By Mike Lednovich, Editor & Publisher
ORLANDO, Fl. — The wave of change is coming. It’s called the gamification of golf that began with the hugely successful Topgolf explosion. Now, Toptracer, the technology behind Topgolf, is changing the way you’ll experience hitting balls at the driving range.
It has already taken hold at the Del Mar Golf Center in Del Mar, Ca. Customers no longer buy a bucket of balls and pound them onto the range. Instead, golfers now rent a hitting bay outfitted with Toptracer tracking devices and see their results on an accompanying monitor. There’s a variety of games included in the software.
“The driving range experience has always been one dimensional. You hit balls with absolutely no feedback or data,” said Ani Mehta, VP of Corporate Development for Toptracer. “We’re changing that with Toptracer. We now have launch monitors calibrated to the actual pins and targets on the driving range. Now you can store data club-by-club over time to your cellphone.”
That’s cool, but the seismic shift in this gamification movement are the features in the software.
- A points game – you can challenge your friends to a points game based on how close you hit the balls to the targets.
- A virtual game – where you can play up to 18 holes on a world renowned course. The software includes Pebble Beach. Golfers can play a full round in about 45 minutes.
- Long drive contest – you can turn the range into a long drive grid to see who is the ‘big do’ in your group.
- Closest to the pin – the premium is on accuracy with the ultimate prize a hole-in-one.
There’s also a ‘What’s in my bag’ component that tracks every club you hit, stores the results in a database and tracks your progress. You can share your results with an online community.
“We’re currently at 25 driving ranges, seven in the U.S. and 18 in Europe,” Mehta said. “This is brand new technology that we’ve been developing for the past couple of years.”
Del Mar charges $25 for one hour on the hitting bay for up to four people that includes a large bucket (100 balls).
They also offer group rates (3 bays) for $125 an hour.
The hitting bays are configured with a seating area and tables, similar to Topgolf.
“The whole driving range profit model is changed. Instead of making money from a bucket of balls, driving range operators now make money from their food and beverage services,” Mehta explained. “They’ll see groups of people at their range, not just single golfers. This model attracts a completely different demographic.”
Del Mar features six covered Toptracer hitting bays.
“We want people to come out and try it just to have some fun. We want to show that it can be a recreational thing. You don’t have to take five to six hours to play and be frustrated if you don’t play well,” said Matt Clay, the facility’s general manager in a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The potential is that if you don’t play, this is an opportunity to bridge the gap and get people into the game. It’s not going to convert everybody, but the chance to put a club into someone’s hand is a start.”
Toptracer promises to be a game changer for driving range operators as well as golfers who use them.
“We’re eliminating the monotony of aimlessly hitting ball after ball with the same club, one after another — like many of most golfers do,” Mehta said. “Toptracer allows golfers to mix things up while providing instant feedback about how you’re ball striking, and has you focused on specific targets instead of into an open range.”
You can read about the Del Mar Golf Center here http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/sd-sp-toptracer-video-game-comes-to-del-mar-golf-center-20180115-story.html
You can read about Toptracer at http://www.toptracer.com/range/toptracer-range/