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Inside look at TopGolf's high tech driving ranges

Lauren Brousell | Aug. 24, 2015
TopGolf transforms the traditional driving range with a technology-infused, gamified experience for golfers of all levels. CIO.com's Lauren Brousell talks with TopGolf's CIO and shares a personal experience at one of its facilities in Texas.

"We know that you're the one playing because that ball is tagged to you," Macaulay says. "Once you hit it, we wait for it show up somewhere in the field."

After a few practice swings, I hit the ball and looked up to see where it landed. Again, TopGolf isn't your ordinary driving range, and it doesn't have signs to mark the yardage. Instead, there are 500 RFID readers in the field that form various zones. Each zone is a circular net with sections, and the closer your ball gets to the center of the zone, and the further the zone is in the field (240 yards), the more points you earn. When your ball falls into a zone, the readers scan its RFID chip, and the data is passed back to the TopGolf system to register the score.

TopGolf, data analytics and gamification

Macaulay says the company gathers customer data on the games that are most popular, and how well golfers in certain regions perform, from TopGolf cards and real-time scores. "We compare ourselves to a high tech bowling alley, going to the movies or a pro sports game. But if one person buys the tickets, they don't know anything about the other people in that party. We have data on every single player."

Throughout the games, players take turns hitting a certain number of times. The screen also displays challenges to "gamify" the experience and get the competitive juices flowing. One such message I saw: "Is that as far as you can hit it?"

"That fits our culture, we don't take ourselves too seriously. People are there to have fun," Macaulay says. "But it's something we can do a lot better in the future, to think about gamification and badges and awards online."

The company is also currently working on ways to gather more real-time customer insights; today, TopGolf cannot view and act on customer data as it's being collected. "Nobody's looking at what's happening right now at this moment at one [TopGolf] site," he says. "We're actively on the roadmap to change that." The company is also starting to compile more data streams from customers and combine them with external data, such as food and beverage preferences.

TopGolf is looking into enhancements for its mobile app, as well, so customers can do more than just view game history and find location information. The company also plans to open four new locations this month and as many as 12 locations a year in the future.

 

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