New alliance between TopGolf and ClubCorp is an intriguing step into what the future of golf may look like

With more than 10 million people visiting TopGolf's entertainment golf facilities around the United States, it is considered one of the best opportunities to introduce new people to golf. After all, many of the people who visit TopGolf to hit golf balls in its bays are beginners, and many have never played on a golf course.

Now, a recent alliance between Dallas-based companies TopGolf and ClubCorp adds an intriguing opportunity between the entertainment brand and network of golf and country clubs.

TopGolf is now providing new technology and benefits for ClubCorp members, and ClubCorp, which operates more than 200 private clubs throughout North America, will provide special TopGolf offers and experiences at ClubCorp clubs for its members and possible prospective members.

As a member of a ClubCorp facility, I find this to be exciting news. Already, ClubCorp members can experience golf, dining and other benefits throughout the world at more than 1,000 clubs and restaurants. This just adds one more layer of benefits for us.

Technology is changing the golf experiences

While specific program elements are still being finalized, TopGolf and ClubCorp leaders see opportunity to enhance the golfing experience across physical and digital platforms.

For example, Toptracer Range, TopGolf's newly released product for driving ranges, could bring a more interactive format to the private clubs' driving ranges. Players can track their ball flight path as they hit, receiving real-time insights on speed, distance, angle and accuracy for a more interactive, game-like experience. It would be a welcome addition, I'm sure, for most club members.

"That's why a ClubCorp and TopGolf collaboration is so interesting," said ClubCorp CEO Eric Affeldt. "With our more than 430,000 members across North America and TopGolf's tremendous reach among new golfers and even non-golfers, we have an opportunity to introduce and reinforce the great game among a massive audience."

Another new technology being offered is something called TopGolf Swing Suite, a social experience featuring TopGolf simulators, comfortable lounge seating, HDTVs and food and beverage service. Bringing that into ClubCorp's network would give ClubCorp members year-round, climate-controlled practice space.

In fact, this probably represents much of the future of golf if you think about it. As land becomes more scarce and simulators grow more sophisticated, virtual reality golf will be more economical and convenient than real golf. No longer will you be confined by the weather. It's a little like indoor tennis in that regard (I really don't play a lot of outdoor tennis anymore), and certainly a lot less maintenance than a golf course. And it could provide more revenue for the clubs, keeping golfers after daylight hours, which would probably help the food and beverage operation as well as retail sales. You could even do night leagues on the simulators or winter leagues in parts of the country where the golf is shut down.

In addition, TopGolf plans to offer ClubCorp members special offers to visit its sports entertainment venues, meaning there will be special nights for Clubcorp members (as it stands now, waiting for a bay can take a couple of hours, especially on weekends).

Likewise, ClubCorp plans to provide added value to TopGolf Platinum Members with exclusive tournaments at ClubCorp properties, as well as special offers and programs at clubs across the country. This is a good move as well because it promises to grow membership at ClubCorp facilities, which translates into more golfers in the game.

"We're thinking differently by giving people new ways to enjoy the game – on the course, at TopGolf, even on their phones and through other interactive experiences," said TopGolf Entertainment Group Co-Chairman and CEO Erik Anderson. "This is just the beginning of what TopGolf and ClubCorp can do together."

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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New alliance between TopGolf and ClubCorp is an intriguing step into what the future of golf may look like
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