How to beat the golf cravings during the winter on a budget (2021)
Winter… The worst time of the year for golfers in the northern US. Due to the cold and snow, this drastically reduces the amount of time on the course (not saying some people still go out on the course). But this is the time of year that we either find something else to do (bowling, pickleball, etc.), or they start researching and watching YouTube videos on how to better our game. Personally, I am the second category, but I wish there was an activity that could curb the cravings while still staying on a budget. This past weekend, I discovered said activity!
This past weekend, my girlfriend and I made the 2.5 hr trip to beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Right off the bat, I will say this…. Driving in a city is one of the major reasons why I love living in the country. But regardless of that, both of us are big fans of driving ranges, and she has seen the TikTok’s of people going to TopGolf. She asked me if we wanted to try it out, and I can say, I’m very glad we did!
Although, I am an old fashioned guy, so I will always have a special place in my heart for the old fashioned driving ranges. Paying $8 for 100 or so or balls, and you just smack away at the targets! But TopGolf has exceeded my expectations. The overall layout was a modern design; glass, accent lights, and technology everywhere! The atmosphere matched this feeling as well. Everyone was very welcoming and accommodating.
The only critique I can make is that they do not really have a set of guidelines for first time visitors. Don’t get me wrong; the hostess did help us a little bit in the beginning. She showed us how to sign in, start games, the safety guidelines, and how to work the machines. I also understand that TopGolf has been in the US since 2005, and there are very few “first timers” left. But I’ll be honest, it was slightly confusing how the games were played, how the points were scored, how to place food/drink orders, etc. We spent a lot of time on Google trying to figure out how to do stuff.
Lastly, the most important question of playing golf in the winter, can you be warm while you play? I can say that they succeeded at keeping the people warn even though the bay is open to the elements. While we were there, it was 47 degrees outside. I was sweating while wearing a t-shirt and jeans. To be fair, I am not saying this as a bad thing…. I was thoroughly impressed!
All in all, I would give 4.5 out of 5 stars based on the hospitality and atmosphere.
I will say upfront, the prices of TopGolf do not compare to an old fashioned driving range. As mentioned before, you cannot beat paying $8-10 for a bucket of 100 balls, and swing at your own pace. That type of deal is unheard of anymore. However, TopGolf does provide a different style of practice for their price. You are paying for a modern style facility and the ability for electronics to track balls allowing you to play games.
With that being said, the prices you pay are not bad at all! You will be paying for a bay that fits up to 6 people, and depending on the time of day, you will pay anywhere from $27-54 per hour. For example, we went when they were open (10a) and played 2 hours. It cost us $54, or $27 per hour. So for us, it was $27 per person. Now imagine doing that with 6 people, those 2 hours would cost each person $8. That doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all, does it? I'll tee it up like this, that is equivalent to 2 draft beers in a city!
I would give 4.25 out of 5 stars based on the pay scale.
TopGolf does provide each participant with a set of clubs, and they are pretty decent clubs as well! Although, I did struggle finding my groove with their clubs, but that was more of a “rusty” factor. My first 2 games were a major struggle. I was constantly topping the balls, and when I made good contact, they had so much front spin that I almost sunk them into the 25-yard holes. As time went on, I was able to fix my swing and hit them cleaner than before, which allowed me to hit the rim of the 185 yard pin with a 6 iron.
TopGolf does allow you to bring your own clubs to use due to the comfort factor, but from a “playing for fun” perspective this was an excellent use of resources. I do have a couple improvement ideas though. First, there are 2 sets of clubs at each bay; one was blue and the other was black containing a driver, 3-wood, 3-hybrid, 6 iron, 8 iron, and pitching wedge. This was an excellent club selection for the distances provided, but nowhere was it posted what the difference between black and blue were. As I found out after a couple shots, the blue where the ladies’ set and the black were the men’s set. #oops!
Next, they only had a set of right-handed clubs at each bay. If you are left handed, like my girlfriend, you had to ask for the clubs and wait to get them. Which isn’t a bad thing for people who are there just to have fun. But when you are paying to play golf for each hour and you have to wait for clubs, some people would get really salty over this. Lastly, the grips on the clubs in our bay were worn. When swinging the 3 wood and driver, I was afraid of the club slipping out of my hand and flying into the play area. Luckily, that did not happen! My only suggestion would be to have a consistent maintenance program on the grips or have a glove rental (like a bowling alley with shoes).
I would give 4 out of 5 stars for the stock clubs in each bay.
Their balls are very impressive! Take that as you wish… But they are! Although it’s not the balls themselves, but the technology associated with them. The balls are a standard harder shelled ball (at least to my feel) with their logos on the. But the balls a tracked with TopTracer technology, which is commonly seen on the tour as the thin line showing the ball flight. TopGolf acquired TopTracer in 2016, and the rest is history! P.S. there are warnings throughout the bays saying, “they know when a ball leaves the facility”. I almost found out the hard way if it’s true, but luckily when I shanked a shot, it went straight into the net (unlike straight up in the air when on the course).
I would give 5 out of 5 stars for the balls used.
Food and Drink
Although we did not try a lot, their brisket flatbread pizza was delicious! One of the better brisket pizzas I have ate. Finally, who doesn’t like beer when they golf? They offer a whole menu of draft and bottle beer, cocktails, and wines. I tried their Tap in Gold Lager. It was a lighter lager, but very flavorful. Although not in my top 5 beer choices, it definitely fit the golf mantra! Also, you can get a unique, but crafty, souvenir glass (for $5 with a draft beer).
I would give 5 out of 5 stars for the food and beverages.
TopGolf was a very enjoyable experience. This has opened my eyes to a new activity to participate in during the winter. With that being said, I do plan on going back, but at nighttime to witness the holes glow! Too bad the closest one is 2 hours away from us… Based on this review, how do you feel about testing it out? If you have gone before, how does this align with your experience?