How TopGolf Works: The Ultimate Guide

When I first heard about the TopGolf business model, I thought it was doomed for failure. You see, I’d been a Club Professional for the better part of a decade and thought I knew what worked and what didn’t in the golf business. At the time, golf was spinning its wheels when it came to growing the game and its popularity. Not to mention the up-front and operating costs of such a venture were astounding.

Was I ever the idiot?! Within months of the Portland, Oregon TopGolf opening, I had to go check it out for myself. I thought I could just show up with my girlfriend and a posse of her non-golfing friends, just pick a stall and have at it. Wrong again. Little did I know, you needed to call days ahead and make an actual tee time for a single stall. Thankfully there was a spot open the next day.

What is TopGolf?

Before I venture on with the rest of my story and list of TopGolf dos and don’ts, I should explain just what TopGolf is.

In short, TopGolf is a triple-decker driving range that offers interactive games and full food and drink service. Hitting bays can be reserved and rented on an hourly basis. Wait staff are assigned to each bay to take care of all your drink and scrumptious American pub food needs. There’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out, relax, and party like it’s 1985. Most TopGolf facilities come with added amenities like overhead heaters and flat screens so you can keep up on your fantasy scores whilst you whack away. It’s all about fun at TopGolf and that’s precisely why people flock to it in droves.

How much does it cost to play at Topgolf?

TopGolf prices vary depending of the day of the week and the location you are playing at. For example, at the at Topgolf location here in Scottsdale, the Sunday prices are from 9 am until 12pm it is $30.00 an hour per bay; from 12pm till 5pm it is $40 an hour; and from 5pm until close it $50 an hour. This seems to be the most expensive day of the week.

The best day to go play in my opinion is Tuesdays, for that it is Half Price Tuesday. During Tuesdays from from 9 am until 12pm it is $13.50 an hour per bay; from 12pm till 5pm it is $18.5 an hour; and from 5pm until close it $23.5 an hour.

What Can You Expect at TopGolf?

I felt like King Kong the next day when I walked into the TopGolf in Portland, with my girlfriend and four of her besties in tow. I was the man of the hour, the resident expert, the one that was going to show everyone how it was done.

But when I strolled through the front doors with my chest puffed out, bag over my shoulder, shirt tucked in, and donning my best pair of all white FootJoy Classics, I was a fish out of water. Everyone was dressed casually, beer in hand, and the pomp and circumstance of the Country Clubs I was used to may as well have been on a different planet.

First of all, you don’t need your own sticks at TopGolf. In fact, you’ll probably encounter some quizzical looks if you show up with your own bag and Bandon Dunes swag like I did. Yeah, I’m still that guy.

The check-in process is easy. You show up at a central counter, give the friendly staff your name, and are assigned a hitting bay. The staff will ask who all needs clubs, whether they’re right or left-handed, etc.

From there, off you go to get the party started.

How Does TopGolf Work?

It took a hot minute for me (and my bruised ego) to get the girls organized at our hitting bay. And truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure how the actual TopGolf experience worked. It wasn’t that hard to figure out though.

Think about the last time you went bowling. The experience is similar here. You start by entering everyone’s names in a computer. The names are then populated on an overhead screen that everyone can see.

** This process is easy and should take you substantially less time than it did me.

The next step is to choose the game you’re going to play. . .

By the way, it doesn’t take long for a waiter or waitress to come around and take food and drink orders, but more on that in a minute.

What Games Can You Play?

TopGolf is a lot more than just a driving range where you whack whitey out into oblivion. The range consists of numerous targets at varying yardages. Each target is surrounded by a series of rings. The closer you land to the target, the more points you score. Consequently, the farther away the target, the higher the point values become.

While I thought I’d repair my already bruised ego by lacing four-irons at the farthest target, it didn’t take me long to realize that was the wrong game for the crowd I was with.

It was ultimately up to me to choose a game that would be most enjoyable for the chicks. Upon scanning the menu, I was immediately impressed with the variety of games TopGolf offers.

For our first go, we settled on the traditional original – TopGolf. Simply put, you hit balls at a target of your choosing. As stated above, you get points based on how close you hit your shot to the target. The farther away the target, the more points are available. . . The only 200-yard shots I’d hit came in this round.

