WESLEY CHAPEL — As the TVs above the bar showed Tiger Woods tee up in Los Angeles, a crowd was buzzing to get its first peek at the Wesley Chapel-area opening of PopStroke, the latest in the chain of golf entertainment centers co-owned and designed with the help of Woods.
Woods, 47, was not at the opening in Tampa Bay. He is back in action this weekend in his first non-major start since fall 2020 and his first competitive event since he played in the British Open in July of 2022. Analysts have said it could be among his last.
Like its eight other locations, the new PopStroke center near the Cypress Creek Town Center features two 18-hole putting courses designed by TGR Design under the direction of Woods. (The center’s address is technically in Lutz, but the area is interchangeably referred to as Wesley Chapel. For those familiar with the area, it’s right near the Tampa Premium Outlets near State Road 56.) It also has a restaurant, two bars, an ice cream shop, a playground and outdoor games like foosball, ping pong and cornhole.
It opened to the public today at noon. There were already people lined up and waiting at 10:30 a.m. and the phone hasn’t stopped ringing, a spokeswoman said Friday.
PopStroke’s last regional opening was in April at the University Town Center in Sarasota. There are more under construction in Florida, Arizona, Texas, Las Vegas, Tennessee and South Carolina. There are also plans for a second Tampa location, possibly in downtown Tampa or near Raymond James Stadium, said Wall Street veteran Greg Bartoli, co-owner with Woods of the fast-growing chain.
The preview party on Thursday was a hot ticket. Baseball great Tino Martinez was there, as was Robert Basham, one of the original Outback investors, and Taylor Swift’s dad, Scott, flew in. The bar was buzzing when baseball Hall of Famer Fred McGriff strolled in, smiling for fans who got selfies with the Crime Dog.
Bartoli, a former top JPMorgan executive, worked the room as Tiger Woods’ image on the TVs loomed over a bar serving drinks with whimsical golf names like Mulligan Mojito and the vodka-laced Caddy Issues. His business partner scored a birdie on his final three holes at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles on Thursday, and Bartoli expects promising things from their outdoor entertainment venture, too.
“By the end of the next year, we’ll probably have 20 to 25,” Bartoli said. He said he eventually expect there to be “hundreds” of PopStroke locations across the country and even overseas. The company recently got a boost from one of Tiger Woods’ primary equipment sponsors when TaylorMade Golf made a “material investment” in PopStroke, the company recently announced.
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“Look at that golf course, it’s like Augusta National, or a putting version of it,” Bartoli said. “Tiger’s design company is involved in designing the courses and you can kind of see that out there.”
There are no windmills or alligator jaws like old-fashioned putt-putt. The undulating putting holes instead look more like challenges on a typical golf course, with hills and roughs and white-carpeted “sand traps” that can be tricky to maneuver.
“I prefer this to the windmills and gimmicky stuff. It feels a little more mature,” said Bryan Geiger, 33, a Tampa attorney who said he plays golf a couple times a month. “When I was 12, putt-putt was fun but this feels like I’m golfing.”
His wife, financial adviser Kim Geiger, 32, sunk a putt nearby on the first tee of the Tiger Black course, considered more family-friendly and easier than the Tiger Red course.
“You don’t have the food and drink atmosphere at putt-putt, and the music is fun here,” she said. “It feels more like a party.”
The restaurant serves elevated pub grub, such as a hand-breaded chicken breast on a brioche bun ($15), street tacos made with blackened mahi or jerk chicken ($15-$18 for three) and shareables like flatbreads ($14) or eight different flavors of wings ($16 for eight).
Visitors are encouraged to download the PopStroke app, where you can record strokes and see if you end up on the huge electronic scoreboard that tracks the day’s best scores — similar to the leaderboard at a PGA tournament. The app also allows you to order on-course delivery of craft beer and cocktails.
A similar golf experience, Topgolf, is also expanding in the Tampa Bay area, but Bartoli dismissed it as no competition: “It’s a different animal.”
Topgolf is a golf entertainment company that operates a unique high-tech driving range for groups or parties. It is structured as an entertainment complex with full-service food and drinks. It has 70 locations across the country, including one in Tampa and a new one in St. Petersburg expected to open later this year.
Unlike Topgolf, you don’t need a reservation to play at PopStroke and the focus is on putting, a skill mastered by Woods, who is widely regarded as one of the best putters of all time.
If you go
PopStroke: The golf entertainment center has two 18-hole putting courses, a restaurant, two bars, an ice cream shop, outdoor games and a playground.
Hours and location: It opens at noon Friday, but after that the daily hours are 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 10 a.m. to midnight Thursday-Saturday. They do not take reservations for golf or the restaurant, so it’s first-come, first-served. 25297 Sierra Center Blvd., Lutz. 813-738-8590.
Prices: $30 all-day pass, $20 seniors and military, $15 age 3-5. Weekly specials: Mondays, senior day $15; Tuesdays, kids get golf and ice cream for $16; Wednesdays, college night $15.