Thursday, February 6, 2014

Forrrreeee!!! Sorry, my creativity went a little off course.

For many, a driving range is an obnoxiously boring place where old men waste money and time hitting small white golf balls into an empty grass field.  Even the idea of going onto a course for a round of golf strikes many people as a waste of time.  However, a few years ago, in my hometown and several other locations, a new type of golfing experience opened that has many excited about going to hit "small white golf balls."  This new experience is through the form of a new golf range called Top Golf.  Top Golf was originally created in the late 1990s by two twin brothers, Steve and Dave Jolliffe (Kaufmann).  Locations began solely in England but it quickly moved into several U.S. locations and is rapidly building.  So what is Top Golf? and how did  its creators think of such an idea?

Top Golf in its simplest form is a high-tech golfing range with a bar and restaurant attached.  In a more complex form, it is a way for serious and non-serious golfers to work on their golf skills, or to just have a good time with friends.  Rather than just the usual, hit a ball, watch it, and hit another approach of typical golf ranges, Top Golf turned range practice into a game.  They put radio-frequency identification microchips in the golf balls which allow players to get feedback about the distance and placement of each and every ball they hit, while also adding multiple targets out in the "grass field" (Kaufmann).  With this design players are capable of playing multiple games using the targets and the special golf balls.  Making a boring golf range into multiple fun and/or competitive games.

Two men practicing at a Top Golf location. (
The creators of Top Golf are two twin brothers, Steve and Dave Jollife along with World Golf Systems Group co-founder Geoff Emmerson.  The Jollife brothers invented the idea of the "I.D. ball" which is simply a golf ball with a micro-chip in it (Micro-chip).  This technology was originally used to help professionals keep better track of their progress while practicing.  However, a few years after the Jollife brothers developed the micro-chip they found themselves bored at their driving range.  The two brothers brainstormed ideas that might make their day at the range a little more interesting.  The brothers decided that there should be some type of range that allowed golfers to get their competitiveness flowing and still provide an outlet to improve their abilities (About TopGolf).  With the already established micro-ship golf balls, the twins thought about a game that would allow golfers be at the range, be competitive, and be entertained all at once.

Typical golf range style (
The brothers quickly developed multiple game types that those who came to the range would be able to play and enjoy.  They branched off from one game, hitting the ball as far as possible while still hitting a target, to multiple others. One involving a chipping contest, where the closest targets are used and the players must hit the center of the targets, another that tests approach shots using the middle targets, and finally accuracy from all ranges, except for putting (although some locations do have a miniature golf course, close enough right?).  The creativity behind the games themselves, besides their competitive addition to practice for skilled golfers, is the opportunity they provide for those who honestly care very little about golf.  The games are simple, you drop the ball through a sensor to register the ball, then it rolls on the mat like any other range, and then... you hit the ball, and that's that.  The ball is tracked with its micro-chip technology, if you hit a correct target you get a certain amount of points which depend on your closeness to the center of the target.  Each player has their own "account" or card which is linked to their bucket of golf balls.  This means whenever the next player wants to go, 1 ball at a time or 25 at a time, they can simply drop their ball through and the machine which registers that a new player has begun to play.

An example of how the screen looks with multiple TopGolf players (

In the end what really strikes me about TopGolf is its ability to make every level of golfer and non-golfer comfortable.  When I go to a golf range or course I often find myself uncomfortable when I encounter a very obvious serious, and often very wealthy group of golfers behind me or at the next mat over.  TopGolf has made the environment welcoming to any and every type of person.  Don't have golf clubs of your own? TopGolf supplies you with some.  Aren't accurate or can barely hit the ball?  There are targets everywhere, all with down-slopes going towards them so you're bound to hit something for points (ask my girlfriend who beat me last time we went).  Can't stand sitting and just hitting golf balls for any long period of time?  TopGolf has a bar and restaurant, along with waiters who are constantly walking around taking orders for food and drinks (because what can't food and a few drinks make a bit more fun?).  Along with the food and drinks, there is almost always something else going at at TopGolf.  Baggo games, karaoke, or as the author of one article writes "a makeshift stage for a hula-hoop contest" was available at the entrance to jump ahead in a waiting line (Kaufmann).  The Jollife brothers, with the help of World Golf Systems Group, have truly created an innovative location for all to enjoy.      

TopGolf has also been received well within the golf world.  Some golf clubs are beginning to partner with TopGolfs in their area for lessons, and outings. In return many of TopGolf's members are being recommended for their near by golf clubs, and many are beginning to join.  So this new form of a golf range is not just benefiting golfers, country clubs, new-golfers, or non-golfers, but is benefiting everyone by creating a new way to go out and have fun! 

Information found at the following links...

1 comment:

  1. TopGolf has been the best golf experience I have ever had in my life, and I am actually a person that enjoys a round of golf on an actual course. If you can get over the average two hour wait on a weekday summer night, I guarantee it will be a fun experience even if you have never golfed in your life. From the live music, DJs and electric social atmosphere it takes every aspect that people love about a local bar and steps it up by providing an inventive and addicting game. The games provided by TopGolf are amazing not only because they are entertaining but because they are a great equalizer of talent. I have gone with people who are collegiate golfers and with people that have never picked up a club before in their life and everyone has a shot to win, which makes the experience that much better. The last time I went to TopGolf I was speaking with one of the manager of the location in Wood Dale, IL and he said that there has been discussion of opening a second location across the street from their current location because of how well the public has received the new concept. TopGolf is a perfect example of how a creative modification to something like a driving range which has been around for decades can completely change the perception of a sport and provide enjoyment for all people of all ages and all skill levels.


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