The rise and rise of Topgolf

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu February 22, 2018 22:58 Updated

The facility where golfers play competitive games at driving range-like venues while being able to order high-quality food and beverage is now using technology to make analysis of golfers’ shots more fun and more precise

Less than 20 years ago twin brothers, Steve and Dave Jolliffe, were practicing at a London driving range, but found the experience both boring and one that wasn’t really improving their golf swings.

Topgolf was therefore created, in which microchips were inserted into balls and giant targets appeared for players to aim at. The ‘ranges’ were in fact centres that included pool tables, consoles and HD televisions for consumers to follow their scores, and food and drink was served as they played. Every location then had an executive chef with prior culinary training, and food and beverage now comprises roughly 50 per cent of all company revenue. The Jolliffe brothers’ vision has manifested itself as three fun and competitive entertainment venues in the UK and 37 more in the US, with further global expansion imminent. Topgolf introduces golf to new audiences – 37 per cent of the 13 million guests it entertains annually are non-golfers – while capturing the attention of casual and avid players.

In 2016, Topgolf acquired Toptracer (formerly Protracer), the cutting-edge technology used during PGA Tour television broadcasts to track ball flight through on-screen graphics displaying shot shape, speed, distance and trajectory. Toptracer has become an integral part of the viewing experience for golf fans worldwide.

In fact, Topgolf is now using this technology – with a fun spin – to breathe new life into traditional driving ranges through Toptracer Range.

Toptracer Range brings the TV experience to the driving range, making it accessible for all golfers. Whether practicing or playing games such as ‘Longest Drive’ or ‘Closest to the Pin’, guests can now track and analyse every shot on an in-bay screen for a more dynamic and rewarding experience.

“Toptracer adds a video game-like component to real life golf experiences, which keeps players and fans more engaged,” said Andrew Macaulay, Topgolf chief technology officer.

Fun for golfers and non-golfers alike, Toptracer Range enables facilities to reach new audiences thereby growing the game. With Toptracer Range, guests are more likely to bring friends and family, stay longer and – as an added benefit to facilities – consume more food and beverages. Featuring a recently revamped user interface, in-bay screens allow for intuitive touchscreen navigation.

Toptracer Range was first introduced at several trial sites across Europe and the US to determine the impact this new technology might have on revenue. Each location installed the system in up to 10 bays and collected data on month-over-month performance. The results were outstanding: on average, the Toptracer Range-enhanced bays nearly doubled revenue compared to conventional bays, per month.

Toptracer’s innovative camera-based ball-tracking system was on display and available for testing at Orange County National Golf Center during the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day event in Florida last month. Guests enjoyed experiencing Toptracer Range, which transforms stale practice ranges into state-of-the-art entertainment destinations by injecting a healthy dose of tech, fun and competition.

“Golf isn’t boring anymore,” said one young male millennial. “The points games are fun; I enjoyed beating my friends.”

The fun skills challenges and competitions attract both avid and novice players. Games include ‘Closest to the Pin’, ‘Longest Drive’ and ‘Virtual Golf’ on world-renowned courses. The latter offers a convenience factor for beginners who now have the opportunity to play nine or 18 holes in a low-pressure situation. New courses are constantly being added, with the two most recent being The Castle Course at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club and The International Course at London Golf Club.

“We are seeing a new phenomenon where players are waiting in line to get to the Toptracer bays,” said Grant Wright, CEO of World of Golf UK.

Topgolf recently unveiled the Toptracer Range mobile app where guests can see how their scores compare with users around the world, allowing them to compete globally from their home range. The Toptracer Range app – available on both iOS and Android devices – also allows users to find nearby Toptracer-enabled driving ranges and store their shot history by club using the ‘What’s In My Bag?’ feature.

Toptracer Range’s trackable data provides deep insights, giving golfers the tools and feedback needed to improve on-course performance. In addition to shot shape, the ‘Launch Monitor’ training mode offers data such as distance (carry and total), ball speed, launch angle, height, landing angle and distance to target.

“The feedback and ball flight statistics help a lot with practicing smarter,” said a four-handicap American golfer. “I can track my progress now.”

All modes support ‘Ball Compensation’, which accounts for limited-flight range balls to provide golfers with launch monitor statistics that more accurately reflect what they can expect to see on the course.

With no upfront charges and complimentary hardware installation, this turnkey solution helps conventional ranges across the world. The Toptracer Range installation includes cameras and in-bay touchscreens and is typically completed within two to four days.

Topgolf is providing a cost-effective setup which works with a range’s existing targets while the in-bay screens create a more social and entertaining experience. The team works to tailor solutions based on a facility’s resources and available space. Operators pay a monthly licence fee per bay and revenue sharing is offered.

Topgolf has again proven its commitment to grow the game by taking the traditional driving range experience to the next level.


Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu February 22, 2018 22:58 Updated
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1 Comment

  1. Abbie February 23, 12:20

    Great to see the Topgolf experience being taken into other clubs and standalone ranges

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