Episode #34: Inside Look at Topgolf Myrtle Beach With Director of Instruction Billy Belair 05/20/2021
Meredith: Welcome to the Gimme Golf Podcast, powered by myrtlebeachgolftrips.com. I'm Meredith Kirk, your host. And this is episode number 34. Today, I am at Top Golf Myrtle Beach with Director of Instruction, Billy Belair. Get some great insight on the area's top attraction, and what an experience would look like for you if you visit. Also, if you're looking for golf instruction, look no further. I am sitting on the lower level at Top Golf Myrtle Beach. Billy, this is amazing and this must be a dream job for you. Tell me a little bit about what you do here at Top Golf Myrtle Beach.
Billy: Yes. Yes. It definitely is a dream job for me. I've started five, six years ago with the company in Tampa, moved to Charlotte's Top Golf and now I'm here, back where I grew up and as the Director of Instruction here, mainly when I come in everyday, is I have about 60 students that I work with here on the lower level, and we're really dialing in their swings. A lot of beginners, some intermediate, and then there are some scratch handicaps that I'm working with as well. But yeah, pretty much a lot of teaching out here at the venue. And then I do take them onto the golf course as well, once we get their swing in a certain spot.
Meredith: Now, what spot would that be when it comes to the swing? When you start to see what in their swing do you determine, okay, it's time to get out on the actual course?
Billy: Definitely, great question. Pretty much when we're not really thinking about all the basics, the fundamentals, once they had the fundamentals in place, posture, grip, and alignment, they're making a solid strike most of the time. And then obviously when they get their first set of clubs for the beginners, we're ready to go on to a lot of times, I take them to Aero club and work on their short game from 50 to 110 yards. And then after that, we work on going to the regular courses.
Meredith: That's awesome. So much fun. Well, every time I drive past Top Golf here in Myrtle Beach, you're slammed. I mean, this parking lot is always full, a very popular venue. Have you noticed an increase of people coming here since COVID, now that everything's back and open and running again?
Billy: Yeah, definitely. We've seen a lot of days where we get on four-hour plus waits and the venues packed out or... Definitely, I mean, ever since we opened back up, it's been pretty busy every day.
Meredith: I've seen an increase just in my clientele with students. It's the busiest year I've ever had teaching. Are you experiencing the same thing? I mean, not just people coming here to have that fun golf entertainment experience, but just with your student base, are you seeing that?
Billy: I am. It seems like people, especially during COVID they were outside, doing different activities, biking, golfing, surfing, whatever, and they seemed to have picked up the stick. So I feel like golf, we're in a good place and definitely have seen a lot more people working on their game as of late.
Meredith: Right. It's so interesting because we're always talking about how do we grow the game of golf? I mean, this is a conversation we've been having now for decades and so many great ideas out there, and there's great initiatives, but I'll tell you what, I think that maybe the rebound effect of COVID has been this growth of golf. I mean, who would have thought that it was a pandemic that would spur people to get out and play golf. And so that's one good thing that we can take from this whole entire COVID experience. I know many people playing golf and like I said, people coming into the game, I want to learn the game now, which is awesome. So I'm thinking, this could go on and affect golf for a number of years when it comes to growth, som that's pretty exciting.
Billy: Yeah, very exciting, for sure.
Meredith: I want to talk a little bit about what is it like for someone to come to Top Golf Myrtle Beach, when they walk through the doors, what's the process? I mean, if you've never done it, it can be intimidating. So maybe if somebody's listening, if you don't play golf or you want to experience Top Golf, or maybe you play golf and you're like, "No, that's too millennial. That's not my thing." I mean, it's all ages here. Listen, I've seen 80 year olds here having a blast. It's not like this is just a younger, group of people. I mean, age is just a number, we all like to get out and have fun. What's that experience like?
