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Topgolf Business Model: Unveiling the Success Behind the Swing

Updated: 5 days ago


Topgolf Business Modell Illustration

Welcome to the immersive world of Topgolf, where entertainment meets golf in a revolutionary way.


In this article, we'll delve deep into the Topgolf business model, uncovering the elements that contribute to its unparalleled success. Drawing on my experience as a former consultant at both MBB and Big4, I'll dissect the revenue streams and highlight what makes this business truly exceptional.





Table of Contents





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What is Topgolf?


Topgolf is a premier entertainment and sports venue that combines the traditional game of golf with cutting-edge technology and a social atmosphere. Unlike conventional golf courses, Topgolf offers a unique experience where players aim microchipped golf balls at giant targets on an outfield.


The facility uses advanced tracking technology to score each shot, turning the game into a point-scoring and interactive experience. With a focus on inclusivity and entertainment, Topgolf appeals to both avid golfers and newcomers, making it a popular destination for social gatherings, corporate events, and family outings.


Topgolf enjoys a significant advantage by providing climate-controlled and heated hitting bays, enabling golf enthusiasts to play in every season. This unique feature ensures year-round accessibility, allowing people to enjoy golf even in unfavorable weather conditions like snow. For avid golfers, this presents an excellent opportunity to continue their training during the winter months.










What makes Topgolf Unique?


Entertainment Experience of Topgolf

Topgolf stands out as a unique concept that has successfully blended golf's social and sporting appeal with cutting-edge technology. This innovative approach has expanded the allure of Topgolf beyond traditional golf enthusiasts, capturing the interest of both golfers and non-golfers alike.


Here are five key factors that contribute to Topgolf's exceptional success:


Social Aspect


Topgolf goes beyond traditional golf by adopting a family-friendly approach and offering a vibrant nightlife experience. Nearly half of its guests identify as "non-golfers," showcasing its broad appeal beyond the conventional golfing community.


Contrary to its traditional image as an elitist pastime, golf has shed its stuffy reputation and become undeniably cool. The conventional association of polos and khakis at exclusive country clubs no longer defines the sport's aesthetic. This shift can be largely attributed to a pandemic-induced surge, expanding golf's appeal and drawing in individuals from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds who were once excluded from the golfing scene.



Topgolf Venue Visits Demographic Breakdown by Age Group
Source: Topgolf Callaway (November 2021)


Millennials, in particular, have embraced golf with enthusiasm, drawn to live events featuring DJs, a dynamic sports atmosphere, and a diverse menu of excellent food and drinks. In this regard, Topgolf stands out as a prime destination, offering a blend of entertainment, social engagement, and culinary delights that align perfectly with the evolving preferences of the modern generation.


Topgolf Open 2023


The pinnacle of this surge in popularity climaxed at the recent Topgolf Open, a glittering event in Los Angeles commemorating the city's hosting of the U.S. Open Championship for the first time in 75 years. This gathering emerged as the premier golf celebration of the year, showcasing Topgolf's extensive influence by drawing almost every notable figure connected to golf in Southern California.


Moreover, the event underscored the significant expansion of the game by attracting iconic skaters, elite athletes, and the renowned LA graffiti artist OG Slick, who painted a monumental mural at Topgolf's El Segundo location. You can catch the highlights below, courtesy of COMPLEX:





The Entertainment Experience Reinvented


Topgolf delivers a comprehensive entertainment package beyond the average consumer's expectations. Topgolf revolutionizes the golfing encounter by introducing innovative formats such as the Angry Birds game and providing diverse entertainment facilities. This strategy ensures that Topgolf remains pertinent in the ever-changing landscape of the golfing world.





Turning Challenge into Opportunity


Topgolf Venue Visits Demographic Breakdown by Skill Level
Source: Topgolf Callaway (November 2021)

Overcoming the challenges of traditional golf, Topgolf provides an easily accessible and affordable format for both golf enthusiasts and casual players. National Golf Foundation (NGF) notes that while traditional golf metrics trend negatively, Topgolf's approach has created a positive scene, countering issues of accessibility and affordability.


Information from Topgolf Callaway Corp (from November 2021) indicates that the average cost per visit/person to Topgolf is $36. This cost, when compared to other entertainment venues such as Six Flags, musicals, or fine dining restaurants, is relatively moderate and does not stand on the higher end of the spectrum.


