Lots of mons are relaxed. Not many manage to be this mellow.
It’s a sunny afternoon in the Lake District of El Segundo, in Los Angeles County, and a newbie to the game named Andrew Prahlow is looking for his ball.
Golf is hard. For every shot he takes in the air, another Prahlo is dragged. His play calls for forgiveness.
As he was searching through the pine straw, Prahlo passed past the advance sign exactly that.
“Just drop a new ballyou read,I say you found it.”
As with local rules, this is lenient. And perfect for the brand. It captures the spirit of ease in the Lake District, and is the only track in the country that is maintained and operated by Topgolf.
yes, who – which Topgolf, the outfit best known for stunt driving ranges, with goals, snippets, cocktails, and tunes. Golf inspired by the game and flexed to 11.
Halfway through, when the British-born company took root on American soil, few industry insiders were paying Topgolf anything. For the old guard of the game, the entertainment hype places were out of the ordinary. There was golf and there was Topgolf, the thinking went, and they weren’t alike at all.
Fast forward to the present. The two approached the winds of change.
Even as Topgolf evolved and expanded, extending its range with golf-themed products ranging from indoor swing wings to shot tracking features in tournament broadcasts, the golf establishment has drawn towards it. Topgolf is now owned by Callaway, and its creative spirit has gone from the margins to the mainstream. Watch an explosion of short courses, simulators, and virtual golf games, among other golf-side diversions. The golf swing is all the rage. In 2020, according to a survey by the National Golf Foundation, more than 12 million people tried the game in an “off-court” setting, on the same course as the number of people firing on the actual first tee.
Not all Topgolfers are golfers, or vice versa. But the data suggest an increasing overlap in demographics.
The lakes at El Segundo are the physical expression of greater affinity, a beginner-friendly gateway to golf, with high technology and tradition hand in hand.
The project’s origins go back about a decade, when Topgolf held talks with officials in El Segundo, a coastal city bordered by Los Angeles International Airport and Manhattan Beach.
The lakes at the time were like a lot of monies: loved by many but struggling anyway.
Cities were cities and businesses, and negotiations were protracted. But in early 2021, Topgolf took over the lease and proceeded with the renovation. Last April, the work was completed, and two venues opened in one fell swoop: the three-story Topgolf facility, with the latest in technology decorations, and Mooney Reborn, right next door.
Under the direction of architect Mike Angus, what was once a 9-hole course with two par-4s has been transformed into a 3-to-10 10-hole course, with a host of contemporary upgrades and additions. The Lakes features a new professional store with a restaurant and bar, as well as a new training area for short games with multiple vegetables. It also has lights, allowing for pre-dawn and after-dark tours, and external speakers that pump up playlists as you play. But there’s no touch more Topgolf-y than the extra touch on the tenth slot, which features the Toptracer on the tee. You can opt out if that seems like too much pressure. But other than that, the shot arc and various stats appear in real time on a screen next to the tee, just as they do for Tour Pros on TV.
“Just for your information“A billboard in the background is blurry.”Everyone is watching. Technically, it’s not true, but it feels that way.
In the six months since they opened, both El Segundo locations have been turning into gangsters, especially on weekends. Although Topgolf declined to share information about earnings or rounds played, the shared facilities look fine. According to a report on El Segundo’s official website, the municipality expects annual net revenue of more than $1.7 million.
At the moment, the Lake District is unique, which does not mean that it will be unique. There is a lot that needs to line up for a Topgolf muni project to make sense. Nor does Topgolf plan to shift its strategic focus to golf course operations, which involve a learning curve nearly as steep as the golf curve itself. But Topgolf CEO Artie Starrs says the company is already exploring other similar opportunities, including another location in the greater Los Angeles area, where “we can offer our expertise alongside the traditional green lawn experience.”
On a clear afternoon in El Segundo, there is plenty of green lawn in front of Andrew Prahlow. He plays the fourth hole, which is 130 yards called the Power Trip (“Do you see those giant powerlines far away?” Orientation Advisor for the online course. “Aim in that general direction.”)
The pill approach works well in lakes, providing more leeway almost everywhere. You still have to do some challenging shots, just as you would in any course. But the landing areas are wide, there is little roughness to speak of and the longest hole is now at 150 yards.
Prahlo is grateful for all of that. A musician and composer in his early thirties, he took part in golf earlier this year and scored only a few rounds. He’s also hit shots at adjacent high-tech slots. But he prefers fresh air and the practice and challenge of golf in its analog form. The Lakes are Goldilocks’ match for him: neither boring nor brutal, provided he turns away from the third hole, which is partly guarded by a pond.
“The first time I played, I lost like six or seven balls there,” Prahlo says. “So I’m over that now.”
No water on the sixth hole, a 90-yard slope where Prahlo now arrived. Still, trouble in golf is wherever you find it. Prahlo swings. The result is not great. The ball slides to the right and rests in the grass at the edge of a hard patch of dirt and leaves, where another mark is planted.
“Didn’t you expect me to hit her here? We are giving lessons.”
Prahlo was thinking of trying those as well.
This marks the return of our Muni Monday series, which highlights stories from the world of city- and county-owned golf courses around the world. Do you have a Mooney story you need to tell? Send tips to Dylan Diether Or to [email protected] and follow Muni Mondayays on Instagram.