Is golf's emerging entertainment experience a winner?
Both Topgolf and Drive Shack are fun ventures, but to stay on top they both must evolve to offer golfers a solid reason to return after the initial thrill is gone. Great burgers and beer will only get you so far.
They need a technology that golfers can’t replicate at the range or practice venue where they pound balls at routinely. Having FightScope delivering analytics is a start, but even that kind of tech gets old for the golfer who really needs physical swing changes to get better. All swing tech’s provide analysis after you hit a shot and therein lies the problem.
Low handicappers and professionals can interpret launch angle and spin rate and affect change. Everyone else cannot. Topgolf and Drive Shack can’t have a swing coach in every bay and golfers won’t spend for a half hour of instruction. But what if the golfer had his swing profile stored in the Topgolf/Drive Shack computer in the hitting bay? And he could receive real time swing data during his swing and not after?
With the ability to know if your swing is correct — on plane and with a square face — during the backswing and downswing, the golfer can take a few practice swings pre-hit and then step up and hit meaningful shots.
I’ve played golf for over 50 years and my first taste of Topgolf in North Miami was for a networking event. It’s a good mix of golf and entertainment. It’s not really for the regular golfer as only about 5 percent of the crew I was with actually had ever held a club. It was fun watching newbies attempt to actually hit the ball with a little instruction. I really think it's about hanging out with your friends, having a beer or two and some tavern type food while trying to hit targets of different lengths. All in all it was a fun experience, but not for the regular golfer — except for every once in a while.
Coral Springs, Fla.
Would never spend a dime on Topgolf. It’s a blend of golf and booze and food. I hit golf balls every day on a driving range that is on the ground with real grass and turf — just like a real golf course. ’m not there to eat or drink. I’m there to maintain my golf skill level. I eat and drink at a restaurant at night. I have no interest in a facility that blends all three. Topgolf is a social experience for chops that can’t break 90 or a 100.
I have a mixed response to the Topgolf experience.I do not think it is useful or fun for most people who enjoy real golf on a golf course regularly.
I have generally been frustrated or bored by the experience, although I don’t want to give the impression I have not had any fun at all. If you are in a group of people with mixed skill levels, it certainly provides a platform where everyone can participate and enjoy the social aspect of a shared activity.
My bottom line is that this is not golf, it is something totally different. As such, it’s a great idea to bring in people who normally would never pick up a golf club, and maybe a very small percentage of them might become golfers someday.
David G. Leonard
Ormond Beach, Fla.
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See responses to the Oct. 29 question: Who were / are the best golf voices on TV?