PONTE VEDRA BEACH — As they say in the business-speak world, Tuesday’s Players Championship announcement of a PGA Tour-LPGA Tour-Topgolf strategic alliance was ripe with "synergistic opportunities.” If only it didn’t seem so shy on details.
While it was nice to see the hottest golf business on the planet—Topgolf’s “community” includes 24 locations (and counting) and 8 million annual guests—receive proper acknowledgement from America’s two biggest tours, the uber-hip driving-range company could only tip its hand at a few of the strategic possibilities.
As enthusiastic and imaginative as LPGA commish Mike Whan seemed about the arrangement, Tim Finchem’s PGA Tour side was less effusive in discussing how the tour could capitalize on Topgolf’s well-earned ascendance.
But that's what we're here for. What follows are five suggestions for how the tours could push the Topgolf alliance!
Set up remote Topgolf facilities at tour events.
While the alliance is likely to be emphasized in towns where there is already a Topgolf nearby, why not dedicate land (where possible) to set up mobile bays and bring fans a flavor of Topgolf at tournaments? It could create more fun ways to enjoy a championship.
Instead of only pro-ams at the course, have one at Topgolf.
Let's cut down on those awkward first-tee shots or pro golfers pretending to be excited about five hours of golf with hacks! Instead of the secondary Monday pro-am populated by third-tier tour players, play Tuesday night pro-ams at Topgolf. The players will have more fun, the high-paying types will get to see world-class golfers let their guards down and, did I mention pro-ams take forever?
Tour players take on the world’s best in virtual golf.
Topgolf recently acquired sports-gaming company WGT, “the leading web and mobile golf game with more than 14 million players worldwide.” Let’s get some of the PGA Tour and LPGA’s finest who enjoy playing virtual golf in their spare time and have them take on the best virtual golfers at a Topgolf for the ultimate 21st-century skills challenge! And of course, show it on Golf Channel.
First Tee Clinics at Topgolf.
Forget making kids sit in a grandstand at a PGA Tour or LPGA event as their introduction to big-time golf. Start them at a Topgolf and let the next generation of players shine in a more modern setting before taking them to the course.
Turn broadcast booths into Topgolf hitting bays.
How about Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz sipping a glass of The Calling, watching the telecast on Topgolf-style monitors and letting Peter Kostis do the occasional tip in the Topgolf simulator? Check the blue blazers at the front door. Are you in?