Top Golf Tampa

Even though the PGA Show has ended for 2017 the work for me still continues. Going through pictures, contacts and getting some last-minute testing in before heading home is definitely on the agenda. Yet, the funny and strange thing is that there is a sort of hangover that lingers. I think it’s the decompression after all of the running around that gives me that feeling. As the show was wrapping up I had fully intended to head back home on the Sunday night. A weather system moved in over my route home and I decided to delay my departure a little bit. So I gave thought to playing some golf (which will still happen) but seeing that I’m staying with family in Plant City, FL I thought that it would give me the opportunity to do something that I’ve wanted to try for some time.

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Top Golf – Tampa is located conveniently close to the I-75 near Tampa in Brandon. It is a facility like none that I have seen in my life. Originating in the United Kingdom, Top Golf facilities have sprung up like dandelions in the spring across the Untied States. Locations include the likes of San Antonio, TX and Scottsdale, AZ to name a few. There are several other Top Golf facilities being constructed including one that makes a ton of sense in Orlando, FL. The Canadian in me thinks that a place like Toronto or Vancouver would work extremely well (winter notwithstanding).

 

The venue is more of an entertainment complex than it is a practice facility. While it does house a Pro Shop giving it a golf feel there is no disputing that the bar and restaurant is where a lot of the action and success lies behind the brand. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner any time is potentially a good time at Top Golf. The grounds and periphery are meticulous and clean. To really give a feel of what the surrounding is like maybe I can help relate it to something. If you’ve ever gone bowling on a Friday night to a “Rock ‘n’ Bowl” type of thing then you’ll get the idea. The music is pumping out and really helps to set the atmosphere for a fun time. Booths are at all of the hitting bays and servers are there to cater to your requests.

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Upon entering the Tampa facility I was immediately impressed. But to be totally frank I was impressed with the “curb appeal”. I approached the Guest Services desk and asked a few questions. Reservations are not taken. The cost Monday to Thursday Open to 6 is $20/bay (note that it is not per golfer) per hour. Monday to Thursday from 6 p.m. on is $40/bay per hour. Basing that on a party of up to 6 that is a very affordable night out. The cost on weekends remains the same but the hours vary a little. Please check with your location to find out the rates or visit the Top Golf website to verify rates. Upon going to Guest Services you pay $5 for a card that is a one time thing that can be used at all of the other facilities. Afterwards, I walked over to concierge and I was asked what level I wanted to play on. The hitting bays are on three different floors and I chose the middle.

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I was walked out to my bay by Beth and what I will say for her and my server Caleb rings true for everyone that I came across that’s employed there. Friendly and welcoming. Beth took time to explain everything to me being a Top Golf rookie and upon understanding everything I started to play. There are a variety of games including the likes of TopScore, TopPressure, TopGolf (the flagship game), and TopChip all of which I played in my hour. The premise is… score. You are awarded points for hitting shots into different target greens. The closer to the pin the more points you get. Each game is based on 20 balls.

  • TopGolf is about accumulating points by hitting all of the targets. Targets range from 25 yards (Red) to the Trench (215 yards).
  • TopScore is about going big and getting more points by hitting your shots as close to the pin as possible and the further out.. the better.
  • TopChip is short game. Using only the Red, Yellow and Green targets precision is the key. You hit 5 shots to the first two targets and 10 to the last.
  • TopPressure is all about hitting shots with the deft focus and touch as the Tour guys and gals. You hit shots to specific targets in the Yellow target.

Even though I was by myself I had a great time playing these different games. In a way it was reminiscent of the Playstation 3 Tiger Woods franchise where you had a range with specific targets and got points. It was just like being immersed into a video game. All of the balls are micro-chipped and keep track of who the player is and their respective scores. Scores are also uploaded to your e-mail address. I think the real cool thing is that if you look at the bottom of the screen after your shot it gives you your shot distance. While 56* sounds warm back in Niagara Falls, ON in Tampa however…that’s chilly. Fear not… the bays are climate-controlled. I was offered heat but declined seeing that was golf weather at home. So when it’s deadly hot you also get the option of air-conditioning. Balls are discharged from a machine after waving the head of your golf club over an infrared eye.

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I decided to take my own sticks in to the Top Golf. But if you’re new to golf and want to try it but don’t own golf clubs. They have them right there at the bays. Perfection! What a great way to grow the game. If you can, find a Top Golf and give it a try. What a great experience from beginning to end. I’ll be going back.

 

Until The Next Tee!

 

The World Golf Hall of Fame

As far as I’m concerned there is no sport that has a tradition more rich than golf. The game has seen so many changes and implementations over the centuries that it’s nearly obscene. Since the beginning of time our ancestors had a natural tendency to swing objects. Perhaps it was a weapon to bludgeon your next meal or maybe it was a stick to swing at a ball filled with feathers over some barren land littered with the likes of large boulders or maybe a  few heads of livestock. It was in 1296 where a game called “Kolf” was contested which very much sounds like our beautiful game of golf. In St. Augustine, Florida sits a beautiful property that houses The World Golf Hall of Fame. A special place that is devoted to showcasing our sport through the centuries.

