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From a young age, going to a driving range was always exciting. The big basket of balls. The sound of the ball dispensing machine, and then the sound of golf balls being whacked in the bays beside you.

But after 10-15 minutes of hitting balls, that excitement would slowly start to wear off.

I always felt at the range it was a bit bland and there was a lack of purpose to practising. Some ranges didn’t even have distance markers, just a couple of targets or flags, maybe a net to hit at – it was a bit unfulfilling. The only real excitement was when the tractor came out to collect the balls and then you had a moving target to aim at. There were some courses which didn’t even have a driving range, where you would just take your own bag or tube of balls, and then hit them in to an open field, 150 yards long, with a pin or two to aim at. It was very one dimensional.

All you were really working on was alignment and ball striking, which was fine, but it did become quite boring and made practice sessions a bit stagnant. Your mind tended to wander, which led to boredom. And, to me, that’s just not golf.

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SLOW IMPROVEMENTS

Over time, ranges started to develop and gradually improve with more standard yardages and targets, starting from 100 yards going all the way up to 250 yards which became pretty standard. 

Short game areas also started to pop up more, giving the ability to play a wide variety of shots like you would on the golf course, but it still wasn’t the same on the range when hitting full shots. You’d be back standing on that square bit of AstroTurf, hitting balls at flags and yardage markers. 

It would feel like there was something missing, it lacked in purpose. Not much had really changed but just a few more visuals here and there, still delivering the same thing over and over again.

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BIG TECH SHIFT

Now we have started to see a big shift in technology in the golf world. Professionals began to use launch monitors to gather data and the style of coaching changed for the PGA teaching pro, too. Collecting data from launch monitors started to become a regular occurrence. Getting accurate numbers for distances, ball speeds, clubhead speed, launch angles, attack angles – the game was slowly changing. 

However, this was still inaccessible to the majority of amateurs at the time. This was only possible if the local pro had the latest tech. If they didn’t, it was back to the video analysis and breaking down the swing. It was very much the only option for a lot of people wanting to improve their game, as launch monitors were not common at the time. So it would be back standing in front of the mirror trying to replicate what position you need to be in, trying to get that feeling so when you get to the range you had something to work on. 

Even then it was still the same, but with the new technology sweeping the sport, it was clear what would help golfers improve even more and that was having the access to the technology the tour pros had.

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EVOLUTION BEGINS

Then the evolution of driving ranges began. In 2000, Topgolf was launched and opened its first location in the UK, which would go on to change the driving range experience that you see today all over the world, sparking and igniting the driving range experience.

Six years after Topgolf was launched, a Swedish brand called Protracer was born, which could track a golf ball through a camera feed and have the graphics visible on the screen. This was made possible through the proprietary technology developed by the company. This is the same technology used to track the golf ball today, which we see on TV when watching the major championships.

In 2016, Topgolf, impressed with the innovation of Protracer and its mission to grow the game of golf, acquired Protracer and together would continue the crusade together, growing and making golf accessible and fun for everyone as Toptracer.

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THE HERE AND NOW

That brings us to the present day. We have all seen the celebrities, sports stars and influencers at Topgolf and Toptracer driving ranges all over the world, but you too can now enjoy what the Toptracer ranges have to offer and start enjoying your practice sessions again.

Toptracer has re-invented your driving range experience, putting purpose back in to your practice sessions and helping you gather all the data and information you need, to take your ability to new heights. What you didn’t have in the 1990s, you now have at the touch of a button on your mobile phone. This is data at your fingertips and access to tour-proven technology like never before.

Toptracer previously had seven different game modes to choose from – and they have just added a brand-new one to make it eight. And I love it.

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TOPTRACER30 – REVIEW

Toptracer30 is the new game mode that will take your golf to a new level by bringing genuine purpose and analysis to your practice sessions.

Testing you with a variety of 30 different shots, it will challenge your whole game all the way through, from challenging tee shots, to a huge variety of different yardages on approaches ranging from as little as 50 yards to shots over 200-yards. Once your 30 shots are complete, you will be given an overall handicap rating and score based on your performance, and the data is so in-depth it will break everything down in a simplified form.

It gives you the number of fairways hit, average driving distance, greens in regulation, and many other statistics. You’ll also find out the distance that you are generally best from, so you can take your confidence out on the course for your approach shots.

I put the game through its paces at Gleneagles and personally thought it was fantastic – and yes, it is a great tuition tool and entertainment product for all golfers. For myself as a professional long driver, instead of swinging for the fences or preparing for a tournament, this would be the ideal way for me to practice when warming up for a round to see which part of my game needs extra attention. I can then pick and choose out of eight game modes what will help improve, prepare and get me ready for those on-course experiences.

If I needed to work on my irons, I have the approach challenge or the closest to the pin. If I’m struggling off the tee, the driving challenge mode is perfect to get me hitting more fairways consistently. If I’m wanting to focus on course management, I can select Virtual Golf and play a round on the Old Course at St Andrews, or a range of other courses from around the world.

There is so much fun to be had for golfers of all levels and ages but one thing that is for certain is that Toptracer30 will reignite those stale range sessions, giving you purpose and focus again when practicing.

Want to find your nearest Toptracer venue? Click here.


author headshot

James Tait is bunkered’s Gear Editor. Want to know how the latest Callaway driver, Vokey wedge or Scotty Cameron putter performs? He’s the guy to ask. Better yet, just watch his videos on the bunkered YouTube channel. One of the biggest hitters in the UK, James also competes on the World Long Drive circuit and is a descendent of former Amateur champion Freddie Tait.

Gear Editor

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