With the support of Callaway, Five Iron Golf prepares to grow

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Image courtesy of Five Iron Golf

The Five Iron Golf restaurant and gaming chain is a bit like a miniature version of Topgolf, with its smaller footprints oriented towards urban locations and a menu of high-end gourmet fare.

The comparisons to Topgolf don’t end there: Golf equipment maker Callaway Golf, which merged with Topgolf earlier this year, took a $ 30 million minority stake in Five Iron Golf last month.

The investment will be used to fuel the growth of the 11-unit restaurant chain across the country, said CEO and co-founder Jared Solomon.

In announcing the investment, Callaway CEO Chip Brewer underscored Five Iron’s alignment with “his company’s belief that the future of golf will be more accessible and inclusive”.

The first Five Iron opened in Manhattan in 2017. Its name comes from a mashup of Fifth Avenue, the city’s Flat Iron District, and, of course, the Mid-Range Golf Club.

“I didn’t grow up playing golf,” Solomon said. “I didn’t grow up in country clubs.”

He started taking classes, but as a New York resident he struggled to find places to practice. Thus, Five Iron was born.

Unlike the huge Topgolf locations, which are typically located outside of major cities, Five Iron units are approximately 10,000 to 15,000 square feet in size. Golf simulators allow visitors to practice putting or play a round on famous courses.

“I really like the street art and the graffiti and the modern industrial look,” Solomon said. “I had no experience running a kitchen, but it was a founding principle. The risk was that we would alienate ourselves from serious golfers who are members of country clubs. But the truth is, they love it. If we have the right clubs and the right technology, serious golfers will come. “

Five Iron’s growth comes at a time of increasing interest in golf-focused restaurant chains.

The high-tech mini-golf concept Puttshack received a $ 60 million investment in May to fuel its growth in the United States, following its debut in the United Kingdom (Puttshack was created by the twin brothers who founded Topgolf .)

In July, professional golfer Rory McIlroy made a $ 10 million investment in Puttery, another high-tech mini golf brand.

“The idea of ​​golf as entertainment is really exciting,” said Solomon. “It’s something cool. It’s really exciting to introduce people to a sport that has been exclusive.

Five Iron tries to appeal to both experienced golfers and novices with its high-tech simulators and quality food and drink.

“You hit real clubs with a real ball in a screen,” he said. “There is a tracker behind you projecting onto the screen in front of you. You can play real golf courses and you can practice your game. It’s a bit like real golf.

The menu is designed around shareable items such as flatbreads and wings, as well as sandwiches and salads. There is a full bar for cocktails, wine and beer.

The chain is working to innovate and improve the menu, with an emphasis on seasonal dishes and cooking from scratch over the coming year, he said.

Five Iron has new locations coming next year in Seattle, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

The pandemic brings continued uncertainty, he noted, but said it was not slowing the brand’s growth.

“These things take a year to open,” Solomon said. “A year ago, we thought the pandemic would be over and it’s not… We want to build a community. We care about the safety of our customers and we care about the safety of our employees. We’re just trying to be diligent in following the rules.

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