For those of us who are not the golfing type, topgolf is a phenomenon that stirs the imagination. It’s something like a bowling alley meets a video game meets a miniature golf course meets a driving range – a multi-story mega-complex with dozens of bays into which aspiring golfers hit balls with computer chips in order that they can be tracked as they travel from one target to another.
The concept originated in Watford, England, where two brothers – Steve and Dave Jolliffe – came up with the idea of combining microchip technology with balls, clubs, a range and large screens with many sports, played and watched by loads of friends well lubricated by busy bars, and well fed by kitchens a little less crowded. While there are plenty of classic sports bar fare on the menu, more often than not the Topgolf experience is fueled by a wide world of liquid refreshments. You will see many more duffers drinking than eating.
There are over 70 Topgolf facilities spread across the UK, Australia, Germany, Mexico, United Arab Emirates – and right here in the United States of America, in El Segundo, with space on PCH to the north de Rosecrans, dominated by three floors of Topgolf, and a car park large enough for one of our many shopping centres.
On a recent Sunday evening, every bay was filled. The front desk people said that a reservation was needed at least two weeks in advance. Some players brought their own clubs. Others borrowed clubs sitting next to bays. The cost is per hour, regardless of the number of players, up to six per bay.
The base game is Topgolf, where players aim at one of 11 giant dartboards. There is also Top Break, Top Chip, Top Shot and Top Pressure. And the computer does all the math, leaving the players to eat and drink. And generally hang.
There’s more to the drinks side of the menu than the food side. There are nine draft beer options – none named Golf, although there is a Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA. There are 17 beers in bottles and cans. There are seven alcoholic seltzers. There are six white wines, three reds, three sparkling – and I guess to celebrate a hole in one, there’s Veuve Clicquot champagne at $115 a bottle. Popular!
There are also eight classic cocktails, including a Bloody Mary, a Moscow Mule and an Old Fashioned. There are six TG Originals, including a Mulligan (vodka, strawberry and mint) and a Topgolf Tea (vodka, rum, gin, triple sec, Coke). And there are two oversized “Golfbag” cocktails, $22 each, served “in a to-go cup” — the Pineapple Punch and Turf Monster are both built around rum, lots and lots of rum.
I have to admit after a few golf bags I doubt I can find the tee. Between shots of a microchip, a small snack is appreciated; have to restore the calories used by bending over to pick up the ball after all.
As sports bar food, this roughage contains a lot of calories – which are annoyingly listed next to each dish. (God, I wish they didn’t do that! It makes me feel like I’m being watched by my mom!) So, we find that the guac and chips have 1,300 calories. The very tasty Buffalo Chicken Dip contains 1,870 calories. Hot pretzel pieces with cheese sauce and horseradish dip drop to 970 calories. But the crispy chicken strips go up to 2,230.
Numbers don’t make me feel like eating; they make me feel like I’m scoring points on a calorie golf card, where the “Meatalian” flatbread topped with prosciutto, salami, pepperoni and pepperoncini, hits a high 2,080. The cheese fries are 1580. But the Cobb Salad is only 770 and the Ground Chicken Caesar is 760.
In fact, the All-American Burger is only 910 – and that’s with American cheese and “secret sauce”.
For dessert, there are “Injectable Donut Holes”, with a choice of flavors, at 1,880. And a Cookie Crumble Sundae at 2,040. Show up 10am-2pm, and there’s a small -lunch burrito (1,400) and a chicken and cookie sandwich (730).
Despite the roots in England, there are no fish and chips. In fact, the shrimp tacos are the only seafood dish on the menu. At least here. When they open in Japan I bet it will be Topgolf with sushi – and a six month wait to get in.
Merrill Shindler is a freelance food critic based in Los Angeles. Email [email protected]
Topgolf El Segundo
- Evaluation: 2 stars
- Address: 400 S. Pacific Coast Highway, El Segundo
- Information: 424-567-6385, www.topgolf.com
- Kitchen: Central American sports food
- When: Lunch and dinner, daily
- Details: Full bar; reservations not necessary – for bar and food.
- Atmosphere: A national phenomenon, a computerized golf concept with dozens of bays allowing parties to hit balls with chips across the range. Busy sports bar and grill, with the kind of food that goes well with sports and more sports.
- Prices: About $18 per person
- On the menu: 14 “Bites & Shareables” ($9.50 – $14.50), 7 burgers and sandwiches ($12 – $14.50), 2 salads ($14 – $14.75), 3 sides ($4.50 $-$11), 2 lunch dishes ($10.50-$11), 3 desserts ($10.50-$13.50)
- Credit card: CM, V
- What do the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth the trip from anywhere!), 3 (Most excellent, if not outstanding. Worth the trip from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (A great place to go for a meal. Worth the trip from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry and it’s nearby, but don’t get stuck in traffic.) 0 (Honestly not worth it describe.)