For the second act of Golf with the Girls, we chose Quick 9. Based on how long the first game took (and the fact that my credit card was being charged), I liked the sound of Quick 9. In short, each player gets three shots at the closest targets (red, yellow, and green). The last shot to each target is worth double points. He or she who has the highest point total wins.

Quick 9 proved to be much more popular for my particular group as everyone stood a chance of hitting at least one ball into a target. Giggles ensued and more drinks were ordered. I had my MoJo back.

There’s a smorgasbord of other games to choose from – all meant at facilitating a good time for everyone involved, regardless of ability. Some of the more popular ones include Angry Birds, Top Scramble, and Jewel Jam.

Make Sure to Come Hungry and Thirsty

The food and drink service at TopGolf are first-class.  So are the food and drink themselves.  Menus vary by location, but all TopGolf facilities sport a large selection of beers on tap, made-to-order-cocktails, and everything from light appetizers to greasy burgers and sandwiches. 

Melony was our server in Portland and showed the utmost patience and enthusiasm for our group of giggly newbies.  She recommended the Signature Nachos and Buffalo Chicken Dip for our group’s finger food.  Of course, the girls needed Injectable Donut Holes for dessert too (check please!).  All were delectable and her care for our party was top-notch. 

How Much Does TopGolf Cost?

My inaugural venture to TopGolf wasn’t cheap, and I paid for the whole damn thing.  Let’s just say I could have played an offseason round or two at Bandon Dunes for the cost of six people, three hours of hitting, and enough fruity drinks to sedate Moby Dick. . .  But it was more than worth it. 

Hitting bays are charged by the hour and rates fluctuate between $30 and $90 per hour depending on your location and what day of the week or time of day you go. 

Drinks are a little on the pricey side, but the food is more than reasonable considering its quality and quantity. 

Unless you want to drop a chunk for everyone to have a good time (like me), I suggest making it known to your party that the cost of the hitting bay will be split.  Everyone should be on their own for food and drink. 

Done the right way, TopGolf can be a few hours of fun for everyone that won’t break the bank. 

I’ve been back numerous times since, and this arrangement has worked perfectly for everyone involved.  

If you’re looking for the best deals, I suggest signing up for your local TopGolf’s email list.  You’ll receive coupons and notifications for the best deals so you can plan accordingly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Dress Code at TopGolf?

Well, if you’re like me, you can wear your Sunday Best and stick out like a sore thumb.  Clearly, I wanted everyone in the joint to know I was a serious golfer, and it was mission accomplished.  I made that mistake once and won’t again any time soon.

Truth be told, the folks at TopGolf want you to relax and have fun when you come.  For that reason, there’s no real dress code. 

Since my first go, I’ve seen girls in high heels, dudes in wife beaters, and just about everything in between.  TopGolf is a judgement-free zone, and the staff makes that more than apparent. 

Do You Have to Pay for Balls or Clubs?

No!  Club rentals and balls are all included in the hourly rate. 

That’s one thing I love about TopGolf, the fact that you aren’t hit with all sorts of additional or hidden fees.  They’re up front with their pricing and it’s more than fair. 

Can You Get Lessons?

The truth is that the majority of folks that show up at TopGolf are casual hackers at best.  In fact, most are non-golfers. 

As such, instructional programs are available in the form of private or group lessons.  Each TopGolf facility is staffed with a number of certified instructors whose goal is to help everyone get a little better and enjoy their time.

Instruction rates at most facilities are far cheaper than lessons at a proper course with a PGA Professional too. 

Do I Need a Tee Time for TopGolf

In theory, the answer is no.  TopGolf is a first-come-first-serve operation.  However, if you plan on visiting a facility in a major metropolitan area, I highly recommend reserving a time in advance as hitting bays go quickly.

Conclusion

Looking back, I can’t believe that I scoffed at the TopGolf concept when I first heard about it.  I thought there was no way it would ever take off, but boy how I was wrong.

As a serious golfer, you probably won’t find me working on getting the club in the slot with a video camera behind me any time soon at TopGolf – I have my local range for that.  But I love TopGolf for the social aspects and fun it affords everyone involved.

Truth be told, I made less than 30 swings when I took the girl and all her friends for the first time.  But that was more than fine by me.  Having the chance to share the game I love so much with good company in a low-pressure environment, was more than worth the price of admission.  I’m just glad the girlfriend let me sneak away to Bandon Dunes for those coveted rounds the following weekend. 

Scott Barton

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