• 70°

BOB WEST ON GOLF: Toptracer feature proving popular at 5 Under Golf

If you happen to be driving past 5945 College St. in Beaumont during the wee hours of the morning, and see bright lights and activity at what used to be Games People Play, don’t be surprised. It’s only Southeast Texas’ newest golf toy providing so much fun people don’t want to leave.

“This has surpassed all expectations and it is just the appetizer for what’s to come,” says 5 Under president Austin Williams. “I thought it would be popular and it has really taken off, as word has spread from those who have experienced what we have to offer.”

Former Lamar and University of Louisiana golfer and eight-time Beaumont City champion Williams took over long time family business GPP from his parents early in 2018, then went into a limited partnership with off-the-charts popular TopGolf. Under the new name 5 Under Golf Center, he’s kept some of the best of the old and blended it with a Star Wars-type golf experience.

Top line clubs and apparel are still staples. So are lessons, club repair and even hitting balls the old fashioned way. But the centerpiece is the 10 covered hitting bays which feature TopGolf’s Toptracer Range technology you see on televised pro golf.
Six different games provide widespread appeal from scratch players to people who have never picked up a club.

As a result, 5 Under Golf Center has become a magnet for corporate outings, birthday parties, date nights and friendly competitions. Music, multiple TV screens to watch sporting events and a quality food and beverage service add to the experience.

“TopGolf has put out a staggering stat that I believe to be true,” says Williams. “Their research shows that 80 percent of new golfers in the last five years were introduced to the game through TopGolf facilities.

“Take a lady, for instance, who has never picked up a club. She is not going to go out to a golf course on a Sunday afternoon, rent clubs and try to play. But she can come out here, hit some balls at the targets and may discover she wants to get more serious about golf.”

Game choices are titled Launch Monitor, Closest to the Pin, Virtual Golf, What’s in My Bag, Points and Long Drive. The variety of options pretty much cover all the bases for players of varying skill levels.

According to Williams, the two most popular games are Closest to the Pin and the points game. In Closest to the Pole, players take aim at a 145-yard flag. Through Toptracer Range technology, they are competing with golfers at TopGolf locations around the world. VIP members who make a hole in one collect a $1,000 5 Under Gift Card on the spot.

On this day, the closest to the hole is somebody in London at 11 inches.

Points is a game where players take aim at targets at different distances. The closer to the target the shot finishes the more points are awarded. A running total is kept on a computer scoreboard until the game ends.

Williams’ personal favorite is Virtual Golf. Players who have downloaded the Toptracer app have the opportunity to play prestigious course from around the world.

Say the player selects Pebble Beach. Each shot is tracked on a computer screen featuring the image of the hole. A scorecard is kept.

It’s not the real thing but it’s realistic and it’s closer than most will ever get.

The launch monitor option is for the medium to low handicapper and provides instant feedback. A player hits a shot with any club of his choice, then checks out the computer range map for data like how far the ball carries, total distance, launch angle, height and how far off line the ball is.

Especially appealing to big hitters is Long Drive. They smash drivers down a video grid which is a replica of that used in the National Long Drive Championship. The ball must stay within the grid to count. Total distance quickly pops up on the screen. It is obviously a great game for wagering.

Things are going so well Williams has even gotten a business boost from a source he never anticipated and could do without. Because area courses have been left soggy and at times unplayable from too much rain,golfers wanting to work on their game have headed to 5 Under.

“We have definitely generated business from the weather,” he said. “Tournaments get rained out and golfers come over here. If it is too wet to play or practice at their course, they know we can accommodate them.”

One word of warning: Depending on the time of day, or generally night, the

Toptracer bays can be packed. It is wise to call ahead and maybe even consider a membership. Information on pricing and everything else waiting to be experienced can be found at 5undergolf.com.

As Williams has said, 5 Under is still in the appetizer stage. Included in planned expansion is a plush indoor area with four hitting bays, along with full food service and bar. A grand opening is planned for next March.

In the meantime, and this comes from someone who spent over two hours in one of the Toptracer bays on Monday, you have no clue what you are missing until you check this place out.

It was another tough week on the PGA Tour for Chris Stroud.

The PNG ex missed his second consecutive cut with rounds of 74-76 at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss. Stroud hit only 16 of 28 fairways and 22 of 36 greens.

He is playing this week at the Shriner’s Hospital Children’s Championship in Las Vegas …

Dalton Shields and Brody Jeanes were declared Co-Champions in Boys 15-18 after shooting 79s in the STPGA Junior Tour tournament at Beaumont Country Club. Other flight winners included Xander Parks (79 in Boys 13-14), Lincoln Parks (88 in Boys 11-12), Elizabeth Townsend (83 in Girls 15-18), Bella Callaba (97 in Girls 13-14) and Carmen Pate (98 in Girls 11-12).

In Little Linksters competition, Abhay Duggal won Boys 11-12, 9 holes with a 41, Carson Conner placed first in Boys 9-10, 5 holes with a 36, Trinity Huckaby won Girls 9-10, 5 holes with a 39 and Katelyn Davis prevailed in Co-Ed 6-8, 5 holes with a 27 …

The team of Butch Frazier, Jesse Mudd, Matt Sheehan and Andres Maymi carded a 54 to win the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce Scramble played Monday at Babe Zaharias. Closest to the pin winners were Curtis Harrington (No. 2), Matt Hammer (No. 7), Frazier (No. 12) and Bruce Reyes (No. 15). Terry Peddy won the long drive …

In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Zaharias, the team of Benny Sharpe, Raymond Darbonne, Tom LeTourneau and Larry Foster won both front and back with minus 4 and minus 3, respectively …

The Saturday Super Senior 2 ball at Zaharias saw the team of Earl Richard, Bim Morrow, LeTourneau and Stuart Ellis take the front with even par. There was a tie at even on the back between the team of Gary Fontenot, Ed Holley, Foster and Jeff Rinehart and the foursome of Bob West, Gene Jones, Charles Leard and Wes McDonald.

In the Friday 2 ball at Zaharias, the team of Sharpe, Bim Morrow, Larry Johnson and LeTourneau scored a sweep, winning the front in minus 1 and the back in minus 2.

Golf news should be emailed to rdwest@usa.net.