Written by guest blogger Andrew Galbraith, loyal TopGolf Chicago guest:
Described by my brother as "skee-ball for adults," it isn't too far off from the truth. From one of three different floors, players make themselves at home in a bay similar to what one would find at a bowling alley, select a club and the rest is more or less up to the wind and gravity. A bit more on that later, though.
Taking our clubs, which Top Golf rents out for free, we made our way to Bay 32 and -- despite having been deprived of a Docking Bay 94 reference -- arrived on the second floor of the building. The layout of each bay far exceeded my expectations. I was hoping for slightly more than hard, plastic seats you find at a typical driving range What I found were accommodations more apropos to a tropical cabana.
4 wicker tall chairs, wide enough to ensure the comfort of a man with my ample 290-pound carriage, and an equally high table with standard restaurant fair such as menus and condiments. For the cooler days or people who caught a chill a bit easier than others, there was a heater that could be turned on. With that running and everyone comfortable, I was satisfied that this was setting up for a great family outing thus far.
My brother explained the basics of the game before leading us off to the card readers that doubled as golf ball dispensers. Each of us having opted to go with the $35 lifetime card, which also comes pre-loaded with $45 in game credit, we initially chose to start with two games and see how we felt after. Slowly, balls landed into the dull green buckets with a 'thunk,' thanks in part to the time it took to encode my particular information to each ball.
Snatching up my basket of balls, I headed back to the bay as we discussed our initial play order. My brother, having been before, would go first. I would go second. My sister-in-law, who'd never handled a golf club in her life, would be last.
Dropping the balls through the hole on the holder caused an illuminated white light to signal that the RFID in the specific ball had been recognized. It was then considered in play. After than, apply everything you learned from Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore as you swing away. While it does help to aim for one of the various flags if you're competitive, it doesn't necessarily have to be a game about the highest score.
For the people who do want to play for keeps, the principle operates similar to skee-ball as I touched on earlier, albeit briefly. Players aim for the flags to get the highest score possible. The closer you land a ball to the flag, obviously the better. If you sink a ball in the 10-point zone, akin to scoring a long range hole-in-one, you nab yourself a free game.
After each drive during a game of Top Golf, one of two things will happen. The screen adjacent to your bay will either show a ball icon, illustrating that it didn't score and is thus little more than a dead ball, or it will show a score. When it shows a ball that garnered a player a score, it will include what zone near the flag the ball landed as well as yardage to get an idea of distance. Suffice to say, if you are playing for the best score possible, you'll want to keep an eye on it.
Ordering a pulled pork sandwich and nachos topped with some more pulled pork as well proved to be an excellent choice. Transcending beyond your standard fair outing, Top Golf has a kitchen that can cater next to the best of them. The pulled pork sandwich was easily on par with restaurants like The Patio and the nachos have since become a new favorite of mine - definitely worth having on return trips. As the games progressed, we found ourselves amidst a second game and ordering a second round of food.
A 16oz Starbucks coffee, burrito and cookies later, I feel confident in saying that Top Golf has perhaps of the best, if not the most superior, eateries I've enjoyed during an outing in recent memory. Whoever made that Caramel Macchiato knew what they were doing. The breakfast burrito was effortlessly the equal of something I'd have had at the best of breakfast locales. And, the six chocolate chip cookies we ordered left me wondering who is missing a grandmother, because I'm pretty sure Top Golf has one in their kitchen, making those cookies as I write this.
Getting back to the actual game, we finished the first and second game before deciding it couldn't hurt to play a third. So, as we returned to the card reader to refill our baskets with balls, we looked through the array of games we could play. Being a bit overwhelmed by the choices, we chose instead to continue playing Top Golf as my brother and sister-in-law had found their groove and were progressively developing their golfing skills. As time went on, they became increasingly comfortable, nevertheless the desire to return is thankfully there.
Ultimately, since Sunday, I've been excitedly counting down the time until we head back this Saturday. As we left, my brother and I decided to begin making visits there a regular event.
Check out Andrew's blog here.