Golf simulators have enabled golfers to expand their selection of practice areas as well as bringing high-value entertainment into the home.
Lockdowns that resulted from the COVID19 pandemic highlighted the value of golf simulators as golfers had to spend extended periods isolated from the community with no access to training facilities or a golf course.
Although golf simulators can be rather expensive, there are more affordable options that put them in reach of the average middle-class household.
The simulator solutions require more than just a golf launch monitor to operate but it is ideal for indoor use when the weather, or other circumstances, force you to stay indoors for an extended period.
Furthermore, it allows for hours of entertainment with family or friends while some solutions enable you to enter into competition with golfers from around the globe.
It is rather difficult to estimate your distances accurately with every club while golf simulators are accurate to within a few yards and display the feedback immediately. Swing faults are easily identified, and you receive immediate feedback on any swing changes that you make during a practice session.
Various software packages enable you to practice on a selection of driving ranges and play some of the best-known and highest-rated golf courses from around the world.
It is not only amateurs that benefit from golf simulators as many professional golfers have the latest technology at home to tweak their swings. Golf fitters, as well as golf coaches, make extensive use of golf simulators in the process to ensure that you receive the most benefit out of a session.
Benefits of Golf Simulators
Golf simulators offer a tremendous number of benefits to a variety of golf professions such as professional golfers, coaches, and club fitters. Amateur or social golfers can benefit tremendously from the practice and entertainment value offered.
Although we have touched on some of the benefits earlier, below you will find a more detailed analysis of these benefits.
- Play golf when it suits you irrespective of the season or the outside weather. No more dependency on daylight. As it can be set up indoors, you are not dependent on what is happening outdoors.
- See a real-time view of the ball flight either on the driving range or golf course. You will experience a better visual of your ball and more accurate distances than on the practice range.
- Get immediate and accurate feedback on the club and ball statistics thus enabling you to identify areas that require some fine-tuning.
- Playing eighteen holes requires less time as you do not have to walk to your ball after every shot thus saving a significant amount of time.
- Experience some of the best courses around the globe from the comfort of your home. Most software packages offer access to premier golf courses such as Pebble Beach, PGA National, Muirfield Village, St. Andrews, and more.
Composition of Golf Simulators
Golf simulators comprise various components including hardware and software to form a complete system.
A Simulator System Requires:
- Launch monitor
- Hitting mat
- Golf simulation software
- Computer or Smartphone
- Impact screen
- A room with dimensions of at least 10 feet wide x 10 feet deep x 8 feet high
- Simulator Enclosure
- Sound system
Launch monitors take readings at impact to provide accurate feedback and calculate the ball flight
Hitting mats may be required by some system as the data is collected from infrared sensors positioned within the mat linked to microchips that calculate ball flight. Some mats provide a variety of surfaces making it possible to play from the fairway or the rough for a more realistic experience.
The golf simulator software is generally loaded onto your computer or tablet which in turn connects to the projector that displays the images on the large screen.
A durable impact screen is required to absorb the ball and then display the surroundings as well as the ball flight.
To enable you to swing a driver you require quite a large room to set up your simulator. Ensure that the ceiling is high enough to allow you to follow through with your driver and complete the swing unhindered.
A proper sound system will provide the environmental sounds to filter through thus giving a more realistic feel to your experience.
An enclosure will keep the golf balls restricted to the area and catch any stray golf balls. This can come in the form of loose hanging nets or any other side protection.
Golf Simulator Measurements
Depending on the type of golf launch monitor or simulator software included golf ball and golf club measurements are taken and shown on the screen.
Subsets of the following data are made available on less expensive equipment while the most sophisticated systems can provide all of the data.
- Face angle
- Club path
- Clubhead speed
- Attack angle
- Swing plane
- Swing direction
- Dynamic loft
- Spin loft
- Ball speed
- Smash factor
- Launch angle
- Launch direction
- Ball flight
- Apex height
- Spin axis
- Spin rate
- Carry distance
- Landing angle
- Total distance
Distinct Types of Golf Simulators/Launch Monitors
There are several different technologies used to provide real-time feedback of both ball and club data. The two most popular technologies are laser (or Doppler) technology and photometric (or camera-based) technology
Laser launch monitors use Doppler technology which may be slightly less accurate than photometric devices. Both. Technologies use sophisticated algorithms to do calculations based on information collected at impact.
Photometric devices are based on between one and four high-speed cameras that take a range of photographs and then use this information to calculate the ball trajectory, carry distance, and other ball related information.
Although photometric devices can provide more accurate feedback on club and ball data at impact, they cannot track the ball flight after impact. However, if used outdoors wind and other environmental factors will not influence your readings.
Doppler technology is based on laser technology used in military defense systems. It is based on fixed-frequency radio waves transmitted from a base built into the device. The base monitors for reflected waves with a different frequency and measures the distance based on the variation between the frequencies. This is ideal for measuring moving objects, whether they are moving away from or towards your position.
How Do Golf Simulators work?
Based on the information provided thus far it is time to put it all together and explain the process of how golf simulators work.
To generate input data, you have to identify the club in use, swing the club, and create impact in the provided impact zone. This data is captured by the launch monitor or the hitting mat where the sensors are provided. This information is used as the input data for complex algorithms. As mentioned previously, the amount of data varies between the various available systems.
Photometric systems will generally only provide a subset of golf ball data as it is unable to take any images of the club path and relies on the images take at impact to compute the data and provide feedback.
After impact the data, whether images or radio waves, is processed by the complex algorithms to provide club and ball data as provided by the manufacturer.
Some algorithms can use input parameters such as wind, temperature, and altitude to provide more accuracy on the ball flight and distances.
Based on the input data captured and complex algorithmic calculations, the ball flight is calculated and projected onto the impact screen. This enables you to see where the ball lands and how far it rolls.
The quality of the projector, input data, and sound system will determine the quality of your experience. Top-end systems provide a life-like feeling that only requires a slight breeze to provide an authentic experience.
Golf Simulator Putting
To complete your experience some simulators provide a putting surface with undulations allowing you to put your putting skills to the test.
Cost of a Golf Simulator
Golf simulators offer suitable options for nearly all budgets ranging from around $1,000 to well over $100,000. Although not exactly the cheapest entertainment in town, once you have a simulator installed it requires little maintenance and provides hours of fun with family and friends.
Should you not be able to stretch your budget far enough, several companies have set up entertainment venues where you can experience the excitement and fun generated by golf simulators.
Although some areas are blessed with all-year-round weather that allows you to play golf, the pandemic pushed substantial portions of the world population indoors. The advent of golf simulators combined with the problems associated with the Covid 19 pandemic highlighted the benefit of having a golf simulator set up in your home.
Golf simulators allow you to work on your golf swing in the comfort of your home any time of day and year. Ultimately your game can only benefit from this experience.
Happy swinging on your favorite course.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.