It was an announcement as left of field as my golf swing – a few nights ago, Village Roadshow Theme Parks (the folks who bring you Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Wet ‘n’ Wild etc.) out of almost nowhere told the country they’re not just building any old driving range next door to Movie World, but a 35 million dollar foray into a whole new experience in itself known as “Top Golf”, founded initially in the states. To say it was a surprise to me was an understatement – Donald Trump winning the US election would be less surprising, but despite this, out of virtually nowhere this is what I saw when I jumped onto Facebook:
Initially the idea seemed a little foreign for my tastes, certainly for a theme park chain to be embarking on. But the more I think about it the more it warms on me. Right now if you look at both Dreamworld and Warner Bros. Movie World (plus Wet ‘n’ Wild, Paradise Country and Australian Outback Spectacular respectively) there’s a hive of new attractions, shopping centres and even hotels in the pipeline surrounding our cherished parks. It seems the Gold Coast is stepping tourism up into high gear, in part because of the Commonwealth Games coming up in 2018 but also the tour de force that is the current Chinese tourism boom that we’re experiencing. In any case, with a portfolio as family-focussed and day time trade focussed as Village’s parks, having new options that continue on the foot steps of Australian Outback Spectacular & Movie World’s night events (Fright Nights etc.) and gives a more diverse and most likely adult crowd more opportunity to visit their main property in a more casual manner is going to be a big win long term for Village.
But Golf? Honestly?
Taking a quick step back, Top Golf is as much about golf as Apple Inc. is about fruit orchids, that is to say, not much at all. Top Golf’s success is with taking the humble idea of a driving range and turning it into something entertaining to do on the side while you hang with your mates. Been to Strike Bowling before? If so, the concept that makes Strike so successful is not far off from what Top Golf aims to achieve here in Australia. Strike made its money on not being just another bowling alley chain, instead they focussed on building centres that created intimate, atmospheric spots to spend time with your mates, to drink, eat, laugh and also bowl. At locations like Strike in Brisbane City, you can also go and do a round of laser tag or karaoke, and let’s be honest, after a few beers on a Friday night, who wouldn’t want to belt out a little Queen or do a little bro-bonding and hit up some laser tag? This is essentially where Top Golf, and many other large brands like Main Event in the US (owned by Ardent Leisure, who coincidentally also own Dreamworld) have made great riches in recent years. It’s a simple recipe – when you realise how much money there is to be made taking age old concepts and bringing them into the 21st century, pairing it with great ambience, great food and great drinks, then it starts to make sense why Village Roadshow would want to spend big money on tapping into a market of Gen-X’ers and Y’ers with plenty of disposable income to spend on experiences like this.
Thinking big for a second, if online approvals & rumours are anything to go by, if Village Roadshow do decide to have a swing at building a resort on the droves of spare land they have south of the Studios then adding attractions like Top Golf to their properties only gives them as a group more opportunity to bundle and package holidays that would make them almost untouchable by their competitors.
But seriously, what do you think?
Look, honestly, as bad as my initial left of field gag was, the more I think about it, the more I realise that despite me not being a big “golfer”, there’s almost no doubt in my mind that when Top Golf opens, i’ll definitely be spending a fair chunk of time there unwinding and having fun. And if I was a Village executive, i’d know where i’d be having my meetings when it opens – certainly from the press images it seems like it’ll serve as a great, classy spot to drink and chillout while also being versatile enough to be able to cater to corporate clients and the private events side of their business.
Ultimately, even if you don’t like golf, you don’t like drinking, and you shudder in horror of the thought of combining the two, if this proves to be a hole in one for Village Roadshow (sorry, couldn’t resist) then rest assured there’ll be more money for thrill rides as they continue to carefully diversify their offering.