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Toptracer Range may be more exciting than hitting at the range picker

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Anyone who watches golf on television knows Toptracer. Founded by Daniel Forsgren in 2006 as Protracer, the company developed a unique software capable of tracking the flight of a golf ball in a camera feed and adding graphics to make ball flight visible on screen.

You know, this thing.What you might not know, however, is that Topgolf bought Protracer in May 2016, rebranding the technology as Toptracer. You also may not be familiar with Toptracer Range, which brings the technology you’ve seen during PGA Tour telecasts to in-bay monitors to track and analyze your shots at the driving range.

Toptracer Range allows guest to compete in a variety of games, including:

  • Launch Monitor – Works with a range’s existing targets. Offers carry and total distance, ball speed, launch angle, height, side deviation, landing angle, hang time and distance to target.
  • What’s in My Bag – Allows guests to dig deeper into to the performance of each club in their bag.
  • Virtual Golf – Players can choose to play 9,12, 18 or more holes on courses around the world.

We spoke with Ani Mehta, Topgolf’s VP of Corporate Development about the technology and its application both for Topgolf facilities and driving ranges in general.

GolfWRX: Tell us about the Toptracer rollout…

Ani Mehta: A little bit of background [the Protracer acquisition] has been great for us on a couple of fronts. One is on the broadcast side…it’s been a great thing for Topgolf from a brand reach and recognition perspective…it’s been great for us because now we’re starting to roll out this technology in our venues. Orlando, which opened a couple of months ago…was the first venue that opened with Toptracer.

On the Toptracer Range side, the goal there is to roll it out across hundreds, if not thousands, of golf ranges across the country and across the world. For your average driving range, this is a gamechanger, because…the technology enables you to track every golf ball that’s hit at the driving range, and then all that data is displayed on monitors that are installed in each bay. Eventually it turns every driving range into somewhat of a Topgolf; You can play games, you can track your golf shots, you can track your progress over time, because all the data is in your profile. It essentially creates a much more engaging experience on the driving range.

GolfWRX: Those are the two avenues for you…the integration into your facilities, and then offering Toptracer to ranges outside of Topgolf?

AM: That’s right. We will be rolling out Toptracer in our venues over the next many months and years. And the Toptracer Range, we have a very aggressive timeline for rolling this out across, like I said, hundreds, if not thousands, of facilities…And then the broadcast business, that remains as exciting as ever.
You’re kind of seeing this transition. When it first came out, a lot of people loved it, but some people viewed it skeptically. But now, a few years on, you’re at a stage where people love it, and even demand it.

GolfWRX: Is the hope that this will be integrated into all facilities then?

AM: We’re figuring that out. We first tested this at the…venue in Dallas, just to understand how people receive it. Then we opened Orlando, which is fully set up with Toptracer Range. But we’re still in the testing phase.

GolfWRX: When did you launch in Orlando, and what has the response been?

AM: It was earlier this fall. The guests love it. You can still play the same games…we still have the RFID technology and all that, so you can still play the same games you play at other Topgolf venues. But just having this other view on your golf shot, but being able to see the trace and everything that goes with it, that’s really exciting for the guests. There’s something about being able to see the trajectory and where it lands that’s exciting, and it’s even more exciting when you go to a regular driving range that’s been converted.

GolfWRX: So when Toptracer is integrated into a driving range, all that data is captured and is available to the golfer?

AM: Yes. So, the way it works is we come in and we set up these camera systems along the tee line of the driving range, and then those camera systems can track every golf ball hit from the driving range. Then that data is processed through servers that we provide, and then that processed data is installed on screens that we install in each bay…anywhere from a 20-inch screen to a 40-inch screen in each bay.

On that screen, you can see several different modes. There are the modes that are designed for the more serious golfer; there’s a mode called “launch monitor,” where you’re just kind of practicing and you can see every statistic associated with your ball flight. Then, there are game modes designed for having a bit more fun. You can play virtual golf courses. You can play points games that are similar to what you might see at a Topgolf. So, it’s a good portfolio of games, and those are constantly being updated.

So that’s the app that runs on each screen, but there’s another app that runs on peoples phones, called the Community app. All the…launch monitor data is then stored on your phone. You can then see…through the bag, your statistics which each club.

And we have a development team that is focused on developing new games and modes and always improving the ones that we have. So it’s a live product, and all those changes…get deployed remotely. If you put a system in your range, it doesn’t go obsolete six months after installing.

GolfWRX: So you want to appeal to the enthusiast who wants to see all the numbers, as well as the more casual golfer, and even the extremely casual one who might find the traditional range experience boring?

AM: Right. We’ve talked to hundreds of facilities at this point. The common theme we hear from them is 1. This is great and 2. In the current state, driving ranges are in trouble. The hardcore folks are drifting away from golf, and there’s not enough of an influx of…Millennials. For them, going to a driving range as it is today is just not a fun experience. It’s kind of one-dimensional. It’s not fun to go with friends or family, because there’s nothing to do.

But putting something like this in; not only can you compete in games and other contests, but what you see is at a lot of driving ranges where we put this technology in…have also added a little F&B (food and beverage) operation. They’re doing events that are anchored by the Toptracer Range technology…so it starts with creating a fun experience for everyone, not just serious golfers.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Brad

    Jan 6, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Virtual golf for the gearheads so they don’t have to dirty and scuff their beloved WITB bunch of unplayable clubs.

  2. emil

    Jan 6, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Virtual golf played by deluded gearheads fantasizing ….. and their lovely clubs don’t get scuffed up in the dirt. The best of all worlds…. and no walking other than to your magnificent WITB weapons.

  3. nyguy

    Jan 5, 2018 at 10:48 am

    i’d be happy if ranges had an acceptable grass tee area, and all these driving ranges all about making it an amusement park…
    The range near me has a grass area, but it’s an after thought on the side and it’s knotty grass, patchy dry dirt, not tee box standard….

  4. DB

    Jan 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    But how accurate will the data be?

    You’re still hitting crappy limited-flight range balls, right? How are you supposed to take that data and apply it to the actual golf course?

  5. C

    Jan 4, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    So instead of $40/hr, it will now be $60/hr?

    TopGolf used to be affordable to the average person.

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