After two shoulder surgeries in 2014, J.J. Killeen found himself weighing his career options. He could continue playing on the Web.com Tour, as he had for much of the previous decade. At the same time, he was brainstorming with some Lubbock, Texas, high school buddies, who talked about the idea of developing a Topgolf-style entertainment concept for the city, home to Texas Tech University and nearly 300,000 residents.
Two-and-a-half years later, their idea is about to become a reality.
Sometime around Aug. 8, give or take a day, 4ORE!, a golf-and-entertainment facility, will open with 60 tee boxes, a 286-yard range, three bars, a restaurant that seats 200 guests, an eclectic food-and-beverage menu and 2,500 square feet of meeting space for business groups.
The facility will use FlightScope technology to track ball flight. Players will have the option of playing one of four games or simply practicing. The games – ranging from a rudimentary “Pinball” game that’s geared toward beginners to more advanced games – can be handicapped based on playing ability, according to Patrick Wynn, 4ORE!’s general manager
4ORE! is managed by Troon Golf, the Scottsdale, Ariz., course-management firm. The facility will use Callaway Golf practice balls and stock Callaway equipment for guests who do not bring their own clubs. 4ORE! chose Callaway because of the manufacturer’s relationship with Troon.
Killeen, 4ORE!’s managing partner and the spokesman for the local investors backing the project, also will serve as the director of golf. Aside from FlightScope and Trackman, he’ll have a private short-game area and putting green to work with students.
The building faces east, blocking the westerly winds, and there are natural-gas heaters and misting fans to accommodate year-round play.
While Wynn and Killeen say they want to introduce beginners to golf, they also understand that many of their guests will be there primarily to socialize. There will be live music on weekends and an adults-only lounge, called the Loft.
“We wanted an area that’s a little more private, more intimate,” Wynn said. “The rest of the facility is going to be high-energy.”
The idea might reflect a natural evolution within the golf-and-entertainment sector. Topgolf is expanding steadily in major cities, but there’s still a vacuum in secondary markets. Perhaps there’s a window for a similar concept to fill that void, not unlike the way Hibbett Sports expanded over the past two decades in rural markets while larger competitors, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, were focused on major cities.
For now, though, Killeen said the goal is to get the first 4ORE! right.
“We can’t even come close to doing something like (expanding) until we get this one right,” Killeen said. “When we get that figured out, then I think that would be anyone’s goal.”