“Andy mate, you heard of TopGolf before? It makes the driving range much less boring.”
The words of one of my ‘golfing’ chums down the pub last week when the subject of our sport came to the fore, excruciatingly for the rest of the ‘non-golfing group’.
“Yeah it sounds great but I've never been before,” I replied, as one of the girls stifled what I think was a yawn.
“Go. It’s like bowling but with golf balls and without those slippy shoes and gutters. Oh, and you also get lovely waitresses to bring you beers and food while you play.”
He’d sold it.
TopGolf, the brainchild of twin brothers Steve and Dave Joliffe who wanted to make golf more fun, opened its first facility in Watford some 13 years ago.
The concept, now considered the premier golf entertainment complex where the sport meets the bar, is a point-scoring game which players of all ages and abilities can get involved.
If you’ve never been to TopGolf before, let me paint a picture of my experience at TopGolf Addlestone at the weekend.
Golfers enter either with their own clubs or they can pick up a set of rentals at reception and then hand over some dollar as they decide how many games (20 balls per game) they want to play.
Depending on how busy the range is, you’ll be able to choose an upstairs or downstairs bay. You’ll then be handed a membership card and you just simply walk to the golf ball dispenser, slot in your card and wait for your balls to fall into your basket. From there, just walk to your designated bay. Remembering your clubs, of course.
One of the most important things to understand at TopGolf is that each player has their own bucket of golf balls. You must play your own balls as each ball is fitted with a microchip – personal to each player - to track all that technical stuff.
On your way through to the range, why not place an order at the bar for some beers, cocktails, snacks or meals. Friendly dedicated bar staff will then take your order and bring to your bay. Once all the admin has been done, it’s off to play some golf...
There are ten pins scattered around the range, spanning a 20-yard target for those chips, duffs and tops, to a 240-yard end-zone for the more experienced players.
Each target features its own dartboard as such. The closer you hit to the pin, in the shaded area, the more points you gain. Every time you record a six-pointer, your next ball doubles, so it’s crucial to keep hitting those sixes as you can really get some good scores rolling.
I found hitting consistent 5-irons into the back target was the way forward. As long as the ball finishes in that target, some 175 yards out, you’re guaranteed a six-pointer each time.
But there are other games to get excited about, too, particularly for the less-experienced players. There are games such as TopChip to help you sharpen up your short game – hit the correct target and you’ll score points but hit the wrong target and watch your points disappear.
While the TopGolf game is the only one that really interests me, I did quite enjoy TopBreak – a game based on the principles of snooker. TopBreak's objective is to hit the red target followed by any other coloured target.
Just like snooker, the higher value colours, or in TopBreak’s case, the further away the target, the more points you’re awarded. Aim for the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and finally black targets on your last six shots.
Want to play in the evening? No problem. The spotlights will take care of that, with all TopGolf locations closing late.
TopGolf has also recently launched what they call TopGolf Nights, where each night offers a slightly different experience - all designed to provide customers with a lasting memory. After all, there’s nothing quite like hitting that ‘sweet’ shot while the in-house DJ is playing your favourite song.
Prices range from £5.50 per game for adults from 11am to close, and £4.50 for juniors, while it’s £2.75 for adults in off-peak (9am-11am) and £2.25 for juniors.
You can also play unlimited TopGolf for just £10 in the weekdays - this offer is not available on bank holidays or school holidays, however, and all games must finish before 6pm.
While I know just how frustrating this sport can be, I believe to simply be able to chill out with friends, exchange banter over a pint and still play the sport I love is a perfect way to unwind either in the evening or at the weekend. Well worth a visit if you've never been.
To take advantage of some of the latest offers at TopGolf Surrey, Watford and Chigwell centres, visit www.topgolf.com