The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018 - 4
(TopGolf continues from page 2)
see what would happen. I had a running joke with Mike Woods
from Haggin Oaks about my LOFT problems (lack of f*&^O)
g talent) so he came over to watch. My friend Bruce Gerlander
from Disney was also a witness. I hadn't had a club in my hands
in 3 months, but I wasn't as bad as they expected. Here are a
couple of comments:
* Although I don't have a lot of "simulator" experience,
the Top Tracer was cool.
* The provided clubs, particularly the driver and 3 wood
were not even close to what is sold in the market.
* Scoring was unreliable at best.
* Restricted flight balls and the offered clubs made distances effectively meaningless.
* The yardages shown on Top Tracer reflected the ball and
If I had to summarize my TopGolf site visit, it was perfectly
acceptable as a fun way to spend an evening doing something
different. The food was OK, the beer was cold and the staff
was friendly. Having golf as a backdrop made it easier to get to
know a few of our clients better - pretty much like a charity or
company outing scramble at a real golf course.
However, for those hoping the NGF and their "research"
touting TopGolf 's positive current and future impact on golf
participation come true, here are a few reasons for caution:
* In 2016, TopGolf indicated 63% of their visitors were
golfers - in 2017, that number is 49%. Are existing golfers not coming back?
* Visitor numbers only went up 5% in 2017 despite the
opening of high profile locations in Las Vegas and Orlando.
* 29% of the golfers report playing more regular golf as a
result of TopGolf - what about the other 71%? If they
all stayed the same that would be great, but is that realistic?
In the end, the biggest problem for TopGolf is going to be
the restricted distances issues. Even non-golfers are aware that
300+ yard drives and 200 yard 7 irons are commonplace, at least
on the PGA Tour. The electronic scoring issues will also cause
problems in league development and long term customer loyalty.
While we may be skeptical about TopGolf 's ability to have
a major impact on golf participation, Toptracer and other "digital" simulator-based golf activity is another matter. We spent a
few quality minutes with Randall Henry of AboutGolf while
at the Show. I'm no expert on the differences between the various vendors, but recent improvements are making these machines more accurate and useful. Their potential for assisting in
practice and instruction are "virtually" limitless. Smart deployment and expanded availability of simulator-based practice and
swing evaluation programs hold far more promise for boosting
involvement than an alternative that has to restrict distances.
One thing I will say is that my exposure to Toptracer at
TopGolf has put me in search mode for a simulator near me.
(see TopGolf on page 5)
4 The Pellucid Perspective
(Virtual golf continues from page 2)
boatload of virtual golf simulators is only going to multiply the
number of off-course aficionados in the near term. Whether
that translates to more traditional golfers paying actual greens
fees, purchasing equipment, apparel and accessories in the pro
shop or patronizing 19th holes is yet to be determined.
Be that as it may, the success of TopGolf (37 facilities and
counting in the U.S.) has inevitably generated competitors. Not
surprisingly, given that Callaway was an early major investor in
TopGolf, arch rival TaylorMade teamed up with Fortress Investment Group affiliate Newcastle Investment Corp. to launch
a line of "eatertainment" facilities similar to TopGolf called
Drive Shack. Newcastle, formerly a REIT, has abandoned that
status and re-branded itself as Drive Shack, Inc., continuing to
operate the 77 golf courses in the American Golf Co. portfolio of owned and managed facilities. As of late '17, five Drive
Shack facilities had been announced as being on the drawing
board including, interestingly enough, two in the Orlando and
Phoenix area backyards of existing TopGolf venues. On a smaller scale, there is the singular Flying Tee venue in Tulsa, OK and
a recently launched facility called 4ORE! and manage by Troon
Golf in Lubbock, TX.
While the spread of TopGolf is inherently slower due to the
substantial ($20MM plus) construction expense and the difficulty in locating suitable locations, the good folks at TopGolf
corporate have come up with a much less expensive and time
consuming way to incorporate the basic tenets of TopGolf for
fun and profit. They purchased the Protracer technology familiar to PGA Tour TV viewers and incorporated it into a rangefriendly product called Toptracer or, more specifically, Toptracer
Range. The product had a coming out party as part of the TopGolf booth at the recent PGA Show, but it already has roughly
30 facilities around the world under contract, with likely many,
many more to come.
The company introduced a tablet-based model at the PGA
Show Demo Day, but that is not quite ready for market yet.
The currently available Toptracer Range features cameras either
rising from the ground or hanging in the air which provide
feedback to specific bays on a broad array of characteristics of
the golf shot - distance, launch angle, spin rate, speed, etc. The
system can also be programmed to allow users to play a variety
of games on it, similar to those played at TopGolf. Customers
pay an additional fee to use the Toptracer-equipped bays. Once
the tablet solution is ready for market, customers will check out
a tablet in the pro shop and then merely take it to their bay of
choice where, after one hits a couple of balls to calibrate it, the
tablet is ready to go and will provide all the features of the permanent installations.
Kendall Boyd, Senior Manager of Corporate Development
for the TopGolf Entertainment Group, said that while the
tablet pricing has not yet been determined, the currently available fixed screen solution typically costs operators a lease fee
of roughly $200 per bay, per month on a 20-bay install. Operators can set their own fees for use of the Toptracer bays. In a
survey of a number of established range operations, the company found that the Toptracer-equipped bays typically gener(see Virtual golf on page 5)
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - February 2018
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