Golf is an outdoor sport. It’s best enjoyed with your golfing buddies under a clear sky with a cool breeze and a great view. In a perfect world, you grab your bag and head to your favorite course – any time of day, week or season. Unfortunately, the weather has a way of ruining your golfing plans, whether it’s too cold, too windy, too hot, too rainy or too dark.
Let me introduce you to the beauty of golf simulators. Golf simulators, as the name implies, is a tool that you can use to simulate the wonderful game of golf, without the risk of bad weather. It can be something as simple as a video game or something as complicated as a complete system in a dedicated room with a hitting screen and projector that projects the wonderful view what you would have missed.
Now, I’m not saying swap the green for a screen, you still go out and play on those beautiful days, because in all honesty, nothing beats golf outdoors on a good day. No, I’m talking about all those other days (they can be many, depending on where you live) when the weather is not ideal.
You don’t even have to miss the view. There are many high-res backdrops, like the one just below, which makes it look like you are still on the course, and that the weather is great!
Oh, and golf simulators can also film you while you play and analyse the ball and swing path to help you improve your own golfing game. It records the angle that you hit the ball at, speed, trajectory, distance and impact.
OK, so let’s get into it. If you’re still reading at this point, I will assume that you are serious about this, and you want to know more. You want to know if it’s worth the investment. You want to know what your options are, and which is the best one. In this article we will run through the following, to help you find the best one for you:
- A buyer’s guide to help you find exactly what YOU want and need
- A guide on what to look for in a golf simulator
- Hardware, software, dimensions and other technical specs
- Best options if you’re looking to turn your garage into an indoor golf range or course
- Best options if you are looking to set one up in your home (a spare room perhaps?)
- Best DIY options
- Best simulators for an outdoor setup, with or without cover
- Best golf simulators for the professionals
- Best options for a commercial setting
- And much more…
Don’t make the mistake of buying whatever’s the most expensive thinking that it’s the best. Also, don’t buy the cheapest one thinking that it will do. We all have different needs and preferences and different simulators offer different things.
While we’re on the topic of mistakes, read this post to know the number 1 mistake that baby boomer golfers make.
We want to help you find the best golf simulator that will fit your needs and preferences. This is why we’ve put together this article that you should use as a guide to make sure that you’ll buy the right one for you.
What to Look to Find the Best Golf Simulators
Needless to say, a technology such as this can only be as good as its hardware.
The setup has to be high-spec. You can build one yourself, but for best results, a good system comes with a customized rig that’s loaded with the hardware needed for use with golf simulation.
Here are the other hardware needs:
A lot of golfers use a simulator to check their form and this makes the camera very important. In addition, the camera setup will also determine the ball flight model. Make sure to take note of the number of cameras included. In most cases, a setup with 2 high speed cameras works best. They’ll be set up in two different 90 degree angles to come up with a ball flight model that will rival real world accuracy.
Once you’ve seen that your form needs work, follow these 10 tips to improve your golf game.
Radar and sonic sound systems
These are strategically-placed to gather pertinent data. The radar system will record the ball’s launch angle, trajectory and speed to determine the distance. It will also record the direction.
On the other hand, the sonic sound system will determine the impact position. However, this is deemed outdated and isn’t used on most modern systems.
This mat is packed with sensors that track information like the club speed and angle. There are usually three sensors – the back sensor that tracks the speed and angle before impact and the second that tracks them after impact. The third sensor tracks the direction that the ball takes.
The simulator mat is usually an astroturf grassed mat. You can choose between a multi-surface mat and a realistic fairway mat.
You can get a screen that’s part of a PVC golf cage or as a standalone projection strike screen. The latter will have eyelets for the elastic cord fittings. The former will have the same plus a PVC cage that’s usually around 4.5 by 5 by 3 meters (width, depth and height).
It has to be full HD 1080p. More specifically, the resolution has to be 5760 x 1080.
If you’re not using a cage, a net can provide an enclosure.
Of course, you’d need software to run the hardware. Here are the things that you should check:
Number of courses
A golf simulation software with a limited number of courses can get pretty boring really quick. A good software should have hundreds of courses, with some of them offering up to more than a hundred thousand courses. Make sure to check the list of courses so you’ll know if your favorites are on there.
Stats that they track
You’d want the software to help you get better so you need numbers to crunch. Here are some stats that a good golf simulator software should track:
- Club speed
- Ball speed
- Shot height
- Flight time
In addition, these details should be included as well:
- Swing path
- Club face
- Back and side spin
Customization of settings
Golf is an individual sport. This is why the technology should match your needs and preferences. It should give you the ability to do the following:
- Create and edit player profiles.
- Have your own user interface.
- Customize the stats to track.
- Choose from different camera views.
You’d probably love a 10 by 15 setup. However, you have to consider if it’s going to fit in the area where you want it to be. How much space do you have to spare? That’s an important consideration before you check out our top picks.
Our Top Picks
Best Golf Simulator for a Garage
After looking at a number of options, we have picked out the OptiShot 2 Home Golf Simulator Package as our number one Golf Simulator for Garage use.
