“Looks like you had fun at your conference,” my husband said, “or should I say, golf retreat?”
I laughed and mimed my newly perfected golf swing. He was a touch jealous of my recent work trip and I didn’t blame him. If he had been posting photos of Topgolf while away, I would have said the same thing. But the truth was, my co-workers and I did attend a conference. It was just so successful we ended it with a celebration that could make a golfer out of anyone and make everyone want to be one.
“What do you know about golf?” our company’s CEO asked us non-golfers on the short drive from Schaumburg Convention Center to Topgolf. The bolt of nerves must have flashed across our faces.
“Forget everything you know then,” she laughed. “Topgolf isn’t like normal golf” She was right. Instead of pulling up to a hedge-lined country club, we pulled up to a sleek, brand new stadium-style building. Each level featured private climate-controlled hitting bays overlooking a vast open-air outfield. Our large group split into smaller groups —6 people per bay—and were glad to see comfortable couches and a drinks menu waiting for us! This felt nothing like how I pictured golf. It felt approachable and exciting; there were cocktails being brought to hitting bays and people cheering and bending over in laughter.
“It was the kind of place you get so comfortable in that you have to be gently reminded to leave at closing.”
Our company reserved Topgolf’s Rooftop Terrace and we were blown away by the sweeping views of the outfield and the city beyond. With its mood lighting, lounge furniture, outdoor fire features and private bar, it was the kind of place you get so comfortable in that you have to be gently reminded to leave at closing.
“No lefty left behind,” said our hostess once our group settled in our bay. She showed me where I could find the left-handed clubs, which gave me a much-needed confidence boost. At the very least, I’d be using the right clubs. Most of our group had never been to a driving range before, and this one looked particularly high tech. Fortunately, we weren’t left to our own devices. Our package included a friendly golf pro.
“Here at Topgolf, you don’t need to hit the ball the farthest or the straightest to win,” he explained, “Topgolf is more like Skee-Ball. The targets have different points depending on their size and distance. Your only job is to try and get the ball into one of the targets using talent...or luck.” He taught us the basics of proper form and swing, showed us how to operate the Touchscreen controls and which game would be best for a group of our skill level to play.
From there, the system took care of the rest. We didn’t even have to keep score thanks to the microchip in each golf ball and the easy to read display screen which showed all of our party’s scores.
With the music playing over the speakers and our hostess bringing delicious food and drinks, it almost felt like we had box seats at a concert. But this was even better because the menu was more sophisticated than any concession stands. Plus, instead of just watching, we got to play.
Once the nerves faded, our group of amateurs got into the swing – pun intended – of things quickly. In fact, I even won a round! I was so proud I took a photo of the scoreboard on the flat-screen and posted it to Facebook. I’ve won board games and trivia nights, but winning a sporting event? That was a first for me.
“You would need a hundred cheesy Team Building Retreats to create as much organic comradery as we did around that hitting bay.”
“So, how was it?” our CEO asked later that night when we met back up with the avid golfers in our group. While we spent the night hitting golf balls, we spent most of our time chatting about life and work, jesting and cheering for one another. You would need a hundred cheesy Team Building Retreats to create as much organic comradery as we did around that hitting bay. She could have taken us out to fancy dinner or a ball game in town, but we would have missed out on the side-splitting laughs, high fives, funny videos and stories.
“Let’s just say we all volunteer to attend the conference again next year,” I said as our unofficial spokesperson. Even if it was a work trip that meant spending a weekend away from our families, it was worth it if we got to come back to Topgolf. Surely Chicago Northwest had plenty of cool places for us to discover post-conference. Either way, none of us – even the complete novices – wanted to miss out on our next golf retreat.