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February 2018

Topgolf Partners with Course Owners

topgolfpartnerswithcourseowners.jpg‭They’ve been seen as a model to be emulated, but also as a competitor. Topgolf’s success has been nothing short of extraordinary. On a typical Saturday night, the line to get a hitting bay at any Topgolf facility can stretch outside the door. As late as 10 p.m., cars circle parking lots as customers try get inside. In the last decade, nothing in our game has come close in terms of profitability, creativity and market expansion.

However, most operators view Topgolf with a wary eye. They believe that every dollar the company earns is one less dollar available to a green-grass owner.

That’s no longer the case. Just over a year-and-a-half ago, Topgolf bought ProTracer, the technology used by broadcast networks to track professionals’ shots in real time. Now, the company has rebranded the technology TopTracer and introduced it to driving ranges throughout the world.

“TopTracer Range, which is an extension of the broadcast product (that you see on network telecasts), is geared toward the regular golfer who goes to the driving range but who wants something more out of that experience,” explains Ani Mehta, the vice president of corporate development for Topgolf and the man responsible for bridging the gap between his company and local courses. “Whether it’s someone saying, ‘I want to track my golf shots and store my progress over time,’ or someone saying, ‘I just want to have some fun, play some games, maybe play some (famous) golf courses out on the range,’ this brings new experiences to golfers everywhere.”

The way it works is simple: TopTracer Range operates off a series of cameras, which can be installed on both ends of any driving range. The cameras capture the flight of every ball. A server installed on site processes the data and the trajectory of the shot along with data is displayed on a screen in each hitting bay. At a facility with permanent mats and a roof, monitors can be installed. At green-grass ranges, the info pops up on a portable tablet.

“You can get statistics on ball flight other than how far you carried it,” Mehta says. “You can see the curve; you can see the ball speed, the hang time and five or six other stats. If you’re a serious golfer, you can track your progress over time. But you can also play games like what you see at a regular Topgolf. The most exciting part to me is the Virtual Golf Mode, where you’re aiming at targets on the range, but on the screen the targets correspond to shots on some of the greatest golf course in the world. You might aim at the red flag on the range, the same red flag that has always been there, but on the screen, you will see the tee shot at the first hole at Bethpage Black. So, the second shot might be 160 yards. You aim at the flag on the left but it shows you where it would have landed on the green at Bethpage.

“It also gives you the ability to practice with a purpose and with immediate feedback. You can store your information. If you’re trying to launch the ball a little higher, you have all your progress tracked over time so you can see the difference in numbers in real time.”

So far, TopTracer Range has been a rousing success. According to Mehta, “Our data shows that a range that puts in TopTracker Range, just on the ball revenue side, experiences anywhere from a 500-percent to 200-percent increase. That doesn’t take into account ancillary revenue like food and beverage. Now, instead of attracting your typical male 44-years-old to 64-years old, you’re attracting more women and more groups.

“Some of the facilities have opened snack shacks on or near the range and are hosting birthday parties and other events. To a large extent we are encouraging (range owners) to put in lights and music and create more of the Topgolf experience. If TopTracer Range technology can enhance (the owner’s) experience and make their business better, that’s fantastic for everyone. It’s exciting for the range (owners), exciting for the end users, and exciting for us, obviously.”

—Steve Eubanks

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