Golf and Games Family Park showcases new attractions

By Published: June 18, 2019 6:48 PM CT

When Aubrey Smith opened Golf and Games Family Park in 1966, he never imagined it would offer the technology it has today.

“When I built this place, I had no idea where the road would lead,” he said. “It’s just been year by year. As technology comes out that the public would like, we put it in.”

On Wednesday, Golf and Games Family Park exhibited Toptracer, a golf tracking technology recently added to the park’s driving range. Used by NBC, Fox, CBS and other television networks to show viewers ball speed, height of shots and distance to pin, Toptracer is also found on dozens of driving ranges throughout the world.

The technology gives customers instant shot replay and feedback, tracks ball speed and distance, and provides games and course simulations. Touch screens along the driving range give visitors access to this information.

The addition of Toptracer is part of an effort to revitalize the park and keep it in the minds of Memphians, as more and more entertainment facilities come to the city.

“We’ve worked really hard this winter to put in the cutting-edge things,” said Aaron Bos, the park’s general manager. “This is the year we’re going to show the public we’ve been around for 55 years, and we’re going to be around for more.”

The updated technology is significant for Golf and Games’ driving range, especially Toptracer’s ability to track distance. Previously, it was a bit more difficult.

“You had to eyeball measure it,” Smith said. “We used flags. Now it tells you exactly where you are.”

The park had a TrackMan golf radar reading done to test the accuracy of the distance measurements. It was within a yard of the reading, which, Bos said, is within the margin of error.

The technology also gives golfers the chance to compare their stats with others. Using the Toptracer app on their phone, users can keep track of their scores wherever they go and compare them to others’ scores, both domestically and abroad.

Toptracer's games are also a prominent new feature, and one the park considers key. Smith is hoping it will draw in a demographic driving ranges sometimes struggle to bring in: families.

“We’re looking for more. A family can come out here and keep score,” he said.

In the game featured Wednesday, players attempt to hit the ball into targeted areas of the range to gain points. These appear in red circles on the screen and show the amount of points each is worth. The farther back, the better. Send it deep into the course and land in a circle, and you might get 100 points. Send it into the middle of the course, and you’ll get 50 or so. If you just hit it 20 or 30 yards, you’ll get 5 or 10. Or zero.

Though more family friendly, it still isn’t easy. But physical targets of various colors have been added to the range to aid players, and there’s another feature Smith says is important for first-timers.

“If you hit a bad one,” he says, “it doesn’t count.”

The other main feature of Toptracer are the course simulations, which give customers a taste of golf courses from around the world. There are 10 options, including Pebble Beach – the site of the U.S. Open this week – Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay.

Once you’ve selected a course, the screen shifts to it, and as you drive your ball onto the range, a digital ball sails across the course on screen. But your physical ball only lands in grass. If you’re not careful, your digital one could land in the trees or lake.

Issac Belton, a Mississippian who recently retired after 28 years in the military, was trying out the simulation on Wednesday.

“It’s really nice to see the different courses,” he said. “I mean it looks easy on TV when the guys are out on the course, but now you can see how hard it really is.”

The investment Golf and Games made in Toptracer was significant. The park had to upgrade the driving range’s lighting system and get new mats and a new concrete pad. But the park is hoping it pays off.

So far, it’s working. Golf and Games opened the Toptracer equipment at the beginning of May, and it led to a 55% increase in users compared to the same time last year.

Toptracer isn’t the only new upgrade to Golf and Games. Last spring, it upgraded its MaxFlight Simulator in the arcade, and added a Hologate Virtual Reality System.

The VR simulator is more James Cameron film than arcade game. Put on one of the wired, cushioned black helmets, and you’re instantly transported to a digital world, assault rifle in hand. A SWAT team leader assigns you a mission, and before you know it, you’re ducking, swerving and firing at whatever crazed robot or zombie sprints in your direction.

This, by the way, is another addition Smith didn’t see coming back in 1966.

“Heck,” he said. “We didn’t even imagine iPhones.”



Golf and Games Family Park Aubrey Smith Aaron Bos Toptracer

Comment On This Story

Email Editions

Sign up for our morning and evening editions, plus breaking news.