Topgolf Dubai at Emirates Golf Club
Topgolf Dubai at Emirates Golf Club Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Topgolf Dubai turned one-year-old this week and in a whirlwind 12 months has already firmly established itself as one of the top sporting, social and entertainment destinations in Dubai.

The state-of-the-art interactive driving range is the first of its kind in Asia and features a three-level complex located at the Emirates Golf Club, spanning more than 60,000 sq ft, with the capacity to accommodate 1,100 guests and offering interactive golfing, dining and leisure facilities for residents and tourists of all ages and golfing skill levels.

Featuring 96 climate-controlled driving bays utilising cutting-edge technology, Topgolf brings the fun side of golf to life in what can sometimes be a frustrating and challenging sport out on the course.

Topgolf Dubai opened its doors at Emirates Golf Club last January and has continued to grown in popularity month-on-month among all walks of life — from beginners to seasoned pros and corporate businesses, from youngsters to seniors, with three generations often taking part together.

Gulf News caught up with Topgolf Dubai CEO Chris May and Director of Operations Mike Walton to discuss a triumphant first year and plans in store for 2022 and the second year the Topgolf franchise’s flagship venue.

Top Golf CEO Chris May, right, and Director of Operations Mike Walton
Topgolf CEO Chris May, right, and Director of Operations Mike Walton

“Topgolf is something we have been looking at for some time and we wanted to bring it to Dubai for two reasons,” said May in an exclusive chat with Gulf News from one of the private booths overlooking the range and the Dubai Marina skyline. “One, we thought is was a great business opportunity to bring to Dubai — and the first year has proven that to be the case. And, two, to grow the game of golf out here even further. Essentially to put a golf club in the hands of those who have never held one before and get these people in at the grassroots level so that we can supply golf clubs in Dubai with golfers and members for years to come.

“We have already seen this happen. It has been proven that Dubai as a whole really likes Topgolf — people from all different age groups and demographics. Everyone represented in Dubai has come to Topgolf and loved it and had great fun in an entertainment venue focused around golf.

“We have such a great team who deliver great experiences day in day out and month on month we are continuing to grow our following. We have just had our two best months to date in November and December and it just gets bigger all the time. We are now looking forward to our second year and becoming even more successful than year one.”

Topgolf Dubai at Emirates Golf Club
Topgolf Dubai has 96 private bays that can host up to six guests each

Walton joined the Topgolf Dubai team in April from the company’s New York set-up and was simply blown away by the facilities in the UAE.

“This was an opportunity to come out and grow the game of golf across the region — specifically in the UAE and Dubai — and introduce the game to those who would not normally consider going out for a round on the course,” he said.

“This is a sport and an exercise, but we also add the elements of entertainment and some great F&B on the iconic Emirates Golf Club property to leave the guests with amazing views and a truly memorable experience. That is what Dubai is all about.

“This destination is always about making it memorable — whether you skydive, snorkel or are into photography or whatever — and now we have people coming out and they are getting into golf, doing something they never thought about doing.

“We have seen the tourists return over then past couple of months, but also the locals and expats also returning to the golf clubs, not just to play but also as a community.

“One of the major things we have seen is our return guests, showing this is not a one-off occasion. It is going through the roof and that is a sign of something special that we have here. They want to return for get-togethers, special occasions or family reunions — or even just hang out with a few friends. We are at the tip of the iceberg in how we can grow the game of golf in the region.”

Topgolf Dubai also includes entertainment such as mini-golf, an arcade and multiple TV screens in the Yard and Loft for watching the latest sports on screen
Topgolf Dubai also includes entertainment such as mini-golf, an arcade and multiple TV screens in the Yard and Loft for watching the latest sports on screen Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Looking ahead, May knows that you cannot rest on your laurels, and he has a vision of how to use Topgolf as a destination to grow the game even further in Dubai.

“It has been a challenging year with Covid-19 and we were sometimes not operating at full capacity, we didn’t have many tourists or corporate outings — and since Expo 2020 began, we have seen those tourists return and they have made a dramatic impact on the upturn in daytime business here,’ he said. “We are right on the same Metro line too.

“The group business has really taken off too. Since October/November, we have seen full venue and deck buyouts from companies — this is a great place for team building and relaxing with colleagues as well as friends. Companies are using Topgolf as a great destination for an entertainment experience in a safe manner, with socially distanced bays and only six per bay. It works really well and has become so popular with corporates. That is the one area in 2022 to bring all the business mix, the local and the overseas in one place. It will be an exciting year ahead, that is for sure.”

Topgolf Dubai at Emirates Golf Club
Topgolf Dubai has stunning views of Dubai Marina

Topgolf also enhances Dubai as a whole, something may sees as a key to building the future of the city as a must-visit destination even further.

“Topgolf is a really important asset for Dubai to have,” said May. “We had the CEO of Topgolf US visit us a few months ago and he was blown away by what he saw we were doing here. He was blown away by what we are offering, blown away by the city and the views and that is something we can grow on. He wants to take some of the ideas we have here — in terms of the outdoor air chillers, top-notch food and other things we have tried and tested here for the first time — he wants to take back to our venues in the US. To have a Topgolf can be like a badge of honour and tourists know that Dubai now has one — the first in Asia — and golfers and tourists like to seek that out. It really helps attract tourists to the city, where they can take in the whole experience in the city.”

Chris May hits some balls at Topgolf Dubai
Chris May hits some balls at Topgolf Dubai Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Walton concurs. “This really is a flagship venue for Topgolf worldwide now,” he said. “In terms of how it looks, how it operates, the experience you get here. Where better to have it than in Dubai? This the flagship for everything: The tallest building, the biggest this, the greatest that, the deepest pool. When you look at that then this has to be the flagship of Topgolf too. In that sense, for what Dubai is and what we offer here is the best of the best.

"You can be from New Jersey, Florida or England — wherever they have or will have a Topgolf and you will be blown away by this place in Dubai. This is a stand-alone Topgolf, unique from all the others, offering something else in a city that deserves it. Dubai, with the Frame, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Deepest Dive ... when you add all these pieces in — like a giant indoor ski slope — why not also have the best Topgolf in the world too? It is, to me the most iconically set, with the Marina skyline and it just fits right in to a unique destination that offers nothing but the best.”

Director of Operations Mike Walton likes to relax on the range at Topgolf when hew is not busy with work
Director of Operations Mike Walton likes to relax on the range at Topgolf when hew is not busy with work Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

The sky seems to be the limit for Topgolf as Dubai aspires to reach even greater heights.

“I have been here for 22 years and things have changed so dramatically. I could never have dreamt that we would have a facility like this here when I first came here. But it has transformed itself into one of the best golfing destinations on the planet with more than 20 world-class courses. The tournaments we host here also help promote the city and the venues. Dubai has everything, from the hotels, the restaurants, the events and the airlines. All these ingredients add up to an amazing destination and that is the major reason why Dubai is as popular as it is.”

With an eye on the future and a will to keep on moving and growing, May signed off: “There is always something new in Dubai and Topgolf ins the newest ‘new’ thing that we have I really do not think it will be too long before we see another one in the region.”