Golf Simulator Buying Guide

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When shopping for a golf simulator, you need to consider several factors. First, prioritize sufficient space for both the setup and swinging of your longest club; assess portability for ease of transport; evaluate the compatibility and features of the simulator software; check out the accuracy of the tracking technology in the accompanying launch monitor; and most importantly, consider your budget.

Earlier this year, my dad was interested in setting up a golf simulator and sought my assistance. Being new to simulators, he didn’t know what to look for in a simulator or how to get one, so he enlisted my help. Eager to help, I researched vital features and factors to consider when purchasing a simulator.

One crucial aspect we focused on was the size, as he planned to install it in his garage and needed a simulator that accommodated both the space constraints and allowed him to use his longest club, the driving iron. Additionally, he desired a simulator offering a diverse range of courses and user-friendly software.

Considering his preference as a casual golfer, we aimed for a solution that was neither overly expensive nor overly complex. After thorough consideration, we settled on the Skytrak+ Flex Space Package, which checked all our boxes.

In the rest of this article, I will outline some crucial components of a simulator setup and highlight key features to consider when in the market for a simulator. Let’s delve into the details.

What are the components of a simulator?

Every simulator setup comprises six major components, and the quality of your simulator experience depends on how good these components are. Even though they can be found at different prices, I recommend you choose high-quality products to get the best simulation experience and the most out of your simulator for longer.

Launch Monitor

The launch monitor is vital as it monitors and analyzes your club and data, offering valuable insights to enhance your golfing skills. Launch monitors generally employ sensor pads, radar, cameras, or infrared technology to capture ball and club data. It’s crucial to note that not every launch monitor can track club data, so you need to consider your specific requirements when choosing a launch monitor.

Typically, the higher the accuracy and precision of the launch monitor data, the greater the cost involved. A reasonably priced launch monitor with a precision range of 85–90% may be suitable if you are a casual golfer using simulation for enjoyment and home practice. However, suppose you are a dedicated golfer or a golf coach. In that case, I suggest choosing a high-end, more expensive option like the GCQuad launch monitor for its exceptional precision and accuracy.

Golf Simulator Decision-Making Table

FactorDescriptionBrands to considerPrice RangeNotes
Accuracy and realismThe level of accuracy in ball tracking and the realism of the simulation experience. High accuracy and realistic graphics are crucial for a true-to-life golfing experience.SkyTrak, TrackMan$2000 – $25,000SkyTrak and TrackMan are known for their high accuracy.
Size and space requirementsThe space needed for the setup. Consider the room size, ceiling height, and area for swing.ProTee, Foresight Sports$5,000-$8,000ProTee is suitable for smaller spaces.
Software FeaturesThe range of courses, game modes, and analysis tools offered by the software.GCQuad, Full Swing$4,000 – $11,000Full Swing offers a wide range of software features.
Ease of Setup and UseHow easy it is to install and start using the simulator. User-friendly interfaces are important.OptiShot 2, Rapsodo$499 – $599OptiShot Two is known for its ease of setup.
Hardware QualityDurability and build quality of the physical components like the screen, turf, and sensors.TrackMan, GCQuad$11,000 – $25,000TrackMan has high-quality hardware.
PortabilityUser reviews and the importance of the brand in the market.Rapsodo, SwingBay$599- $9,300Rapsodo offers good portability.
Customization OptionsAvailability of custom setups like different screen sizes, software packages, etc.SkyTrak, Full Swing$2,000 – $11,000SkyTrak allows for significant customization.
PricingWhether the simulator is easily movable or fixed, portable simulators are great for those who want to practice in different locations.VariesA higher price often correlates with better features and quality, but it also assesses value for money.A higher price often correlates with better features and quality, but it also assesses value for money.
Customer Support and WarrantyThe quality of customer service and the duration and coverage of the product warranty. Good support and a comprehensive warranty are important for high-end electronics.All BrandsCheck individual product warranties and support services.
Reviews and reputationUser reviews and the reputation of the brand in the market.All BrandsOptiShot two is known for its ease of setup.