OptiShot 2 Home Simulator Features
- The Net Return Home Series Golf Net
It can fit most garages as it’s only 7 feet high. Complete dimensions of this net are 7 feet tall by 7 feet wide by 3.6 feet long. Made of 1.5 inch steel tubular frame, it’s very durable.
- The Net Return Home Series Side Barriers
Protect the contents of your garage from mishits with these side barriers.
- The Net Return Pro Turf Golf Mat
You can easily roll it like a carpet once you’re done with it. It can also be used outdoors.
This package comes with the OptiShot2 Golf Simulator.
It’s equipped with 15 standard golf courses along with other entertaining game types. It also has 16 IR sensors for accurate tracking.
To make sure, check if your garage can accommodate a setup with dimensions of 8.6 feet high, 11 feet wide and 16 feet long.
Pros & Cons
|It’s very affordable.||Some golfers find the number of courses very limited.|
|It’s easy to set up and you can easily get it out of the way once you’re done with it.|
|You can connect it to your TV.|
|It’s durable enough to be used outdoors.|
|The sensors are very accurate.|
Best Home Indoor Golf Simulator
Pound for pound, it’s hard to beat the SkyTrak Platinum Golf Simulator Studio if you’re looking for something for the indoors. It’s an award-winning package. It’s awarded by Golf Digest as the golf simulator that offers the best value this 2018.
This is the all-in-one indoor golf simulator package that you’re looking for.
Features of the SkyTrak Platinum Golf Simulator Studio
- SkyTrak Launch Monitor
The accuracy it offers rivals that of launch monitors that can be 10 times more expensive. It’s packed with the latest in photometric technology and is updated with algorithms that ensure accuracy, at a portable and easy to set up package.
- The Net Return Simulator Series Golf Net & Screen
The design is rugged yet lightweight. It has this nifty floating design that allows it to handle the hardest shots you can give it. You don’t have to worry about the ball bouncing back to you. The entire setup has a high density net setup that includes barriers at the side.
- The Net Return Projector Mount Kit
This makes setting up this system a breeze. There’s no need to connect the projector to your ceiling or a wall. It’s ready to go in 15 minutes.
- The Net Return Pro Turf Golf Mat
Measuring 6 by 10 feet, this is bigger than most return mats in the market. This means that you don’t have to worry about running out of space when swinging especially if you have a long reach.
You get 3 options for the software:
- Basic Practice Range Package
You get the SkyTrak Launch Monitor and Companion App. It also includes the Basic Plan with 3D Practice Range and Shot Tracer, data to track the ball performance and replay of your shots.
- Game Improvement Package
You get everything in the Basic Practice Range Package plus a one-year subscription to the Game Improvement Plan and a protective case.
- Tee Off (WGT) Package
You get everything included in the Game Improvement Package plus a one-year subscription to the WGT Play & Improve Plan that includes access to World Golf Tour Full Course Play.
The recommended ceiling height is at least 9 feet. As mentioned, the turf is 6 feet wide and 10 feet long. Make sure that there’s space for the golf net and screen. A couple of feet space on all sides is ideal.
Pros & Cons
|Amazing accuracy.||Can be slow.|
|Easy to set up and use.||The projector is not included in the package, but you can also order it at a discounted price.|
|All important ball data are tracked.|
Best DIY Home Golf Simulator (Budget Option)
We feel that the OptiShot 2 Golf In A Box Simulator Package is the best value for money package that you can easily set up on your own.
It’s very affordable at less than $800 but it can really help you improve your swing any time of the year. It’s also very easy to set up so if you feel like it, just set it up in your garage.
Features of the OptiShot 2 Golf in a Box Simulator Package
- Infrared Optical Golf Simulator Swing Pad
This swing pad can track statistics like the speed and angle of the club head, contact point, tempo, distance and swing plane. You’ll get real-time feedback for each of your swing that will complement the dynamic display on the screen.
- OptiShot Practice Net
Protect your garage and its contents with this sturdy practice net.
- OptiShot Hitting Mat
You’ll get this feeling that you’re in a real fairway which is important in a golf simulation setup.
This package comes bundled with the OptiShot 3DD Golf Software by Dancin’ Dogg. It’s compatible with Mac and Windows and is widely-considered to be the top golf simulation software in the whole world. You get an extensive library of golf courses that are very familiar with the original ones.
This setup also has two game modes – Play and Practice. It’s like having access to golf courses and driving ranges right in your garage.
The ceiling of your garage has to be at least 8.5 feet. It’s also recommended that you use it in a garage (or room for that matter) that’s 12 by 12 feet.
Pros & Cons
|The list of golf course, while already extensive, is always expanding.||It’s not as accurate as more expensive simulators.|
|Compatible with Mac and Windows.|
|Affordable at less than $800.|
|Can be set up in any 12 by 12 by 8.5 (length x width x height) feet garage or room.|
|8 different game types for a fun experience.|
|Various customization options.|
|The head-up display displays important feedback including full session data.|
|Setup is easy.|
Get OptiShot 2 Golf In A Box Simulator Package today and get the following freebies:
- 10 foot USB cable
- 2 foam practice balls
- 2 adjustable rubber tees
Best Outdoor Golf Simulator
While it can also be used indoors, the SkyTrak Home Golf Simulator Package with The Net Return is the best outdoor golf simulator there is.