Competition


High-tech features, including RFID Technology for tracking shots, make Topgolf ideal for friendly competition. The array of games available caters to a diverse range of abilities, ensuring that even those who aren't skilled golfers can enjoy the experience.


Topgolf in Numbers


Topgolf Callaway Brands Corp. (referred to as "the Company" or "Topgolf Callaway Brands") (NYSE: MODG) has disclosed its financial outcomes for the fourth quarter concluding on December 31, 2023.


Let's deep dive into the figures for Topgolf.


Topgolf Key Metrics & Outlook





Topgolf Callaway undergoes diversification, branching into three distinct segments: Topgolf, Golf Equipment, and Active Lifestyle. Our primary focus will be on assessing the performance of Topgolf.


The Company experienced a 5.4% surge in net revenues, attributed to the positive revenue growth observed across all operating segments. Notably, there was a 7% increase in revenue for Topgolf, a 5% rise in the Golf Equipment segment, and a 3% uptick in the Active Lifestyle segment.



Topgolf Annual Revenue in last 5 Years
Callaway acquired Topgolf in 2021, valuing the acquisition at $2 billion.


Specifically focusing on the Topgolf segment, revenue witnessed a noteworthy increment of $29.5 million or 7.2%, reaching $439.0 million, predominantly propelled by the addition of new venues. Despite an anticipated -3% Same Venue Sales, the actual performance surpassed expectations, attributed to the robust showing in our 1- and 2-bay consumer business.


Moreover, the Segment's operating income experienced a significant boost of $20.6 million, reaching $23.1 million. The Segment Adjusted EBITDA also saw a substantial increase of $30.0 million, marking a remarkable 69.4% rise to $73.2 million. These improvements were primarily a result of increased revenues and enhanced operational efficiencies within the venues.


In summary, after the challenging year of 2019, greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Topgolf's revenue has demonstrated a steady and remarkable upward trend, achieving a record-breaking $4.28 billion in 2023.


Topgolf Venue Economics




Topgolf features two types of venues, classified as Small-Medium and Medium-Large. The primary distinction between small, medium, and large venues is the number of hitting bays each venue offers. However, it's worth noting that large venues may also have additional space, potentially accommodating more events.


According to Topgolf Callaway, the size of venues is measured as follows:


Large Venue


  • Target population of >1MM in 25 min catchment

  • 100+ bays across three floors

  • Example: Las Vegas, NV


Medium Venue


  • Target population of 500K-1MM in 25 min catchment

  • 70 - 100 bays across 2-3 floors

  • Example: Baton Rouge, LA


Small Venue


  • Target population of 200K-500K in 25 min catchment

  • 30-60 bays on a single level powered by Toptracer

  • Example: Chattanooga, TN



For simplicity, let us refer to them as small and large venues. As indicated in the revenue report, Topgolf Callaway also classifies venues into two categories: Small-Medium and Medium-Large.


The majority of Topgolf venues fall into the category of large venues. The cost for small venues typically ranges between $20-27 million, whereas the expense for large venues can begin at $30 million and extend up to $40 million. The venue revenue ranges from $13-18 million for small venues, while for large venues, it varies between $20-28 million.


Notably, the estimated payback period stands at an impressive 2.5 years, as indicated by Topgolf Callaway Corp. This factor positions Topgolf as a potentially excellent investment, provided that all factors align favorably.


Topgolf Venue Count




The primary revenue source for Topgolf is its venues, and their growth rate is notably rapid. As evident in the table above, over the past three years, an average of approximately 10 venues opened annually in the US.


By the close of 2023, the total number of venues reached 89. It is reasonable to anticipate that they may reach the milestone of 100 venues by the end of 2024 or the first quarter of 2025.


Out of the total 89 venues in the US, approximately 76% (68 venues) are owned and operated directly by Topgolf Callaway Corp. The remaining 21 venues operate under a franchise system.


How Topgolf Makes Money?


Topgolf's business model is segmented into three primary categories: Topgolf Venues (Incl. Swing Suite), Toptracer, and Topgolf Media. The predominant share of revenue is generated through Topgolf Venues.


Topgolf Venues




A Topgolf venue is a specialized entertainment facility that combines elements of golf with cutting-edge technology to create a unique and engaging experience. At a Topgolf venue, guests can enjoy a variety of golf-based games in a social and vibrant atmosphere.


The venues typically feature a multi-level driving range with individual hitting bays equipped with high-tech sensors and microchipped golf balls. Players can take shots at targets on the range, and the technology accurately tracks the distance, accuracy, and speed of each shot. This data is then used to score the games and provide feedback to the players. The venues are designed to cater to individuals of all skill levels, from seasoned golfers to those trying golf for the first time.


