Top Golf appeals to golfers and non-golfers alike

TopGolf-Bays Irving, Texas — Before tonight, my favorite place to hit balls was Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., because scattered among the rocks and cacti are stereo speakers that pump satellite radio. With Pinnacle Peak in the distance, the Rolling Stones floating in the air and Phil's Grill just a few steps away, it's a cool spot.
But tonight I drove about 20 minutes north of Dallas to Allen, Texas, for the grand opening of a new Top Golf complex. I will always love Grayhawk, but it has some serious new competition.
There is another Top Golf facility in Dallas, as well as locations in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., areas, and three near London, but according to Scott McMahon, the company's regional marketing director, the Allen facility is the largest and most sophisticated. More are planned to open in the next two years, with the company's eyes set on the Mid-Atlantic region and the Southeast. TopGolf-Range_600 There are 94 hitting bays on three levels at Top Golf Allen (top photo), and each has a small touch-screen computer monitor next to it. There are 10 circular targets scattered around the range (middle photo), and because all of the golf balls have a microchip embedded in them, the system knows exactly where you hit in relation to those targets. After every shot, you're awarded points based on distance and accuracy (bottom photo).
Up to six people can play at once, and there are sofas, chairs and tables scattered everywhere so you can relax when you're not hitting. There are also flat-screen TVs everywhere, three full-service bars, and a restaurant serving good pub grub, so no one minds waiting to hit. TopGolf-Scoring It's kind of like a bowling alley mixed with a high-end sports bar and a driving range.
On Monday night, most of the people at Top Golf Allen were excited to see Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hitting balls alongside Hunter Mahan, Notah Begay, Bo Van Pelt and Colt Knost in a charity event.
I was blown away by the concept of the facility itself. At a time when golf in the United States is far from flourishing, Top Golf could be really successful, and important, for three reasons. 1. The time factor. As much as people love golf, carving out four or five hours every week to play can be hard for some people. A game that takes less than 60 minutes is almost always possible once or twice a week. 2. Golfers can hone their skills. Is there any golfer who couldn't benefit from hitting balls to specific yardages with the pressure on and friendly competition in the air? 3. You don't have to be a golfer to enjoy it. For people who don't play, the idea of hanging around a driving range must sound painful. But with so many things going on—and the food and drinks flowing—anyone can relax and have a good time at a place like Top Golf.
I hope that Top Golf is successful and inspires more facilities like it around the country. Now, if they'll only build one in Brooklyn.

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by Kevin Cunningham