Topgolf Pro Putt, which made its debut in the Oculus Quest app store on May 27, 2020, just passed one million dollars in sales, selling over 50,000 units. The company reports more than 30% of its buyers are frequent players, coming back with friends and participating in tournaments that take advantage of the game’s multiplayer features. Pro Putt keeps adding features, recently a virtual full swing Topgolf facility, with driving range and other skill games for groups of eight players.
The Austin-based company was founded by friends and golf nuts Ryan Engle and Rob Holzhauer. Their first product was the AR-enabled green reading app Golf Scope. They also launched Simply Putting in 2019. “We consider ourselves a golf business first and foremost,” said co-founder and CEO Ryan Engle. “We’re using AR/VR as our medium. We’re currently targeting gamers because that’s where the largest consumer VR market is. Ultimately we expect the majority of our revenue will come from those that consider themselves ‘golfers.’”
Engle got bit by the VR bug in college at Virginia Tech where he worked on a mine safety training experience in VR in a CAVE in 2007 and 2008. In 2013, he was the lead engineer on the glasses.com virtual try-on project. “Since then I’ve been obsessed with AR and VR, so when the Quest was released it felt like the time was right to create a VR golf experience,” Engle said. While Engle has the engineering mind, Holzhauer is a “whirlwind” managing operations, QA, community building, and marketing. “He’s our producer,” says Engle.
The company just launched a virtual Topgolf experience in VR that showcases what it’s like to be in a Topgolf venue. “The ability to experience the innovation and fun that is unique to Topgolf in a virtual setting is something we’re proud to make available to our fans,” said Rodney Ferrell, Vice President of Global Partnerships at Topgolf. “We maintain creative control,” said Engle, “with some approval around branding and the Topgolf portions of the experience.” Both the Topgolf driving range simulator and Pro Putt are part of a growing effort by the golf industry to make the sport more accessible. Golf demands time and money that most people just don’t have. “I’m a new father,” said Holzhauer. “It’s going to be a while before I can spend a whole day on the course with my friends.”
Pro Putt was bootstrapped. Engle put in his own money alongside Jonathan Coon, the founder of 1800 CONTACTS. He and Engle worked together on the glasses.com project, and then Wikibuy (which was acquired by Capital One and is now Capital One Shopping). Due to sales in the Oculus store, the company now has sufficient revenue to be self-sustaining.
Golf is still an exclusive sport that requires a lot of time, skill and money. Pro Putt’s goal is to help reduce all three constraints and make golf more accessible, require less skill to get started and far less money and time. “We believe that will get more people into the game, flatten the learning curve, and get more people to enjoy the “real” sport,” said Engle. “Our ultimate goal is to let you play any golf course in the world in VR, in a way that feels like a real round of golf with your weekend foursome.”
You can read more about Pro Putt in this feature story in Forbes by Cathy Hackl.