Add OnCore Buffalo to the list of challengers to Topgolf's supremacy in the golf entertainment industry.
OnCore Golf Technologies - a golf ball company - has announced a partnership that will build a fully financed $30-million golf entertainment facility in its hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., with a scheduled opening of 2021. OnCore's Chairman & CEO Keith Blakely says this facility will be different than Topgolf in several key ways. Most importantly, its smaller footprint is better suited for development in dense urban settings such as downtown Buffalo. Adding a hotel to the mix will make it more of a destination than just a night out on the town.
OnCore Buffalo's unique design - where the three-tiered driving range is built on top of the parking lot but below the hotel accommodations - will take up just four acres, according to Blakely, whereas Topgolf complexes average 12 acres in size. OnCore Golf is already looking to expand at downtown sites in Knoxville, Tenn.; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Las Vegas; Phoenix; New York City; Denver; and Washington, D.C. Blakely said more OnCore facilities could be announced later this year and follow a similar timeline toward opening.
OnCore Buffalo, built on Kelly Island along the Buffalo River, will be within walking distance of KeyBank Arena, home of the Buffalo Sabres, and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
"Part of what we enjoy about this launch, although golf is central and anchoring, the other elements are very significant," Blakely said. "The fact you have a 120- to 160-room hotel with it. The fact that you can bring this close to corporations for events. We’ve had people ask, 'Can I plan my wedding here?' When you are looking at the dynamics of cities, they are trying to attract people to come back downtown. This is another live, work, play element."
What is OnCore Buffalo?
OnCore Buffalo will offer a similar experience to Topgolf. Instead of using Toptracer technology and golf balls with computer chips in them, it will showcase OnCore's technologically advanced golf balls and use a launch monitor in each hitting bay to deliver the data golfers crave: swing speed, launch angle, ball spin and more. Customers will have the option to record their swing and get instructional advice in real time. All of the information will be saved on a cloud-based website and be available for retrieval and review on a mobile device.
The range will feature targets from 50 yards to 170 yards with targets on a back wall representing distances up to 250 yards. Other sports will be part of the experience, including possibly indoor surfing, skateboarding and bays with simulated baseball, basketball, hockey and archery competitions.
Food, drinks, music and watching live sports will be the cocktail that attracts a demographic younger than the typical golf facility. Blakely emphasized that the facility will be open year round and is ready to handle Buffalo's harsh winters. All hitting bays will be heated. Snow will be plowed and funneled to melting zones.
Blakely believes OnCore Buffalo will help grow the game, partly because it will be the home of the First Tee of Western New York. "This is a destination for people to be introduced to golf," he said.
A crowded field?
Topgolf's raging success continues to spawn competitors looking to cash in on the craze. So far, Topgolf has opened 52 facilities in 26 states with another 11 "coming soon," according to its website.
DriveShack opened its first facility in Orlando with three more coming online in Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; and West Palm Beach, Fla., by the end of the year, according to its website. The Palm Beach Post reports that a DriveShack and Topgolf could end up just four miles apart in West Palm Beach.
BigShots Golf, acquired by Club Corp., opened its first facility in Vero Beach, Fla., and has plans to expand in mid-sized markets. BigShots have a smaller footprint and cost, aiming for 30 to 60 bays with each facility costing $8.5 to $12 million, according to Golf Inc. Magazine.
The Golf Club, another competitor launched by a local businessman, is currently under construction in Vineyard, Utah, the state's fastest growing city.
Troon, the management company based in Scottsdale, operates 4ore! Golf, a 52,000-square-foot facility that opened in 2017 in Lubbock, Texas.
I can't help but think back to the 1990s when golf courses were being built by the dozens in my home state of Michigan. It was an ill-fated construction boom that led to where we are today: Too many courses for too few golfers. When will the rush to build these golf entertainment facilities reach a saturation point?
Blakely didn't seem worried when I asked him if this movement was a fad.
“I don’t think it is a fad or the future of golf," he said. "It is an interesting part of how young people are socializing, doing something different than staring at video screens. Topgolf shows it is sustaining. People have not tired of it. It's much like bowling, all groups and skill levels can enjoy. This is a similar thing. You don’t have to be a good golfer. They (customers) are there for other reasons (besides golf). They are there for the food and the drinks and to watch other sporting events in an interesting environment."
Will these new golf entertainment facilities continue to gain in popularity? Let us know in the comments below.