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Topgolf, World of Golf, Swing 365: New businesses aim to bring golf to the masses

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 07:00:23-04

Some local businesses are hoping to reshape ideas about golf by making it more accessible to anyone curious about the game.

While interest in the game of golf is as strong as ever, time and finances have made a traditional 18-hole round difficult for some to manage.

That’s why some businesses want to make it as easy for beginners as possible by offering a casual environment with no equipment required. By expanding the definition of a golfing experience and getting creative with other offerings at their facilities, Swing 365, Topgolf and World of Golf want Cincinnati to know that golf is for everyone.

“When the recession came around, there was some contraction in the industry,” said Bob Baldassari, Director of Youth Golf Development for the PGA. “Maybe they didn’t have the time but the interest is out there -- it’s never gone away.”

For golf novices, the idea of stepping onto a golf course can be intimidating.

“People wonder, ‘Am I good enough to go to a course?’ They don’t want to be embarrassed taking 10 shots to get to the green,” said Joe Walker, owner of Swing 365 in West Chester.

Dress codes and expectations on the course also could deter curious would-be golfers.

“I don’t know any private courses that would allow blue jeans on the course,” said Todd Johnson, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Golf Association. “You want to welcome new people to the game, but you don’t want to step on people who have dedicated their life to the traditional game.”

A golfing bay at Topgolf

At Swing 365, everyone from beginners to pros can learn something in the “High Definition Golf Simulators.” Guests can choose a private or public simulator and play virtual versions of famous courses.

Serious golfers looking to hone their game on rainy days can take advantage of the simulators’ high-speed cameras that measure distance, speed and accuracy.

“It’s a really good place to learn because of the advanced technology,” Walker said.

Eric Wright of Covington, Kentucky, described himself as an avid golfer who wanted to try something new. When he visited Swing 365, Wright said he was impressed by the variety of courses and accurate gameplay.

“It’s a great place to go for winter practice,” he said. “The simulated play is really fun.”

Other businesses have brought the power of technology to golf in an effort to appeal to a broader audience.

West Chester’s Topgolf has microchipped balls programmed to feed guests information about their swing. The company boasts more than a hundred “hitting bays,” where guests can take swings at their leisure in between bites of dinner.

RELATED: See photos of Topgolf

Each hitting bay includes games that challenge guests on distance and accuracy, rather than a traditional round of golf.

“There are no skills required at Topgolf,” said Anne Winegardner, marketing manager of Topgolf.

Golfers and non-golfers will find something fun to do at the high-tech driving range.

Winegardner likened the Topgolf experience to going out to a bowling alley. In addition to the bays, Topgolf offers an array of amenities including a full bar, restaurant and rooftop terrace with favorites like giant Jenga, billiards and more.

Ahi tuna at Topgolf

When Brian Doyle of Loveland, Ohio, helped plan his friend’s bachelor party, he said Topgolf made a lot of sense.

“The groom made a suggestion of going golfing, but he thought it would be too hard with the large number of people,” Doyle said. “If you are an avid golfer and really enjoy it, you can go with people who have no experience at all and still have a good time with them. I am pretty particular with who I like to play golf with, but when you go to Topgolf, you can go with anyone.”

Like Topgolf, World of Golf in Florence, Kentucky, aims to make golf a more inclusive experience.

“Golf is seen as a game where people wear collared shirts and look nice,” said Chris Rose, assistant manager of World of Golf. “We’re interested in something for the whole family.”

The World of Golf includes favorites like mini golf and a driving range, but it also allows patrons ditch their clubs altogether in favor of “footgolf.” The front nine of the 18-hole executive golf course includes the new alternative that Rose described as “golf with a soccer ball.”

Amanda Fisher, executive director of the Southern Ohio PGA, believes these new approaches to golf are a positive trend.

“At the end of the day, if more people get excited about the game of golf, it’s good for the industry as a whole,” said Fisher.