The chain reaches far across the country and already has sights into its 2025 pipeline.

When Puttshack—a miniature golf concept created by the founders of Topgolf—began its U.S. journey in April 2021, it didn’t settle for regional acceptance. The brand wanted a nationally recognized footprint from the beginning.

Almost three years later, the chain can safely say the plan is going exactly as intended. Puttshack opened two units in 2021, three in 2022, and six in 2023, putting it at 11 domestic locations. The outlets span from the Southwest to the Eastern Seaboard: Scottsdale, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Dallas, and Houston.

The initial focus was on the top DMAs in America, and now the strategy is to enter mid-sized trade areas. For instance, Nashville—which opened at the end of 2023—is outside the top 20. In 2024, the company will go big again with Philadelphia but also hit the next tier of markets in Minneapolis, Fort Lauderdale, and Louisville. It will also go deeper into existing trade areas in Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago. Puttshack has sight into 2025 openings as well, with Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Columbus, Ohio; and a second Minneapolis location set to come online.

The company’s U.S. headquarters are in Chicago.

“We feel like we have a pretty good footprint nationwide and now it’s continuing to open up new markets and balance out by building deeper in existing markets,” says CEO Joe Vrankin. “And then really, we’re now evaluating the top 50 DMAs around the country.”

Puttshack differentiates itself by using patented Trackaball technology that helps guests keep score without a pencil and paper. The venues are typically 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, and the sales split is 60 percent food and beverage and 40 percent amusement. The menu accounts for roughly $8 million to $9 million in annual sales. At the Boston location, it’s upward of $13 million.

Combined with entertainment, total AUV is around $14 million.

All locations feature adventurous nine-hole courses (i.e. Beer Pong, Roulette, Trivial Pursuit) lasting about 30 minutes each. However, at the Dallas-based unit, Puttshack has tested a new Challenge Hole experience where groups of six to 12 guests can go head-to-head on a series of games and eat and drink in a dedicated suite. It’s similar to what one would experience at Topgolf or Drive Shack. These suites will become a fixture in future Puttshack locations. There may be some outposts in the future that are smaller (10,000 to 12,000 square feet) and only filled with Challenge Holes.

The brand’s core demographic is 21 to 39 years old, but the beauty of miniature golf, according to Vrankin, is that it’s an activity enjoyed by multiple generations. “You can play at 7 years old and you can play at 77,” he says. Puttshack’s original thesis was that it would be two-thirds urban locations. However, leadership learned that suburban areas perform stronger than anticipated.

The chain is a family business during the day, especially on weekends and in the summertime when school is out. During the evening, Puttshack conducts corporate events and turns into a 21-and-up club after 8 p.m. But those afternoons before 5 p.m. account for 40 percent of revenue. Vrankin has seen the power of the suburbs firsthand at the store in Oakbrook, which lies outside of Chicago.

“A Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock, and I’m looking around and I’m seeing this group of moms like late 20s, early 30s, pushing the strollers around our ADA courses with those little babies in the stroller, with a glass of wine in their hand, having a mom’s afternoon out at Puttshack,” he says. “And I’m like, ‘OK, that was not a demographic that I was really like targeting or expecting to see.’ And so I think what we’ve learned is there’s a lot of shoulder guests that come in the suburban location that is not as prevalent in the urban locations.”

Going forward, Puttshack is likely to split its suburban and urban openings 50/50, which is something other golf chains like Drive Shack and Topgolf can’t do.

“The advantage we have is we can get in the heart of a location like in Boston. Other concepts like a Topgolf, you can’t find 12 to 15 acres to get into a true urban location,” the CEO says.

Vrankin believes long-term success in social entertainment rides on first having a fun, compelling game with a barrier to entry, meaning someone can’t copy it. That’s the case for Puttshack given its patents. But it also requires focus on an equally strong food and beverage offering. To that end, the company spends a great deal of time crafting signature cocktails and menu items that customers can’t find anywhere else, even in casual-dining restaurants. Some examples include Wood-Fired Thai Octopus, Bacon Jalapeño Cheeseburger, and Shitake Mushroom Potstickers.

Mark Boyton, the company’s VP of food and beverage, is a French-trained chef and a major proponent of people eating and drinking with their eyes first. So he stresses presentation; one example is a signature cocktail that comes in the form of a treasure chest with smoke pouring out. Vrankin says guests “immediately Instagram that out, but they’re also inclined to like it before they taste it because it’s visually appealing.” On a Saturday, a Puttshack location can serve as many as 2,500 customers, and Vrankin doesn’t think many competing restaurants could handle that volume and do it in an upscale environment.

“Personally when somebody goes to Puttshack for the first time, and I ask them how their experience was, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, the game was so much fun,’ which quite frankly I expect to hear,” Vrankin says. “But it’s when they go ‘And the food was so much better than I was expecting. I would come back just to eat.’ That’s when I know we’re doing what we really targeting.”

Puttshack considers all of these factors because it doesn’t solely go up against social entertainment concepts. It’s battling any place where someone may spend their discretionary income.

“So they’re looking and saying, ‘Hey, what do we want to do tonight?'” Vrankin says. “And there options are, maybe it’s a movie theater, maybe it’s a Puttshack, maybe it’s going out to casual dining. We have to be able to perform the food and beverage side so that it can be as good as casual-dining outing that they’re considering.”

Feature, Growth, NextGen Casual, Puttshack