Dallas-based Invited is getting out of the golf entertainment venue business. The nation’s largest owner-operator of private golf and country clubs has sold its BigShots Golf business for around $29 million to California-based Topgolf Callaway Brands, it was announced Thursday.
Topgolf itself is headquartered in Dallas. It merged with Callaway Golf in 2021, gaining a valuation at the time of more than $1.9 billion.
Thursday’s acquisition adds the BigShots brand, one owned BigShots venue, and three franchise venues to Topgolf Callaway’s portfolio of U.S. venues. The deal also includes development rights for other potential venues.
Concurrently, Topgolf Callaway Brands has inked a preferred vendor agreement with Invited. Its products and merchandise will now be featured at Invited’s more than 140 golf and country clubs.
The deal is “viewed as both financially and strategically attractive to both sides,” according to a Topgolf Callaway statement.
Invited acquired BigShots in 2018
Invited acquired BigShots Golf in 2018 with a goal of diversifying the game of golf and appealing to players of all skill levels, with “scratch kitchen” food to go along with the virtual golf entertainment experience.
“There was a piece of paper that had BigShots on it that was sitting around collecting dust,” Invited CEO David Pillsbury told Dallas Innovates in 2021. “I was like, ‘What’s this?’” It turns out someone at Invited [which rebranded from its former name of ClubCorp in 2022] had met with BigShots, a Topgolf-like golf entertainment company founded in 2013.
Pillsbury had his team scour the marketplace, find the best tech, and ensure that BigShots’ Vero Beach, Florida, facility worked to a tee.
“And that’s when we bought BigShots,” Pillsbury recalled. He closed the deal just six months after becoming Invited’s CEO.
In the years since, Invited—a company founded in Dallas in 1957—has embraced high-tech golf entertainment and intensified its moves to add innovative technology at its clubs from coast to coast.
“Topgolf validated this thesis I’ve had for many years, which is there’s enormous latent demand for golf,” Pillsbury told us in 2021. “And I think Topgolf—and now, BigShots, Drive Shack, and Puttery—all these concepts are doing something which I call democratization of the sport. And I think it’s fantastic.”
Why Invited decided ‘to pivot’
So why has Invited sold off BigShots? It comes down to rising costs—and a renewed focus on its core businesses.
In January 2022, Invited opened BigShots Golf Aggieland, its first owned BigShots location, in Bryan, Texas. Since then, “the cost of capital and construction has skyrocketed,” the company told Dallas Innovates in an emailed statement. Those skyrocketing costs—along with the “outsized returns” generated by Invited’s investment in its golf and country clubs and stadium clubs—drove the company’s decision to pivot.
“The BigShots brand and the golf entertainment category remain poised for growth,” Invited stated. “The rationale for our decision is all about the need to prioritize how we invest our capital.”
“We will remain solely focused on our core business of owning and operating golf, business, and stadium clubs for the foreseeable future,” the company added.
Meanwhile, Invited will continue to incorporate technology and innovation across its properties. The company says selling off BigShots enables it to “laser focus on driving improvements across our unmatched portfolio of clubs.”
BigShots venues may be converted to Toptracer technology
Chip Brewer, president and CEO of Topgolf Callaway Brands, says the BigShots acquisition will benefit “all three segments” of his company’s business.
“We’re essentially purchasing an additional off-course venue and the royalty stream from three franchise venues, including the option to convert those to Toptracer technology in the near future,” Brewer said in a statement, “as well as further building out and strengthening our future venue pipeline and growing our partnership with an important golf equipment and apparel partner, Invited—all for the price of approximately one Topgolf venue.”
“This deal is a great example of the synergies associated with our portfolio of brands and its leadership position in modern golf,” Brewer added. “It’s also just the beginning of what’s possible when two great brands combine their resources and creativity to develop programs that foster growth and further fuel the momentum in our game.”
Invited has ‘just scratched the surface’ of a deepened partnership
Invited is embracing those synergies too. The company says it has enjoyed “a long and productive relationship” with Topgolf Callaway Brands but has “just scratched the surface of what’s possible.”
“Working together we expect to offer our members a wider inventory of products from Callaway brands, more opportunities for custom fittings using the latest technology and Callaway’s master fitters, additional events and promotions throughout the year featuring Callaway products, and more opportunities to test equipment and get an early look at new product launches,” Invited said.
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