guys on the top floor, we could also see other women like us on the much cooler ground floor, having a good time with their friends and families. It didn’t take long to see why.
TOPGOLF CHARGES NOT BY THE ROUND OR BY THE PERSON, BUT BY THE SPACE
You rent a “bay” by the hour, and there’s room for as many as six players, depending on the size of the space. We spent a fun hour, but it could easily have been two hours, especially if we had a couple of friends with us. No five-hour round waiting impatiently behind laggards. The only wait at this Topgolf: Friday and Saturday nights when young party groups queue up. A big sports bar keeps them happy while they listen for their call.
WOMEN CAN WEAR CUTE CLOTHES AND NOT GET DIRTY OR SWEATY
Women can wear cute clothes and not get dirty or sweaty. Fans cooled us off, and some of the spaces actually have cushy couches.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BRING YOUR CLUBS TO TOPGOLF
But, you can. If you are seriously out to win, you might want to. But there was a nice selection of everything we wanted, with flexy women’s models as well as stiffer men’s clubs.
TOPGOLF IS ACTUALLY MANY DIFFERENT GAMES
The computer keeps track of everything. A tube spits out a ball (think bowling) and you put it on a spot and swing. The most basic game for beginners awards points every time a shot hits a target. Targets gets bigger farther away — the reverse of golf, where we start out trying to hit a wide fairway from the tee and ultimately want to get the ball into a tiny hole. Other games require a certain number of hits to selected targets, maybe in a certain order. Players decide on things like how many shots each one will take.
TOPGOLF MAKES IT EASY TO EAT AND DRINK
This particular Topgolf serves delicious food (something called Mushi, a meaty version of sushi, blew us away) and big, reasonably priced drinks. Again, think bowling: You get up and hit a few shots, then you sit down and sip and nosh and socialize.
Topgolf is a hit, though not a cheap golf stepchild: Our hour and a half cost more than $60 (including food and drink) on a Friday afternoon, and rates ($25-$45/hour) are higher in prime weekend evening times. Price-wise, it was more like bowling (the second part of our all-sports day, at happy hour) than golf. But, if we had hung out for three hours with maybe four friends, we could have maximized the value.
A nongolfer can come along and just try a few shots while enjoying the company. And that’s where Topgolf scores with women. This is social golf, where we’re not all walking off in different directions looking for golf balls, we’re playing together and talking to each other. On a league level, two-person and four-person teams can enter for weekly play. What a fun thing to do with the girlfriends!
KELLY THINKS GOLF IS BORING: TOPGOLF, SHE ENJOYED.
Topgolf has opened 24 locations (including three in the U.K.) and has 11 more already in the hopper, unfortunately not in the GottaGoGolf neighborhood. Check one out when you have the chance.