NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
Topgolf, which operates golf entertainment centers that target golfers and non-golfers alike, is one of the fastest-growing companies in the industry. They are the driving ranges of a new era, offering a unique combination of technology, fun and social interaction that brings together participants of all ages.
In addition to hitting bays similar to a classic driving range, Topgolf offers a full range of food and beverage options one would expect at a top-tier sports bar. There is also music, games (pool, foosball, shuffleboard and video games), hundreds of televisions, and – most notably – people hitting thousands of micro-chipped golf balls at targets to try to score points. Memberships, leagues, and lessons complement the “show up and play” experience.
Topgolf is helping boost both off-course golf participation and interest in on-course play. There were 21.2 million off-course golf participants in 2017, a 7% increase from the 19.8 million a year earlier who hit golf balls at places like Topgolf. Of those, there were 8.3 million off-course only participants in 2017.
The average visit to a Topgolf facility is two hours and length and consists of four people, with 53 percent of attendees between 18 and 34 years of age. Perhaps most significantly, almost 60 percent of customers are either non-golfers or play only a handful of rounds per year.
Topgolf was started by the Jolliffe brothers in the United Kingdom in 2000 and the company came to the U.S. in 2005. Callaway has been an investor in Topgolf since 2006.
In 2016, Topgolf divided into three divisions to better position itself for future expansion. Topgolf (the venues in the U.S. and U.K.), Topgolf International (the division focused on Topgolf’s international expansion) and Topgolf Media (the division focused on enhancing the Topgolf experience through advanced digital media, strategic partnerships and sponsorships).
While Topgolf was primarily focused on the entertainment aspect of its business to start, the company is now more cognizant of the impact it can have in exposing more people to the game of golf. It’s embracing that role, with the creation of Topgolf U and its golf development program, offering free play to junior golfers. Almost 60,000 lessons were given in 2016 at Topgolf facilities. Among those students, 90% were new to golf and 65% to 70% percent were women.
“Topgolf is always thinking of how we can help get clubs in the hands of new players, prepare them to transition to green grass and inspire them to enjoy golf in all of its forms,” said Erik Anderson, Topgolf’s co-chairman and CEO.
With the combination of a high-level sports bar, multi-level driving ranges and technology, Topgolf created its own category and, in turn, has helped reshape how golf participation is measured.
Having previously established a limiting definition of golf participation as on-course play at a green grass facility, NGF now tracks off-course engagement (including venues such as Topgolf) to get a more accurate measure of golf’s total consumer base.
Relatively unknown in the United States just a decade ago, Topgolf’s expansion and resonance are remarkable. And with each new facility adding roughly 500 jobs, the company’s progress is a significant industry boon.
A quick survey of the Topgolf locations (42 have opened in the U.S.) shows just how many opportunities for continued expansion there are, with penetration in the Northeast, West, and Northwest at a minimum at this point.