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Volume 20 No. 45
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Topgolf Crush to make PGA Tour debut at BMW Championship

Topgolf is making its first PGA Tour stop. The company will install its pop-up driving range/entertainment concept at the BMW Championship FedEx Cup playoff event next month.

The temporary Topgolf venue, called Topgolf Crush, was developed this year by Dallas-based Topgolf and will be on the driving range at the Conway Farms Golf Club near Chicago as part of BMW’s activation plans for the tournament. The carmaker, led by agency of record Octagon, worked with Topgolf to bring the product to the event as part of the BMW fan experience on site.

How the BMW Fan Challenge powered by Topgolf Crush will look at the tournament.
Courtesy of: BMW
The double-decker structure, called the BMW Fan Challenge powered by Topgolf Crush, will have eight stalls where up to six players can aim at targets placed 50, 100, and 150 yards away. The installation will use Topgolf’s ball-tracking technology and offer participants a chance to win daily prizes.

The pop-up facility will also include a second-floor lounge with a live DJ and a BMW-sponsored hole-in-one challenge that gives players a chance to win a two-year lease on a 2018 BMW X3. It will be free to fans attending the tournament from Tuesday through Sunday during the BMW Championship week, set for Sept. 12-17.

The activation is a scaled-down version of the typical Topgolf Crush venue, which made its debut this year at Safeco Field in Seattle, and comes after the PGA Tour, Topgolf and the LPGA last year announced a strategic alliance to develop initiatives to help grow the game of golf.

BMW is paying for the activation and the undisclosed cost of putting the Topgolf Crush facility on the Conway Farms range. It will be built on the side opposite from where the players will practice.

“We think it will infuse some fun and a lounge atmosphere,” said Tim Rittenhouse, experiential marketing manager for BMW. “We haven’t seen it done within the context of a PGA Tour event. We want to provide another outlet for fans.”

Topgolf has 30 permanent facilities in the U.S. and has plans to add 10 more by the end of the year. The company recently announced it would bring Topgolf Crush to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in mid-October in conjunction with the Formula One race weekend.

While the Topgolf Crush deal at the BMW Championship was made for specifically for the event, other pop-up locations could appear at other PGA Tour sites.

“We will learn a lot from this,” said Rodney Ferrell, vice president of global partnerships for Topgolf, of the BMW Championship activation. “We are talking with different PGA Tour sponsors.”

PGA Tour officials also see the Topgolf Crush activation at the BMW Championship as a test as the Tour considers adding it to other events to increase attendance and interest among younger, more casual golf fans.

“They have hit upon a unique market,” said Torrey Gane, PGA Tour vice president of tournament business affairs, regarding Topgolf’s growth. “It goes across all segments. We hope to roll it out at other tournaments.”

There may be limits, given the large footprint needed to accommodate the pop-up Topgolf Crush venues. But Farrell said the Topgolf Crush product can be scaled to fit various course footprints.

BMW Championship organizers are expecting about 150,000 fans to attend the tournament, and Ferrell expects around 500 people each day of the tournament to the participate in Topgolf Crush.

“BMW has always tried to be innovative, and the goal is to engage both the avid and novice golfer alike,” said Vince Pellegrino, senior vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association, which runs the BMW Championship. “Topgolf has been dabbling with stadiums, and this is the first time on a golf course at a golf championship. With the tour’s initiative to grow the game and enhance the experience, it could catch on.”

The addition of Topgolf Crush to the BMW Championship is part of the carmaker’s heavy activation around the tournament, which includes the tournament’s pro-am pairing party, to be held at Wrigley Field.

Other activations include the BMW Putting Challenge, a BMW car giveaway to a player hitting a hole-in-one and an Oktoberfest Celebration at the BMW fan experience area at Conway Farms.