DIS­RUP­TORS IN­NO­VA­TORS & RISK-TAK­ERS

GOLF HAS NEVER BEEN EX­ACTLY STATIC. (HIT A FEATH­ERY WITH YOUR MASHIE LATELY?) BUT NOW, THE PACE OF CHANGE IS MORE IN­TENSE THAN EVER. FROM EQUIP­MENT TO CON­DI­TION­ING TO COUN­TRY-CLUB MEM­BER­SHIPS, HERE ARE THOSE WHO CAN’T BE BOTH­ERED WITH THE STA­TUS QUO.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Dis­rup­tors In­no­va­tors & Risk-Tak­ers -

We’re at a piv­otal mo­ment in golf ’s his­tory. Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, a boom­ing econ­omy and Tiger Woods’ pop­u­lar­ity lifted the game to new heights in the 1990s and early 2000s. But now that mo­men­tum has stalled, or at least slowed. Where does golf go from here? Some ar­gue for fol­low­ing the path golf has al­ways fol­lowed, be­liev­ing that the game’s tra­di­tion is its great­est ap­peal and its only sal­va­tion. But oth­ers – we call them The Dis­rup­tors – aren’t so sure about that. Un­will­ing to sit pas­sively, they’re look­ing for new and sur­pris­ing ways to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion, to make cour­ses more ap­peal­ing and eco-friendly, to en­gage with fans and cus­tomers, to help golfers learn the game faster and more eas­ily. They’re am­a­teurs and pro­fes­sion­als, course own­ers and em­ploy­ees, ac­com­plished play­ers and chop­pers. Though they might not make ev­ery­one happy, they’re shak­ing things up. Which might be just what golf needs.

If con­ven­tional golf is dressed in a suit, Top­golf is the game in a T-shirt and shades. It’s a pop­u­lar look. There are 10 Top­golf fa­cil­i­ties in the United States, up from four just three years ago, and the com­pany plans to reach 49 within three years. Its most prom­i­nent board mem­bers and in­vestors are ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Erik An­der­son, Call­away CEO Chip Brewer and Dal­las-based in­vestor Tom Dun­don. To­gether, the three are ex­ploit­ing a void in the mar­ket, and busi­ness is boom­ing.

Top­golf is tech­ni­cally a driv­ing range, but it’s more like a real-life video game. You can play at your pace, with as many friends as you want, in a party at­mos­phere.

It’s no sur­prise young peo­ple are flock­ing to it. Top­golf in Austin, Texas, one of the most pop­u­lar lo­ca­tions, stays busy from 9am un­til it closes at 2am.

Dun­don, who sits on the PGA of Amer­ica’s grow-the-game task force, says Top­golf “can help ac­com­plish ex­actly what the PGA has in mind.” An­der­son adds that Top­golf isn’t try­ing to com­pete with tra­di­tional golf. He thinks of it as com­ple­men­tary. “Golf is very lin­ear,” he says. “You play holes one though 18, then head to the 19th hole. Top­golf isn’t about trav­el­ling in a straight line. It’s about play­ing in what­ever way you want.”

TOP­GOLF RANGES ARE BOOM­ING IN THE UNITED STATES. A MI­CROCHIP IN EV­ERY BALL AL­LOWS TOP­GOLFERS TO PLAY SEVEN GAMES, ALL OF THEM SCORED ON COM­PUTER SCREENS IN THE HIT­TING BAYS (STORY ON PAGE 56).

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