There are two types of people in the world, I think, that aren’t going to care for Topgolf, the much-buzzed-about 65,000-square-foot facility opening next Friday near Arrowood Road and I-485 that – its PR folks promise – is “not just for golfers.”
And, frankly, one of those types is: People who are really, really good at golf. They’ll tire of the carnival-like approach to what they view as a serious game (think Skee-Ball with golf clubs); scoff at the size of the targets (it’s awfully easy to mis-hit a shot, badly, yet still score points); and fume at the pricing ($45 per hour to use a hitting bay at peak times – a fair value if you have the permitted maximum of six in your group, but a nonsensical investment for someone who’s solo and looking to work on their game).
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The other type that I think isn’t going to like Topgolf: People who are really, really bad at golf. If someone’s really, really bad at, say, bowling – which Topgolf often gets compared to – they can put up the bumpers and voila! Pins are falling. If someone’s really, really bad at darts – which Topgolf also gets compared to – hey, let ’em scoot a little closer to the board. But someone who’s really, really bad at golf is quickly going to get frustrated after taking two dozen swings and either whiffing two dozen times or watching two dozen balls dribble over the edge of the hitting bay (or some combination of those results).
Meanwhile, all the people in between the really, really good golfers and the really, really bad ones are probably going to love this place.
In large part, they’ll be psyched simply because – at the outset, at least – it’ll be a change of scenery. Not that there’s anything wrong with Carowinds or the U.S. National Whitewater Center or the EpiCentre or Freedom Park. We’re lucky to have them all. But everyone from families to date-nighters to bachelor and bachelorette partiers have been dying for a less-cliche entertainment option in Charlotte. Topgolf fits the bill.
Now, it’d be a waste of time for me to regurgitate the very useful information that is already on Topgolf’s website. For instance, you can get pretty much any question you might have about the place answered here. Everything you’d want to know about the food and drink menu is here. The various types of games you can challenge your friends to are explained here. And pricing for those games is outlined here.
But here are a few bits of random information that are not so quickly and easily found on the site:
▪ The Charlotte location (at 8024 Savoy Corporate Drive) is the first in North Carolina and the 33rd worldwide. The next-nearest Topgolf facility is 230 miles away, in Alpharetta, Ga.
▪ During opening weekend, live DJs will spin until 1:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
▪ $1 from every order of Topgolf’s Injectable Donut Holes will be donated to The Make-A-Wish Foundation. (What are Injectable Donut Holes? Why, they’re the devil incarnate – with whatever amount of Bavarian cream filling you desire.)
▪ Unlike Carowinds or the Whitewater Center, Topgolf will remain a cool place to be even in a downpour – like the one that hit during Wednesday night’s media preview. The experience is essentially the same whether it’s sunny or rainy thanks to the covered hitting bays, and on top of that, there are fans in each of the bays for when it’s hot, and heaters that can make players feel 20-30 degrees warmer than the actual outdoor temp on frigid days.
Now, I’ll grant you: It’s always a little bit difficult to assess a new place at a “special sneak-peek” event, when the staff is on its best behavior, and when they shove complimentary drink tickets in your hands at the door then ply you later with free smoked prime rib and scallops and a healthy portion of those unhealthy injectable donut holes. (A full-service waitstaff will deliver anything from the food and drink menu to your group’s hitting bay, although there’s also a traditional bar and restaurant area.)
But pushing those temptations aside and judging the actual gameplay on its own merit, I have to say that, for the not-so-serious golfer, there are few key reasons why Topgolf is more appealing than a real round of golf:
1. It doesn’t take nearly as long, and you’re never stuck behind a slow group or getting pressured by a fast one.
2. There’s no putting involved, which is where my game always fell apart.
3. When I’m hanging out with my friends, I want to actually hang out with my friends. In regular golf, members of the group are constantly walking off in different directions by themselves to find their balls; at Topgolf, everyone except the person who’s “up” can sit around chatting (or making fun of that person’s swing) while enjoying – if they so choose – an adult beverage.
And as a bonus, if you’re playing at night, the targets light up like Christmas trees ... and periodically get funky. On Wednesday night, for example, they pulsated to the beat of tracks like Darude’s “Sandstorm” and Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights.”
Sure, it all takes some getting used to. Not just the video-game-ization of golf, not just the twisting of the stodgy sport into something imminently Instagramm-able, not just the Kanye West. But also the up-close-and-personal nature of the whole affair; the nakedness you’ll feel when it’s your turn, and you can sense that your friends have stopped talking to watch; the jolt of anxiety you’ll get as you take your backswing and silently, fervently hope that this shot, this time, will finally impress some people.
If this sounds like your idea of fun, I’ll see you at Topgolf.