We were all thinking the same thing as we pulled into the Top Golf parking lot in Centennial, Colorado (10601 E. Easter Ave., topgolf.com): This is f**king crazy. They say you learn a lot from first impressions. In this case, it’s certainly true. You get a sense of Top Golf’s grandiose style when you walk past the valet parking — yeah, at a driving range — and find a spot in the lines winding their way around the main lobby.
This wasn’t our first introduction to the lines at Top Golf, several weeks prior to this visit we were turned away by the long lines and what one of the ushers told us would be a 3-hour wait. This really is the only gripe I have with the uber-popular chain. To not take reservations for parties with fewer than six players, as we were told during our first visit, seems a little unreasonable when you’re looking at 4+ hour wait-times during busy times. And the two-line system they have set up for first-timers — one to become a member, which you have to do, and another to actually book a bay — is a little confusing, not to mention a little overwhelming.
Anyway, on to the good stuff. We started with a satisfying burger and fries and some beers before making our way to our bay, an order or guac and more beers placed at the bar followed us close behind. Nothing really stands out about the food — to be fair, we hardly looked at the menu to see all of the offerings — but the that’s not why we’re here anyway.
Three levels of bays stretch almost as far as you can see, each stocked with TVs, climate-controlled patio furniture, and loaner clubs. The setup is a lot like what you’d get if you mixed a nightclub VIP room with a bowling alley lounging area, music included. Another common area is located in the lower level, with a pool table and other alternative entertainment options (if you’re into that kind of thing.) We never made our way to the top level but I wouldn’t be surprised to find another common entertainment area there, too — this place is built to make you want to stay awhile.
The range itself, to be honest, isn’t all that impressive if you’re expecting a traditional practice range, but then again, nothing about Top Golf is traditional. A smattering of colored targets extend to the back fence, which is short of 300 yards. After dark, the lights come on — read: glow golf meets cosmic bowling. For the budget inclined, Top Golf’s fee structure is hourly, increasing based on the time of day; $25 before noon, $35 from noon to 5p.m., $45 from 5p.m. to close — there’s also a one-time $5 lifetime membership fee. Get the most bang-for-your-buck with a bigger group of players.
As for Top Golf’s games, gone are the days of settling friendly closest-to-the-pin disputes with screaming and threats, this is calculated competition. Top Golf balls have internal microchips that send distance, landing, and respective points to a game screen inside the bay. Much like bowling, players get a real time scoring with each swing — the only controversy comes when someone disputes/edits the scores.
You know it’s been a good day with your crew when you feel the need to make something of an embarrassing confession. That said, there are some rules to be followed at Top Golf, one of which includes sniping the ball collector. (For the record, everyone watching loved it, and we didn’t cause any damage.) Also, no tees. After a friendly scolding timed perfectly with the end of our game, we had our first Top Golf experience under our belts.