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Puttshack is using technology to separate itself from the golf-based-restaurant pack

The brand is taking eatertainment to the next level


Puttshack has its origins in London, where twin brothers decided to turn mini golf into an adult experience.

Founders Steven and Dave Jolliffe — who also founded Topgolf — joined with Adam Breeden, cofounder of eatertainment dart restaurant Flight Club, in 2018 to create the ultimate sport-food hybrid for customers.

With 18 locations in the U.S., Puttshack uses proprietary technology to track golf balls with what CEO Joe Vrankin said is a mini-iPad that’s Bluetooth-enabled for GPS, to track each ball and keep automatic scoring.

“[Steven and Dave Joliffe] sat down one day and said, ‘Okay, the game of miniature golf hasn’t changed in 100 years, how do we reinvent this game?’” said Vrankin. “So, they took a look at how they could create automatic scoring.”

This technology, which has a patent on it, is the heart of the operation and it’s giving investors something to talk about. In 2022, Puttshack received a $150 million investment from NYC-based investment firm BlackRock.

“[Automatic scoring] completely changes the experience, because now you can be completely immersed with the people you’re there with,” Vrankin said.

Vrankin, who was Topgolf CEO from 2007 to 2012, also knows a thing or two about golf in the eatertainment space. He’s brought the brand to the place where each unit is doing $9 million in AUVs across hundreds of thousands of visitors.

“On a Saturday, that means you could have 2000 people coming through the door,” Vrankin said.

Each venue typically has four, nine-hole courses that are much more involved and interactive than the mini golf of the 1960’s.

There's also a brand new Challenge Hole, available exclusively at the Addison, Texas location, in private suites. This works like the carnival game where players try to shoot ducks, except this course has 20 holes that guests are trying to land the ball in when the duck passes. The hole uses optical sensors and can be configured remotely and is separate from the nine-hole course.

Now that the brand has a larger U.S. presence (there are only four in the UK) the team is asking customers what the next holes should be. While there are always holes in the testing stage at multiple locations, they must go through a long R&D process to ensure they will not only work with the system but be fun for customers.

Vrankin said it takes about nine months to go from ideation to implementation for each new hole.

“People who’ve been here for the first time go, ‘Oh my god, the game was so much fun, I would go back just for the food and beverage,’” he said.

Much of the food is designed to wow guests visually as well as flavor-wise.

“People are already inclined to either like or not like something based on what they see, so there’s that theater component of it,” he said.

Mark Boyton, global VP of food & beverage, leads the menu with options like chorizo and cheese empanadas, Lebanese hummus, and Puttshack poutine alongside traditional casual-dining dishes like flatbreads, salads, and handhelds.

While it’s a brand meant for everyone to enjoy, once nighttime hits, Puttshack locations become closer to a club than a mini golf course.

After 8 p.m., the restaurants become 21+. There’s a DJ Thursday through Saturday after 9 p.m., and the lighting changes more to an “upscale nightclub.”

Puttshack is planning to have 25 locations by the end of 2025.

Vote for your favorite chain on our LinkedIn or Instagram pages. The winner will be announced at the end of May.

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