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Kolf

It was predetermined some time ago that if I drove down to the PGA Show (or flew and rented a car) that I would take out time to visit “The Hall”. A plan that I made good on after driving through the night (except for a couple of brief naps) and safely arriving in Florida. “The Hall” is located a very short distance conveniently off of the I-95 which makes it easy for travelers to visit. For lovers of the game it’s a chance for us to pay homage to those before us that paved the way. Driving down the lane-way the street is adorned with banners of those legends that have been enshrined. Names like Jack Nicklaus, Babe Zaharias, Annika Sorenstam and Mr. Arnold Palmer to name a few. Personally speaking, I loved the section of the drive in that had trees lining each side of the road that acted as a canopy. Upon parking the car you are greeted by a majestic looking building that is complimented with a tower, a beautiful man-made lake with an island green in it that is definitely inspired by the Par 3 17th at TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course. This site with a cloudless blue sky acting as a backdrop is stunning. Much like the game itself.

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“The Hall”

When you enter the large wooden (I assume Oak) doors you are greeted by a foyer that is almost cavernous. The cost for entry is $20.95 (Florida Residents have a discount) and it includes use of their 18-hole putting course, one swing at the aforementioned island green, and next day re-entry. Beside the desk is complimentary fresh orange juice which I definitely had a glass of. Long drive right? You also receive a “passport” that takes you on a “scavenger hunt” through the hall. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy this interaction because I left my glasses back in my vehicle. As soon as you enter the Exhibit Hall you are greeted by large images of Mr. Palmer, Mr. Nicklaus among others. Ironically, the former Bob Hope Classic was played this past week on the PGA Tour and as you navigate the corner there is a massive exhibit featuring the legendary comedian. His love for the game and servicemen and women of the United States Armed Forces (USO) is quite evident and on full display.

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“Tools of the Trade”

Leaving this exhibit behind you start to travel back in time. I was greeted by one of the museum employees who gave me the chance to hold onto a Gutta-Percha ball and a feathery. I received a quick history on both. The Gutta-Percha was a relatively soft wood from a tree and in case you weren’t aware as a result of hitting the ball with implements it created dimples. The Scots realized that these dimples made the ball fly further and eventually this is what led to dimples as we know them on golf balls. In comparison the feathery was tirelessly packed by ball makers who added down inside of a leather cover and rolled them on their chests. Packing the ball and making the ball more and more firm. As I recollect a ball-maker would only make 5-10 balls per day. As I rounded another corner I had the chance to simulate putting and chipping with equipment from the earlier era of the game. Clubs made of all wood on a green that was quite shaggy representing the conditions. My first putt was about a 20-footer that I made. The feel was by far the most pure sensation that I have experienced in my golfing life.

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A truly great shade of “Green”

As I left the all-wooden equipment behind I made my way to another exhibit that featured clubs of all varieties and designs. Some that made sense and eventually re-surfaced (square heads), designs that featured heads that were a hollow oval with a couple of horizontal metal bars that acted as the face, to a head that was huge… like a shovel. Never again will I refer to a club as a shovel. As you work your way through you enter an area that features The Majors”. Artifacts like “The Green Jacket” adorn this section and you make your way to an area that focuses on the greats of Women’s Golf. From Babe Zaharias and Mickey Wright to Lorena Ochoa, Karrie Webb and Annika. These women much like this area is titled epitomized “Grace and Grit”. Other areas of the hall feature exhibits that focus on events like The Ryder Cup, The President’s Cup, The Solheim Cup and The Olympics. In this area there is a Golfzon golf simulator where you can chip, pitch and putt. I made par on a hole from The Slammer & Squire located there in Golf World Village. As you depart the area you walk through an area that has lockers filled with belongings of those enshrined.

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I took the opportunity to take the elevator up into the tower of the hall. Hanging from the ceiling is a model made of crystal that is said to resemble the shape of a perfect swing. It’s a pretty cool piece. The view from the tower is 360* and the view is terrific however this was where I was just a little disappointed. The tower would have made for some great pictures of the property however the doors were locked and I was not able to go outside. A minor thing but seeing that I wanted to take in all of the scenery it was a little bit of a “buzzkill”.

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My Golf Hero… and why I play the game.

 

Overall, a visit to The World Golf Hall of Fame is definitely worth a stop. Whether you’re a fan of the game, a fan of a certain golfer (I was enamored with anything Mr. Palmer) or a fan of sports in general it is a must see. Amazing history, one of a kind artifacts and interaction it is money well spent. So if you’re ever passing through St. Augustine make the stop at “The Hall”.