Billy: Yeah, 100%. I mean, I talk to people all the time around town that are... I've asked them, "Have you been to Top Golf?" And they're like, "Oh no, I don't play golf." And I'm like, "It's okay. You can just come out and get a table, eat, drink, listen to some music, watch some of your friends swing badly and have a lot of laughs." And then that sort of leads them into, "Well, hey, I can do at least what they're doing." And that's where the golf pros come in and go, "Hey, let me show you the basics, grab the club, hold it right," and work on their game. Just have them hit one good shot. When they hit that one good shot, their eyes light up and they're hooked on the game of golf as we all know it. So yeah, when you come in the venue, there is a lot going on. But as long as you know, we have many... I was talking to you about earlier, we have almost 400 plus employees that work here, associates-
Nate: I couldn't believe that.
Meredith: Wow. That's a huge number.
Nate: I guessed 60, that was my guess.
Meredith: Yeah. I was thinking the same thing.
Billy: He did and so there's always somebody grabbing your hand and showing you what's going on, letting you check out the facility, explaining the whole process of the check-in, giving your name, your phone number, and then working on texting you you what bay you can get assigned to. But yeah, it's been very nice ever since we opened a couple of years ago, everyone's enjoying it.
Nate: I've been here twice and I'm just impressed at how they move you through here. Now, it was busy. I came, I think last time I came was December and it was packed on a Saturday and they get you through here so good. And even if you're waiting, there's something to do here. They really do, the staff does an excellent job here.
Billy: Thank you.
Meredith: Now, I will tell you, Nate is afraid of heights a little bit. And he has to come to the lower levels-
Nate: When Billy said we were on the first level today. I said-
Meredith: I knew. When I saw you out here on the first level. I'm like, "I know Nate is totally [crosstalk 00:06:04]-"
Billy: Maybe we should switch to the third and overcome some fears.
Meredith: This is a little intimidating, when you step to the ledge, when you're up high.
Nate: It was so embarrassing because I went the second level and there's kids, 4 or 5-year-old kids just sitting there getting balls off and I'm looking at it, like, "I can't do this.."
Billy: You're not the only one. There are some people including my mom, who's still about a 6, 7 handicap. And was a flight attendant back in the day, and when she gets to that third floor, she kind of has that same feeling [crosstalk 00:06:34]. She's like, "Can we go back to the first?"
Nate: That makes me feel better.
Billy: Yeah. So you're okay, Nate. I won't mess with you too much today.
Meredith: Now do you offer clubs here? You know what, I know you do, but I'm asking that question for our listeners. But let's say you're a player and you're like, "I am not using the clubs they have at Top Golf," although your clubs here are very good. We need to tell our listeners how good these clubs are, if you don't want to bring your clubs. But if you do bring your clubs, that's totally okay, right?
Billy: 100%, Yeah, I mean, we do have Callaway clubs, even at the base, but a lot of people do bring their own clubs, it's no problem. And then if you're a platinum member, you actually get more of the upgraded clubs. The big Bertha's, the Maverick line. When you're a platinum member here, you get to skip the wait, whether it's three or four hours, you can go right to the front of line. And then we will bring a nice set of clubs to you at your bay, that you can use while you're here.
Meredith: How much does it cost to be a platinum member?
Billy: Platinum member, there's all types of different levels. So just kind of depends on if you're doing an individual account or a corporate count, but yeah, it can go just for a couple of hundred dollars a month. I have actually our Platinum Director right near us, so maybe he'll pop on and explain a little bit more about that, that's not my expertise.
Meredith: That's okay. Now, does the platinum get you a golf lesson with you, Billy?
Billy: Platinum, yes. You know what? Reid and I work very well together and he always likes to send out emails to new members and old members just letting them know that I can do a 30 minute complimentary lesson, maybe a swing eval and help them get their game started in the right direction.
Meredith: That is really cool. Now I want to talk a little bit about the instruction because that's what you primarily do here. So you have someone new that walks in, wants to get lessons, hasn't really played golf. How many lessons do you recommend? What's that process look like? Maybe somebody who's listening is like, "Oh my goodness. I never thought you could actually take a golf lesson at Top Golf." So let's kind of walk the listener through, what is that process like for them?
