This Week In Golf Biz: Topgolf’s New Venue And Tech, Ex-PGA President’s New Post, A Genius Ball

Topgolf officially opened the doors to its 36th location this week and its new Orlando venue becomes the first to debut with Toptracershot-tracking technology.

Topgolf Orlando

Topgolf has opened its 36th location, in Orlando.

The games, micro-chipped balls and setup at Topgolf Orlando are the same as at the company’s many other locations, but now guests will be able to get additional feedback on their golf swing. Toptracer, which has become a popular staple of television broadcasts, will allow players to see an instant replay of their shot – including the ball’s height, speed and distance – on an HDTV screen in their hitting bay.

“The Toptracer technology adds a fresh element of interest and interaction that we believe will inspire a whole new appreciation for the game,” said Topgolf Entertainment Group chief technology officer Andrew Macaulay. “Playing at Topgolf Orlando will be like being a part of a video game come to life.”

Topgolf’s Orlando location is sure to be a popular one as well, located downtown on Universal Boulevard in close proximity to the Orange County Convention Center.

VEGAS COURSE RENOVATION IMPROVES PLAYABILITY

Rio Secco Golf Club

Rees Jones helped oversee the $2.1 million renovation at Rio Secco in Las Vegas.

Rio Secco Golf Club was built more than 20 years ago on one of the more unique – and rugged spots – in the Las Vegas area. The club, now owned by VICI Properties, recently re-opened after a $2.1 million renovation project intended to increase playability for the casual golfer and improve sustainability.

Rees Jones, the course’s original architect, led the six-month renovation, which included new green complexes and bunkers, forward tees, and an expanded and enhanced practice facility. Jones, known as the Open Doctor due to his renovation work on courses like Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines, was helped on the Rio Secco project by renowned golf instructor Butch Harmon, who applauded the changes.

“These courses should be designed for the everyday player, not the tour pros,” Harmon said. “Making it easier and designed so golfers can play more quickly is exactly what golf needs.”

STERANKA EXPANDS CONSULTING ROLE WITH BUFFALO

Joe Steranka has expanded his role with Buffalo.Agency with the formation of Steranka Sports + Strategy. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Joe Steranka, the former CEO of the PGA of America, has been a part of Buffalo.Agency — one of the biggest public relations and communications groups in the golf world – since 2013. Steranka and Buffalo have now expanded their strategy consultation offerings with the formation of Steranka Sports + Strategy (SS+S).

The passion evoked by sports is the ideal way for brands to engage customers, says Steranka, who will provide insights and counsel on media, technology, sustainability, event management and consumer-behavior trends to companies and organizations involved in the sports lifestyle.

“Sports hold unparalleled staying power as a marketing platform for authentic storytelling,” says Steranka, who holds the title of chief global strategist for SS+S.

FORMER PGA PREZ BECOMES GM AT TPC SAWGRASS

Derek Sprague is the new general manager at TPC Sawgrass. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Former PGA of America President Derek Sprague has been named the new general manager at TPC Sawgrass in Florida after spending the past two years as managing director at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey.

Sprague replaces Bill Hughes, who after 11 years at Sawgrass was promoted to regional director of operations for the entire TPC Network of courses.

Sprague was employed by the PGA Tour at Liberty National and helped oversee the club’s preparation for this year’s Presidents Cup. He now shifts to the PGA Tour’s flagship property to help oversee annual preparations for The Players Championship.

“With the ongoing evolution of TPC Sawgrass as we strive to deliver an unparalleled experience throughout the year and during The Players Championship, it was incumbent upon us to find the right person to succeed Bill and continue our progress,” said John Hugghins, Senior Vice President of TPC Operations. “Bill did a wonderful job of getting us to where we are today. With Derek’s outstanding reputation and professional history, including our own experience with him at Liberty National, we are confident that he will help TPC Sawgrass achieve its goals.”

CALLAWAY INTRODUCES NEW TOUR-LEVEL IRONS

Callaway Golf

The Apex MB irons are among two lines of new irons from Callaway that are geared toward better players.

Callaway Golf has introduced a pair of new irons designed for better players – the Apex Muscleback irons and the X Forged irons – that will be available at retail on November 3.

The Apex MB irons are a true muscleback, with a classic shape and style, a traditional thin topline and a bright chrome finish in Callaway’s smallest blade head shape. The clubs are popular with pros and several of the world’s best players provided extensive feedback in the design of the Apex MB.

The X Forged irons are a single piece, cavity back iron that features precise triple net forging, which Callaway says is meant to deliver exceptional feel and distance. Both sets of irons retail for $1,300.

ONCORE’S $25 GENIUS GOLF BALLS

OnCore Golf

OnCore Golf is developing a golf ball embedded electronic sensors to track data.

OnCore Golf has unveiled its latest advance in golf ball technology: the Genius Ball. More than a “smart ball,” it will capture and transmit data directly to a mobile device in real time.

The Genius Ball will track a ball’s performance and statistics on every shot, from distance and height to ball velocity and course location that’s accurate to within a foot.

OnCore plans to have a fully functional prototype for demonstration at the PGA Show in January 2018 and then begin full manufacturing shortly afterward. A commercial launch could come as soon as Father’s Day in June, with a two-ball sleeve selling for about $49.95. To read more about the technology and the company’s plans, click here.

HAWAII’S TURTLE BAY RESORT TO BE SOLD

Turtle Bay Resort

The best golf on Oahu’s fabled North Shore? You’ll find it at Turtle Bay Resort, just up the coast from famous surf spots like Pipeline and Sunset Beach.

Turtle Bay Resort, which has one of the best golf properties on Hawaii’s most populous island, is set to be sold for about $350 million to Blackstone Group.

The current owners of Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu – which you can read more about here – had retained brokerage firm JLL last year to find either a buyer or a partner to expand the resort (new vacation and residential units).

Blackstone Group has previously purchased numerous resort properties in Hawaii, including the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, which the group purchased in 2013 for $445 million and then sold last year for $780 million after making about $100 million in upgrades.

5-HOUR GOLF MAKEOVER AT LAKE OCONEE

Reynolds Lake Oconee

The Reynolds Kingdom of Golf, presented by TaylorMade

How long would it take to turn around your golf game? The team at Reynolds Kingdom of Golf outside Atlanta is offering a complete transformation in five hours.

The new “5-Hour Makeover” package features a tour-quality fitting for a new set of clubs at the only TaylorMade venue in the U.S. where recreational golfers can be fit for equipment in the same environment as PGA and LPGA Tour players.

The full name of the facility at Reynolds Lake Oconee – located midway between Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia – is the Reynolds Kingdom of Golf, presented by TaylorMade. As such, their newest package not only fits guests for a complete set of the brand’s woods, irons, wedges and putters, but features a two-hour, one-on-one game evaluation by a staff instructor at the Kingdom.

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