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Topgolf is taking over a golf course — here’s why that could work so well

February 10, 2021

BY: Dylan Dethier

As part of a deal with the city of El Segundo, Topgolf will assume operations of the 9-hole municipal course at The Lakes at El Segundo, which abuts the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. The footprint of the course itself will shrink slightly — the first and ninth holes will be shortened by a combined 100 yards — but it will undergo a renovation that includes lights for night golf and an enhanced pro shop and clubhouse. The facilities are scheduled to open in 2022.

At the risk of sounding like I’m doing PR for Topgolf, this seems awesome. Let’s run through the reasons why this plan is music to my ears:
For starters, night golf rules.

Secondly, Topgolf is very fun.

Third, the current golf course was in need of a revised business plan. The Lakes was losing $275,000/year, according to The Daily Breeze. Instead, the city will now turn a profit to the tune of $100 million over the next 50 years, according to the longest version of the proposed agreement. That includes lease payments, a percentage of beverage revenue and various tax payments to the city. The community could also gain more than 400 full-time jobs, according to Topgolf’s business plan.

If all goes according to plan, the proposed development is about as clear an example as you can get of a rising tide lifting all boats. People who love the golf course can continue to play on a revamped version. They can play at night, they can practice on putting and chipping greens (triple the size of the current footprint) and they can eat at a new restaurant at the clubhouse. People who love Topgolf get easy access to the new-age driving range/entertainment experience they’ve grown to love while also getting easy access to the “green-grass” experience of stepping onto a real golf course.

As someone who reads (and writes) an awful lot about city-owned golf, I can tell you that munis that take up significant acreage in urban areas are under increasing pressure to justify their existences by turning a profit. The opportunity cost of the land they occupy is exceptionally high, and eager developers are always waiting in the wings.