Billy: Yeah. Great question. A lot of people don't really know that we do lessons and instruction here, but as you know, as an instructor yourself, it all depends on that person's goals. So especially a beginner that maybe doesn't have a lot of goals, we just start off with one lesson and we figure out if we're a good team, if we work well together. And then at the end of our lesson, we'll discuss where do they want to go with the game? And I actually have people that will buy a 6 pack, 10 pack, all the way to 40 pack lessons, which are 40 individual lessons here at Top Golf, then we'll use some of those to go on the course as well with. It just depends on that person.
Meredith: Now, do you do weekly, right? You said you have the same students that come back weekly and then when they're done with their package, you probably have new students that come into that program, it just kind of circulates?
Billy: Yeah. Definitely. One thing I would like to highlight is I've created a league here for my students to encourage them to work on their game in between lessons because you know how people are, they don't have a lot of time. But the league I do once a month, they have a nice competition and they see everybody getting better around them, so it encourages them to practice more. And so I like to think I have students for not only a year, but years on out. And yeah, we'll bring some new people in when we have time, and yeah, it's awesome.
Meredith: Well, I had a ton of students that came here during this winter because it was a little bit of a colder and wet winter that we had. So they were coming here and I guess there's some pretty good rates. I did not realize that you could come here for a couple hours and practice and it's very inexpensive. I was shocked. I'm like, "Are you kidding me? I'm going to start going to Top Golf and practicing my game on a cold winter day." But I had a ton of students that came here and really enjoyed it.
Billy: Especially on Tuesdays, it's half off on Tuesday.
Meredith: That's one of the days that they were coming. I remember they told me the price and I'm like, "What? I'm going there. Are you kidding me?"
Billy: The lines around the corner when I show up to work [inaudible 00:10:17]. It's crazy for the half-off days for sure, all day Tuesdays.
Meredith: Yeah. That's great. So is there anything else that you want to highlight about what you do here, specifically?
Meredith: Being the director of instruction.
Billy: Definitely. For me, I work with all kinds of people, all types of ages, beginners to scratch handicaps. But I also offer things called group lessons. So I'm a big fan of those, we can do a couples night out, where we just have two have you come out, you and your husband, or if you want to bring a family out, a group lesson is only $149 for the hour, but you get an appetizer, soft drinks, an hour of instruction. It's a really a fun, fun time.
Meredith: That is really cool.
Nate: That's a good deal too.
Meredith: I love that, yeah. And the great thing about that is, sometimes the winter gets a little cool and windy, sometimes our summer, especially in July and August, they get a little steamy. I like to play golf in late afternoon in the summer, because it's a little too steamy mid-day for me.
Billy: I'm with you on that one.
Nate: And normally the fans are running here, but we have them off for this. But yeah, it is nice and cool-
Billy: You need the fans, that's for sure.
Nate: You need to have the fans.
Meredith: In the winter, you have some heaters in here, right?
Billy: Yeah the heaters are right above you where you're hitting the golf balls and then back on the table where you're sitting. So, I mean, I've been in situations... Well, Top Golf Charlotte, for example, when it's snowing, I was hitting golf balls in a t-shirt for three hours because there wasn't a lot of wind and it was really enjoyable with the heaters on high.
Nate: So how good has this job made your game? Because you're going through the games there and you're showing me all the cool target games. This has got to help your game to come here and actually practice with a purpose.
Billy: Definitely, Nate, thank you for asking that. That's one of my pet peeves for people that will say, "Oh, you can't really get better at Top Golf." And I challenge them. I tell them, "Actually, Top Golf stands for Target Oriented Practice." Okay, so instead of going to a drive range, which is still great, don't get me wrong, but you can't really necessarily see how far you fly, how far you hit it. But with these targets, my game has gotten a lot better because when I'm on the course now and I have 50 yards, I say, "Oh, that's my yellow target swing. I got that swing dialed in." The green target that 90 to a hundred yards swing. All the way out 125, 150, all the way to 200, so, it's definitely helped my game out. Plus with all the different games that we have, you're able to compete with others on a leaderboard on your app on your phone, where you have daily, monthly, all time leaderboards. So, it really helps you kind of make it more fun to practice. We were discussing how it can kind of get monotonous out on the driving range.
