golf simulatorThe best way to improve your skills with a club is clearly to spend as much time on the course as possible but that’s not to say that there aren’t ways of honing your technique from the comfort of your home. Golf simulators have come down in price in recent years and are viewed by many as being the perfect practice tool. There can’t be many golfers who haven’t tried a simulator of one type or another. They have existed for over fifty years and regularly crop up at The Open Championship and other events where large numbers of golfers congregate. They have even given rise to an increasing number of ‘golf bars’, where players can enjoy food and drink whilst playing a simulated round. The question is, ‘do they really work or are they simply glorified computer games?’

The Pros

The obvious advantage that golf simulators have over the real thing is that there is no chance that you will damage your equipment or injure either yourself or a member of the public whilst playing a simulated game, meaning that it is safe to use them even if you don’t have golf club insurance. They also provide the opportunity to play in a convenient, controlled environment, free of pressure, green fees and tee times.

The Cons

Installing a golf simulator in your house means that you may miss out on the social and competitive aspects of the sport. Using a simulator at a golf bar can ensure that this does not happen but will mean that players feel just as pressured as they would if they were taking their shots on an actual golf course. No matter how realistic the graphics are on these simulations, they will also never be able to perfectly mimic the visual sensations associated with playing the game on a course and the player will not receive the same level of exercise. Players will not miss out on exercise altogether though because, as golf professional and simulator enthusiast James Day pointed out in an interview with The Telegraph in 2010, ‘Golf is all about balance, and flexibility. Plus it’s good to work on your back, hips and hamstrings in any case, as it will stop you having problems later.’

Are They Realistic?

Modem-day simulators vary in their accuracy and realism depending on how much money you are willing to spend on them. Whilst the simulators at the bottom end of the market might not play anything like an actual game of golf, some of the more expensive systems have received widespread praise for their closeness to the real thing. New technologies such as auto ball feed and changes in the degree of slope in the hitting area now allow the golfer to experience the sensation of playing the ball where it lies no matter what position it is in. This helps to further the idea that you are playing on a golf course rather than in your living room.

Practical Factors

One of the perks of playing golf is that the clubs do not take up much room in your house. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of golf simulators. Getting these machines ready for use can take up to half an hour so it is advisable to find a permanent area to install them. Most simulators do not work outside so you will inevitably end up having a room dominated by your system. They also tend not to work in places where a bright light is present, which limits the amount of places where they can be played. As well as needing sufficient space to install the simulator, players also need enough room to swing a club. There are a number of technical requirements to consider as well. Most simulators require a computer with a decent graphics card and some require a projector screen. Some simulators are available with a projector and computer as a full package but these simulators are likely to set you back a minimum of $2400.

The Conclusion

Whilst using a golf simulator can clearly never fully replicate the experience of playing the game for real, it can still create a realistic, golf-like experience that is not too dissimilar to actually playing a round. Using these programs with friends means that the social element is not lost and installing them at home can help players to improve their skills at times when they cannot get on the course.