Friday, October 14, 2016

Golf with a Twist

First impressions are positive.
   We can remember the days when miniature golf courses dotted the city. A fun date night may involve pizza or burgers, and probably some activity. Mini-golf was always a prime possibility, because it was a game that anyone could participate in, no matter their skill level. Over time the novelty has worn off to the point that there are only a handful of these entertainment venues left in our area. Amazingly, if you head to a tourist based area, like Branson or Lake of the Ozarks, you will find that miniature golf still flourishes. So what are people who are looking for this type of entertainment in other regions to do?

A different look than your normal driving range.
   These days there is a new golfing game in town, called Top Golf. Here they have chosen to create a new spin on the game in an effort to draw upon the desire of people looking for entertainment options. This isn't like miniature golf, since you do not use a putter. It also differs from regular golf, because you do not work your way around a course. Instead patrons pay to hit balls out of bays similar to visiting a range. As a matter of fact, it could best be described as a glorified driving range with special features.

Better feedback on your shot location.
  The idea came form two brothers who wanted to better understand how close their shots were to the targets at their local practice facility. Their idea soon blossomed into the "sports club meets local hangout" places that exist today. I recently had the opportunity to visit our local site in Overland Park for an evening session. I was skeptical about whether it would be enjoyable, since I don't usually spend much time at driving ranges, but decided that it was a good chance to see for myself what all the buzz was about.

Comfortable seating and free club use adds to the appeal.
   The Top Golf facility I visited is located at 106th & Nall in Overland Park, Kansas. The building has a very nice presence, and the high screen around the field is clearly visible when approaching their location. Upon entering you must first purchase a membership card for $5.00, which is good from then on. This card is similar to ones you get at many arcades, where they load the value you purchased on it, and then you use it to pay for your game time. The card also is used to keep track of your scoring history, in case you become a frequent visitor. The site is first come-first served, so reservations are not necessary. They have over 100 bays located on 3 floors, so on most visits you will probably have no issue getting right in. They also tout a rooftop terrace for viewing and relaxing. TV sets hang throughout the facility with sports shows on tap, so you can stay up-to-date on all of your sports teams and players.

Chicken and waffles with maple syrup and jalapeno gravy.

Mac Daddy Burger with green chili mac & cheese.
  To add to the atmosphere of a local hangout, they also offer interesting eats, as well as a wide variety of drink options. They have a good selection of appetizers to get started, and the calamari is delicious with it's sesame orange chili dipping sauce. Flatbreads and sliders, as well as a few varieties of burgers and handhelds, make good food options during a game. They even offer a couple of salad options, and I saw a few people enjoying some sweet desserts. The food prices are about what you would find at a sit down restaurant, which is not surprising for a specialty location. As for drink options, they have a full service bar, with quite a few signature drinks. These have a price a range of $8.00 to $11.00 each. They also offer a wide selection of beers and wines. Servers take your orders and deliver the selections in a very timely fashion. Service is certainly high on the priority list at Top Golf.

Right hand or left hand doesn't matter.
   So now that we have got all of our extras in order, it's time to start the game. Their system is based on using golf balls that have microchips implanted for tracking purposes. The targets all have readers, so when a ball makes contact it can accurately note the location for scoring purposes. Much like darts, there is a variety of games that can be played. During my visit, the group decided just to play the standard game, which simply scored by the distance of the target. When it was my turn, I picked a club from the selection offered, and stepped up to the mat. By the way, they have men's and women's clubs, as well as right and left handed. A wave of the club head over the sensor, and the machine dispensed a ball. There are rubber tees embedded in the mat for those times you want the ball raised up. The chart on the machine shows target placement and yardage, so you can select your appropriate club. Then you just swing away. If the ball lands in one of the target areas, the scoring screen will denote the spot, and the number of points earned. In the game we played points were increased for the longer the distance to the target.

Each bay has a machine that dispenses the chipped balls for hitting.
  The bays are outdoors, but offer cooling fans for hot days and heaters for cold days. L-shaped couches are located in each bay, along with a good sized table. There is easily room for about 6 adults per bay. After a short practice round, we were ready to start the competition. While the object was to track total scores, we soon found ourselves more interested in just tracking each shot. Some people would focus on accuracy, while others were more set on seeing how far they could hit the ball. We even had a couple who were determined to hit the ball out of the complex, but none were successful. At the end of the evening we all departed with plenty of fun stories, and smiles on our faces. Our group included people of every skill level, from beginner to seasoned veteran. It is safe to say that we were all able to engage in this activity on an even playing field. I believe those two brothers hit on a great idea, and may have created a great date night option. If this sounds like something you might enjoy, you can get more information at Perhaps we will see you there.

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