Net Gain

Topgolf brings its high-tech game to the county’s center of golf

By John Cinnamon

There are currently 10 (TEN!) golf courses within a five-mile radius of 116th Street & I-69, one of the densest concentrations of golf in the state.  So Topgolf – a high-tech driving range and entertainment complex now under construction – is surrounded by fans. Add in a highly visible location at one of the county’s busiest highway intersections and its clear why Topgolf chose Fishers for their first Indiana facility.

“Indianapolis has been key on our map,” said Morgan Wallace, Senior Communications Specialist with Topgolf.  “It’s rare that we get a location right in a downtown area, so we usually like to work at the strong suburbs around the cities, and Fishers was a very centralized location in the state with its proximity to Indianapolis.  It was the perfect fit for us.”

Microchips

Although golf is the central theme, Topgolf – with 33 venues across the country and around the world – is not your father’s driving range.  The company bills itself as golf-entertainment-complex-meets-neighborhood-hangout, focusing strongly on the social aspect. 

“We have great food, great music, great entertainment, as well as obviously the golf game,” said Wallace.  “On any given day you’ll see everyone from a five-year-old learning to swing a golf club, all the way up the older generation.  And in between, people who aren’t really into golf but have fun coming to Topgolf.” 

The three-story structure will feature 102 climate-controlled hitting bays, each with seating for six and high definition TVs.  Technology is integral to Topgolf.  The golf balls are outfitted with microchips that, when reaching the multicolored electronic targets in the landing area, relay the players’ distance and accuracy to the screens in each of the bays while playing point-scoring golf games.

Growing the Game

Given the decline in traditional golf in the last decade, a golf-centric business like Topgolf would seem to be a risky proposition.  Indeed, according to the National Golf Foundation, 23.8 million people played golf on a real golf course in 2016, down 1.2 percent from the previous year and down a full 20 percent from a high of 30 million in 2005.  But the numbers aren’t all bad, and that’s due in part to Topgolf.  The NGF measures off-course participation at driving range/entertainment facilities (citing Topgolf, specifically) at 20 million people in 2016; a whopping 11 percent increase from the year before.  And of those, 8.2 million never played on a golf course.  But the NGF and Topgolf look for that to change.

“We are working very closely with the National Golf Foundation, LPGA, and PGA and we are really focused on growing the game of golf,” said Wallace.  “We look at it like, what’s good for golf is good for Topgolf and vice versa.  We’re really trying to be that entry level into the sport of golf so that people can come to Topgolf, enjoy what they’re doing, and then that translates to a green-grass course.” 

The NGF numbers would seem to bear that out.  Wallace explained that the NGF worked with Topgolf on a survey in 2015 and found that, “Of golfers that had been playing the sport for less than three years, about 24% said they began playing golf after they went to a Topgolf location.”  Topgolf’s efforts to grow the game extend beyond just being a high-tech driving range.  It will offer year-round programs including social leagues, golf tournaments, golf instruction, and more.

“Our Summer Academy Program has been accented to introducing the sport to kids,” said Wallace.  Much like the basketball, football, and soccer camps of previous generations, “We’re trying to open up the sport of golf to younger generations to bring them up to be the next Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy.”

Social Experience

Wallace said the Fishers Topgolf expects to create 450 full- and part-time jobs when it opens in early fall.  But the facility is already getting plenty of attention from commuters along the interstate. Visible from miles away, the 170-foot tall towers and driving range netting dominate the landscape at Exit 205, a location where the new IKEA has garnered most of the headlines in recent months.  Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, citing the growing number of retail investments like IKEA and The Yard, as well as corporate investors such as Stanley and Knowledge Services, said, “We look forward to Topgolf bringing a fun, unique entertainment option to Fishers in a growing and bustling area of our city.”

Topgolf’s Wallace echoes that sentiment.  She hopes it will be a gathering place for golfers and non-golfers alike.  “For the most part, we’re really focused on that community aspect of having that social experience where people can come together, create memories, and have a good time.”