How Do Golf Simulators Work?
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How Do Golf Simulators Work?

How Do Golf Simulators Work?

As technology advances each year, golf simulators are becoming increasingly realistic and are providing golfers a legitimate alternative to real golf.  They can even offer benefits that real golf can’t.  If you’ve heard the buzz around golf simulators then you may be interested in learning exactly how they work. In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into golf simulators, how they work, why you might want to use one, and what you need to set one up.

Golf Simulator Benefits

Golf simulators provide a number of benefits that even real golf can’t offer.  The first is the ability to play golf any time and in any weather condition.  For people that have to put their clubs away during the winter, this is particularly beneficial. 

Rather than hitting into a net or not swinging at all, golf simulators allow you to actually see the performance of your shots and keep your game fresh in the offseason.

Golf simulator set up


Playing with a simulator also requires significantly less time. Most rounds can be completed easily in under an hour and there is no commitment to even play all 18 holes.  Many simulators also enable you to play cool courses that you would not have the opportunity to play in real life. Courses like Pebble Beach, PGA National, Muirfield Village, St. Andrews, and more.

Lastly, using a golf simulator has some serious game improvement benefits.  You get instant feedback on each shot you hit with all the data a golf simulator provides.  This way you see exactly what may have caused your errant, or straight, shot and use that feedback to improve. 

How do golf simulators work? - The Basics

Golf simulators are very easy to use and are all used in a pretty similar fashion.  First, you place your ball in the designated hitting area (usually a swing mat). Depending on the system, some simulators allow you to place the ball across a wide area while others require a very specific placing of the ball.  Once your ball is placed correctly, simply make your swing.  The simulator works by analyzing a large amount of data produced from your golf shot.  Things such as ball speed, spin, launch angle, etc. 

Some of the most common technologies to measure this data include:

  • Radars
  • Cameras
  • Optical sensors
  • Sensor mats

Once it has this data the simulator will then determine where your ball will go and simulate your shot on a screen. A golf simulator allows you to see the entire flight of the ball from beginning to end in real time. You don’t even have to worry about repairing ball marks or replacing divots!

Along with seeing the result of your shot, a golf simulator will typically display various data points to help you get an even better picture of your result. After your shot, the simulator will take you to your next shot until you’ve finished the hole.  Most simulators even simulate putting and chipping. 

How do golf simulators work? - Launch Monitor vs. Golf Simulator

Many people might confuse launch monitors with golf simulators. In many cases, launch monitors and simulators go hand in hand. This is because many launch monitors have their own golf simulation software or integrate with something that does.  However, launch monitors and simulators are not always one in the same.  A launch monitor is a system that analyzes various measurements during a golf shot.  They will capture things like ball speed, spin, launch angle, carry, flight path, club path, etc. Golf simulators then take all the data provided by a launch monitor and use it to accurately simulate the shot on a virtual golf course.

Products such as SkyTrak, GC2, or Trackman are typically thought of as launch monitors first but also have the ability to incorporate simulation software. Whereas golf simulator brands, such as Golfzon or Full Swing, are strictly golf simulators and typically sold as one complete package including everything you need for golf simulation. Although they have some sort of launch monitor technology it is not usually sold separately.


What do you need to set up a golf simulator?

To run a golf simulator you need a few important pieces of equipment as well as a good space to make a full swing. At a minimum, here is what you need to get most simulators up and running:

  • A launch monitor
  • Golf simulation software
  • Hitting mat
  • Computer/tablet
  • Golf net
  • A room with dimensions of at least 10’W x10’D x 8’ H

For better user experience, you might want to use a projection screen rather than a golf net.  If you choose that route, you would also need a golf simulator projector.  It can be quite confusing and sometimes more costly to purchase all the items separately. Rain or Shine Golf makes it easy and provides various golf simulator packages that provide you with everything you need to get up and running with your golf simulator.


How much do golf simulators cost?

The cost of a golf simulator, including the necessary equipment, can range anywhere from around $1000 all the way up to $50,000.  One of the biggest factors in cost is the overall technology used.  Some of the most affordable golf simulators may only measure a few data points and be less comprehensive than the more expensive systems.

Another big cost factor is your overall room set up.  You can use a simple hitting mat with a net and view your shot on a home computer screen. Or you can opt for a large projector screen, high-resolution projector, and high end hitting mat complete with different length turfs

The overall feature stack of a golf simulator can also affect the price.  On the cheaper end, simulators may only provide a driving range and a few courses to play.  On the high end, a simulator may provide multiple gameplay options, hundreds of courses, skills challenges, games, competitions, and more.

Luckily there is a golf simulator set up for just about any budget.  If you are interested in a golf simulator for yourself it may be helpful to check out our Best Golf Simulators of 2019.