Jeneé Osterheldt

Topgolf in Overland Park is a swinging sensation

Mallorie Denmon of Overland Park isn’t a golfer, but she aced the fun at Topgolf.
Mallorie Denmon of Overland Park isn’t a golfer, but she aced the fun at Topgolf. JTOYOSHIBA@KCSTAR.COM

When I pulled up on a Saturday afternoon, the parking lot was mayhem. I’m talking Black Friday pandemonium.

Only I wasn’t at the mall. I was at Topgolf, the new golf entertainment complex in Overland Park. I’d been to one of these before, an older version in Virginia over five years ago. But it was nothing like this. Here, a gent in a golf cart pulled up to ask if I needed a ride across the massive lot to the front door. That’s par for the course when the place packs in 6,000 to 10,000 people every weekend.

Inside, it was PGA-Tour-packed with a festival kind of energy. The crowd is a beautiful mix of everybody, black, white, young and old. Kids, adults, teens, grandparents, golf enthusiasts, rookies, families and young professionals, too. On occasion, employees might bust out a line dance. Sometimes there are balloon artists.

At first glance, it’s a lot to take in. But people love it.

“It’s a chance to be goofy and relax while playing the old man’s game,” says Jake Riha, 27, a Kansas City account executive who has been to Topgolf a few times since it opened in June. “The combination of being able to drink and play a popular hobby, there are games and music. It’s a fun, social environment.”

I guess that makes it worth the wait. On a Saturday afternoon, that meant 4 to 5 hours before a golf bay would open up. But surprisingly, people don’t mind. Why would they when there’s a bar, restaurant, music, free activities like pool, shuffleboard and Foosball to keep you busy? Some people even leave and hang out at Town Center Plaza until their cellphone alerts them that their bay is ready.

David Kim, more commonly known as DK, is Topgolf‘s director of operations and says this is the norm. Even when I return on a rainy Thursday afternoon around 4, the people are pouring in.

“It’s like no one in Overland Park works,” DK jokes before telling me that the best time to beat the crowd is before noon Monday through Thursday. Even on the cold, rainy days. This isn’t like a traditional golf course, where weather might ruin the game. Each bay is covered and climate-controlled with infrared heaters for the frigid winter days to come and fans and misters to beat that Midwest heat.

But the golf-centric entertainment complex isn’t out to replace the golf course. Even though it was founded in England by two golfers looking to step up their swing, one of its goals is to recruit rookies to the game.

“Fifty percent of our patrons are non-golfers. They are the bread and butter. We serve as an affordable introduction to golfing,” DK says. “If you’re interested in the game, this is a no-pressure environment. We really see ourselves as developing a love for golf, not fighting the game. We consider ourselves complementary to it.”

The Topgolf game itself is a bit like bowling. Screens show everyone’s score. When it’s your turn, you pull the club that’s right for you and hit a microchipped golf ball that tracks where it lands in one of 11 targets.

Maybe you’re like me and lucky to drive the ball 25 yards. Or perhaps you’ve got that Tiger Woods swag and can swing 215 yards with ease. Different options help avid golfers improve their moves. But me? I keep it simple. I barely look at that screen and focus on trying to make contact with the ball.

Instead of Worlds of Fun, this place is worlds of golf. It’s a mammoth complex: 9 acres. 65,000 square feet with 102 bays spread over three levels. As many as 600 people can play at any given time. Each bay seats six, some a little more, thanks to couches. Your play area also features a few TVs. One is always tuned into sports, another keeps score and one shows where your ball is, too.

And each floor is just a little different. You enter on the second floor, where you’ll be greeted and sent to the “Let’s Play” terminal and concierge to register your member card and reserve a bay. To the left are the main restaurant and bar, complete with dozens of flatscreen TVs so you can stay tuned to the latest in Royals and Chiefs land.

Downstairs, on the first floor, a super game room offers pool tables, shuffleboard and a few big screens for playing games like Xbox Kinect. It’s all free.

But the third floor? That’s where the view is the brightest. There’s even a rooftop patio where you can play giant Jenga or my personal favorite, mega Connect Four. On Fridays and Saturdays, local DJs like Ashton Martin and JT Quick keep a party vibe alive. There used to be live music on Thursdays, but noise complaints persuaded Topgolf to shut that down. DK says they want to do all they can to get along with their neighbors.

