High-tech golf rivals tee off around Richmond

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Print this page by Don Harrison
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Golf-gaming rivals Drive Shack and Topgolf are competing head to head in the
Richmond area. Contributed photos.

In the world of high-tech driving ranges, Richmond is about to host a big challenge match between Goliath and David.

The top dog is Dallas-based Topgolf, a pioneer in the business, with 56 gaming facilities worldwide. It’s slated to open a $25.5 million, 48,000-square-foot complex in October near the Richmond-Henrico County line — its fourth location in Virginia.

Meanwhile, in late September, New York-based upstart Drive Shack opened a 65,000-square-foot golf facility just outside Short Pump in Goochland County, about a 15-minute drive from Topgolf’s Richmond location. Drive Shack began operation last year with one location in Orlando, Florida.

That might just sound like friendly competition, except that Drive Shack recently hired Topgolf’s former CEO and chief financial officer, and its three forthcoming locations are all in cities with Topgolf ranges, including Raleigh, North Carolina, and West Palm Beach, Florida.

“Things are really coming together,” says Michael Matley, Drive Shack Richmond’s general manager and a former operations manager for Topgolf.

Over in Henrico, Topgolf’s three-story facility will have 72 climate-controlled driving platforms, a full bar, a restaurant, private meeting spaces and interactive specialty games that go beyond the links. In August, the company hired more than 400 people as food servers, bartenders, kitchen staff, maintenance workers and administrative employees. Many will be full-time, hourly staff, Twigg says, except for 22 salaried managers.

Drive Shack’s Goochland facility, also three stories and built on 13 acres at an estimated cost of $20 million to $25 million, expects to employ 300 people in full-time and part-time positions, including servers, bartenders, line cooks and guest services employees. It will boast 300 video screens for viewing and gaming, a restaurant, a rooftop bar and 96 climate-controlled driving bays equipped with TrackMan technology — “a Doppler-radar system that tracks balls on the simulated courses,” Matley explains. “It should attract golfers and nongolfers.”

Matley adds, “Here, golfers still get their full 18 holes but they don’t need to leave the comfort of their own bay, and they can drink and eat. When it’s too cold outside, they’ll want to come here because our bays are climate-controlled.”

Can the region support this much golf-tainment?  “I believe so,”  Twiggs says. “The Richmond region is growing so much that this could actually be a great opportunity for both of us. Speaking for Topgolf, I think people will have a really fun experience and want to come back again and again.”

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