SkyTrak Home Golf Simulator Package Features
- The Net Return Golf Net
You can get the home series that comes with a one year warranty. Better yet, get the pro series that comes with a 250,000 shot warranty.
The latter is more lightweight at just 28 pounds and is made of an aluminum 1.5 inch tubular frame.
- The Net Return Side Barriers
In just 5 minutes, you can set it up to help prevent accidents brought upon by mishits.
- The Net Return Golf Mat
It’s tough enough to be used outdoors. Use it as a putting green for practice as well.
This package comes with the SkyTrak Launch Monitor. This means that it offers amazing accuracy and has features that can really help you improve your game. You can choose from the Basic Practice Range Package, Game Improvement Package and Tee Off (WGT) Package.
Dimensions are 8’6″ high by 12′ wide by 12′ long if you choose the Pro Turf Golf Mat.
Pros & Cons
|It can be used both indoors and outdoors.||Some users have reported issues with their home connection if involving a laptop.|
|It’s very portable so you can easily switch from indoors to outdoors and vice-versa.|
|It offers amazing value for money. In fact, it’s voted as the best golf simulator package under $3,000.|
With this golf simulator, you can finally solve the problem of punk kids hitting better golf drives than you.
Best PRO Golf Simulator
Golf pros absolutely love the SkyTrak TGC GS13 Studio. Get access to over 150,000 golf courses while enjoying the following features.
Features of the SkyTrak TGC GS13 Studio
- 1080 HD Ultra Short Throw Projector and Impact Screen
See everything in high definition with the combination of the projector and impact screen. It’s so high-def that users have been known to use it to watch movies. Also included is a projector box so there’s no need to hardwire.
- Ulti Mat2 mat system
This is the well-known mat system of TGC. This means that this simulator has no cut-out.
- Canopy and light bar
These add to the amazing experience you’ll get using this simulator.
The system runs using the Skytrak Launch Monitor. Known for being very accurate, it leads to an enjoyable experience that even pros would love. It also has the Golf Club Simulator Software that gives you access to over 150,000 golf courses. Not even the most seasoned golf professional has played in that many golf courses.
The footprint is 13’6″ wide by 16’6″ long by 9′ high.
Pros & Cons
|It’s very portable.||The dimensions are rather big so it’s not for every home.|
|You get access to 150,000+ golf courses.||Expensive|
|You can also use it to watch movies or play games.|
|It utilizes the universal golf studio concept that allows you to switch between golf simulators.|
|It’s very easy to assemble.|
Best Commercial Golf Simulator (For Businesses)
You’d be hard-pressed to find something better than the ProTee Golf Simulator Ultimate Edition. It features stunning high definition 4K graphics that you’ll find customers preferring to play in your establishment than out there in a real golf course.
Features of the ProTee Golf Simulator Ultimate Edition
- All-aluminum frame
Its all-aluminum frame shows that it really means business. It comes ready to be assembled using one allen wrench.
- Commercial grade mat
This mat is raised by a rubber base. It has the Protee built-in plush sensor. This is the best sensor mat that is on the market right now.
- High speed camera
This system doesn’t miss a shot, so to speak. This camera tracks the ball and its launch angle and spin rate.
- Halogen light system
Accept players 24/7 if you want to with the well-lighted ProTee Golf Simulator Ultimate Edition. The halogen light system will make sure that golfers will have their eyes on the ball.
- BenQ short throw projector
Your choice out of the more than a hundred thousand golf courses and driving ranges will be projected on the screen.
Padded and seamless, you’ll forget that you’re looking at a screen.
This system comes equipped with the ProTee Golf 2.0 and TGC software. It’s packed with more than a hundred thousand golf courses and driving ranges. You can even design your own golf course.
With the included software, you get to enjoy real time play and join live tournaments. Their technology allows for stunning graphics and realistic experience.
Dimensions are 15 feet wide, 10 feet long and 10 feet high. A good thing about this is the size can be customized to fit your available space.
Pros & Cons
|More than a hundred thousand golf courses and driving ranges with the ability to design more golf courses.||With a system as complete as this, it’s not for everybody’s budget.|
|HD graphics up to 4k.|
|No wait time in between holes.|
|Enjoy real time play in real time physics.|
|High speed cameras and IR sensors provide amazing data.|
|While designed for commercial use, it can also be for home use.|
|Dimensions can be customized to fit your available space.|
|No cutting or drilling required.|
Some Final Words
So there you have it, now you should have all of the knowledge you need to buyer the perfect Golfing Simulator for your personal life. Choose carefully because these are likely going to be something you will use a lot and for many years to come!
Let us know in the comments below which one you decided to go with. Or maybe you decided to go with a different one, not on this list. Either way, we would love to know!