The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 2

PLAYER
DEVELOPMENT

Is TopGolf going
to save us II?

Virtual golf
becoming a reality

W

D

By Stuart Lindsay

hen I was in Orlando for this year's PGA Show, I
went to an event at TopGolf. I was excited to finally
get the chance to actually see what makes TopGolf so
much fun. As I said in my article last September, we need to pay
attention to any activity that gets over 10 million visitors to put
a golf club in their hands.
In addition, the NGF published some survey results in
January that indicated TopGolf was having a positive effect on
boosting golf participation. They are also apparently suggesting that we need to start counting "digital" golfers in estimates
of golf participation and their assessments of the relative level
of "interest in the game." In the interest of transparency, the
NGF's survey was done in cooperation with TopGolf.
In trying to figure out how to frame my opinions, it dawned
on me that the best approach might be to follow my golf course
Site Visit process. I've used it for hundreds of courses over the
years. It starts with doing the basic prep on demographics, location and a bunch of other factors before I arrive. When I looked
at the TopGolf "Fact Sheet" on their website for last year's article, they were estimating 10.5 million visits in 2016 and that
63% of those visitors were already "golfers." The clientele skews
younger and the January NGF data says 54% are in the 18 - 34
year old age segment. TopGolf now states their visits as a "daily"
number (30,199) which indicates they now have over 11 Million visitors. I will revisit these numbers a little later.
On my way into a golf course, I pay attention to the parking
lot and other first impression areas. Since the Orlando TopGolf
is relatively new, there are no real problems there. The quality
of cars in the lot seemed pretty good - just not a lot of Buicks
or Cadillacs. In my usual nod to Bill Marriott, the bathrooms
were also clean. I should add that I didn't see anyone bringing
their own clubs.
Since we were there for a private party, I'm guessing our
check-in was not standard. The concierge leading us to our party area was friendly, even though she never asked our names or
checked an invitation list. Once in our area, we were promptly
greeted by two "hosts" who took a drink order and then came
back to get us started. They showed us how to dispense the balls
and explained how to set up the automated scoring. There was
a full rack of both men's and women's clubs for us to pick from.
One of our clients ( Jon Ladd, a PGA Member, thank goodness) and his fiancé graciously took Pellucid's Operations Manager under their wing. She's a complete beginner, but a couple
of quick pointers later she was able to register a few points. That
left me free to try some buffet food (Backyard BBQ option that
was decent) and mingle with a few other clients.
Then came the moment of truth for me to swing a club and
(see TopGolf on page 4)

2 The Pellucid PersPecTive

By Jim Dunlap

uring the past 15 years or so, the irksome gnat in the
room of lagging golf participation has grown to elephant-size proportions. Dozens of grow-the-game
stratagems and on-course revenue generation ploys like FootGolf, Disc Golf and others have failed to compensate for the
combination of players exiting the game and Millennials scorning it, resulting in a steady decline in first tee traffic industrywide. Now, courtesy of the National Golf Foundation, TopGolf
and its latest offering Toptracer, the magic bean necessary to
jack those numbers back up to turn of the century levels has
sprouted: simply change the definition of a "golfer."
An NGF survey commissioned last year by TopGolf of
1,542 TopGolf visitors from 30 locations, 49 percent golfers
and 51 percent non -golfers, produced some results that might
make golf course operators yearn for a TopGolf venue to pop
up in their neighborhood. Try these on: 75 percent of the nongolfers surveyed said they were interested in playing on a traditional course after visiting TopGolf; 29 percent of current golfers surveyed indicated that visiting TopGolf made them want
to play more traditional golf; and 23 percent of new golfers
(playing 3 years or less) said they started playing after visiting
TopGolf and three-fourths of those said that visiting TopGolf
influenced their decision to play.
During the recent PGA Show, World Golf Foundation
CEO Steve Mona made the case for including visitors to TopGolf (and its competitors), range-only customers and users
of various golf simulators among the total of "golfers," even if
they never paid a greens fee or a club membership. Do that and
voila!, the number of "golfers" leaps by nearly a third and climbs
past the magic 30 million mark. The golfer total then shows an
increase in 2016 instead of the roughly 1 million decline from
2015 that Pellucid tabulated for that year.
Now take those TopGolf numbers and the redefinition of
a "golfer" with a grain of salt if you will (and many of you are,
including some in these pages), but while it may be difficult to
project an accurate number of new or more frequent players
resulting from a visit to TopGolf or a similar facility, it is almost
without question that exposing new or infrequent players to
the experience of swinging a club has to be good for traditional
golf. On the other hand, the inclusion of date nighters from
TopGolf, simulator patrons and range-only individuals in the
"golfer" population may not help struggling course operators
much at all, if any, in replacing their essential but diminishing greens fee or golf membership revenue. That discussion
will rage on, but the arrival of several TopGolf competitors, the
TopGolf acquisition of ProTracer and its morph into Toptracer
for green grass and standalone range facilities, and an absolute
(see Virtual golf on page 4)
February 2018



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018

TOC
Is TopGolf going to save us II? Virtual golf becoming a reality
Can you spell API?
January golf weather impact: Brutal, Dude!
Chicago operators still need broad shoulders...and better marketing
Technically speaking, it’s show time
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - TOC
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - Is TopGolf going to save us II? Virtual golf becoming a reality
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 3
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 4
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 5
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - Can you spell API?
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 7
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 8
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 9
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - January golf weather impact: Brutal, Dude!
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 11
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 12
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - Chicago operators still need broad shoulders...and better marketing
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 14
The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - Technically speaking, it’s show time
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