Golf for mil­len­ni­als: fast, ar­cade-style, boozy

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - ALEX SCHIFFER

On Fri­day nights, mil­len­ni­als are flock­ing to a driv­ing range to play a sport that ex­perts say they have lit­tle in­ter­est in.

Some even say the sport is dy­ing, cit­ing the lag­ging sales of golf equip­ment and apparel and steep de­cline in tele­vi­sion rat­ings. In April, the fi­nal round of the Mas­ters drew its low­est rat­ings since 2004, and this month the U.S. Women’s Open gar­nered just 760,000 view­ers, its worst show­ing on record.

But Top­golf, a high-tech driv­ing range and en­ter­tain­ment compa- ny, has set out to prove oth­er­wise. It thinks mil­len­ni­als might well be the key to re­viv­ing in­ter­est in the sport. The com­pany has tapped into the so­cial po­ten­tial for golf, cre­at­ing a space best de­scribed as “where a lounge meets a tee box.”

Top­golf is at once old-fash­ioned (a lit­tle bit like Skee-Ball) and mod­ern (tech­nol­ogy lets you track your per­for­mance, shot by shot — and com­pete with your friends). And the set­ting is loud and lively, not your typ­i­cal back-nine fare.

Af­ter launch­ing in Eng­land in 2000, Top­golf came to the states in 2005 when it opened in Alexan­dria, Va. It now has 30 U.S. loca- tions and 33 world­wide.

Cine­plex this week signed an ex­clu­sive part­ner­ship deal to open Top­golf com­plexes across Canada over the next sev­eral years.

“Our core busi­ness is re­ally nice,” Top­golf CEO Erik An­der­son said. “If you go from 30 to 40 in a year, that’s 33 per cent. So that’s pretty good.”

“Clearly we have struck a chord with mil­len­ni­als,” he added.

At Top­golf, cus­tomers can play a num­ber of games, but in the most com­mon one they hit golf balls with a mi­crochip in­side it.

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