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6 insider tips for visiting Topgolf, L.A.’s popular driving range with unstuffy vibes

For the uninitiated, the brand name Topgolf evokes a high-end performance center with video analysis, custom club fittings and serious male faces contemplating details like swing path and dynamic loft. Topgolf’s newest facility in El Segundo can be that, if you want it to. But like the company’s other 76 locations around the world, it mainly offers a freewheeling introduction to the game in which golf is the vehicle and good times are the destination.

As a 50-year-old weekend warrior athlete — albeit one who hadn’t swung a golf club since the Clinton administration — I enjoyed my first Topgolf visit a lot more than I expected. Not because I struck the ball better than anticipated, but because I felt no pressure other than the self-imposed kind, which dissipated quickly thanks to the relaxed vibe that wafts through the three-tiered, neon-splashed facility.

Kevin Moreno, from left, Hector Larios, Kimberly Lie, Brianna Casas and Jacob Reyes — co-workers at Knott’s Berry Farm — enjoy an evening at Topgolf in El Segundo.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Think of Topgolf as a high-end driving range moshed with a Cheesecake Factory; or Putt-Putt on steroid-laced edibles. The new spot in El Segundo, five minutes south of LAX, is the only Topgolf in the world with an actual golf course attached (more on that later), but you’re more likely to see a novice grandma teeing off here than an aspiring pro in $300 stretchy slacks.

That was the case on a recent Wednesday, when the bays around me were occupied by families, raucous office gatherings and at least one bachelorette party. Sometimes balls rocketed off the tee like white lasers. More often they barely rolled across the mat — or didn’t move at all following a fruitless swing-and-miss. (Whoosh!)

Whatever the outcome, no one really cared. As long as the grub and grog kept comin’, and as long as everyone had a few turns gripping and ripping.

With that in mind, allow us to tee up a few pointers before your first visit.

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