The Austin Chronicle

TopGolf is Austin's Newest Sports Entertainment Phenomenon

By Carly Yansak, August 13, 2013, 11:30am, On the Range

"Have you been to TopGolf?"

"You've got to go to TopGolf!"

"Let's go to TopGolf?"

If you've lived in Austin since April, those phrases are probably familiar. TopGolf Austin swung into place as a citywide cult classic almost overnight, attracting crowds with a dynamic atmosphere of sports recreation, drinking, socializing, and, most surprisingly, eating. When promoter Ani Anand told us TopGolf took home the prize for Best Veggie Queso at his third annual Quesoff at the Mohawk recently, we knew it was finally time to find out what the heck everyone's raving about.

Three stories tall, TopGolf's front facade is pretty imposing, but the complimentary valet sign out front quickly turns imposition into welcome. Inside, the place was bustling. It was a Saturday, and the masses were out to play. The name may lead you to think this is a traditional driving range, but that is not the case. TopGolf offers something dubbed target golf. Guests rent a bay (that has lounge-like seating and full menu/bar service) and are given balls containing microchips that track accuracy. Instead of aiming for standard holes, the golfers aim for targets. The further away the target and the closer your ball is to a pin, the more points you receive.

"Our game takes the best of golf, bowling, and darts and combines them all into one," Brad Spofford, TopGolf Austin Genera Manager claims. "You don't have to be a great golfer to have a great time, and actually 70% of the people who come in don't play golf at all."

And masses of people are going in – the Saturday night wait time for a bay was three hours. The wait for the bar, however, was non-existent despite being packed to the brim. After only a month of operations, TopGolf shot into the top five of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sales list for Austin behind places like the Circuit of the Americas, the W Hotel, and the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa. Makes perfect sense: I mean, why not drink when you have three hours to kill?

"We try to make the wait as comfortable and as much fun for the guests as we can," Spofford explains. "We understand they are here to play the game, but we want to make the wait a good time, too." They accomplish this by providing complimentary pool tables, fooz-ball, shuffleboard, and X-Box Kinect dance games. There are two bars (one being an outdoor terrace with a DJ booth) with extensive cocktail and food choices.

While their dining menu has standard bar classics such as nachos, wings, and burgers, TopGolf definitely adds flare to their dishes. A Bahn Mi Asian Pork pizza sounds strange, but Vietnamese slow braised pork proved delicious with a five-cheese mozzarella blend. Mushi ("Mexican style sushi") is cheddar cheese filling, spicy chicken, and Asian sticky rise wrapped in a cheddar jalapeño tortilla. It's one of the most popular signature items. Then, of course, there's that award winning queso, which distinguishes itself from others by a wheat beer infusion in the cheese.

Flavor aside, presentation of the food is surprisingly detailed for a sports-entertainment complex. The Chef's Charcuterie & Cheese Board is a prime example; meats are served hanging on a miniature clothesline. And the beef jerky stick is possibly the best straw ever provided with the house signature Bloody Mary. Use it, and you'll think bacon is infused into your drink.

Plan ahead and save room to share an order of Injectable Donut Holes: a decadent plate of 24 cinnamon sugar donut holes served with syringes of chocolate and raspberry filling so guests can fill them at the table. We were too full to try this dish, and I am still haunted by this loss.

"We want something that's a little bit different, that people will talk about," Spofford says. "Mark Boyton, our Director of Food & Beverage, says that in his mind he's like Willy Wonka. His ideas help us showcase fun by having an interactive experience with the food."

Be sure to enjoy some food while waiting in the bar or testing out your swing in one of the bays. Just don't forget to interact less with appetizers and entrees so you can interact with dessert at the end. Seriously – save room for the donuts or be doomed to dream of them.

TopGolf Austin
2700 Esperanza Crossing 512/222-5950
Thursday-Saturday, 9am-2am

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