In addition to the golfing experience, Topgolf venues often offer a range of amenities, including bars, restaurants, and event spaces. This creates a social and entertainment-focused environment, making Topgolf a popular destination for friends, families, and corporate events. Overall, a Topgolf venue aims to provide a dynamic and enjoyable experience beyond traditional golfing.


Topgolf Swing Suite


Topgolf Swing Suite is an immersive virtual experience that brings the excitement of Topgolf to various settings, such as hotels, resorts, and entertainment venues. It offers a state-of-the-art simulator where participants can enjoy a range of virtual games, including golf, baseball, football, and zombie dodgeball.


The technology accurately replicates the feel of a real sports environment, allowing users to take swings, throws, or kicks and see the impact in the virtual world. Topgolf Swing Suite provides an entertaining and social experience, making it suitable for various occasions, from casual hangouts to corporate events. It enhances the accessibility of Topgolf's interactive and engaging entertainment beyond the traditional Topgolf venues, extending the brand's reach to new and diverse audiences.








Toptracer Technology





Toptracer technology represents an advanced ball-tracking system employed in golf. It offers real-time data and analysis of a golfer's shots, utilizing high-speed cameras and sophisticated algorithms to meticulously trace the golf ball's flight path from the moment of impact to its landing. Beyond measuring essential metrics like ball speed, distance, and launch angle, the technology visually represents the shot trajectory on a screen. While Topgolf incorporates this technology within its venues, it also develops and sells it to other interested driving ranges or golf facilities.


This technology mirrors the one featured on television, displaying the trajectory, distance, and ball speed of each shot, and was showcased during +200 national TV broadcasts every year. Additionally, Topgolf extends the use of this technology by licensing it to individual driving ranges. Currently, +700 driving ranges across +30 countries, encompassing +20,000 bays, are actively utilizing this advanced tracking technology.


Topgolf Media


Topgolf Media operates on regional, national, and global scales, tailoring packages and creating innovative opportunities to achieve diverse business objectives. This may involve organizations acquiring advertising space or partnerships with corporations, which are then showcased in Topgolf Venues and other platforms.


In summary, Topgolf Media focuses on generating original content to engage and cultivate audiences for the brand, manages the development and operations of the Topgolf app, and maintains a profitable business in the innovative media segment. Additionally, it explores e-sport opportunities, such as the PGA Tour 2023 game, and collaborates with major brands for co-marketing initiatives to reach a broader audience for Topgolf.


Topgolf Venues Business Model



Topgolf Venue Revenue Breakdown
Source: Topgolf Callaway (2019)

Interestingly, only one-third of Topgolf Venues' revenue is generated from gameplay. The remaining two-thirds come from various sources, including events, food and beverages, and merchandise sales. These venues offer a versatile and enjoyable experience, serving as ideal destinations to socialize with friends, watch sporting events like the Super Bowl, celebrate birthdays, and host corporate events.


Some Topgolf Venues go beyond traditional offerings, providing specific areas for meetings and business events. Additionally, venues may feature rooftop terraces and patios, enhancing their appeal as excellent choices for corporate gatherings and events.





Topgolf takes its culinary offerings to a remarkable standard, providing an elevated experience. With an impressive wine selection, including champagne for special events, and a diverse menu ranging from burgers and finger foods to more sophisticated options, Topgolf has become a destination for those seeking exceptional food and drinks.


Beyond traditional golfing, people frequent Topgolf primarily for its signature food and beverages, such as Golf Bag Cocktails and injectable donut holes. In essence, the entertainment factor takes precedence, with golf being a secondary consideration for many visitors to Topgolf.





Synergy with Callaway


As an integral part of the Topgolf Callaway company, Topgolf opens up synergistic opportunities with Callaway, a producer of golf accessories. Within Topgolf, Callaway Clubs are not only utilized but are also available for purchase at select venues.


The collaboration extends further, with professional golf players receiving endorsements featuring the Topgolf logo on their attire, along with commercials for Callaway showcased within Topgolf premises.


The significant exposure that Callaway receives through this collaboration, introducing the brand to a vast audience, creates a remarkable synergy between Topgolf and Callaway, offering substantial marketing benefits.