Nate: Meredith knows, I just go out and beat balls. But here, you actually feel like, "Okay, I'm competing. I have to get points." I didn't realize, and this is just me being not very intelligent about it, but when you hit that back net, there's a driver game, which I came here with a buddy of mine. He just wanted to pound drivers and I just kept beating him.
Billy: Top Drive [crosstalk 00:13:16], the white target in the back wall.
Nate: But I didn't realize that that back wall actually has a sensor on it too.
Billy: Yeah, Meredith, I think I just saw her hit one over the back net out in the ocean. So I told her to keep it inside the nets please.
Nate: It's that Maverick driver, a little plug for Callaway here, right?
Meredith: Yeah. It's just Callaway's Max.
Billy: It's epic.
Meredith: No, but it's so important to have that range, knowing your range. I tell my students all the time, "You have to dial in what your clubs are giving you and write it down." That's the advice I give, just get a piece of paper out, write down every single club in your bag, hit about 10 or 15 balls per club, spend about an hour and a half, work through your bag and check on it frequently, because it's going to vary. It's going to change. And then obviously you have elements and wind and weather and whatnot that can change those yardages. And then also, course conditions and whatnot.
I mean, there's so many variables, but just to know that yardage, because when, like you said, when you're out in the course, you're thinking color coded now because you're here, the orange, the green. But just knowing the exact yardage, you know what club to pull out, and it's all about course management and club management and knowing how to get around the golf course, that really is key to getting those low numbers. I have students that plan... They score in the high seventies, awesome golfers. They're like, "How do I get lower?" "That's how you go low."
Billy: 100%. And taking that into what's going on this week, my favorite term of the year at Kiawah PGA Championship, you better know your numbers out there and you better learn how to flight the ball. So like you were just talking about, learning how to hit that three-quarter shot, that half shot. Top pressure I was discussing with Nate, one of my favorite games here is a game to yellow and/or green, where you have 30 shots. There's nine pockets inside the target and you're trying to hit all nine pockets. And when you do, then you go to level 2 and in level 2, if you hit the same pocket twice, then you lose your pocket and your points. So I challenge everybody out there to get to level 3.
Meredith: Level 3.
Billy: Level three. I know you can do it Meredith, but I'm not sure about Nate over here.
Nate: I know I can't. And they can compete against you. They can say the pro score is here to be [crosstalk 00:15:22], right?
Billy: Yeah, They can. A lot of my friends will come in, they know where I'm at and they're always trying to take me off the leaderboard and some of them do. So then I have to get back to work, there's no doubt.
Meredith: Now, do you ever work late as an instructor? I'm just curious. Or is it just more, you're teaching during the day? Or do you just say, "You know what, I'm not teaching late because everyone's drinking too much. They're not going to be focused. You know, I'm wasting my time doing this at night." How does that work?
Billy: Great question. And from Tampa to Charlotte here, it's all different dynamics, but typically I'm trying to teach early to around five or six in the evening-
Meredith: Before happy hour.
Billy: Before happy hour, you're right, because it does get a little wild up here. But what's happening tonight is I'm on an event from five to eight. I've worked till 12, 1 o'clock in the morning on some pretty big events in Charlotte with the Charlotte Hornets and Michael Jordan and Nelly. And you're meeting a lot of these guys, they're betting a thousand dollars a shot just to who can hit the back net, that was a pretty fun time. So I do work late, but that's normally when there's bigger events that come here.
Meredith: Yeah, I'm hoping to win that mega millions, that big lottery, then I can start really betting some real dough, right?
Billy: When you have game like you, I'm sure you can bet anybody. We're going to have a match soon, you and I.
Meredith: That would be fun. Now when it comes to celebrities, I find this so interesting. So yes, I'm sure you've seen a lot down in Tampa and Charlotte. What about Myrtle Beach? Who are some celebrities, have you seen any?
Billy: Oh, well, I'll tell you right now. One of my good buddies, we all know a local favorite here, Hunter Renfrow, came in recently from the Oakland Raiders and he went to Sakaste High School where we were just talking about your son and I went to Sakaste High School-
Meredith: Me too.