Hitting Net

FactorDescriptionConsiderationsPricing EstimatesRecommended Brands
Type & SizeSize and style of the net.Larger nets provide more room for error.
Smaller nets save space but limit shot types.
$179.99 – $1995Rukket Sports, The Net Return, Spornia
Material QualityDurability and net material.Look for UV-treated, heavy-duty netting.
Quality materials ensure longevity.
$179.99 – $895The Net Return, Spornia, Cimarron
Ease of SetupHow easy it is to set up and take down the net.Some nets are designed for quick and easy setup.
Portability can be important.
$199.99 – $319.99Spornia, Rukket Sports
StabilityAbility to withstand shots and environmental factors.Weighted bases or sturdy frames add stability.
important for outdoor use.
$199.99 – $319.99GoSports, The Net Return
Additional FeaturesExtra features like ball return, target sheets, etc.Features like ball return systems enhance practice.
Target sheets can help with aim.
$179.99 – $899Rukket Sports, Spornia
PortabilityEase of moving and storing the net.Compact and lightweight designs are more portable.
Consider storage space requirements.
$179.99 – $319.99Spornia, Rukket Sports
Brand ReputationEstablished quality and customer feedback.Research brands with positive reviews.
Consider the brand’s history in golf equipment.
Varies with brandThe Net Return, Cimarron, PGM
Indoor/Outdoor UseSuitability for various environments.– Some nets are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.<br>- Ensure enough space for indoor setup.$199.99 – $899The Net Return, Spornia, Cimarron

Many simulator setups come with hitting nets or screens; you might need to buy them separately. Consider factors like type, size, and shape when picking a hitting net. Some hitting bars are sold with yields and come at a more budget-friendly price, while others include impact screens designed to withstand golf ball impacts. These are usually more expensive.

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These screens vary in size, ranging from 7 feet wide and 7 feet high to as large as 14 feet wide. Your choice of measure should be based on the available space for your simulator. Sidebars are crucial for keeping balls within the hitting area after shots.

I’ve discovered that a retractable screen system is a great choice for a garage golf simulator. This system allows you to easily lower a full screen with just a button click, making it convenient for use in your garage or any room where the ability to make the screen disappear is advantageous.

Golf mat

FactorDescriptionConsiderationsPricing EstimatesRecommended Brands
Type of MatChoose between fairway, rough, and tee box mats.Fairway Mats: Simulate fairway conditions.
Rough Mats: Mimic tougher lies
Tee Box Mats: Allow for tees to be used.
$50 – $300Fiberbuilt, Callaway, SIGPro Softy
Material QualityDurability and feel of the mat.– High-density foam and durable turf
– Avoid mats that are too hard.
$100 – $400Real Feel Golf Mats
Size and PortabilitySize of the mat and ease of transport.– Larger mats offer more room but are less portable.
– Smaller mats are more portable but offer limited stance options.
$30 – $250SKLZ, Rukket Sports
Shock AbsorptionAbility to absorb the shock of a golf swing.– Essential for reducing the risk of injury.
– Look for good padding.
$100 – $500TrueStrike, Gorilla Golf
RealismHow closely the mat simulates real grass.Essential for reducing the risk of injury.
Look for good padding.
$150 – $600Country Club Elite, Fiberbuilt
Brand ReputationEstablished quality and customer feedback.Research brands are known for golfing equipment.
Read customer reviews and ratings.
Varies with productTitleist, Callaway
PricingThe cost of the mat relative to its features.Higher-quality mats provide a more realistic experience.
Important for serious golfers.
$30 – $600+Depends on specific needs
Additional FeaturesExtra features like ball trays, different lie surfaces, etc.– Features like adjustable tee heights, different turf conditions, and ease of cleaning.$50 – $400Putt-A-Bout, Izzo Golf
Warranty and SupportManufacturer’s warranty and customer support availability.– Look for products with a warranty.
– Check if the manufacturer offers customer support.
Varies with brandPGM, Champkey

I’ve learned that it’s always a great choice to choose golf mats that include tees. Selecting a mat that offers sufficient space for comfortable standing and swinging and accommodates your launch monitor is important. A recommended size is 5’x5′, and the SIGPro Softy 4’x7′ golf mat is highly functional.

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For a more immersive experience, particularly in a commercial setting, I recommend opting for a SIGPro 5’x10′ mat that syncs well with the screen. Opt formats that provide a realistic course-like feel and are gentle on your wrists during impact. If you’re considering a permanent installation, consider turfing the entire room area and installing hitting strips.

Projector 

FactorDescriptionConsiderationsPricing EstimatesRecommended Brands
ResolutionQuality of the image displayed– 4K for high-end, detailed graphics.
– 1080p for budget-friendly options.
$979 – $4,500BenQ, LG, Optoma
BrightnessClarity of the image in various lighting conditions– Higher lumens for brighter environments.
– 3000 lumens is a good baseline.
$979 – $4,500BenQ, LG, Optoma, Panasonic
Throw RatioDistance of the projector from the screen– Short throw for limited space.
– Standard throw for larger areas.
$979 – $1,999BenQ, Optoma, Panasonic
PriceBudget considerations– High-end options for better features.
– Budget options for basic setups.
$979 – $4,500BenQ, LG, Optoma, Panasonic
Additional FeaturesSpecific needs for golf simulation– Features like vertical keystone correction, 3D capabilities, etc.$979 – $4,500BenQ, LG, Optoma, Panasonic

A projector is necessary if you have a hitting bar with an impact screen. While initially using a laptop, when I upgraded to a BenQ 4K TK700ST projector, I realized the significant improvement in the virtual simulation experience and enjoyment. For commercial setups, a projector is essential. So, when selecting a projector, consider the room’s lighting.

