Beginners Guide | What Is A Golf Simulator ?
If you love golf, you have probably dreamed of enjoying the game from the comfort of home with your own simulator. Although golf simulators were once insanely expensive, these systems are becoming more and more affordable for the everyday consumer.
However, even the most basic of golf simulators will cost you a hefty amount of money. It therefore makes sense to know what to look for when selecting one. Below, we answer some of the key questions surrounding golf simulators to help you make the right choice. Before we delve deeper into ‘What is a Golf Simulator ?’, lets take a step back and understand what a Launch Monitor is.
What is a Launch Monitor?
Launch monitors are compact electronic devices that precisely measure a wide range of metrics when playing golf. They accurately record various metrics relating to the moment a club head makes contact with a golf ball. A good launch monitor will provide you with a wide raft of ball data and club data.
You can measure data such as ball speed, launch angle and direction, spin axis and spin rate, smash factor and more. Club speed, attack angle, swing plane, club path and swing direction are other useful club data metrics provided by the best launch monitors.
Doppler Radar Technology vs Camera Technology
There are two main varieties of launch monitor commonly available. Doppler radar launch monitors are among the most popular. These types of launch monitor are used to track a golf ball from the moment of impact. By contrast, launch monitors utilising camera technology measure the ball at the moment of impact. This type of launch monitor instead uses algorithms to project golf ball metrics.
A big advantage of launch monitors is that they are incredibly portable. Their compact size means they can be picked up and carried when playing on the course or at the driving range. You can also find many models with audio feedback on your shots, without you having to refer to a screen. Launch monitors can also be used indoors as part of golf simulator systems.
What is a Golf Simulator?
A golf simulator utilises a powerful launch monitor at its core. The most basic of golf simulators provide you with all the functionality of a launch monitor, but also provide you with a slightly more immersive practice environment in which to play.
However, golf simulators are intended to provide you with a virtual alternative to a conventional golf course or driving range. In addition to a launch monitor, golf simulators will almost always incorporate a projector device and a display screen.
This permits you to project high-quality visuals representing a golf course, allowing you to visually track the performance of your balls, rather than mentally visualise them. The immersive environment also makes practising your golf far more enjoyable than simply striking balls toward a hitting net.
What do you need to make a golf simulator?
The more substantial golf simulator will incorporate the following items
- Launch Monitor
- Golf Simulator Enclosure
- Hitting Mat
- High-impact screen
- Side Barrier Netting
- Artificial turf / Landing Pad Turf
- Golf Simulator Software
Below we expand a little more into some of these equipment.
If you plan on projecting your display onto a golf simulator screen, you will obviously need the hardware to do so. A short-throw projector is therefore something you need to add to your shopping list. This type of projector is specially adapted for casting projected images across a shorter distance, without degrading the clarity of the projected image.
Most projectors will also need to be mounted out of your swing path. Make sure any projector you choose can be mounted onto the ceiling with ease. Many projectors will come packaged with compatible mounts for this purpose.
You do not need to spend a huge amount on a hitting a mat to use with your DIY golf simulator, but do not cut corners when selecting one. When browsing for hitting mats for your simulator setup, make sure it offers a good degree of durability and performance. It should also be forgiving enough that it does not impede your swing or strokes.
The more forgiving a mat is, the easier it will also be on your body. Once you have your simulator established, you will be spending hours at a time using it. If your mat is not forgiving enough, you can expect to experience straining on your wrists and elbows.
Choose a hitting mat that is a good match for the overall dimensions of your setup. If budget stretches to it, choose a mat that is the same width of your impact screen or projected image. It also makes sense to choose a hitting mat that provides you with a range of turf surfaces. Many golf hitting mats will include artificial fairway turf, rough turf and driving range turf in one package.
Unless your simulator is to be installed in a space that is in a state of disrepair, you should purchase an impact screen to protect your surroundings. A basic hitting net is a far more affordable alternative to an impact screen, but these are not really designed for indoor use. When deciding on a suitable impact screen, you should consider your simulator setup and the type of display you will be using.
Should you only be using a tablet or small computer as a viewing screen, basic golf netting should suffice. However, if you plan on projecting your simulation display, you will most certainly want a simulator screen. Such screens are an obvious choice for anyone looking for an unrivalled simulated experience.
If you need to take down your simulator on occasion, you should also think about portability. A modular frame design will make this easy. Make sure your frame and netting is durable enough that it can be folded down and stored without damaging it.
Golf simulator software is something you can not do without. However, in order to use software you will need access to a high-performance PC or tablet. You do not need to spend a significant amount on computer hardware in order to use advanced software, but you will probably want to have a computer or tablet that is reserved solely for use with your simulator. This will ensure software can run effectively, with no disruption to your practice.
