Topgolf is trying smaller locations

The entertainment concept hopes a more flexible design will fit in smaller and midsize cities.
Photograph courtesy of Topgolf

Topgolf is shortening its backswing, so to speak, so it can play more fairways.

The Dallas-based chain of sports entertainment restaurants has added a new venue design that will help the company go into small and midsize cities—greatly expanding the concept’s potential market.

The company said it is actively looking at development opportunities, focusing on markets with between 100,000 and 500,000 people.

That gives Topgolf options that work in La Crosse, Wis., as well as Las Vegas, giving the company flexibility to grow its footprint across a broader range of U.S. markets. Topgolf operates 53 venues, 49 of which are in the U.S.

Craig Kessler, Topgolf’s chief operating officer, called the new prototype “the next evolution of our venue business.”

“Our mission is to share the Topgolf experience while creating moments that matter to everyone, no matter where in the country they’re located,” Kessler said in a statement. He said the new design “will bring us a step closer to accomplishing that goal by expanding our addressable market more than ever before.”

Topgolf operates giant, multistory venues with bays where customers play games using golf shots with high-tech balls that are tracked and scored. The company says it has a “worldwide fan base” of nearly 100 million people and more recently has started getting into esports.

Many chains with large, destination locations have focused on smaller restaurants to fit into smaller markets. Dave & Buster’s, for instance, has a smaller-scale version of its massive locations to fit into midsize cities.

And it makes sense. There are only so many larger markets out there. According to U.S. Census data, there are 80 markets in the country with 500,000 or more people. But there are more than 200 markets with between 100,000 and 500,000 people.

Topgolf executives said that the more flexible design essentially gives it “unlimited” expansion opportunities—the company has three locations in the U.K. and one in Australia. The flexibility allows the company to scale the number of bays for golf, meaning it can change the size of the venue to fit the market.

“This will be a smaller-footprint and flexible design that allows us to scale the number of bays,” Devin Charhon, director of real estate, said in an email. He said the size of the venue will depend on the market and the site, but the venues will keep the company’s Toptracer technology and the same customer experience.

He said the company plans to announce the first locations with the new flexible footprint “in the coming months.” 

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