Projectors like the TH671ST (1080p) or TK700STi (4K) with 3,000 lumens work well in darker rooms with controlled ambient light. The BenQ 4K LK936ST is suitable for spaces with less controllable lighting. Here are other factors to consider when choosing a projector:

  • Brightness (Lumens): Opt for a minimum of 3,000 lumens projector for the best visibility. Larger or well-lit spaces will require higher lumens, around 4,000 or more.
  • Resolution: Choose a projector with at least 1080p for a sharp and clear image. Some projectors go the extra mile with 4K resolution, providing an exceptional visual experience.
  • Throw Ratio: Tailor the throw ratio to your space. A short throw ratio suits smaller areas, allowing the projector to be closer to the screen, while a long throw ratio is ideal for larger rooms.
  • Input Lag: Low input lag is crucial for real-time responsiveness. Look for projectors with minimal input lag, ideally below 20 milliseconds, ensuring a swift and accurate depiction of your swings.
  • Contrast Ratio: Opt for a projector with a higher contrast ratio (at least 5,000:1) for improved clarity, especially in distinguishing between dark and light areas.
  • Keystone Correction: Both vertical and horizontal keystone correction features are valuable for rectifying image distortion and ensuring a properly proportioned and rectangular display.
  • Compatibility: Confirm compatibility with your golf simulator software and other devices. While HDMI ports are standard, additional features like USB or wireless connectivity enhance versatility.
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Computer

You’ll need a PC or an iPad to operate the launch monitor software. I suggest using a PC because it provides the advantage of customizable aspect ratios, unlike an iPad, which is limited to a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s crucial to ensure your laptop has a graphics card capable of supporting the graphics you wish to display using the software.

Before investing in a simulator setup, it’s vital to research the recommended computer specifications for the software you plan to run. Additionally, make sure your laptop can accommodate future software updates. When I initially purchased my laptop for the Foresight GC2 launch monitor, it worked well without any issues. However, as software updates that demanded more processing power became available, I had to acquire a new laptop to run the updated software effectively.

Software 

The software, which runs on your PC or iPad, converts the data associated with your golf swings into a virtual simulation experience. Various software options are available for different simulators, and most provide features like access to Swing data. Some software options require subscription packages to unlock certain features and access specific courses. I always choose to go for simulators with a good selection of preloaded courses that can help cut down on yearly subscription costs.

One noteworthy simulation software that I’ve come to appreciate is E6. It operates on a subscription basis, ranging from $300 to $600 per year, depending on the chosen package. E6 offers a wide range of on-course options and versatility for practice. The software boasts impressive graphics, though the green gridlines could be sharper and easier to read.

While the lighting effect may not be as spectacular, it simulates real-life course conditions. Despite these minor observations, E6 is a great option, allowing users to play courses worldwide.

Having covered the components that constitute your simulator setup, let’s delve into some factors you should consider when shopping for a simulator.

Factors you should take into account when shopping for a simulator

Space:

Begin by assessing the dimensions of the space where you intend to install the golf simulator. A dedicated area with sufficient width and height enhances the authenticity of your swings and ensures the projected image is displayed without distortion. When I initially set up my simulator in the garage, I faced a challenge with limited space for my swings. Additionally, there was insufficient room for placing my launch monitor behind me while maintaining the necessary distance from the screen.

Initially, I contemplated altering my swing but eventually adapted to the garage ceiling height. The key takeaway is ensuring adequate space when setting up your simulator. Ideally, I’ve found that the room should be 16 feet wide, 18 feet long, and have 10-foot-tall ceilings. This configuration allows for a central hitting position without an offset hitting location to avoid hitting walls during the backswing.

Simulators come in various sizes, with some designed for commercial purposes being larger. Therefore, it’s crucial to check the space recommendations for the specific simulator on the purchase website and ensure that your designated space aligns with the requirements.

Portability

I can confirm the significant benefits of integrating a portable golf simulator into my practice routine. The essence of portability lies in its seamless fit with my lifestyle, providing flexibility often lacking in traditional setups. Setting up my golf simulator was quick and easy; I could transition into a golf haven from my garage within minutes.

The lightweight design of crucial components, from the golf mat to the projection screen, is a game-changer. They are not only easy to transport, but dedicated carry bags ensure the protection and organization of my setup. The convenience of a foldable design allows me to store my simulator without sacrificing space, a crucial consideration given my limited room.