Available software ranges from the affordable to the expensive, so you will need to pick something that suits your budget. Many software packages can be upgraded later with optional add-on elements. When picking software, you should also ensure it is compatible with your chosen device. Some software will only work with iOS devices, while other packages can only be used with Windows operating systems. So you are not tied down by compatibility issues, try and purchase software that is compatible with all main operating systems.
How Does a Golf Simulator Work?
Even the most advanced of golf simulators are relatively easy to install and configure. Most golf simulators also operate to the same principle. To begin, you will need to position your ball within a hitting area. This usually takes the form of a swing mat.
Although modest golf simulators will require you to position your golf balls in a specific spot, some will allow more flexibility when it comes to ball placement. As soon as you have placed your ball in the correct spot, you are free to swing. A golf simulator will utilise the launch monitor and its technologies to analyse your swing. Important metrics that are recorded and calculated include ball speed, ball spin, launch angles and more.
Most golf simulators use a variety of technologies in order to provide you with accurate readings. These technologies include radar readers, high-definition cameras, sensor mats and optical sensors. A more advanced golf simulator will often include most, if not all, of these technologies to provide you with most precise readings possible.
After you have taken your swing and your simulator has captured all of the relevant data, it can calculate a projection of where your ball will travel. This projected path is then simulated via software and projected onto your display screen. With a golf simulator, the full length of ball flight is visualised on screen.
You can also choose to have additional data displayed on the screen, along with the ball flight graphics. If you are playing on a virtual course level, the simulator will then allow you to take your second shot until you have completed a hole. Many golf simulators will also allow you to practice different types of shots, including chip shots and putts.
What is the Purpose of a Golf Simulator?
If you are serious about golf, you will definitely want to consider purchasing a golf simulator. If you are keen to fine-tune your technique and improve your prowess on the golf course, a simulator can dramatically improve your ability with its game improvement potential. You can play around with your swing style and techniques, before taking what you have learned at home out into the field.
They also provide keen golfers with a way to practice their favourite game in any weather. If you have installed a golf simulator indoors (Check our guide on Best Indoor Golf Simulators), you can grab your clubs and start swinging any time you wish. If windy conditions and torrential rain make a visit to the driving range or nearby golf course impossible, a golf simulator provides you with a convenient alternative. By the same logic, you can also continue your golf training in all weathers.
Golf simulators can also be used for home entertainment. Many golf simulator systems come with immersive software that provide you with a perfect alternative to conventional console gaming. Even less experienced golfers can enjoy playing on a virtual course or tackling closest to the pin challenges with a golf simulator.
Who Can Benefit from a Golf Simulator?
Although golf simulators can be used for casual practice and recreational play, they will best serve the more enthusiastic golfer who is looking to improve their game. Golf simulators can be calibrated precisely, allowing you to enjoy specific feedback relating to your swing and ball flight.
They also allow you to practice your golf more regularly and consistently. As already mentioned, having a home-based golf simulator frees you up from having to wait for good weather. However, they also allow you to play more quickly, without having to worry about tracing your balls and venture across physical courses.
What are the most Popular Golf Simulator Brands ?
There are many big brands currently offering a variety of golf simulator options for the everyday consumer. If you are looking a fairly inexpensive option, you should consider brands like Optishot and FlightScope Mevo. Both of these brands have a good range of budget-friendly golf simulator models. Trackman and TruGolf are also worth looking into if you have less of a budget to play with.
More expensive golf simulators are available from HD Golf, with more advanced technology and hardware included as standard. Premium golf simulators are also available from brands like FullSwing, Foresight Sports (GC2 Golf Simulator & GCQuad Golf Simulator ) and Uneekor.
What Are The Main Types of Golf Simulators ?
There are three different types of golf simulators to consider, with each one offering their own unique advantages.
- Photometric Golf Simulators
- Radar Golf Simulators
- Infrared Golf Simulators
Photometric Golf Simulators
Photometric golf simulators utilise advanced cameras that are capable of capturing images at high speed. These cameras accurately record the ball after the moment of impact. These captured images are then analysed in-depth to provide your simulator with the measurements it needs to calculate the shape of your shot and ball flight distance. Examples of simulators with Photometric technology are HD Golf, Uneekor, Foresight Sports & SkyTrak.
Radar Golf Simulators
Golf simulators utilising radar work a little bit differently. These simulators emit microwave signals, with the outbound signal reflected of your golf ball. This reflected signal is then processed by the simulator. From this, your golf simulator can calculate things like ball speed and other essential metrics relating to the ball. Radar technology is particularly effective in outdoor environments, as balls can be racked over longer distances. Voice Caddie & Rapsodo MLM are examples of simulators that use Radar technology.
