For those of us golfers located in the colder, more northern regions (did you know that Canada has over 2,300 golf courses? Not bad eh?), nothing is more frustrating than having to put the clubs away and wait out the winter. But what if we told you that you could play Pebble Beach when its 9°F in January without ever having to get on plane. Not good enough? How about we sweeten the deal a bit and tell you the whole thing will only cost you about the price of a couple of beers? Ok, so maybe an indoor golf simulator is not the same as the real thing but lately the popularity of golf simulators have really been taking off. Indoor golf simulators offer a sort of “bowling alley for golfers” feel and are a great place to hang out with friends, have a few drinks, and work on your game during the off-season.
Another huge benefit of using a golf simulator is that you don’t have to put 5 hours into a round like you may be used to when visiting a public course on a busy Saturday morning. At an indoor facility, an 18-hole round of golf takes the average group of golfers about 2 hours to play at a cost of around $30 per hour. The best part is that $30 is the cost of the booth and is not the price per individual. Applying some simple math, $60 divided by four golf buddies…$15.00 each!
The facilities usually offer you a menu of courses which may include some of the classic tracks like Pebble Beach, TPC Sawgrass, The Old Course at St. Andrews, and even Augusta National. The realistic 3D graphics on the over-sized screen provides you about as close of a feeling of being right there on the course as you’re going to get without trying to pass through airport security with your clumsy golf bag.
While graphics provide a nice visual experience what’s more important is that the accuracy of newer simulators is spot on – so if you slice it, you’ll suffer just like out on the course. Most of today’s modern simulators are so accurate that they’ll even be able to tell you how far off the club’s sweet spot you were, right down to a half inch in either direction. Some of the common swing statistics measured by golf simulators include important indicators such as swing tempo, club head speed (at impact), face angle (degrees open or closed at impact), path (inside out or outside in), rotation of the club face at impact, ball speed, and even launch angle. All of these statistics are given instantly after making contact with the ball and some simulators even display a helpful graphic showing you path the club face took through the ball. All of this can provide valuable insight into your swing that you may otherwise overlook because it all happens within a fraction of a second.
Most simulators also come equipped with a touch screen allows you to redo a shot, change clubs, and even see different views of the hole. This can be helpful when first getting used to the feel of playing on a simulator.
One thing that hasn’t really been perfected yet is putting; which can be tricky at best and a bit confusing at worst on a golf simulator. The average simulator tee is 12 feet to the screen so for example, if you have a 6 ft putt, you simply hit the ball half way to the screen. If putting on a simulator seems like a waste of time, you can always select the “auto putt” option, where the computer marks down a random number of putts on your score card based on how close your final shot landed in relation to the pin (for example, if you put your approach shot within 15 ft of the pin, the simulator will normally grant you a two-putt and close out the hole). This “auto putt” feature also helps move the game along (remember, most simulators charge by the hour, not by the round).
The biggest advantage of a golf simulator is the ability to conveniently play and practice golf in a controlled environment even when the weather doesn’t permit you to do so outdoors. Most indoor golf facilities offer the ability to run a league during the off-season similar to a bowling league, where the players would gather once a week and play 18 holes.
Too cold outside to even leave the house for a short ride over to the local indoor golf facility? Perhaps it’s time to think about relocating. But if that’s not an option, there some easy ways to install an indoor golf simulator right in your own home. The prices for home simulators range from the a few hundred dollars to about $50,000, depending on how sophisticated you want to get. However, something like the OptiShot Infrared Home Golf Simulator can be purchased for a few hundred dollars and all you need is a net and TV screen.
Overall the simulator can provide a fun and inexpensive experience that can provide some solid insight into your game. So call up your local golf simulator facility and book a “tee time” this week. It’s a great way to stay limber and prevent yourself from swinging like a rusty Tin Man come spring time.