Reduced wiring complexity and compatibility with mobile devices add sophistication to the user experience.

In summary, a portable golf simulator is more than mere equipment; it’s a companion in my golfing journey. It brings the golf course to me, providing convenience and adaptability that align with my dynamic lifestyle. Whether for a quick practice session after work or an impromptu golf gathering at a friend’s place, the portability feature has made golf more accessible and enjoyable. Portability is a fundamental aspect of a simulator for a home setup.

Specific needs:

When I acquired my flight scope mevo+ training simulator package, my primary considerations were affordability, portability, and the desire for a system that offered valuable insights into club and ball data, creating an immersive simulation experience at home, particularly for my garage setup. This simulator met all my requirements.

The initial step is to assess your specific needs. Are you a casual golfer seeking entertainment or a dedicated player aiming to enhance your skills? If you are a serious golfer, precision is paramount. Seek a simulator with advanced shot analysis, high-speed cameras, and realistic course simulation to gain detailed insights and effective training. Focus on accuracy, realism, high-quality graphics, customization options, and integration with professional-grade software. Mat feels it is crucial; it should replicate the sensation of hitting shots from natural grass.

If you are a casual golfer, practicality and enjoyment are at the forefront of your needs. Affordability is key. Opt for cost-effective options with fundamental functionality. Simplicity is crucial; choose a simulator with an intuitive interface for an easy and enjoyable experience. While you may not require the intricacies of professional shot analysis, basic data feedback remains valuable for refining your game.

Budget

Simulators come in diverse budgets, offering options from budget-friendly to high-end systems. When selecting a simulator, balancing desired features and cost is crucial, focusing on functionalities essential to your golfing goals within your budget constraints. Viewing the simulator as a long-term investment can guide you toward durable and valuable systems.

If you are a beginner entering the world of simulators, the entry-level options priced from $500 to $1,500 provide a practical starting point. While they may offer fewer features than pricier options, they deliver decent performance for beginners. You can also choose mid-range options, such as the Flightscope Mevo+ training package in the $1,500 to $5,000 range, to balance quality and more advanced features. As your commitment to the game grows, so does the investment.

Premium simulators in the $5,000 to $15,000 range, like the Skytrak Plus golf simulator flex space package and the Uneekor QED SIG12 Golf Simulator Package, offer an elevated experience with realistic graphics and detailed shot analysis. Suppose you are a serious golfer or a pro athlete. In that case, you can go with professional-grade simulators priced at $15,000 and above, such as the TruGolf Vista 10 Golf Simulator, which showcases cutting-edge innovation.

DIY Simulator Setup

Setting up a simulator setup can be expensive, particularly for a high-end and immersive experience. However, creating your DIY simulator, while less immersive and with some trade-offs, can still offer a fantastic and enjoyable experience for casual golfing, especially if you are on a budget.

It would help if you started with a quality launch monitor. In the price range of $2,000 to $7,000, you can acquire a monitor that provides accurate shot data without straining your budget. I opted for the SkyTrak Launch Monitor, which has served me well. This component is the backbone of your setup, and allocating a reasonable budget here is worthwhile.

Moving on to the hitting mat, a crucial element for comfortable and realistic swings, you can find one in the range of $500 to $1,500. The SIGPRO Softy 4′x7′ Golf Mat is an excellent and budget-conscious choice, particularly for smaller spaces.

The Impact Screen, falling between $500 and $1,500, will help you bring visual elements to life, creating a backdrop for virtual golf courses and enhancing the simulation experience. Consider a projector in the $500 to $2,000 range for projection. A great projector like the BenQ 4K TK700STi, offering great 4K resolution and picture quality at a more affordable price, transforms your setup into a visually engaging space.

For PC and simulator software, you can go for something in the range of $500 to $1,000 that will offer you a range of courses, training programs, and overall functionality.

These elements collaboratively contribute to the creation of a top-notch home simulator, delivering an exceptional simulation experience.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right golf simulator involves evaluating factors that collectively shape your virtual golfing experience. Each element contributes to the overall setup, from ensuring adequate space dimensions and prioritizing portability to selecting key components like launch monitors, hitting bars, golf mats, projectors, computers, and software.

Whether you’re a golf beginner or casual golfer choosing an entry-level option or a pro athlete investing in a premium setup, the goal is to tailor the simulator to one’s preferences, ensuring it becomes a source of joy, improvement, and easy access to the golf course within the confines of your space.

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Fredrick

Hello, I'm Fredrick, and I have a genuine passion for golf. With over 15 years of immersion in the golfing industry, I've not only played the game extensively but also honed my skills in crafting informational guides on golf. Golf is not just a sport to me; it's a way of life, and I'm thrilled to share my expertise with fellow enthusiasts.