Infrared Golf Simulators
There are also infrared golf simulators to consider. Infrared golf simulators emit light signals that effectively capture club head position when you swing. Unlike other types of golf simulators, they predict ball flight and data from the behaviour of your club head. Therefore, they can be used without an actual golf ball. If your golf simulator is on the small side or lacking things like impact screens and netting, an infrared device is a good idea. Optishot simulators utilise infrared technology.
How Much Does a Golf Simulator Cost?
The cost of a golf simulator can vary significantly, depending on what kind of equipment is included in the package. If you are looking for a very affordable simulator option, you can keep to a tight budget by investing solely in a launch monitor. Some of these cost less than $1,000
Although the type of feedback provided by these devices are fairly limited, they are cost-effective and more flexible than larger setups. If you want a more permanent solution with high-definition projectors, display screens, hitting nets and enclosures, you can expect to pay substantially more for a golf simulator.
The most basic golf simulator systems will only set you back a few hundred, while the most premium alternatives will cost you tens of thousands. Ultimately, you need to determine what you can afford, before deciding on which features and functions are most important to you. If you have a budget of less than $5,000 then be sure to check our article on Best Golf Simulators Under $5,000 . If your budget allows for more premium features then our article on 23 Best Golf Simulators may be of interest.
How Accurate Are Golf Simulators?
The accuracy of a golf simulator all depends on the particular functionality of the equipment you are using. The best simulators can provide you with an incredible amount of accuracy. If you want the best possible results, you should be using a simulator that incorporates a reliable camera and infrared light readings to provide you with in-depth analysis of your swings and shots.
Provided this technology is on offer, you can expect precise readings and accurate results, every time you use your simulator. A decent golf simulator should be reliably accurate at least 85 percent of the time. However, there are some things you can do to ensure you get the most precise readings, every time you use your simulator.
Any golf simulator hardware should be correctly set and configured to yield precise readings. When setting up your simulator hardware for the first time, make sure you follow the manufacturer instructions to the letter. You will also want to take some time to familiarise yourself with the workings of your hardware so you can always enjoy useful analytics and feedback on your swing. Proper setting management is crucial in getting accurate results from any golf simulator.
The accuracy of most golf simulators is dependent on a few key components. Your system should include cameras that provide you with high-quality capture of your swings and shots. Your simulator may also utilise doppler radar technology (Such as the Flightscope Mevo Plus and Voice Caddie).
This radar technology will produce an invisible microwave signal that will detect moving objects, including your golf clubs and balls. Doppler radar readers should be in full working order if you want to enjoy precise results.
You will also want to ensure that your simulator includes high-grade optical sensors. These are crucial in delivering accurate readings relating to your swing.
Finally, an infrared light functionality will further enhance the accuracy provided by your golf simulator.
How Much Space Does a Golf Simulator Require?
This an important to question to consider before you begin purchasing equipment for your indoor golf simulator. Although many people will suggest you only need enough space to comfortably swing a golf club, you will in fact need to cater in additional clearance. Although sufficient ceiling height is important, you will also need to factor in the amount of space, things like hitting nets, screens and other items will take up.
Most golfers will find a ceiling height of around 10 feet more than enough to enjoy a full swing. However, consider your own height before you decide on whether this ceiling height suggestion is enough for you. If you are a taller golfer, you may want to pick a room with a higher ceiling height.
Shorter golfers should be able to get away with tighter dimensions. Room width is also important. A room with a width of around 15 feet should provide you with ample room for an impressive golf simulator. However, if you are prepared to sacrifice some elements, you can make a tighter space work.
Room depth also needs to be thought about. A space with a depth of around 15 feet should be big enough to provide proper distancing between walls, display screens and hitting mats. This should also provide you with some clearance behind you, ensuring you do not come into contact with rear walls when swinging. However, you may want to pick out a much larger space if you are using a golf simulator that utilises radar technology.
How Do I Select the Right Golf Simulator ?
You have a lot of things to bear in mind when selecting a golf simulator. If you are an experienced golfer with a precise notion on what you are looking for, you will have a good understanding of the kinds of technology that will be most beneficial to you. If you are a novice golfer who wants something more portable, a basic launch monitor device may be the best option.
A simple golf simulator device may be the best solution for those with less money to work with. You can enjoy core functionality from the off, before building a more elaborate golf simulator later. However, the additional cost of hitting nets, screens, projectors and other hardware can stack up. If you have a large budget available, you should definitely go for a complete package to save you considerable amounts of money in the long run.