Tiger Woods - Sawgrass
Play Stations
In-home golf simulators are more realistic than ever.
by Larry Olmsted
Wine aficionados dream of a dedicated cellar, pool sharks a billiards room, book lovers a classic library. Now, thanks to technological leaps, golf junkies can live out their own indoor fantasies by installing a practice range with the world’s best golf courses inside their homes—just as many top PGA Tour pros have already done. Today’s ball-flight tracking “launch monitors” often combine multiple military and civilian technologies, from high-speed 3-D cameras to Doppler radar, accurately predicting the results of shots, while improved video quality and GPS course mapping make the on-screen experience much more realistic. Golf simulators basically allow you to see a hole on the screen in front of you, tee up a driver, and let it fly into the screen. The tech analyzes your ball speed, loft, angle, and spin to determine where it would land on the course in real life, and then the software takes you virtually down the on-screen fairway to the location where you hit your next shot. For game improvement, you can practice at the “range” and get the kind of swing analysis offered at top golf academies, working on improving consistency, distance, shot shape, and critically analyzing minor tweaks or swing changes. Top simulators vary in terms of features and the slate of courses they allow you to play, but the best are more realistic than ever and typically include bucket-list rounds like St. Andrews or Pebble Beach. Most require custom installations, similar to an elaborate home theater.
PGA Tour’s Choice
Full Swing Pro is the officially licensed simulator of the PGA Tour, the one found in popular Topgolf Swing Suites nationwide, and it’s used on NBC’s Golf Channel. The company makes two categories of simulators, but the top-tier Pro lives up to its name, as you can find it in the homes of everyone from Tiger Woods to Jon Rahm to Jason Day, even non-golf star-athletes like Steph Curry. The big differentiator is that this is the only model on the market that combines high-speed cameras with infrared. This means your ball passes through two layers of light wave technology via nearly 700 sensors to display ball flight in real time with no delay. Pick from over 100 championship golf courses, including exclusive PGA Tour stops like TPC Sawgrass and TPC Scottsdale, with the option to see every shot followed by video playback of your club head through impact with 12 key points of club and ball analysis for game improvement. Custom installation from $39,900; fullswinggolf.com
Truly Immersive
AboutGOLF makes a few high-end indoor golf simulators, all of which leverage “machine vision,” or multiple high-speed cameras working in tandem to capture extremely realistic flight physics. But what sets the aboutGOLF Curve apart is its namesake arc-shaped screen, which curves around the field of vision to create an amazingly immersive experience, especially with the included 4K HD projector. Custom-made screens allow for infinite sizing, and as a bonus, all take up a smaller footprint than conventional flat models. There are 77 courses offered, including the three famous ones at Pebble Beach, all four at Kohler, public and private US Open venues like Bethpage Black and Hazeltine, and dozens of international courses including the best of Asia, the Caribbean, and the Old and New courses at St. Andrews in Scotland. From $62,750; aboutgolf.com
Top Analysis
If you’ve gone for a club fitting or high-end swing analysis, or to any driving range with digital shot tracking, there is a good chance you experienced industry-favorite Trackman technology, the biggest name in launch monitors. Luxury resorts, ranging from the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai to Boyne Highlands, have been falling over themselves to install these, but now you can have the monitor and simulator at home. Trackman Virtual Golf 2’s new TM4 monitor combines cameras with two different radar systems to do what no one else does: one tracks everything the club does before, during, and after impact (club path, face angle, swing direction, and spin loft); the other handles ball flight (launch angle, spin rate, curvature, and more). The result is the best of swing and ball flight analyses, great for training and equally good as part of the VG2 home simulator. For this, the company remapped all courses with LIDAR-equipped drones for unprecedented virtual recreation. Play 116 courses, of which a third are Tour venues, with 2–3 new courses added monthly. From $44,000; trackmangolf.com
3-D Simulation
Golf is played in three dimensions, but most simulators only account for one when it comes to hitting balls off the fairway. Golfzon Vision Premium’s big edge is its unique swing plate, a motorized base under the hitting mat that can tilt the entire mat left or right, forward or back, to create the kind of sidehill lies, upslopes, and downslopes common on a real course. It also has simulated surfaces to recreate hitting shots out of the rough and sand, and even automated ball teeing so you never have to bend over. Options include nearly 200 courses (St. Andrews, Pebble Beach, Harbour Town, Kiawah, etc.) and it tracks ball flight with a ceiling-mounted high-speed camera. From $46,000; golfzongolf.com
Putt Focused
The old golf adage goes, “Drive for show, putt for dough,” and remains true to this day. A 3-foot putt counts as much as a 300-yard drive, and for most amateurs, nearly half the shots each round are putts. Yet few recreational players practice putting, but now those who want to can easily do so at home. Less a simulator than an artificial green, this is the latest and greatest option for off-course practice. Full Swing Virtual Green is a synthetic putting turf with motorized actuators below the surface that can reshape the surface in 3-D to replicate any putt in golf at the touch of a button. A varying degree of breaks is possible, left to right, right to left, uphill, downhill, tiers, and more. You can even work on your ability to read greens with projected lines along the surface to show you the correct solution. For the ultimate home golf suite, couple this with one of the full-swing simulators above (that’s what Tiger Woods, Jason Day, and Jon Rahm did in their homes). From $70,900; fullswinggolf.com