High-tech golf practice ranges, fitting sessions help make sport’s advancements accessible to public

With heated hitting bays, customers can enjoy Topgolf year-round.
With heated hitting bays, customers can enjoy Topgolf year-round. (Mariah Hewines/Unsplash.com)

By Drew Steiner
Medill Reports

Topgolf in Schaumburg and other locations offers a unique type of golf driving range, structured as an entertainment complex with full-service food and drinks. Topgolf hitting bays are available at an hourly rate ranging from $32-$52, and each Topgolf location internationally is staffed with multiple teaching professionals available for hourly lessons.

While the social aspect of Topgolf attracts current and new golfers, its unique tracker technology has attracted the attention of golf instructors. Topgolf features a tracker in each one of its golf balls, providing players with an in-depth understanding of the shots they hit with details such as accuracy and distance.

“The tracking aspect is huge for me as a teacher,” said instruction director Jack Wilband at Topgolf Schaumburg. “The numbers that are shown on the screen provide a sense of trust for my students. By seeing the improvement that the tracking system is showing them, they know that the changes we are making in their swings are working.”

The tracking system was formerly known as Protracer until Topgolf acquired it in 2016 and renamed it Toptracer. Toptracer technology included on a driving range makes the space a Toptracer Range.

“The goal of Toptracer Range is to transform the way people see the game of golf,” Wilband said. “Of course, we want people to come to Topgolf and enjoy the technology here. But it is great to see that Toptracer Range has expanded to more than just Topgolf. Local driving ranges are now purchasing the system for their golfers to use as well.”

“If we want to continue to grow the game of golf, this is a huge part of it,” Wilband said. “All golfers now have equal access to technology that is thousands of dollars and was once mainly only found on the professional tours.”

For golfers looking for guidance on custom club fitting, Club Champion takes access to modern-day golf technology to the next level.

Club Champion provides golfers with a professional club fitting experience. With more than 100 stores nationwide, every Club Champion location can create over 50,000 grip, shaft, and club head combinations for customers to test on an indoor simulator. Club Champion fittings range from $100 for a wedge fitting to $400 for a full bag fitting.

“We have access to all of the best technology in golf,” said Eric Bender, a Club Champion club fitter. “It’s not just the full swing either. With SAM PuttLab (a putting stroke analyzer), I can fit customers for the right putter shaft and head.”

Bender said for a golfer looking to lower their handicap, a fitting of all the clubs in the bag is necessary.

“If I have a senior golfer that comes in swinging a club that is too heavy for his or her swing speed, I am going to put them in a lighter weighted club so they can maximize their distance and performance,” Bender said.

“The name of the game today is speed and distance,” Bender said. “If you want to hit the ball far, it all starts with swinging the shaft and head that is fit for your game.”

The use of current technology in golf instruction and equipment is providing recreational golfers with the ability to accelerate improvement and gain greater enjoyment from the sport.

Drew Steiner is a Sports Media graduate student at Medill. You can contact him on LinkedIn.