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Meet Tim Boda, the Managing Director of Topgolf Thailand, and discover his drive to succeed

by Aiden

How Topgolf’s unique culture and concept puts them at the forefront of the entertainment industry. 

By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales

As is typical with most businessmen, my dad adored golf, which he believed was considered ‘the gentleman’s (or gentlewoman’s) game’ for a reason. He loved its elegance, but most of all, he loved the unique way it allows you to socialise and have a discussion even mid-game; rare for most sports. While he taught me enough to recognise my putters from my five irons, I especially enjoyed the thrill of a driving range and being able to hit a hundred balls in a row and watch them soar above the field while you enjoyed refreshments with friends. The first time I stepped foot into Topgolf Megacity, the first one of its kind in Asia, it felt like all my childhood memories of the laughter and fun I’ve had in driving ranges, wrapped into a beautiful, high-tech package. Within minutes of signing into our personal bay, peals of laughter were emerging from our booth, despite most of us being golf amateurs. This, I learned later, was exactly what Topgolf aims for.

“Topgolf’s ‘Play, Food, Fun’ formula is for everyone,” Tim Boda, the Managing Director of Topgolf Thailand tells me as we sat down to talk about what has made the venue such a popular destination for both locals and tourists since its opening last year, and how it’s since established itself as a leading entertainment and leisure business in Bangkok. “It’s a magical formula that ensures everyone has a good time, and is why it’s such a recognised and successful brand, especially in the US where it began. If you’re a professional golfer, you can find the latest, state-of-the-art driving range here; if you’re a novice or you’ve never played golf before, you can still come here and enjoy, even if you miss your shots. In fact, the more misses, the more we celebrate!” he says with a laugh.

When I ask him if their clientele consists of more golf professionals or amateur players, he emphasises that no knowledge of golf is necessary, just the players’ desire to enjoy themselves. “Our formula allows professionals and novices not only to have a good time separately, but together. Typical for any new market of Topgolf, when we first opened, the first to discover us were the golfers – it’s in the name, after all. However, one of our big success stories is the fact that on top of how much our golfers love us, now that non-golfers have discovered what we offer, they’ve flocked in and our clientele now consists of 75 percent non-golfers. And within this 75 percent of non-golfers, almost 40 percent are returning guests. In this industry, those kind of percentages are considered huge successes.”

Having been in the hospitality industry for all his professional life, Tim Boda tells me how he jumped on the opportunity to work with Topgolf, and be with the team that was the first to bring it to Asia. “I came to Bangkok around 23 years ago, as a hotel management trainee what feels like 100 years ago,” he recalls with a chuckle. “When this opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say no. Topgolf is a highly successful international franchise with hundreds of venues in the US, and being the first to bring such a strong brand to Asia, localise it with our market understanding, and build its base in a way that allows it to expand across Southeast Asia, is pretty special,” he says with justifiable pride.

Having been a general manager across three continents, spending 15 years with Bill Heinecke and Minor International, Tim brought to bear his vast expertise in ensuring that this venue would stand the test of time as an entertainment giant, even with the array of options that the modern Bangkokian has at their fingertips. Bringing dedication, passion, and a drive to succeed to the table, Tim spoke to Masala further about what sets Topgolf Megacity, and their team, apart.

You mentioned Topgolf’s unique, all- in-one ‘Play, Food, Fun’ concept. How does this concept enhance the overall experience for your customers, and what unique features does Topgolf Megacity offer in this regard?

At Topgolf, you play in a bay – basically a lounge setup where up to six people can play together. When you play, it doesn’t matter whether you’re competing for the best score or the best look. You can play competitively, or just come to enjoy the food, or perhaps all you want is to take home the best selfie. [Laughs] Now, imagine 102 bays doing all of that simultaneously. That’s where the magic happens.

While people would normally book an hour initially, nobody stops after an hour. This is where the ‘Play, Food, Fun’ concept is enhanced through our team, whom we call ‘playmakers.’ They complete the formula and make sure people are having so much fun that they hit that ‘extend’ button. Now, people stay and play an average of over two hours.

Topgolf Megacity is often described as a perfect place for family gatherings, parties, and birthday celebrations. How do you create an environment that caters to such a diverse range of customers, and what special amenities are available for these occasions?

Our clever building design, technology- driven play, more than 300 LED screens, and controllable light and sound systems allow us to set the right mood for small or big events.

However, the real magic formula lies with our playmakers, who blend the Topgolf culture of fun with the kind of world-famous care that comes with Thai hospitality. They are on a constant mission to create moments that matter for everyone, no matter the occasion.

As a Managing Director, what are the key challenges you face in running a successful business like Topgolf Megacity, and how do you overcome them?

The biggest single opportunity that we have is to continue awareness and education of our brand in the market. We want everybody to understand that Topgolf is for everyone, no matter their skill level.

Besides a solid marketing strategy, a big catalyst for our business was corporate events. We do team buildings, appreciation events, product launches, media conferences, you name it. Once invited to an event at Topgolf, people get hooked on the fun experience, they tell others about it, and they want to return with their friends or family.

As a General Manager with a longstanding history at Minor International, how has your experience with the company influenced your leadership approach at Topgolf Megacity?

Minor International, and especially Bill Heinecke, taught me that no matter the size of your business, you should never lose your entrepreneurial approach, and you should stay nimble, especially in this fast-changing world. Don’t become a victim of bureaucracy. Moreover, real success only comes from hiring people who are better than you in many ways. Here, we have a great management team, and together, we’ve focused on building culture. That’s something I’ve enjoyed the most with opening this Topgolf – building the culture around the brand, and through that culture, cultivating success.

