Topgolf Dubai
Topgolf Dubai opened in 2021 Image Credit: Supplied

The UAE has long had a reputation for doing things bigger and better than anywhere else on the planet.

The Burj Khalifa proudly stands as the world’s tallest building at a whopping 2,716.5 feet high, while Dubai Police’s Bugatti Veyron fleet holds the world record for the fastest police car.

Not wanting to be left out, Topgolf Dubai is now joining in the act of creating monumental achievements.

The three-level entertainment venue, which is managed by Dubai Golf, has been the busiest Topgolf on earth for three of the last five months, beating properties in Las Vegas, New York and London.

In a wide-ranging with Gulf News to celebrate his 25 years at Dubai Golf, CEO Chris May explains why the Dubai venue has been so successful since opening just three and a half years ago.

“We opened Topgolf in 2021 and that would be the most successful thing we’ve ever done at Dubai Golf, in terms of it being a game-changing initiative for the company,” said May, who first joined Dubai Golf as the General Manager of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club in 1999.

Chris May
Chris May has worked at Dubai Golf for 25 years Image Credit: Supplied

“It’s been the busiest Topgolf in the world for three of the last five months for the number of balls hit. It’s quite an achievement when there's 100 Topgolf facilities around the world now.

“Most of them are in the States, but if you're beating New York, Lost Angeles, Las Vegas and London, then you're doing something right.

“I think Dubai is in a great space now, in terms of golf, but that Topgolf is doing well for several reasons. Its location is amazing, the view that it has is amazing and the team at Topgolf are doing an amazing job.

“In many ways, they are doing a better job than most of the Topgolf locations in the U.S. in creating this really fun culture to work at. Whenever you go there, you are kind of guaranteed to have fun.

“Whether you're a group of kids, a family or a corporate, it's really inclusive of everyone which is phenomenal.”

Target audience

Ahead of opening in December 2020, there was a huge amount of fanfare around the launch of the first venue in the Middle East and Asia.

A hit across the world, Topgolf allows guests to enjoy high-tech interactive games and some friendly competition along with loud music, a chef-driven menu, hand-crafted beverages and more.

In short, Topgolf’s target audience isn’t typically someone who enjoys an 18-hole round.

Instead, May and his team had their sights set on welcoming a whole new wave of players to the game.

“One of the reasons that we built it was because we thought it would grow the game of golf or help to grow the game,” said May.

“I'll never forget the week before we opened, I walked through the building with my boss, Mustafa Al Hashimi (CEO, WASL Hospitality & Leisure), and he asked me whether we had built it too big.

“I told him that I thought we’d be okay because both of my kids were at school at Dubai College and every schoolkid was talking about Topgolf.

Topgolf Dubai
Topgolf Dubai has welcomed a whole new audience to the game Image Credit: Supplied

“If these kids were talking about the venue from what they’d seen on social media, they were all going to come and bring their parents.

“This was just one school, so I thought it was going to be successful.

“We opened during covid, which meant we were only 50% occupied but the wide cross-section of people that we attracted, and continue to attract, is unbelievable.

“When Mustafa walked through the building the second week after opening, he could not believe the number of Emiratis that were coming to Topgolf and felt very happy to be having fun there.

“In general, they would never come to a golf club, but they came to Topgolf and continue to do so to this day. That was amazing to see and a good indication of the direction that Topgolf was going to go.

“Without doubt, it’s exceeded our expectations and that of Topgolf.”

With the goal of making the game accessible to a completely different audience achieved, the next step was converting those new golfers into players who would play a full round, take lessons or even become a member at one of Dubai’s many world class golf clubs.

“I think within five years of opening that we’ll see a member of a golf club somewhere in Dubai that started playing the game at Topgolf, which is really significant,” says May.

“We’re close to that. We have an academy at Topgolf where we transition onto the par 3 golf course at Emirates Golf Club, so that’s definitely happening.

“If you were to ask to all of the club pros across the UAE, they’d tell you a large number of the people coming into the game first played at Topgolf.

“At Emirates Golf Club, which is obviously next to Topgolf, the number is probably one in five new people are coming to play as a result of Topgolf.

“It’s fulfilled all of our wishes and thoughts when we brought Topgolf to Dubai.”

With Topgolf Dubai proving to be a resounding success story, expect to see more locations popping up in the Middle East in the future.

Topgolf Dubai at Emirates Golf Club
Topgolf Dubai has 102 bays Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi seems like the natural next destination for a venue given that Yas Links, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, Yas Acres Golf & Country Club are all managed by May and his Viya Golf team.

“We have the regional franchise rights for Topgolf and Abu Dhabi is definitely on that list of destinations to go to next,” he says.

“We hope to be able to announce something on a new venue in the next year.

“The one exciting thing about Topgolf is the fact it was quite a risk bringing it here to Dubai. We didn't know whether it was going to work as well as it does in the States, but it clearly works in the Middle East.

“It really brings all age demographics and nationalities to have fun.

“I think it will work very well wherever it is. The only thing I would say is, Dubai will probably be the busiest and most successful because you've got a larger population within a 15-25 minute of Topgolf.

“Any future ones may be a little smaller.

“Aside from Vegas, Dubai is the biggest Topgolf in terms of square footage, so I would imagine another city or country within the Middle East would probably be smaller and have 72 bays over three floors.

“We definitely hope to add to the current 100 Topgolf venues in world. We’re working hard towards achieving that with all the approvals from Topgolf, as we look to grow the franchise in the region.”