Billy: So yeah, he did too. So Hunter came out with the family and had a blast the other night, but we do have a lot of... We have celebrity golf tournaments and I'm sure you guys are out a lot. They will trickle over here and like Dustin, and I'm sure some of those guys come out occasionally.
Meredith: I'll give you a funny fact. Hunter Renfrow's dad was my high school golf coach. I played on the boys team and his dad coached. I think it was just for a couple years. And then they switched out coaches. But this is when I was too young to drive and Hunter's dad is so awesome. He would pick me up after school and get me to the course and made sure I had a ride home. And I was the only girl. And they were very protective over me on the team because-
Billy: They knew their star player there.
Meredith: They had to watch the girl. So they always made sure I was safe and everything, but what a great feeling.
Billy: Meredith, you just can't hide talent.
Meredith: Oh gosh, please.
Billy: ... sometimes, so that's awesome.
Meredith: Listen, the minute I think I'm playing decent, oh, trust me. I will shank it, I promise you that.
Nate: All the videos we do-
Meredith: Golf is a humbling sport.
Billy: Yes it is.
Nate: It's one take. She's a one take wonder.
Billy: She's one take.
Meredith: Yeah, right.
Billy: You and I, we're not allowed to say the S word. I mean, that doesn't happen for you, does it?
Meredith: It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's when I need to be humbled. So I receive it and say, "Okay, all right. Yep. I'm just like everybody else trying to figure this game out."
Billy: It is not an easy game, that's for sure.
Meredith: Because you never truly arrived, I mean, not unless you're in the top 10, there is some arrival point with those guys, but, for all of us, yeah, even instructors, we're still learning and growing and grinding our own games.
Billy: Every day. And that makes us better players and better instructors, is just from our own personal experiences, for sure.
Meredith: Yeah. Because I think the minute you think you know it all, you got a big problem.
Billy: I always talk about the golf gods. They will come down on you as soon as you can get like, "Oh, I got this."
Meredith: The dreaded S, it's coming to you.
Billy: Exactly, good job, for sure.
Meredith: All right. So anything else that you'd like to add about Top Golf Myrtle beach, if there's somebody listening with instruction possibly, but maybe even something for someone who's never experienced it, maybe somebody who's hearing this needs to come here, experience it first, and then connect with you about improving their game.
Billy: Definitely. What I'd like to talk about first is we do have a huge summer academy for the kids coming up. It's six weeks in the summer, June almost until I think August. And we normally have 30 or so kids a week. And we're obviously all about growing the game. So that's going to be a great time for the juniors to get involved-
Meredith: What are the ages, I'm sorry?
Billy: Yeah, I believe there's 6 to 14 years old.
Meredith: Okay, that's great.
Billy: So yeah, it's always a great time every year. We're happy to bring that back. COVID kind of held us back from some other academies, so I'm excited about that. And then as far as people that have never played golf, I just challenge you just to come in the venue and check it out, walk around, maybe have a bite to eat. And maybe what I always tell my students is walk around the venue, look at everybody else's swing, and then start smiling about yours because if you don't have the basics in golf, it's hard to get better. And so just like you're doing, we're growing the game. I always talk about, get your PGA on, posture, grip alignment. If we can at least walk around the venue and help that newest person get hooked, that's what it's all about for us.
Meredith: Exactly. And when you come, you have to try the jelly donuts and the chocolate-filled donuts. They come with these little injectors, it looks like you're getting a shot. I mean, I could just stick that sucker in my mouth and squirt it.
Billy: Just make sure you take the top off. That's all I got to say about that.
Meredith: Yes. Unless it will just bust out everywhere-
Billy: It's happened.
Meredith: But yes, you just inject the donuts and squirt, and it is the gooiest most awesome... I think it's better than Cinnabon's. So if you're a Cinnabon fan, you've got to get the donuts, they're so delightfully bad for you.
Billy: And the cookie crumble sundae. Oh baby, that's my favorite.
Meredith: Okay yeah, the food here is amazing too. And look, I'm not saying that because we're doing a podcast. I truly mean it because I've been here a few times for parties and whatnot. And when I come, I'm like, "Awesome," because I know I can get food here. It's not one of those places like, "Do I eat before I go?" It's like, "No, I can actually eat here and get an awesome meal."
