- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2005

A high-tech driving range is teeing off in Kingstowne next month. TopGolf Game Center is making its U.S. debut July 23 with a $4.5 million state-of-the-art facility, nothing like your run-of-the-mill driving range.

The point-scoring golf game, played with real clubs, uses golf balls that contain microchips, which give instant feedback on how far the ball was hit and the accuracy of each shot.

Golfers aim to score as many points as possible by hitting 11 targets situated between 25 and 240 yards from the tee line.

TopGolf — located on the 8-acre site of the former Mid-Atlantic Golf Center at 6625 S. Van Dorn St. in Alexandria — will have 78 heated and covered bays on two levels, a cafe area and a store. Each bay, which can accommodate up to five players, has a flat-screen monitor that displays the ball’s feedback and the player’s score.

Games, which include 20 balls, range from $3 to $5.80 depending on the time of day and the player’s age.

TopGolf has two locations in Britain, each of which averages 280,000 visitors a year. A location in Thailand will open later this month, and a third British site will open in August.

But TopGolf plans to score big in the United States with a second location opening within a year and eventually as many as 150 locations nationwide, said Peter Allport, chief operating officer of Golf Entertainment International, which operates TopGolf.

“We’ve always viewed the U.S. as the most important market for us,” he said.

Organic rebels

In a supermarket not so far away, the Organic Trade Association is using a “Star Wars” spoof to educate people about the benefits of organic foods.

“Grocery Store Wars: The Organic Rebellion,” created by District-based Free Range Studios, is a five-minute movie featuring organic rebels such as Cuke Skywalker, Princess Lettuce and Chewbroccoli battling it out with Darth Tader, evil lord of the Dark Side of the Farm.

The movie, which can be seen at www.storewars.org, has characters played by vegetables dressed as “Star Wars” characters.

The association’s “intention was to reach out in a lighthearted way and introduce people to the idea of organic food,” said Tate Hausman, who wrote the script and is director of strategy at Free Range.

As of last week, more than 5.2 million viewers had seen the movie since it debuted May 9.

Mr. Hausman said 200,000 viewers worldwide download the movie each day.

Groceries galore

Balducci’s will open three stores in the Washington area in the next few years.

The gourmet grocery chain, formerly Sutton Place Gourmet, will open a 21,000-square-foot store in the Jefferson at Penn Quarter, a mixed-use project with condominiums and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co. That store will open in late winter or early spring next year.

The chain, based in Bethesda, also will open stores in spaces occupied by Whole Foods at the Annapolis Harbor Center and at Congressional Plaza in Rockville. Balducci’s is slated to take over those locations in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

• Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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