WEST CHESTER TWP., Ohio — Park your cart. Topgolf , the new sports-themed entertainment venue here, opened to the public Friday.
WCPO.com and other media got a sneak peek at the new facility last week, and we have graded the experience in terms of quality, drinks and food. Here’s the scorecard:
Topgolf claims to have something for everyone. That certainly seems to be true.
If golfing, Topgolf has high-tech’ed the driving range. You’ll have a choice between 102 different bays spaced over three tiered levels. Each bay holds six players. Every ball hit is microchipped — just select a club, head over to the turf, wave said club over the ball dispenser and, voila, you’re ready to play.
RELATED: Look through a Topgolf photo gallery here .
In short: Hit a zone, score points (zones, or color-coded targets, are spaced at 25, 50, 90, 125, 150, 185 and 215 yards). Some games are slightly more complex, testing accuracy or splitting your six persons into teams. Some 70 percent of Topgolf patrons aren’t golfers at all, so there are two pros on staff to help with your swing.
Don’t want to tee off? There’s pool, shuffleboard, foosball, Xbox Connect, even Bearpong , an oversized version of the college classic. In for something more chill? There’s a 3,000-square-foot private event space for parties. There’s a rooftop terrace, with live music slated for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Want to watch the game on TV? You’re covered: There are more than 200 HD flatscreens for your viewing pleasure — with no angle left uncovered.
Besides golf and games, this is a major focus. Among Topgolf’s 450 new hires , the bulk are employed in the kitchen and in related roles. Seve Delgado, national director of culinary operations, said chefs — roughly 74 cooks in all — all have an opportunity to make their stamp in the kitchen. Most meals are made from scratch.
While the initial food lineup will feature staples that can be found at any Topgolf location worldwide (there are 26 others in the U.S. and U.K.), it’s possible a new menu rollout in February could have some more unique, local flavors.
For now, though, a carnivore lover’s best bet is either the prime rib or a classic burger. Darin Morse, Topgolf’s corporate executive chef, said the burgers are made in-house — a blend of brisket, short rib and certified angus with a “first bite that will stick with you for awhile.”
Sharable dishes are common — try the nachos and, if you’ve got a particularly sweet tooth, the injectable doughnut holes, which we sampled in a more than healthy (or perhaps unhealthy?) portion.
Morse also raved about the wings. “It’s a unique experience,” he told me. “We use a process that no one else does.” While mysterious, it sounds delicious.
There are plenty of brews on tap, none of them particularly unique, as well as a handful of specialty cocktails — think sangria, martinis and strawberry jalapeño margaritas. The main bar downstairs is slightly narrow to navigate; although there also are plenty of others inside — four overall and on every level, in fact.
Being roughly 33-weeks pregnant, I didn’t sample the Tipsey Palmer (sweet tea vodka, vodka, ice tea and lemon) or the Bulleit Old Fashioned (bourbon, orange bitters, sugar and cherry) available at the media preview — although the tap water, I must say, was delicious. My bay mates, however, indulged me and ordered one of each on my behalf. They said they were strong, if you’re into that kind of thing. I’d still give this sector a par.
Topgolf will claim this is a hole-in-one, and company execs say their Streets of West Chester site is “critical to their overall expansion plans.” You certainly can’t beat the I-75 interstate frontage: the Topgolf towers, at 170 feet tall, while at one point slightly controversial (some neighbors considered them an eyesore), have to prove a better return than any billboard advertising you might get. And located on the edge of the Union Centre exit sprawl, company officials say their nearly equidistant proximity to both Cincinnati and Dayton is also beneficial.
“That’s a pretty unique place to be, in that corridor. We really saw an opportunity with the placement geographically,” Topgolf’s Director of Operations, Kevin Kraft, told me in June. “We’re also excited to draw people from Indianapolis, Columbus, even Lexington.”
There’s a reason why Topgolf is one of the fastest growing companies in the country — besides West Chester, there are dozens more locations under contract to open in 2017-18. The facility is high quality and unlike any other entertainment venue around. The food is not your typical bar fare, and the experience is varied enough to draw diverse crowds on repeat occasions. An estimated 450,000 visitors, according to previous reports, are expected in the facility’s first year of operation.
Kraft didn’t go so far as to say Topgolf would replace the traditional game and green — just that it’s more in line with what people want and need. “It’s more than just golf, more than just having dinner, more than just having a drink,” he said.
“We wrap it all into one. It’s a great place to come and enjoy yourself. I think it’s a really unique concept.”
Follow Liz Engel on Twitter: @_LizEngel .