Golf isn’t the most popular sport, but Topgolf is certainly doing its part to change that perception.
The growing sports entertainment company operates more than 30 driving-range-meets-bowling-alley entertainment facilities — with 11 more soon to open — that feature 6-person hitting bays with microchipped trackable golf balls, along with food, drink, TV screens, free WiFi, and much more.
Technology is a key part of the Topgolf experience — from the balls with RFID chips to the Protracer cameras — and that’s why we’re excited to hear from Topgolf co-chairman and CEO Erik Anderson at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit on June 21-22 in Seattle at CenturyLink Field.
Anderson, who lives in the Seattle area, will share insights about Topgolf’s business and discuss what’s next for the Dallas-based company. You can grab tickets for Sports Tech Summit, now in its second year, here — early bird rates end next week, so it’s best to lock down your spot today.
We caught up with Anderson before his appearance at the Sports Tech Summit to learn more about Topgolf, which expects 14 million visits to its facilities this year.
GeekWire: How do you describe Topgolf to people who have never heard of it?
Topgolf CEO Erik Anderson: “Don’t let our name fool you – Topgolf isn’t just for golfers. The experience is built on four things everyone loves – play, food and drinks, music and community. We have games for any skill level (or no skill level), fresh food and drinks that are as enjoyable as the games, plus high-energy music that creates a fun atmosphere. Additionally, there’s a feeling of community because people are fully engaged and interacting with one another – there’s high-fiving, dancing, people celebrating special occasions, and others meeting for the first time. It’s a place where everyone can have an amazing time.”
GeekWire: How does Topgolf help grow the game of golf?
Anderson: “At the most basic level, Topgolf makes golf approachable, affordable and fun. You don’t need to invest in any special equipment or attire to play at Topgolf. You can wear what you want, cheer as loudly as you want, and play for as long as you feel like.
However, we recognize the opportunity and responsibility we have to positively affect the long-term health of the sport, which is why we have made huge investments in our Topgolf U golf instruction program, our KidZone programming for families, Summer Academy for kids, social leagues, The Topgolf Tour tournament series and the Topgolf Crush social pop-up experience. Each of these programs is designed to attract new fans to the sport and, hopefully, inspire a new passion for the game.
We have also partnered with the PGA TOUR and LPGA to help grow the game. Most recently, we hosted Topgolf Junior Play where kids from The First Tee and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf could play for free at Topgolf. That day, we announced our latest Youth Play It Forward program, which invites any high school golf team or charity serving youth to play for free at Topgolf. We will continue to expand our programs for growing the game, and you can follow the progress here.”
GeekWire: How does Topgolf use technology? Why is technology important for the company?
Anderson: “Topgolf has always been a digital-first company, going back to the day we were founded in 2000 with the invention of our microchipped golf ball. Technology enhances nearly every element of our guest experience, both visibly and behind the scenes.
We have made huge investments in technology these past two years. We acquired World Golf Tour to introduce mobile gaming to our guests and create the world’s largest digital golf audience. We acquired Protracer, now Toptracer, to gain technology that tracks the actual flight path of the golf ball and display its path in video. We have already begun using this technology for our Topgolf Crush and Topgolf Swing Suite experiences, as well as on network-televised golf tournaments.
Most recently, we made a significant investment in Full Swing Golf, the golf simulation company we used to create Topgolf Swing Suite. We are looking forward to expanding the Topgolf Swing Suite business during the next couple of years.
All of this technology will help us unite and engage the global Topgolf community, whether they are playing Topgolf on their phone, at a Topgolf Swing Suite, at a venue, at Topgolf Crush or who knows where else in the future.”
GeekWire: What are you most excited about for Topgolf’s future?
Anderson: “Topgolf has very noble ambitions – we want to change lives, whether it’s through inspiring a life-long love for this sport, by bringing people together at our venues or online, or by giving back to our communities through charities and job creation. With this incredible growth trajectory we are experiencing, it excites me to think of the scale of the impact we will have among our guests, associates and communities in the near future.”
GeekWire: When will Topgolf open up a location in the Seattle area?
Anderson: “As a Seattle resident, I am the biggest advocate for having Topgolf in my backyard. We hope to make that dream a reality sometime in the next few years.”