Topgolf brings golf, food, fun to Madison County
WRITTEN BY DYLAN SCHRADER
Even on a Thursday at 6 p.m., Topgolf is bustling. On a quick walk around the bays – what Topgolf calls the areas where golfers tee off – participants will see children hitting golf balls with their parents next to older men in golf polos and shorts working on their golf games. In the lounge, guests might find a group of young corporate types next to a table full of students having dinner and drinks amid the din of music and voices.
The energy of the place does not feel like earlier, archaic types of games/drinks/food establishments – in other words, this is not your father’s bowling alley. This is not the place to get nachos with fake cheese and cheap pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Topgolf is, somehow, a place for the family and the fraternity, the engineering student and the factory worker alike. Amid the lights, organized chaos and laughter, anyone can have a great time.
When walking around the restaurant and bar area, it is clear there is no divide between servers, upper-level employees or guests. “The people are a critical and crucial part of what we do,” Topgolf marketing manager Wiley Belew explained. “Topgolf encourages people to come out of their shell and think outside of the box. They use individual personalities to their advantage.” Employees are encouraged to interact with guests, even if that means stopping what they are doing and hitting a golf ball with them, Belew said.
According to Belew and platinum sales manager Alison Collins, Topgolf chose the Huntsville/Madison area because it was such a rapidly expanding market with a lot of potential. Additionally, Belew and Collins said there is a lot of technology involved in Topgolf – for example, by the end of next year, all Topgolf balls will have Toptracer sensors installed, allowing customers to track the flight, trajectory and loft of all shots – which makes Topgolf a good fit for the engineering crowd in Huntsville.
Topgolf is not unique simply because it is a cool new place to hit golf balls with friends and family. Instead, it is an anomaly because of the thought put into every aspect of the experience. For example, rather than forcing homogenous corporate food onto guests, Topgolf has in-house chefs. The business even gets Topgolf chefs to compete against each other in a contest every year, and the best dishes are later used as limited-time offers throughout all Topgolf locations. “This is not your typical bar food,” Collins said.
Sure, customers will still find burgers, wings and cheese fries on the menu, but they will also find spinach and goat cheese salad as well as a prosciutto, artichoke and olive flatbread sandwich. Even the grilled cheese sandwich gets the specialized touch, made with smoked barbecue brisket, pepper jack and cheddar cheese on toasted artisan bread.
Topgolf also partners with local businesses. The Huntsville location collaborated with Rocket Republic, a Madison brewery, to create a beer exclusively for Topgolf in Huntsville called Six Iron Blonde.
The best word to describe the Topgolf experience might be “immersive.” According to Collins, Topgolf sends employees to Disney leadership training to help them learn how to create an interactive guest experience. Topgolf has ’90s trivia night every Thursday from 7-9 p.m., when the employees – both servers and upper-level associates – go around the dining area and lounge quizzing quests on ’90s trivia. A live band entertains the last Thursday of every month, covering popular ’90s songs that range from Britney Spears to Oasis. Associates hand out slap bracelets, headbands and sunglasses to get guests into the experience.
“Topgolf really empowers our associates to feel like they can be themselves,” Belew said.
Topgolf also caters to individual groups, accommodating graduation parties, anniversaries, corporate events, bachelor and bachelorette parties, proposals and birthdays. Belew and Collins said they have even host a baby gender reveal party. Belew said they set the lights to change to pink when the family made the announcement. “It was great because it got everybody around them into what was going on,” Belew said.
From 5 p.m. to close on Mondays, the rate is $45 per hour for up to six people. Topgolf estimates one person can play five to six games per hour, and six people will be able to complete a game together in about an hour. The price for two bays Monday through Saturday during PrimeTime hours, or 4:30-11:45 p.m., is $660.
Topgolf also offers group membership plans, such as the Family Fun Pass, which is valid from Memorial Day to Labor Day and costs $199 for up to six people during the weekdays until 5 p.m. Platinum Memberships are also available for $250 per month plus a $125 initiation fee. These plans include unlimited play for up to six people during certain hours, Callaway Club upgrades and discounts on food and private events. Corporate Platinum Memberships are also available.