Golf; the word hardly oozes social inclusion, does it?
A common misconception is that GOLF is an acronym for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden. While this is of course outdated nonsense, it isn’t hard to see why golf is still seen as an elitist, old-fashioned sport.
One of Britain’s most prestigious golf clubs managed to prove that many of these stereotypes carry some truth. Murifield made the headlines for voting to deny women membership, a painful reminder that golf still lives in the past.
This is a tragedy because so many potential golfers will stay away thanks to the image that clubs like Murifield continue to project. Why is the one sport that can be enjoyed by anybody placed so far out of reach?
Enter Topgolf, the company that now serves 20 million guests every year. Founded in 2000 by brothers Steve and Dave Jolliffe, they were practicing their swings on a driving range when they began brainstorming ways to liven up the experience. The idea evolved into a venue that blends golf with food, beverage, music, and HDTVs showing a range of sports. It is, to put it bluntly, a game changer for a sport that has never wanted to be changed.
So what is Topgolf?
“You hit a golf ball containing a personalised microchip into one of 11 targets ranging from 20 to 240 yards away. Every section of every target has a reader that detects the microchip in your clever golf ball. That reader computes your score based on the accuracy and distance of the shot and then sends the score to your bay screen. No pencil and paper needed to keep score in this game!”
Golf has always been a sociable sport, but it’s expensive and time-consuming and this restricts its appeal. Topgolf costs as little as £6-per-game, with special offers for children. It disrupts the market by making golf universal, allowing large groups of people to socialise and enjoy each other’s company within a competitive environment. It’s hard to believe that golf can be cheaper than a trip to the cinema, but it is thanks to Topgolf.
They have made a sport traditionally associated with men into a genuine leveller, and women are responding well. Three times the number of men play golf compared to women, but an evening at Topgolf would convince you otherwise. People are beginning to realise that anything you can engage with that has action, fun and competitiveness, where you can have a drink in one hand, is the better way to spend time with friends.
Topgolf is quenching people’s thirst for energetic interaction and it’s paying off. More and more people use this as a way to get the Whatsapp group together and it’s giving friendships a focus. This type of social golf helps explain why off-course participation grew 11% in the US last year, and the explosion of Topgolf had a lot to do with this game-changing growth.
Topgolf places the sport within a context that puts socialising first, be it with friends or family. Acknowledging the importance of competitiveness, Topgolf enables people of all abilities to engage on a level playing field. In fact, the venue is still waiting for a slide tackle that makes 5-a-side ugly; an embarrassing moment on the treadmill at the gym; the first terrible movie. But this is never going to happen at a venue that always delivers a fun and accessible day for any person, group, or family.