Topgolf Las Vegas hits it out of the park

With the Gold Coast launch of Topgolf due in mid-2018, many in Australia have heard of Topgolf and the excitement is only going to build as people start to see the construction unfold. So what exactly is Topgolf? And why all the excitement?

We’ve been lucky enough to experience a few of these facilities, most recently at their flagship site of Topgolf Las Vegas.  It goes without saying we’re 100% pumped about the prospect of Topgolf opening in Australia for one simple reason: it’s all about who is going. Put simply, Topgolf attracts the people we seem to find so elusive: the non-golfer, the person who thinks “sure, I’d love to try that” but for whom we, as an industry, raise barriers and roadblocks.

“We’re not busy - we’re popular”
— Mark Jarvis, Director of Operations

Or, to use more traditional business lingo, Topgolf simply removes the barrier to entry. Topgolf doesn’t say golf is hard, it says “give it a go”. Topgolf doesn’t set rules, it breaks them. Dress code? Nope. Equipment? They’ve got you covered. Pace of play? Take all the time you want (bays rent by the hour). Take a moment to check out #swingsofglory on Instagram to get a feel for who they celebrate at Topgolf.

Sure, but they’re not playing real golf, right? It’s just a fancy range with some tricked-up targets, and micro-chipped balls. It’s all about the food and drink. Well, yes to all that, but where’s the negative? Topgolf is an entertainment venue, it’s hospitality on steroids, and it’s a heap of fun. And it’s putting golf clubs in more hands than anything else right now, which we say is just fine. The jury is out on whether it will lead to a new generation of golfers, a new bubble, but we think the more important thing is that it’s showing us what happens when you make golf fun and accessible. People come flocking.

And the numbers? Well we caught up with Mark Jarvis, Director of Operations at Topgolf Las Vegas and he gave us a few:

  • 3,000-3,500 guests (not "customers”) a day in peak times
  • 750 staff, 150 rostered on during a busy Saturday

Impressive? Sure!

But like all growing businesses, the magic of Topgolf is in growing, rolling out a consistent experience, whilst maintaining individuality at its facilities. Not all Topgolf facilities have two pools like Vegas does. Most have three levels, Topgolf Vegas has four. And walking around with Mark for a couple of hours was illuminating as Mark’s eagle-eye spots any blemish. Paint scratch? The full-time painter will clean that up. This morning’s cleaners have already had their daily inspection with management to cover off any gaps. All staff get a fist-bump, and accept the new tasks Mark throws out rapid-fire with gusto. Mark’s eye extends to new formats, new types of function and ways to evolve myriad function spaces to be more effective. His entrepreneurial approach is encouraged by a head-office team constantly evolving the experience, using various sites as test-beds for new ideas.

Now I know this is starting to look like an advertisement, and it’s fair to say I drank the kool-aid. However, Mark’s attention to detail and willingness to try new things was something we just don’t do enough ourselves. The investments in Topgolf facilities are huge, and their ongoing focus on improvement is something we all need to adopt to stay attractive to the most fickle of modern consumers exercising discretionary spending. Choice is now so absolute that retaining loyalty requires more than just a nice points plan - you need a product that stays relevant as consumer trends come and go faster than the seasons. It’s one thing to look at Topgolf and adopt its ideas, but watch it evolve to truly understand what is working and take advantage of its market leadership.

We’re thrilled to have the COO of Topgolf International as a keynote for the 2018 Golf Business Forum - it will be great for us all to learn more about their expansion plans in Australia and take away some ideas and lessons we can apply to our own businesses.