The mission was specific: Determine whether Topgolf is like golf or not like golf.
The conclusion wasn’t so specific: Yes and no, but it’s worth checking out.
Topgolf’s hulking facility alongside Highway 65 in Roseville looks part driving range on steroids, part casino, part bowling alley, part laser tag and part Disneyland with its modern touches and neon lights. It’s billed as a golf entertainment complex. When it opens Sept. 2, it will be the company’s 26th location in the United States – and first in California – since the first opened in 2005. Seven others are in the pipeline.
The positive feedback from those who’ve tried it elsewhere and the rapid and expensive expansion suggest Topgolf has a winning formula.
But is it like golf?
The concept was developed in England by two brothers who wanted better feedback from their shots on the driving range. But in its own literature, Topgolf states: “It’s not golf – it’s Topgolf.”
Three open-minded and impartial golf fanatics from the Sacramento area, ranging from 17 to 78 – not in Topgolf’s sweet spot of males 18 to 34 – were recruited to answer that question. Edda Ashe, Nicole Schroeder and Jay Verhaag spent a few hours this week amid the chaos of last-minute construction. Here’s what they discovered about Topgolf.
Equipment – Quality clubs are provided. You’re welcome to bring your own, but don’t expect to see anyone lugging their bag up the entry steps. Balls fitted with a microchip for scoring purposes look, feel and act conforming but have a restricted flight of 10 to 20 percent. The hitting surfaces are standard driving range mats. Said Ashe: “It’s not a practice facility, which is what I thought it was. It wouldn’t do me any good (to hit to targets with restricted-flight balls). Like golf
Nature – There isn’t one blade of real grass nor anything natural about the place. Even the bunkers are artificial, although the rakes are a nice touch. There is a parking lot on one side of the “outfield” (not exactly a golf term) and a freeway on the other. Every hitting bay is climate controlled with misters to combat heat and heaters to neutralize cold. You’re outdoors but just barely. Said Verhaag: “You get no feel of the birds chirping or the squirrels running or anything like that.” Not like golf
Cost – It ranges from $25 to $45 per hour to rent a bay, depending on time of day/night (you pay for the time and space, not balls). If four players spend four hours, for instance, it’s similar in time and cost to a round of golf and a green fee. Said Verhaag: “I was surprised it was as inexpensive as it was.” Like golf
Access – It’s as welcoming to someone who has never hit a golf ball as it is to a golf pro. More than 50 percent of Topgolfers describe themselves as nongolfers. Beginners will certainly provide entertainment, but they won’t induce any slow-play frustration as they might on a golf course. Lessons are available. The facility will be open from 9 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, bringing after-dark play into the mix. Said Schroeder: “If you’re an avid golfer and want to play with some friends who aren’t, it’s a good way to do it.” Better than golf
Serenity – Nonexistent. No one will ever shush you. There will be music, laughing, talking and the clinking of glasses but no solitude. Said Schroeder: “I relate it to the 16th hole at the (PGA Tour’s) Waste Management Phoenix Open. Most players like it; they just don’t want it every week or all the time.” Not like golf
Exercise – None, maybe other than walking up stairs to the front door or to the third floor. With food and drink service to the couches and tables at each bay, players won’t even have to walk to the bar. Not like golf (except for those who ride in carts)
19th hole – Topgolf is one big 19th hole. There are TVs all over the place, including one in each bay players can control. There are multiple bars and bar games such as foosball and billiards. There are nets in front of every bay on the second and third decks to protect against the inebriated or stupid doing self-inflicted harm. Among millions of players, only one has fallen into the netting, according to a Topgolf spokeswoman. Better than golf
Scoring – Good shots for both accuracy and distances that vary from 20 to 220 yards are rewarded. There is an element of luck, both good and bad. There are nine computerized games to keep things interesting. There is no cheating since your ball’s microchip doesn’t lie. Your score is kept electronically. Like golf (and bowling and darts)
Camaraderie – It’s the foundation on which Topgolf – and golf – thrives. The concept wouldn’t work without social interaction and smack talk. Like golf
Topgolf coming to Roseville
- What: Golf entertainment complex with 102 driving range bays for six players each over three floors, plus full-service restaurant and bar with more than 200 TVs
- Opens: Sept. 2
- Where: 1700 Freedom Way
- Contact: 916-200-1002
Edda Ashe, 74, Lincoln
- Handicap index: 24; plays two to three times a week
- Summing remark: “It’s a great venue and will attract a lot of people who aren’t necessarily golfers. People who play a lot of golf will not be as intrigued.”
Nicole Schroeder, 17, Rocklin
- Handicap index: +1.8; freshman on Oregon State’s golf team
- Summing remark: “It used to be dinner and bowling. Now it’s going to be dinner and Topgolf.”
Jay Verhaag, 78, Carmichael
- Handicap index: 20; plays two to three times a week
- Summing remark: “It’s not a substitute for real golf or a real golf driving range for a real golfer, but it’s a fun day.”