Expansion and Global Impact


As per the National Golf Foundation's 2023 report, on-course players numbered 12.1 million, while off-course players reached 18.5 million in the United States. Considering that more than half of off-course play likely originates from Topgolf, this is a staggering figure.


With Topgolf reaching around 25% of the US population, the market penetration opportunity is evident. The introduction of golf to new players, including younger generations, women, and diverse communities, further adds to this potential, positioning Topgolf and golf itself for increasing popularity in the years to come.


Yet, the scope extends globally. Currently, Topgolf's international venue count is relatively low. Looking ahead, envisioning venues in densely populated cities worldwide—such as Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Paris, Moscow, and more—could have a significant global impact. This may lead to the possibility of world Topgolf tournaments, where champions from each venue compete on an international stage. Additionally, countries like China, India, and other Southeast Asian nations present tremendous potential.


In summary, the combined factors of market penetration opportunities and the trend of introducing new players to golf position Topgolf for substantial growth in the upcoming years, both domestically and on a global scale.


Challenges


Undoubtedly, there are certain challenges. Topgolf pioneered a global trend known as "EATertainment," emphasizing venues where patrons can dine, drink, and engage in games. This innovation sparked a new market globally.


While some may draw parallels with bowling alleys, the distinction lies in the significantly higher quality of food and beverage offerings at Topgolf. Moreover, all TopGolf locations boast expansive parking lots, ensuring easy accessibility, with some even providing valet services. The venues also offer ample space for events and have gained popularity among students, given their proximity to colleges, eliminating the need for expensive transportation.


This trend has given rise to various spin-offs, with venues like Topgolf of Pickleball, Topgolf of Baseball, Topgolf of Soccer, and Topgolf of Bowling & Bocce emerging. There are even discussions about the potential introduction of Topgolf of Basketball, as well as ventures into sports like F1 and football.


Can Topgolf get Dethroned?


Predicting that people will consistently prefer golf over other sports is challenging, especially considering the widespread introduction to golf through Topgolf experiences. The market share might fluctuate if a new and compelling sports concept gains popularity. According to World Atlas, golf ranks as the 10th most popular sport globally, which opens the door for other sports to follow suit.


While challenges exist, such as the potential high cost of building Topgolf venues for sports like hockey, and the dominance of team sports in popularity, opportunities still abound for diversifying into other sports. The significance of Topgolf's Toptracer technology cannot be understated, as it enhances gameplay.


However, there remains a risk that a competitor could introduce superior technology, enabling players to explore additional functionalities. Though various risks must be considered, as of now, despite the emergence of similar venues, Topgolf appears largely unchallenged in its domain.


To dethrone Topgolf, a competitor would need to offer a significantly superior and innovative experience, addressing key aspects like venue ambiance, technology, and overall customer satisfaction. As of now, Topgolf remains a leader, but the competitive landscape may evolve in the future.


Conclusion


The Topgolf business model is a harmonious blend of innovation, entertainment, and community engagement. As we've explored its origins, mechanics, and prospects, it's evident that Topgolf's success is rooted in its ability to transcend the traditional golfing experience.


Whether you're a seasoned golfer or a newcomer, Topgolf offers an inclusive and captivating space that continues to redefine the intersection of sport and entertainment.


Topgolf Consulting Services


If you require consultancy for the establishment of a new Topgolf venue or an EATertainment concept, feel free to reach out to me.


As a full-time Strategy and Management consultant, I offer comprehensive consulting services, providing valuable insights, market research, and strategic guidance to ensure the success of your venture.


Feel free to utilize the contact form on this website, and your inquiries will be directed to me promptly.





FAQs About Topgolf Business Model


Is Topgolf only for experienced golfers?


No, Topgolf caters to individuals of all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned golfers. The technology and interactive games make it enjoyable for everyone.


How does Topgolf ensure customer safety during gameplay?


Topgolf prioritizes customer safety by implementing safety measures, trained staff, and secure gaming facilities to provide a worry-free experience.


Are there any age restrictions for enjoying Topgolf?


Topgolf is designed for all ages. Families, friends, and even corporate groups can enjoy a day at Topgolf, making it a versatile and inclusive destination.


What makes Topgolf different from traditional golf courses?


Topgolf distinguishes itself by combining technology, entertainment, and socializing, creating a vibrant atmosphere beyond the typical golf course setting.


Can I host private events or parties at Topgolf?


Yes, Topgolf offers private gaming suites at some venues and event hosting services, making it an ideal venue for birthdays, corporate events, and other celebrations.




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