How to stay awake between a busy shift at work and Conor McGregor v Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 on TV in the early hours of Sunday morning?
Luckily, two friends had a solution – playing Top Golf.
The thought of stepping outside on a bitterly cold Saturday night was not that appealing, but then neither was watching contestants on The X Factor make a fool of themselves.
So having been woken up by my friend Nasar’s phone call telling me to get ready, we were soon off to Top Golf in Watford along with another friend, Junaid.
But what is Top Golf, I hear you ask…
Founded in Hertfordshire in 2000, Top Golf offers golfing games for all ages and skill levels and advanced technology to track every individual’s shots.
It is currently played at four centres in the home counties, and the focus is firmly on relaxed fun as opposed to the strict rules and etiquette of golf itself.
Expansion in the UK and America has seen a total of 15 centres opened, with more planned for the future.
Essentially a two-tier, 240-yard driving range, Top Golf has 10 dartboard-style targets on the ground at various distances.
Each ball that a player hits has a chip in it and this records which target someone has hit and how close they are to its centre.
The closer a person gets to the flag, the more points they will earn, and these are automatically displayed on a digital screen in the bays.
Golf is facing a big problem in attracting new players to the game. In the last four years, it has lost 13% of its regular players while participation amongst 16 to 25-year-old’s has decreased 45% in the same period.
“The resident DJ was spinning tracks in the packed bar while groups of people were enjoying drinks and food as well as the golf in equal measure”
To many golfers, it would be easy to dismiss Top Golf as just a glorified driving range, but the numbers show that it warrants further attention.
With 650,000 visitors annually, two-thirds of Top Golf’s players are under 25 and 79% are aged from 18-34 and this is the exact demographic amongst which golf needs to gain in popularity.
According to Top Golf’s marketing manager Michael Angelides, 65-70% of visitors class themselves as non-golfers, and despite the crowds it attracts, celebrities such as Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and One Direction’s Niall Horan are regular visitors.
Regular visitors to Top Golf who have a lifetime playing card do not need to wait in line because there a £20 membership card allows them four free games.
In contrast, for any person wishing to have a night out, Top Golf offers a 30-day playing card at £2. With this, it will cost an adult an additional £6 per game and a junior member £5 per game but many deals are also on offer.
There was certainly a competitive feel to the atmosphere but it doesn’t have that stuffiness associated with golf clubhouses.
The resident DJ was spinning tracks in the packed bar while groups of people were enjoying drinks and food as well as the golf in equal measure.
After warming ourselves up by hitting numerous of practice shots, it was time to get started.
Nasar and myself took control and fired some long shots into the distance as our points total tallied up early on. This only acted as motivation for Junaid who reminded us: “It’s not a sprint boys, it’s a marathon.”
Nasar was supremely confident in his abilities but arrogance seemed to get the better of him, and after a strong start, he struggled to maintain his accuracy and slipped from 1st to 2nd.
I was pumped.
But then I too started to get over-confident and my shots began to go all over the place. Having been hitting 10s, my scores plummeted to 3s and 4s.
After being on the back foot for most of the game, Junaid fought his way back into contention, and he dominated the closing stages, hitting a huge shot that landed him a 10.
With the last shots remaining for all three of us, Junaid needed a score of 5 or more to be victorious and as he hit the the microchipped ball towards the centre, myself and Nasar instantly knew it was game over.
Junaid’s 7 made him the winner with a total of 59, with me three behind, while Nasar’s confident start ended in tears as he finished last on 39.
The journey home was horrific, as Junaid boasted: “Boys, I was just getting into the swing of things, next time I’ll give you a good thrashing.”
Give it a go
Regardless of your ability to swing a club and hit a ball, Top Golf is more exciting than a trip to your average driving range.
Whether you choose to visit with friends or family on a Friday or Saturday night, where the music and drinks continue to flow until 1am, or during the week, you will find that Top Golf offers something for every level of golfer, from a four-handicapper or someone who’s never even held a club before.
In the past, I didn’t think golf would be a sport that I would ever enjoy, but every time I have visited Top Golf, I have loved it and I would recommend everyone to give it a try.
To find out where you can give Top Golf a go, visit the Top Golf website.