 

Until The Next Tee!!

 

Orlando Trip – Travel Day

So after a little bit of planning and anxiously awaiting my date of departure to Orlando it finally happened. Travel Day!!! Before leaving for Orlando from home (Niagara Falls… on the good side) I had a number of stops to make. After having breakfast with my family, stopping to get a case of Ketchup flavored potato chips (for my family in Plant City, Florida) and making my way to Costco to pick up my buffet of medication I was on my way. I just wanted to get on the road. I was going to fly Southwest but cancelled my flight. Freedom!!

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Woo Hoo! On my way!

 

Much to my surprise in the days leading up to leaving for the PGA Show I checked the forecast in cities along my route. It looked like the weather was going to be fair, no snow in sight and for all intents and purposes I was looking at clear sailing. I crossed into the U.S. at Fort Erie and eased through Pittsburgh until I made my first stop just outside of West Virginia. I think it was in Wayne-something, Pennsylvania. A top-up of fuel and a phone call to my bank later I was underway. As the song says “over the hills and through the woods” to Virginia I topped up fuel at a Flying J and treated myself to 3 peanut butter cookies, a large coffee and a bag of hot and spicy pork rinds. Nothing says road trip like a diet such as this. I was going to sleep at this location but I was suddenly perked up by my walk. I was feeling really energized and continued my trip. I made Charlotte, NC in good time and somewhere in South Carolina I pulled over at a rest area and hunkered down for some sleep. I would wake up three hours later and continue my trip.

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Somewhere in Pennsylvania

Upon waking up I felt good or at least I thought I did. It wasn’t too long until I felt real groggy and realized that driving was not a good idea (after unknowingly dropping to a speed of 75 km/h). Off of the I-95 I immediately went and settled down in the parking lot of a BP gas station. As I write this I forget the name of the town that I was in. A few hours later I woke up, fueled up with some coffee from Dunkin Donuts after all “America runs on Dunkin”  (I should write jingles). Now I’m good after sipping on the proverbial nectar of the Gods and I meandered through Georgia inwardly smiling at the salt marshes of the low country. Finally I crossed into Florida. I made it!! I stopped at the “Welcome Center” and enjoyed some fresh squeezed orange juice.

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The nectar of the Gods

I figured that since I was passing the area I would make good of part of my reasoning for driving down to Florida. In St. Augustine, Florida lies not only Ponce de Leon’s “Fountain of Youth” but it also happens to be the home of The World Golf Hall of Fame. The property is magnificent and if you’re a golf fan or a sports fan in general  you have to make the stop here. I would elaborate more on “The Hall” but I am going to do a separate article on it. I would spend 3.5 hours here and then finish my drive. I made it to the I-4 and begun the trek through Orlando. Orlando with all of the construction was really tough “sledding”. Congestion as far as the eyes could see. Eventually it cleared up (well outside of the Disney cutoff) and again I was flowing nicely in the traffic. Forty minutes later I arrived at Bobbi and Joe’s, had a shower, went out to hunt rocks (it’s a neat concept in Plant City, Florida that residents take part in) enjoying new sights.Medication and dinner later it was time for a good sleep.

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Welcome!!

Travel day was an excellent start to my PGA Show trip. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip has to offer. Stay tuned.

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“The Hall”

*** I should add that at all times my eyes were on the road. The use of a Bluetooth remote was employed.Safety first!!!

Until The Next Tee!!

 

Requests??

As most people that follow the golf industry are aware the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show is just around the corner. The trip to Orlando has almost become an annual pilgrimage for yours truly. It is a “who’s who” of what’s new and exciting in the golf industry.

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On Sunwing Airlines over the Clearwater area last January

As stated before I love to go because it gives a chance to meet and network with plenty of like-minded people. I am going down a little advance of the show to make some swings on grass… albeit mostly dormant Bermuda grass. I always have to adjust for playing on Bermuda especially down there where sand in the soil is so prevalent. This is even more important when it comes to pitching and chipping… the gnarly blades of grass can trap the hosel so quickly and ruin a good effort. Rolling some putts on Bermuda is also a very good idea too. It’s so different compare to bent grass. In a lot of cases putting surfaces are Bermuda Tif Dwarf. Many times northerners dislike Bermuda greens for a multitude of reasons… but usually culminating with its general graininess. I happen to prefer Bermuda because the grass is what it is. Just expect slower putts in the afternoon.

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In 2016, Wilson Staff introduced FLX Face with their c200 irons. They’ve brought flexy back in their 2017 D300 irons.

In preparation for the show I am lining up the manufacturers that I want to visit. Or shall I say that I have to visit. In the meantime for you… my readers… do you have any requests? Is there an apparel brand, shoe brand, or piece of equipment that would you like me to cover? Subscribe and drop me a line and let me know.

 

Until The Next Tee!!