Billy: And there's some healthy options, there really is-
Meredith: There is healthy options.
Billy: The farmhouse flatbread is one of my favorite... You can't go wrong with that. I have one of those almost every day when I come into work. So for sure, lots of food.
Meredith: And you don't look like you eat the jelly donut. He doesn't eat the jelly donuts, look at him, he's all fit.
Billy: I'm trying to keep up with you Meredith.
Nate: And the beer.
Billy: Yes, oh yeah.
Meredith: Yeah, lots of beer and that's one more thing, the bar, I'm just looking at it right now, we're on the first level. You've got multiple bars indoors with massive screens here. How many, 10?
Billy: Well there is. There's a huge TV screen. I wish I had this in my house, but really what I would say is for big events, Master's tournaments, March Madness, they can change the screen to have 10 different games going on at once. So people hang out on the second floor, or the balcony or the first floor and enjoy the games, especially while they're waiting.
Nate: And I've come here for lunch before, without even playing golf, just to hang out, just to take a look-
Billy: Come do some business, come do some work. Do your calls here, just hang out. And in summertime, we like to have the outside stage area with some live music and corn hole, fun games like that.
Meredith: Well, this is going to be an exciting summer here at Top Golf Myrtle Beach, 2021.
Billy: Let's go.
Meredith: Everybody's coming back. Thanks for finally lifting up. Finally getting some positive vibes for our future here. And the great thing is golf is outdoors and we're sitting outdoors right now. So if you're just kind of getting your feet wet with traveling again, Top Golf is a great option to go have some fun because you still are outside to a degree. Have a nice breeze here. Lot of fun. Billy Belair, Director of Instruction. You're amazing.
Billy: Thank you.
Meredith: And I definitely would love to have some fun out here with you and maybe do-
Billy: Let's do it.
Meredith: Maybe do one of those games, although you'll totally kick my butt, but, I would love to try it with you.
Billy: We'll see. She's very humble, but I'm a little nervous about the match, I'm not going to lie.
Meredith: Well, thanks for having us out. A lot of fun. And for those of you listening, seriously, you have got to come to Top Golf Myrtle Beach. You're going to have an amazing experience and we have Billy here to help you with your swing. Contact him here, Top Golf Myrtle Beach. This has been a lot of fun.
Billy: Thank you guys. Thank you for coming out.
Meredith: We'll see you guys next week on the Gimme Golf Podcast.
Meredith is joined by Topgolf Myrtle Beach’s director of instruction Billy Belair, who takes you inside one of the area’s hottest attractions (it’s a fun environment!) and tells you what it’s like to get a lesson at Topgolf. Yes, they offer golf instruction!
Show Notes/Time Stamp
:31 Billy talks about working at Topgolf Myrtle Beach and his job responsibilities
1:24 When is it time to take a student to the golf course?
2:00 The popularity of Topgolf Myrtle Beach
2:30 The status of the game of golf, is it growing?
3:47 What is the Topgolf experience like and what can people expect?
5:53 Someone is afraid of heights
6:41 Golf club options at Topgolf, can I bring my own and the Platinum membership
8:07 The instruction available at Topgolf, the process of getting a lesson and teaching philosophy
9:19 The league Billy has created for students
9:55 Rates and specials at Topgolf (half-off Tuesdays)
10:24 Types of lessons available including food and beverage packages
11:46 How has Topgolf helped Billy’s game and can it help the average golfer?
13:36 “Dialing it in” and knowing your yardages
14:58 Billy’s favorite game to play at Topgolf and knocking the professional off the leaderboard
15:33 The hours of being Director of Instruction and big events
16:34 Celebrity sightings
18:04 The “S” word and grinding and getting better as an instructor
19:08 The summer academy for junior golfers
19:49 Why it’s fun to walk around Topgolf
20:16 Jelly and chocolate filled doughnuts, make sure to take the top off!
20:46 The food at Topgolf, heathy options available and the beer
21:23 The bar areas and watching sports at Topgolf
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