ASHBURN, Va. — So, it’s late January. How’s your golf game?
Maybe you’re not particularly interested in trying to look strong and tough, or just not interested in wrapping yourself head-to-toe to survive an 18-hole jaunt in subfreezing temperatures. That’s understandable, and it’s where Topgolf comes in.
With 102 heated stalls — not to mention a gourmet kitchen and full bar at your disposal — Topgolf Loudoun gives you a chance to keep your game sharp while enjoying comforts not found out on the course this time of year.
For those who’ve never been to Topgolf, here’s the gist: It’s an interactive driving range with a stall that you rent by the hour for a group of up to six people. There are specific games you can play, or you can just mess around. You can bring your own clubs or just use theirs.
It can absolutely be a place where serious golfers can go to work on their game, but it’s also where someone who has never swung a golf club before can go and be comfortable.
Started by two competitive golfing brothers in the U.K. in 2000, the concept was fairly straightforward.
“They wanted to find a way to make their driving range experience a lot more competitive,” Brandon Gabay, senior marketing manager for Topgolf’s Washington region, told WTOP.
“It started, actually, with taking a chip out of a dog collar. That was like the original microchip to see how you could track that ball.”
Now, each ball is equipped with an RFID chip to accurately tell you which quadrant of each green-shaped target you landed in and exactly how far your ball traveled. Originally built on top of existing driving ranges, Topgolf centers now start from scratch, giving them a chance to dig into the ground and create a more effective measurement system.
But, ironically, their origin atop driving ranges is not where the name comes from but rather the acronym Target Oriented Practice Golf.
Now with 40 venues serving over 13 million people per year across the U.S. and beyond, the focus has expanded well beyond just golf. The Nashville site has a concert venue attached called Topgolf Live, complete with a 600-person amphitheater. The Las Vegas location, right by MGM Grand, features two pools with cabanas. With expansion into Australia in 2018 and plans moving along for Canada, Mexico and Dubai, the regional flair only figures to continue to expand.
“We have really shifted away from being a driving range,” said Gabay. “It’s just as much fun for someone who’s never picked up a club in their entire life as someone who’s a scratch golfer.”
To that end, Gabay said the clientele at Topgolf Loudoun is split about 50/50 between golfers and non-golfers. Whether you play or don’t, there’s plenty of food and drink options to keep you entertained, as well as a Kidzone on the lower level.
Speaking of the food — it’s surprisingly good. The presentation has plenty of flair, which doesn’t do anything in particular for me, though your mileage may vary. Thankfully, it doesn’t come at expense of flavor.
The Mushi, a burrito cut into sushi-like rolls, was a nice bite-sized offering of solid, Mexican flavors. The Grass-Fed Zing Zang Chili — which features Bloody Mary mix — was well-balanced and had a good pop of heat. And while the Injectable Donut Hole syringes were a bit much, the doughnuts themselves had tastes of cinnamon and were sugary and deliciously golden brown with a chewy center all on their own.
We didn’t sample any drinks; it wasn’t just because we were on the clock but also because it was 11 a.m. It was also 23 degrees when we arrived. But with dual heaters over both the seating area and the hitting pad, we were both fine in a light sweater, which seemed to be the going attire.
This was over the holiday break, but it was still surprising just how many people were there, given the hour on a weekday. It can certainly get busy, especially on the weekends, with occasional waits up to two or three hours. Topgolf is now experimenting with taking reservations for stalls to help you avoid showing up and finding yourself behind a big crowd.
If you’re looking to keep your game sharp, or maybe to drag the non-golfers in your life along for some fun, Topgolf’s a solid option, especially in the colder months.
It can get a little pricey if there’s just one or two of you, though, as all pricing is done by the hour for the hitting bay itself (anywhere from $25 to $45 an hour, depending on time of day). If you just want to hit a bucket on your own, the range will be cheaper and quieter. So it’s best consumed as a group, as each bay accommodates up to six people.
Topgolf is a great place for the casual and beginning golfer. Take away all the bells and whistles (food, bar, servers — which I like) it’s still a good place to work on your game. You can learn which club you need to use for a certain distance.
Topgolf provides clubs and suggests which club you should use to the target. When I started out, I had no idea which club to use on the course besides the putter. Over time, you’ll figure out your distance for your individual clubs on your own, but if you’re starting out, this can give you a good foundation as you develop your game.
I found the games on the range helpful because it helped me stay focused on each shot instead of just “gripping and ripping.”
As for those bells and whistles, the food and service is great. The bar area is a cool place to watch a game. Overall, Topgolf is a good place to work on your game and have some fun, especially if you don’t have the time to commit four to five hours for a round.
Dates and Rates
Open year-round Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m.—11 p.m., Friday to Saturday 9 a.m.—1 a.m.
Costs are per bay, not per person; up to six people per bay, includes unlimited golf
9 a.m.—noon: $25/hour
Noon—5 p.m.: $35/hour
After 5 p.m.: $45/hour
Winter Leagues start Jan. 29
Mondays, four to six person social league (beginner/intermediate)
Tuesdays, two-person (intermediate/advanced), includes playoffs
Winner gets free entry for next season and entry to Topgolf Tour
Leagues range from about $120 to $140 per season
Full restaurant with executive chef
Full bar plus outdoor lounge area
Service to each bay while you play
Pace of Play
As long as you want, though waits can be up to several hours during busy times
No golf dress code
Take Route 7 eastward from D.C. or Northern Virginia; facility is on the left side of the highway; exit at Loudoun County Parkway.