Five Iron Golf to expand into Boston and other major cities

Two years ago, just as COVID-19 was beginning to infect America, Five Iron Golf was a five-facility indoor-golf company whose dreams of expansion were constrained by a lack of capital. Today, it’s arguably the fastest-growing company in the business. It’s more than doubled in size and raised enough cash — including $30 million from Callaway Golf — to get even bigger. 

The pandemic forced Five Iron to briefly shutter its shops in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City, but it didn’t prevent the company from selling a minority stake to North Castle Partners, a private-equity firm that’s focused on “health, wellness and quality of life.” With North Castle’s money, Five Iron opened a third facility in New York City, a second in Chicago and others in Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. and Singapore. 

“We took an aggressive approach,” said Mike Doyle, who co-founded Five Iron in 2017. “We knew deals could be had, so we struck while the iron was hot.” 

Callaway acquired a minority position in Five Iron in the spring of 2021, attracted by marketing possibilities at urban, simulator-based venues that attract both avid golfers and non-golfers looking to socialize and have fun. Callaway’s investment will fund expansion into Boston, Detroit, Seattle and other cities. 

Five Iron aims to be the first operator in any given U.S. market, but it certainly won’t have indoor golf to itself. Troon recently announced a partnership with the U.S. division of Golfzon, the South Korean behemoth in indoor golf, and X-Golf America says it’s signed 30 franchisees. Callaway is also a competitor, as its Topgolf subsidiary reportedly owns several dozen Swing Suites venues. 

“We expect a lot of copycats,” Doyle said. “That’s why we feel it’s important to be the first company in a market. If indoor golf is perceived as a good place to practice and play, that’s good for us.” 

Unquestionably, the market for indoor golf is still ripe for the picking. The sky may not be the limit, but it’s the target that Five Iron and its fast-emerging competitors are aiming at.

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