As golf travelers, we know that all of our time on any golf trip isn’t necessarily spent on the course. We look for options, whether it be food and drink or golf-related games, to pass the time until our name is once again called to the first tee. On Episode 134 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast, you’ll hear why Topgolf has quickly become the gold standard of after-hours possibilities, not only for avid golfers but for people of all ages looking for a good time and a connection to the game.
And for those of you questioning how much Topgolf will impact our game as the company continues to build out an ambitious new location schedule, consider this:
Saturday, March 9th. It’s 5 p.m. in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Golf Trip Experts’ Mitch Laurance heads to the 53rd worldwide Topgolf with plans of hitting balls in one of the sparkling new 72 hitting bays and then watching his beloved Duke Blue Devils match up against archrival North Carolina on the biggest bar TV screen he’s ever seen — a 36-by-27-foot jaw-dropper of modern technology capable of featuring any combination of 12 interior panels or one supersized screen — while savoring some great menu items and a couple of single malts.
A HIT FROM THE BEGINNING
A perfect afternoon, right? Not so fast for those who don’t arrive early. The newly asphalted parking lot is packed. The facility is 55,000 square feet of wall-to-wall people, from young families with babies to an elderly woman with a walker. A smiling Topgolf-shirted greeter asks if he’d like to hit some balls. “Of course” is Mitch’s reply. “Cool. There’s a two-and-a-half hour wait for a bay, but there’s plenty to do while you wait.”
Myrtle Beach had been excitedly waiting for Topgolf to open its doors since ground was broken in April 2018. Located a mile from the ocean and visible from the popular Broadway at the Beach entertainment and shopping venue, Topgolf dangled the promise of fun and target practice to all who drove by. Now that’s it’s officially open, and based on its immediate impact at the beginning of the spring golf season (two months shy of the family rush of summer visitors), it’s certain that Topgolf has found a golf-and-entertainment gold mine in the Seaside Golf Capital of the World.
“They know now that this is a whole area that they hadn’t even approached,” Laurance says. “But now that they see the success of the 72-bay (smaller) locations, they are going to go into a lot of smaller markets, which means people who don’t live in a big city are going to have access to Topgolf.”
BUILDING A TOPGOLF TEAM
A big part of the template for Topgolf’s worldwide success rests with its employees, and the leader of Myrtle Beach’s newly hired 350 member team is Director of Operations Jeff Kowalski, whose passion and excitement is clearly apparent in Episode 134 of “Talking GolfGetaways” — which was recorded the day before Topgolf’s official opening on the Grand Strand.
Kowalski first became aware of Topgolf while working in the restaurant business in the Dallas area, when he and his son grew so impatient with the increasing wait times for hitting bays at the Allen facility that he bought a family membership for quicker access. Enjoying their time together with every visit, Jeff decided he needed to work for the kind of company that gave his family so much pleasure. After working at various Texas Topgolf locations from 2014-2016, Jeff and his new wife (married in July 2018) moved to Myrtle Beach six months into Topgolf’s construction phase after falling in love with the lowcountry’s laid-back lifestyle and proximity to the ocean.
On the podcast, Kowalski explains how Topgolf’s core mission is to “create moments that matter” for guests, and how his team is empowered to make sure each guest has the kind of fun that will create a memorable experience with each visit. He also describes a key element of every Topgolf facility — the “chef-driven” menu, which is created at the home office in Texas, and cooked locally by chefs at each facility. You’ll hear about food items that are unlike any you’ll find at typical driving ranges: brisket grilled cheese sandwiches, off-the-charts nacho concoctions, huge Buffalo wings with a unique breading, and donut holes that are injectable with cream pie or chocolate filling.
Jeff, along with Marketing Director Mikayla Prioleau, who also joins the podcast, details the 72-bay Myrtle Beach Topgolf facility (smaller than the “normal” 102 bays and only the fourth 72-bay location in the chain) and explains how important this new Topgolf size will be for expansion plans into smaller cities. He shares the benefits of getting a Platinum membership, which allows golfers to “skip the wait” at any of the 53 Topgolf venues, talks about taking advantage of booking private events with a traveling group of golfers and offers insights into booking early reservations while on a trip.
EXPANDING THE WORLD OF GOLF
Topgolf started in the United Kingdom in 2000 with three facilities. Laurance was like many who were originally skeptical about the impact Topgolf could have on the game in United States — both for residents in Topgolf cities and for the traveling golfer — but after visiting three facilities (Las Vegas, Charlotte and now Myrtle Beach) and experiencing the fun and atmosphere at each, he’s become a Topgolf devotee. Instead of having putting contests in the hallways of hotels, golfers now have a place they can go at night or during inclement weather to hit balls, laugh, gamble against friends, eat, drink and certainly be merry.
And with plans to open new facilities in Greenville, South Carolina, in April 2019; Alexandria, Virginia (near the first U.S. Topgolf location), Louisville, Kentucky, and other U.S. cities on the horizon, as well as in Canada, Mexico, Australia and Dubai, it’s clear that Topgolf is here, there and everywhere … to stay.
Target practice, anyone?