In the competitive entertainment industry, which in Bangkok spans cinemas, bowling allies, and countless other entertainment venues; what strategies do you employ to keep Topgolf Megacity a top choice for both locals and tourists in Bangkok?

Of course the overall value proposition has to be right in such a competitive market. Our vibrant and fun Topgolf experience has to be felt via all marketing channels, not only when players step foot into our venue. In operations, quality and consistency are key and proactively gathering customer feedback and continuous improvement are always on top of our mind. These are the key elements, and together with a happy team of playmakers, it ensures that a business like this isn’t just a short-lived trend, but that you can become a permanent landmark in the entertainment landscape.

In your role at Topgolf Megacity, you’ve likely encountered various business trends and changes. How do you adapt to evolving market demands and customer preferences to keep the business thriving?

There’s no formula written in stone on how to make your business a success, and ensure that it stays a success. It is important, no matter how long you’ve been around, to never assume you understand today’s fast changing market. Topgolf is for everyone. With such a vast mix of different player personas, it is essential for us to always have our fingers on the pulse. We use today’s many feedback channels to our advantage, stay connected with our players,and always build feedback into our continuous improvement plans.

One of these trends is a growing focus on sustainability. Can you discuss any sustainability or community engagement initiatives that Topgolf Megacity is involved in?

We’ve touched on our success with corporate groups, and part of that stems from our approach to sustainability. Within the events business, it gives us a competitive advantage if corporates see that we are likeminded in driving sustainability, and many actually look up to our approach and achievements.

Here, we were privileged that we’d set all our sustainability pillars before we designed the building, which is rare. We produce zero-waste to landfill here, almost unseen in Bangkok. Our solar panels stretch across all the parking lots and the roof, and cover a high percentage of our usage. We also do a lot with the community.

When it comes to helping the community, I’m a strong believer in long-term planning. Planting seedlings but failing to teach how to grow them to fruit-bearing plants does not help. We spend time with the community to work on long-term solutions together. One way I like to measure the successful implementation of sustainability programmes is if our 350 playmakers bring that mindset and best practices to their homes and families. If every corporate company achieves this, then we are on the right track.

Topgolf Megacity often hosts events and tournaments. Can you highlight any upcoming events or initiatives that our readers should be excited about?

The most exciting thing that’s coming up for me, at least, is New Year’s Eve, during which we’ll have a unique setup. You can either come with an intimate group and book your own private bay; or with extended family and friends, and take several bays. Besides our usual ‘Play, Food, Fun’ concept, the entire building becomes your playground until midnight. You’ll of course be able to see the fireworks display, there’ll be live DJs, there will be different dance floors at different places, you can win a range of great prizes, and the whole building is involved; it’ll be amazing.

One of these recent events was one that saw over 5,000 people from the Indian community attend. Tell us about how Topgolf Megacity managed such an involved and largescale event.

This was an incentive trip for top-performing pharmaceutical sales agents of a major Indian pharmaceutical company, and the venue was exclusively taken by 5,000 people for four days, in batches of around 500 at a time. After the players arrived, they were within their bays in 10 minutes, and they were playing in another 10 minutes. And soon after that, the entire building was full of laughter – even if none of them had everplayed golf before!

This showcases how the size of your group doesn’t matter when it comes to Topgolf. This building is built for volume, so whilst we tailor each experience to the individual, hosting 1,200 people is not an issue here – that’s our maximum capacity at one time.

What organisers and corporate companies really benefit from is that this is a one-stop shop, where you don’t need event outside vendors, or organisers. Everything is done in-house, from entertainers to MCs to team building activities, as we have a personalised events team here, who speak Thai, English, Chinese, French and German. One of our specialties is team buildings – from team building events just for fun, or ones that break down silos, or are more on the strategic side, we have activities to achieve whatever the goals of the HR team. It’s all plug and play. You can call today, and we’ll be ready for you tomorrow.

Topgolf Megacity has launched a promotion this December called the ‘Golden Ball Campaign.’ Can you tell us more about this campaign and what customers can expect from it?

For the rest of the year, more than 50 golden golf balls per day will be randomly dispensed at any of our 102 bays. If your bay dispenses a golden ball instead of the regular white one, grab it, show it to our playmaker, and you’ll have a chance to get some amazing prizes – spanning the latest iPhone, iPads, and more – the total of which is valued at THB 3.5 million. There are an average of 50 winners a day, and the chance that if you come and play you can walk home with something is very high. It’s a return campaign as last year’s was so successful that we decided to run it again, and for New Year’s Eve itself, we’re adding even more prizes.

With the unique combination of golf, dining, and entertainment, how do you see Topgolf Megacity evolving in the future, and what is your long-term vision for the venue?

My vision is not just for Topgolf Megacity. We will continue to be the driving force in making golf more accessible, more fun, and bringing many more players across our broad demographic groups to the beautiful game.

We are aiming at 500,000 visitors in 2024 for the Megacity venue alone, and are about to top up our second venue that will open in Jakarta in Q4 2024. We are actively identifying locations across Southeast Asia, and hopefully will announce venue number two in Thailand soon. Collectively, with all Topgolf venues across the globe, our mission is to hit 50 billion balls by the end of 2025.


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