About 12 years ago, Ford Motor Co. ran a clever advertising campaign in which Phil Mickelson portrayed a hockey goalie and sparred with Chuck Norris. The tagline was, “What will Phil do next?”
Perhaps it’s time for a new campaign: “What will Topgolf do next?” The Dallas-based company is expanding so rapidly – through new formats, new media ventures, internationally and other areas – that it probably touches more consumers, in more ways, than any other company in the golf space.
We know Dallas-based Topgolf best for its multi-tiered, high-energy ranges, which typically are packed with guests enjoying food, drinks and music as they play golf games with friends. Topgolf currently operates 41 of those big-box locations and is adding about one per month.
These facilities combined to average 35,000 visitors per day in 2017. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly equivalent to the number of rounds an average 18-hole golf course will do in a year.
But that’s just the launching point for the Topgolf brand. Erik Anderson, executive chairman of Topgolf Entertainment Group, uses terms such as “global brand” and “21st-century sports entertainment media community” to describe the company. That’s a reflection of the reach that he envisions for Topgolf.
The most visible current example of this strategy is “Shotmakers,” a reality show that was shot at Topgolf Las Vegas and ran on Golf Channel.
“As opposed to renting time on TV, you create content and own that experience,” Anderson said in an interview with Golfweek.
Coming May 10 is a new eight-week digital show, “Who Will Rock You,” in which eight unsigned bands compete in an elimination-style format at Topgolf Las Vegas and Topgolf Nashville. It’s the follow-up to “The Hook,” a digital variety show launched last year featuring Charles Kelley of the band Lady Antebellum.
One of the company’s most intriguing initiatives over the past year has been the rollout of Topgolf Swing Suites, which brings the Topgolf experience indoors with help from Full Swing Golf Simulators. Three Swing Suites are open and seven more are in development – the largest being an 11-bay, 26,000-square-foot facility overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. That location is expected to open this summer.
This is a product that needs to be tailored to fit each location, but it would seem to have a big upside, particularly for large resorts and casinos hoping to provide guests with a new entertainment venue. Anderson certainly is excited about the potential of Swing Suites.
“We’re prepared to go as fast as the market (for Swing Suites) can develop,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of interest in that product and are building a lot of them.”
Meanwhile, the company is installing Toptracer technology, the same technology used in TV coverage of the PGA Tour, at its existing facilities. It also is leasing Toptracer to established ranges that are looking to upgrade their guest experiences. Anderson sees it as a technology that appeals to golfers of all skill levels.
“We’re committed to bringing the best technology to our fans and customers. I think it makes a big difference…” he said. “What’s funny about a technology like that is you like it if you’re playing games, and you like it if you’re just trying to get better. It’s just more feedback and content to consume in whatever format you want.”
Anderson thinks of Topgolf consumers as a community, and it’s certainly one with appealing demographics.
According to the company, 68 percent of its consumers are males – the comparable figure is roughly 80 percent for traditional golf – and 68 percent are between ages 18 and 44. Fifty-one percent are nongolfers.
With demographics like that, it’s little wonder Topgolf is starting to attract competitors, most recently Drive Shack, which in April opened its first location in Orlando. Drive Shack, formerly known as American Golf, is publicly traded and has announced plans for five additional locations across the Southeast.
The market for this sort of product appears to be large and untapped in the U.S., not to mention internationally. (Topgolf is opening in Australia in June and also is working with partners to develop sites in Mexico, Canada and Dubai.) Anderson said he spends “most of my time thinking about all of the options that a consumer has to spend their entertainment dollars on.”
He knows other companies will compete directly with Topgolf for those dollars but said he likes how his company is positioned.
“We’ll make rational decisions about what we’re doing (against new competition),” Anderson said. “We’re such a different company than some of the competitors. We’re larger and have a pretty diverse strategy.” Gwk