First let me say, I love the idea of a high-tech driving range, especially one that serves food, and beverages, tracks stats and allows me to compete with my friends. It is perfect.
Second, for some reason, we just had both a Topgolf and a Drive Shack open in our city in the last 3 months.
Third, this was a great activity during our Winter break — it might be a little too cold to hit the golf course, but perfect weather to try these semi-indoor driving ranges and compare & contrast.
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Do I need to be a touring pro to enjoy a high-tech range?
Definitely not — in fact, most of the “games” you can play are tailored towards the recreational player – similar to bowling, an advanced player has an advantage. Still, a beginner can also pull off the occasional “strike”.
For kids and adults, I think these new ranges popping up across the country are a great way to grow the game. Topgolf & Drive Shack are much more social activities, similar to a bowling alley experience, than hardcore practice for your goal of beating the odds and a PGA tour professional!
It’s certainly not as intimidating as trying to play a round of golf and no matter where your ball goes, the next one will pop-out on to the mat for you to try again.
Drive shack vs Topgolf – the tale of the tape
From my experiences, I have been to both 3 times, they are very similar.
The pricing is slightly different but ends up being comparable. You pay by the hour for the range “hitting bays” — you can have up to six people play in one “bay”, but I think three to four is the right number.
Just remember, it is cheaper during the day and you may have longish wait times during busy periods. You can book, but there may also be an additional fee for that. Also worth noting, Topgolf has half-price Tuesdays.
- You can find more and book a time at Topgolf by clicking here.
- Unless you prefer Drive Shack, in which case click here.
Food and beverages
Pretty much what you would expect – both places have decent bar food and plenty of beverage options and both have servers to look after you. No need to waste time lining up at the bar!
The ability to play games is what elevates these experiences above regular driving ranges. It also keeps you wanting to come back for more!
They have different games you can play. Some are skills-based, such as going for points based on distance and closeness to the targets. Others are more fun based such as Angry Birds or Monster Hunt. This is a great leveler if you have a novice golfer or two in your playing group.
You can also play a simulated round on famous golf courses such as Pebble Beach or St. Andrews. This might actually be the biggest difference. More on that is below.
Venue and ambiance
Both have more of a sports bar feel when you arrive, but again, very similar – lots of TVs, music, etc.
Topgolf ‘s innovative Toptracer technology is changing the way golfers practice and play. It uses cameras mounted above the driving range bays to track each shot, allowing players to see their shots in real-time on a virtual course or game. This allows players to practice more accurately and gives them a unique gaming experience.
In addition to the Toptracer technology, Topgolf also has microchipped balls. These chips are used in conjunction with the cameras to track a ball’s trajectory in 3D space and accurately measure its flight characteristics like speed, spin rate, and direction.
Drive Shack has partnered with the renowned global technology company TrackMan Range to bring its customers a state-of-the-art golfing experience. Their radar-based system uses Doppler radar technology, with multiple radars working together to cover the entire tee area and range outfield. This provides unparalleled precision ball tracking and real-time feedback, making it easier for players to track their shots and improve.
Unlike camera-based launch monitors that measure a set of launch conditions to predict where the ball is likely to land, the TM Range radar system tracks a shot’s actual trajectory in real time, measuring its full flight from launch to landing. This allows players to accurately measure their shot, including details such as ball speed, spin, and distance.
To further enhance the accuracy and precision of their tracking system, Drive Shack also uses special golf balls that come equipped with small chips inside them. By tracking these chips, Drive Shack is able to get more detailed information about each shot than ever before.
Topgolf and Drive Shack are great high-tech driving ranges that use golf simulator technology and can help any golfer improve their game. The data and analytics presented after each shot will give you key insights into your golfing performance. However, Drive Shack shades it in the technology dept.
I love both, but Topgolf would be my first choice
There are some minor things about the locations, but while I love both the Topgolf and Drive Shack golf experience, the real reason my first choice is Topgolf comes down to playing a simulated course. Both offer you the chance to play courses like PGA National, Pebble Beach, or St. Andrews, but the Topgolf version is better for a couple of key reasons.
- The “putting” is significantly better – the Drive Shack version gives you auto-two putts or 1 putt, depending on proximity to the hole, but there is no skill involved. At Topgolf, you have to hit a wedge shot to one of the closer targets to determine if you 1, 2, or 3 putt. Just like playing on the course, you may be furthering from the hole on the approach, but you can still win the hole with a great shot (“putt”).
- The simulation is more realistic. At Drive Shack, you can magically hit the ball through trees, etc., but Topgolf forces you to curve the ball — you can definitely hit a tree and go backwards, etc.
This being said, if the wait is too long at Topgolf, we simply drive over to Drive Shack!!! Feel really lucky that we have them both in our town. Have you tried both? What is your preference?