Does Topgolf Use Real Golf Balls?
Topgolf is a multinational sports entertainment company headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The company was founded in 2000 in Watford, England, and is a golf game with electronically tracked balls that automatically calculate scores for your shots. It brings a whole new dimension to the driving range experience.
There are 70 locations globally. The majority of these are located across America though the company also has a presence in the United Kingdom, Australia, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
They have exploded in popularity in recent years and have been described by some as “bowling for golf”. The experience is perfect for individuals, couples and parties with plenty of games to choose from and food and drink are available.
And all this begs the original question, does Topgolf use real golf balls? No, they don’t. While they look similar to a standard ball, the balls are specially designed with an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip inside them. They are also designed not to fly as far ensuring they don’t go outside the confines of the range. Topgolf visitors have reported a 10-20 yard difference between balls at their venues and standard golf balls.
What Is Topgolf?
It is a game built around golf although it’s nothing like playing on a real golf course. There are many different targets for you to aim at you are awarded points for achieving different shots during the game.
What Are Limited Flight Golf Balls?
As the name suggests, limited-flight balls are those that offer reduced distance. They have been produced to look and perform like regular golf balls over shorter distances. These balls are typically used as either a training aid or on driving ranges.
Topgolf use limited flight balls rather than traditional golf balls primarily because of space requirements.
Regular Balls vs Limited Flight Balls
The obvious difference between regular, mainstream balls and limited-flight balls is the distance they travel. And despite the balls going a shorter distance, they still imitate the flight of a regular ball. Flighted balls vary in length though the most popular go 80%, 70% or even as little as one-third the distance when compared to a regular ball.
While the composition of regular and limited-flight balls is similar, limited-flight balls are lighter and less dense. As a result, the ball won’t have the same momentum behind it and thus won’t be as effective in pushing through the air resistance it experiences.
What Brand of Balls Does Topgolf Use?
Callaway Golf acquired the company in October 2020 for $2 billion thus it makes sense that Topgolf facilities use Callaway balls. However, to make these balls trackable they have to be altered. The company uses an Impinj RAIN RFID chip which is embedded within the ball for this reason.
As discussed above, due to the alterations made in their creation process, these balls are specially made and do not have the same performance as regular Callaway balls and will fly 10-20 yards shorter than normal. Their cover is also slightly thicker than that of a regular ball which may make them feel a bit harder on contact.
How Do Topgolf Balls Work?
The balls at Topgolf work off an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip. The chip is inserted into the ball during the manufacturing process which during play provides detailed statistical feedback on drives, such as distance measurements and shot accuracy.
But there is more to how these balls work than just the technology in the balls. Each target is fitted with Speedway Readers and keeps track of where balls are hit and awards players points. At maximum capacity, the system can keep track of 550 people with 20 shots each and the RAIN RFID can manage to carry out 10,000 ball reads an hour.
Do Topgolf Balls Wear Out?
Yes, balls at Topgolf get worn out. Their constant use, being hit repeatedly thousands of times takes its toll. Golfers will notice that older regular driving range balls don’t quite have the same performance as newer ones. Sometimes they’re softer, their flight is unusual or maybe the cover of the ball has picked up imperfections and cracks.
Their balls act in very much the same way. Yes, they will be more durable than a mainstream ball used on a golf course but they’re not indestructible. Eventually, there will be a noticeable difference in performance.
Does Topgolf Use Real Golf Balls: Conclusion
Based on all the information, it’s quite clear that while Topgolf balls may look and feel like real balls based on first impressions, they are definitely not. The balls are designed to fly shorter than a normal golf ball making them travel 10-20 yards less than a regular ball. But there are some very good reasons for this.
The most obvious reason is technology. If they used real balls, the company wouldn’t exist. It would simply not be possible to read and track each ball in the way that it does without the inclusion of an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip.
Limiting the distance a ball can travel, also limits the amount of space required. On average, their ranges tend to be around 250 yards long with a net protecting the perimeter to stop balls from leaving the grounds. Most normal ranges need to be at least 300-350 yards long and even at that size they might not be long enough.
By limiting this space, the company saves money on the cost of land. It also allows the company to be more flexible when setting up locations.
Even today, some golfers are strong enough to hit the ball over the perimeter net. If real balls were being used, that number would increase drastically and prove to be incredibly dangerous for anyone within the vicinity of the establishment (as well as being an insurance nightmare!)
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
Can you use your own balls at Topgolf?
For safety reasons, no you cannot take your own balls to Topgolf. It would also spoil the fun as you couldn’t play games or track shots.
Firstly the systems wouldn’t be able to track a normal ball since it won’t have an RFID chip.
Secondly, there is a risk that you could hit a normal ball beyond the perimeter of the range and cause some damage or injury.
Can you steal a ball from Topgolf?
Obviously, we don’t condone or recommend stealing. The sensors in their balls will alert the company when a ball leaves the business grounds. While it is considered theft, it’s not clear what will happen if caught.
Does Topgolf give you unlimited balls?
Yes, Topgolf will provide you with an unlimited amount of balls for the time slot you have booked at certain times of the day or in certain venues. At busier times these offers might not be available. This is also subject to a joining fee of $5.