When TopGolf, a driving range of sorts, opened a third-floor rooftop terrace—with a bar, fire pit, stylish beachy decor and, of course, turf tee mats—I had to go check it out because it is so incongruous with my country-club idea of golf: fresh-cut grass, requisite khakis and a long walk.
TopGolf has none of that. (I spotted Astroturf, jeans and an old man tooling across the parking lot in a golf cart.) What the three-year-old Wood Dale range does have is bells and whistles: Most tee-off spots are covered and include heat or cool mist (depending on the temperature), a food menu and service from a full bar (heavy on manly whiskeys) and touch screens that assign a point system. Show up with a group (four is a nice round number) and each player hits five balls and aims for targets in the expansive field. A computerized chip in the ball gives you a score that instantly appears on the monitor.
The complicated directions went down easy with a round of Bloody Marys (served by a friendly waitress) and, as a rusty former junior golfer, I started with my best club, an 8-iron, and aimed for the close targets, racking up points. When I opted for my hard-to-control driver, the points became sparser (distant targets did not aptly reward for power and accuracy). A flaw, perhaps? Or, maybe, judging by the number of kids playing with their parents, a good way of leveling the playing field and keeping golf-mom tempers from flaring. Matt, a nice pro on staff, promised I could change the scoring system to better emulate a real round of golf.
Regardless, golf it’s not. You don’t need to have picked up a club before in order to amass points. In fact, you don’t even need clubs; they’re provided with admission (a $3–$35 playing card plus $3–$6 a game). As one of my golf partners said, it’s “like bowling.”
On the upside: You can check your country-club snobbery at the door.
TopGolf opens year round, rain or shine. 699 W Thorndale Ave, Wood Dale (630-595-4653, topgolf.com). Mon–Thu 9:30am–midnight, Fri 9:30am–1am, Sat 9–1am, Sun 9am–11pm. Prices vary.