When there aren’t DJs, there’s a lively playlist with a little something for everyone. I heard everything from “Hotel California” by the Eagles to “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. The third floor is also private party perfection, as there are two event spaces and a few larger bays.

But no matter which floor you choose to sit or play on, you can order food or drinks. Friendly waiters and waitresses are all over the place, prepared to take your order.

DK says Topgolf, like Pinstripes at Prairiefire nearby, is all about modern entertainment. It’s not just the game. The food and drink have to deliver as well.

“We’ve evolved beyond hotdogs and burgers. And if you do get a burger, it’s going to be gourmet, not a cheap meal. Almost everything is made from scratch. And the customers are eating it up. The kitchen pulls in about $120,000 a week in food sales.

Topgolf chef Matt Woods, formerly of Mestizo, says two of his favorites are the chicken quesadilla and Mushi ($10), a Topgolf signature dish. It’s Mexican inspired sushi: cilantro sticky rice, drunken beans, spiced chicken and cheddar cheese rolled into a jalapeño tortilla. Instead of wasabi, ginger and soy sauce you get sour cream, avocado and Sriracha hot sauce. We all gave the dish the side-eye, but it disappeared quickly once we all dared to taste it.

“It’s kind of like Chipotle made sushi,” my friend said before eating a second piece.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the burger was the real MVP for me. Seriously, the Mac Daddy, a patty made of Angus ground chuck, short rib and brisket topped with green chili mac ’n cheese and sliced pepper jack cheese, deserves a tiny green jacket. It’s well worth $13, and if I were you I would pay an extra buck and get the sweet potato fries, too.

But for a lot of customers, the sweet spot is the injectable doughnut holes ($10). They’re a crowd pleaser with 24 cinnamon-sugar dusted doughnut holes. You get your choice of two jumbo plastic syringes filled with chocolate, raspberry jelly or Bavarian cream. A dollar more gets you all three flavors. Whatever you do, get the raspberry jelly.

When it comes to drinks, it’s undeniable. I asked the manager, a bartender, a waitress: Beer and fishbowls are the top drinks at Topgolf. Fishbowls can serve two to four people depending on if you get the 30 ounce or the 60 ounce. We kept it attainable with the smaller flashing plastic golf bag cup with straws shaped like clubs. Punch Party (Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum, DeKuyper Amaretto, Grenadine, orange juice and sour) is one of the best-sellers, but for us, the Melon Mulligan — a mix of Bacardi Superior Rum, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, DeKuyper Melon, DeKuyper Blue Curacao and pineapple juice — is the ace.

Drinks, food and fun? It makes for a great night out.

As events manager for First Hand Foundation, Shanna Adamic is always looking for new places to bring her members together to discuss ways to raise money for the nonprofit dedicated to helping kids with health-care needs. Often they end up at a bar or restaurant. But she recently planned a Topgolf happy hour for the organization.

“When you bring together young professionals to network, it’s fun and casual. You mingle over drinks,” says Shanna, 35. “But being able to do something active and get out of the bar and give them something they can actually do together? That is cool. It’s new. And a lot of members have told me they like it.”

Topgolf is a hit. As the 18th location worldwide, it’s one of the newest and already it is the second best performing in the chain of about 20. Only Tampa does better, meaning we’re outpacing Dallas, Houston and Atlanta, too.

Whether you live in Kansas City or Overland Park, it’s not about that new bar or restaurant right now. Topgolf is the place to be, the it-party and possibly your new favorite hangout.

So go ahead. Swing by. Take a club and smash the monotony of your everyday after-work happy hour and weekend get together. You might like it.

Topgolf Overland Park will open its doors to the public on Friday, June 26. Here is an early look at the three-level venue, where players will line up in one of 102 climate-controlled hitting bays. Sarah Darby/The Kansas City Star

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or send email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. On Twitter @jeneeinkc.

Take a Swing

Topgolf, 10611 Nall Avenue in Overland Park, is open 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday. The price is $20 or $40 for groups of up to six people (price depends on the time and day, not the number of people). Each person also pays a one-time $5 fee for a lifetime membership.

For more information, call 913-562-9713 or visit topgolf.com.

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