Hall of Famer Tiger Woods a PopStroke co-partner since 2019

Tiger Woods’ late father Earl encouraged his son to putt to the picture, a visual cue the boy would use to win quarters from his “pops” long before becoming a golfing legend.

Woods recalls those days fondly and aims to provide a similar experience for the masses as a partner with Greg Bartoli, founder of PopStroke. A fourth location opened Monday in Orlando to offer a sophisticated, present-day spin on traditional putt-putt and an entertainment option accessible to people of all ages and degrees of golf interest.

A sign sharing Woods’ vision greets guests arriving at the two 18-hole, par-45 putting layouts the Tiger Red and Black courses.

“Some of my happiest memories are spending time with my ‘pops’ on the golf course having putting contests,” reads a sign quoting the 15-time major champion. “I’m looking forward to others enjoying time with their kids at PopStroke.”

Bartoli, who made his fortune on Wall Street before relocating in 2013 to Jupiter, has witnessed PopStroke’s universal appeal — from fathers and sons to mothers and daughters to 6-year-olds and seniors. Out-of-towners on buddy trips or weekly foursomes can stop by to grab a post-round meal and continue the competition.

Putting is the primary drawing card. Two eye-catching courses designed by TGR Design — Woods’ company — capture the imagination and test all skill levels.

PopStroke has recast the traditional miniature golf setup.

Hilly terrain dotted with palm trees and native foliage surrounds putting surfaces featuring challenging breaks and ample undulation. Greens built on sand rather than concrete and covered in high-quality synthetic turf instead of carpet provide a true roll not found at most putt-putt courses.

“Something different than windmills, waterfalls and alligator mouths,” said Wes Abbott, the general manager of the east Orlando site.

Even so, those with limited if any golf experience are able to participate, compete and enjoy themselves.

Meanwhile, TopGolf — a highly popular golf entertainment option — requires patrons to pick up a club and swing it.

“Putting is the one universal element of golf that everybody can do,” Bartoli said. “It’s not intimidating.”

Bartoli’s idea for PopStroke dates to family trips as a child to Myrtle Beach, SC, where putt-putt courses still abound on Kings Highway featuring names such as Captain’s Hook, Shipwreck Island and Jungle Safari.

A commercial property investment in Jupiter he made while living in New York City allowed Bartoli to put a personal spin on miniature golf and family entertainment.

The result was Lighthouse Cove Adventure Golf. Located on Highway A1A, the facility features two 18-hole courses with waterfalls and caves common to traditional putt-putt along with a restaurant, sports bar, playground and tropical aquarium.

“I was blown away by the impact it had in bringing people together, whether you were 5 years old, 25 on a date night, a 40-year-old couple with their kids or a group out on senior night having a glass of wine enjoying some putt-putt,” Bartoli said.

Bartoli, a savvy investor for Credit Suisse First Boston and later JP Morgan after graduating from Boston College, saw an opportunity to improve on a good thing. This ultimately lead to PopStroke Port St. Lucie to open in April 2019.

A friendship with Jupiter resident and longtime TGR CFO Chris Hubman soon led to a conversation about Woods — golf’s greatest showman and clutch performer of the modern era.

“Having the greatest putter in the history of the game involved certainly adds to our credibility and the power of what we’re trying to deliver,” Bartoli said. “At the same time, you also have to provide a great experience. If you don’t, people are not going to come back no matter who’s involved in it.”

PopStroke strives to keep everyone engaged.

Fees ranging from $25 for adults to $15 for young children provide all-day access to the two courses, along with Cornhole, Ping-Pong, Foosball and a playground. The facility features a full-service restaurant, three bars, an ice parlor featuring 24 flavors and event space.

Bartoli said his three children, ages 10, 12 and 14, give PopStroke an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

PopStroke clearly is catching on. A new facility recently opened in Sarasota, joining locales in Fort Myers and Port St. Lucie. Tampa, Delray Beach, Houston and two Phoenix area locations are in the works for 2022.

Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach and Winter Garden in west Orlando are slated for 2023 while a Gainesville site has been discussed.

“How can you not like craft milkshakes and 24 flavors of premium ice cream and a playground and mini-golf and cheeseburgers?” he said. “We like to say we have something for everyone. A lot of this concept and the vision for this was created with families in mind and what can you do to bring people together and reconnect people and get them off their iPads for a little while.”

Long before iPads and when ice cream came in vanilla or chocolate, people have bonded standing over a little white ball, holding a putter and hoping to sink a hole-in-one.

Woods and his father’s competitions helped light the fire in a future legend. For others, it’s a fun, competitive way to spend a few hours.

“People have been putting for years,” Abbott said. “My grandparents went to putt-putt for dates. We’re for anyone, 3 to 93.”

PopStroke Orlando

Where: 321 N. Alafaya Trail in Waterford Lakes Town Center (near Regal Cinemas)

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What: Two 18-hole courses, full service restaurant, bar with on-course service, 25 TVs, Jumbotron (with digital scoreboard), ice cream parlor (24 flavors), outdoor gaming and a playground.

Hours: 9 am midnight, 7 days a week

Cost: $25 all day, seniors (60+) $20, children (6 to 12) $18, children 5 & under $15, military/UCF/Valencia College $20

Specials: Monday, Seniors Day, $15 all day; Tuesday, Kids Day, $16 all day; Wednesday, College Day ($15, college ID required)

Reservations: None. First come, first served.

Website: https://popstroke.com/orlando-waterford-lakes/

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com, Email Edgar Thompson at egthompson@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @osgators,

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