Topgolf is coming to Seattle — but only temporarily.
The fast-growing high-tech golf entertainment complex operator will take over Safeco Field next month with its first-ever “Crush” event that will give Seattleites a taste of Topgolf.
Akin to retailers opening temporary “pop-up” stores often used to test new concepts or new markets, Topgolf Crush will give customers an idea of the full Topgolf experience. Topgolf operates more than 30 facilities across the country that are built around a driving range-meets-bowling-alley concept with microchipped golf balls, allowing people to aim at targets and earn points while enjoying drinks and food.
From Feb. 17-20, Topgolf will set up targets in the Safeco Field outfield ranging from 40 to 150 yards away. In one-hour increments, attendees will hit from private bays on raised platforms above seats in the 200-level; up to eight people can play together. Topgolf will provide clubs.
The game itself consists of three rounds, with each player hitting three shots at a time. Here’s how Topgolf describes the gameplay:
The golf game itself is simple. Think of it like bowling or darts, but for golf! When it’s your turn, you hit a golf ball into one of 6 targets ranging from 40 to 150 yards away. Every section of every target has a point value and our ProTracer technology computes your score based on the accuracy and distance of the shot and then sends the score to your bay screen. The overarching goal is to accumulate as many points as you can by successfully hitting the targets in the outfield. The blue target is worth more than the yellow targets which in turn are worth more than the red targets. You also get more points the closer you get to the center flag.
One aspect of Topgolf Crush that differs from normal Topgolf is the new ball-tracking technology, which lets golfers see the flight path of their golf ball in real time. It’s the result of Topgolf’s acquisition of Protracer last year and has yet to be rolled out at other Topgolf facilities.
Topgolf does not have a permanent location in the Seattle area, but did open a facility near Portland last year. It sees Topgolf Crush as a good way to introduce the concept in a new market.
Topgolf originally launched out of London back in 2000 and has mostly opened facilities in places like Texas, Florida, and the midwest. But the company wants to expand throughout the U.S., said YuChiang Cheng, president of Topgolf Media, in an interview this past July.
“Portland is a real thought leader for this country in terms of culture,” he told GeekWire. “We felt like it was important for Topgolf to be there.”
Technology plays a key role for the Topgolf experience, Cheng said. The high-tech balls and sensor-laden targets allow customers to play games with different scoring formats and see their results in real-time. The tech is powered by RFID tags made by Seattle-based Impinj.
“We’re able to create a game that is much more accessible to anybody,” Cheng said. “With traditional green grass golf, it’s pretty hard and quite frustrating to get the ball into a little hole. By having this technology, we can reward the player incrementally for the things they are doing. It’s much more open and there is less friction; it rewards all people participating.”
After two brothers launched Topgolf in the U.K. 16 years ago, the company partnered with investors like the WestRiver Group to help bring Topgolf to the U.S. in 2005. Erik Anderson, who is based in Seattle, is president of WestRiver Group and also chairman of Topgolf International, one of three divisions of the Topgolf Entertainment Group.
The Mariners, which are hosting their annual FanFest event this weekend, see this as a way to keep the ballpark busy during the offseason, a team spokesperson noted. In 2015, the team opened a high-tech golf simulator that lets fans take virtual golf shots during baseball games.