The game of golf is rich in tradition and history. For centuries, it has been a focal point of how many people socialize, unwind, and compete.
New technology and innovations have constantly been improving the game of golf. We’ve seen it in the design of clubs, golf balls, and training methods to improve your game. We now have more tools than ever to perform better, navigate the course more efficiently, and even make the game more accessible to anyone at any time.
Part of that evolution is the golf simulator. It’s brought the game from the course to a virtual setting that can be accessed anywhere at any time. It’s even becoming a helpful tool that provides data to improve your game.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into golf simulation. We’ll cover how it has improved the game and will continue to innovate in the coming years. If you’re ready to learn about the future of the golf simulator, let’s get started.
Before we get into the future, let’s first take a quick look back at where golf simulation started. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how far this technology has already come.
The first golf simulators showed up on the market in the 1970s. In the early stages, golf simulation essentially involved hitting a ball into a net. You didn’t get feedback on how well you hit the ball, but you got the feeling of swinging the club; a simulation of the on-course game. It was a decent way for retail shops and clubhouses to allow you to test clubs before purchasing them.
A short time after, we saw more advanced mechanisms like cameras, microphones, and sensors implemented to provide more detailed feedback. That feedback later came to digital displays of a virtual golf course that provided a visual estimate of where your ball would have landed.
Early on, this technology wasn’t very advanced. Many of the readings were inaccurate. Especially in parts like the short game, it was pretty lackluster. Many simulators didn’t even have a way of capturing putting, so you would just advance to the next hole once you got on the green. Interestingly, many simulators still struggle with accurately capturing putting simulation today.
The technology was also very costly. You typically saw it reserved for retail locations or clubhouses that had very high budgets.
Today, golf simulators can measure your swing more accurately at a more affordable price and are even becoming trendy. As a result, we’re seeing an increasing amount of virtual and simulated golf centers opening up. One of the most noteworthy is Top Golf, which has locations all across the U.S.
What you get with places like Top Golf is an all-around virtual golfing experience. Top technology like the Full Swing simulator is used, which is one that many pros like Tiger Woods, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth, among many others, are cited as using.
These simulators are very accurate and easy to use—though the statistics and data do not delve very deeply into each shot. You are there to have fun more than learn everything about your shot tendencies.
All in all, it’s a fun experience which you can share with friends and family. Whether you want to unwind and have some drinks and snacks while playing a round after work or celebrate birthdays and special occasions, virtual golf experiences make it possible year-round. Even when the ground is cold and frozen, you can still maintain your peak golf form.
Nowadays, we’re seeing golf simulation slowly make its way into homes as its becoming a viable tool you can use off the course for improving on the course. Launch monitors are becoming more portable and affordable. The Garmin Approach R10 is very compact in form factor, and the Rapsodo MLM uses technology right from your phone to provide you with recorded data about your swing in real time.
However, not all of this technology is at peak performance yet. And the most accurate tech, like the Trackman Simulator, tends to still cost a fair amount (Trackman can cost upwards of $45,000). Even on the more affordable end, a full simulation setup from Foresight Sports costs between $15,000-20,000 for a basic package—not yet financially reasonable for the weekend golfer.
All the advancements in golf simulation technology are awesome, but what should you be looking forward to in the future?
Like any constantly evolving industry, there will typically be two ways for companies producing simulators to go: more affordable or better performance/experience. Plus, they may even combine these aspects.
Simulators will become more affordable to reach new markets, such as the avid golfer who would like to invest in their game off the course and is willing dedicate space in their home for a training aid such as a simulator.
Also, expect simulators to provide even better experiences. This might include:
Overall, there are many ways you’re likely to see simulation experiences improve in these aspects.
As the technology behind golf simulation improves, you’ll see it used more often in training. Many pros are already implementing this technology into their game. As mentioned earlier, pros like Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth are known for using simulation technology to get additional data about their performance. More pros are considering deeper analytics to be absolutely integral in taking control of and improving their golf games.
Probably even at the collegiate and high school levels as the tech becomes more affordable for everyone. Imagine being able to hold a golf tournament available to a worldwide field of golfers who can all record and submit their scores virtually from their homes. This could be done for much simpler competitions too, such as Long Drive and Closest to the Pin.
Some competitions like this already exist (Trackman holds virtual leagues)—but the issue is accessibility. There isn't yet a critical mass of competition because tech like Trackman can't get into enough homes. But with the addition of advanced tech integration, new companies are sure to arise within the golf space and change the way we look at virtual golf competition.
Having golfers start with simulator tech at a young age may even lead to us seeing some unique performances later on at the pro level. The advent and exposure to sims among young amateurs could launch new trends within the sport—and just as importantly, within the world of golf coaching and training. Watching the PGA tour may even become more exciting due to a more robust competitive landscape with an access to deeper analytics.
At Graff Golf, we’re working on a solution that can help golf simulation become more affordable and accessible and accurate. So how are we doing it?
We're using a combo of embedded electronics (smart golf ball) and radar tech to derive our data—avoiding the costly route of Camera Vision that tends to run up the costs on the simulators of today. We also send your data and flight visuals to any device, so you don't need to have a huge space in your home dedicated to a projector install, hittable screen, and wall-to-wall hitting mat.
It's a ball, a net, a mat, and any screen device. We are committed to delivering a product with a small footprint so that we can see a wide variety of potential installation spots around your home.
We are testing our data against the industry leaders and finding that we are just as (and in some cases, more) accurate as any of them. We are also exploring partnership concepts where we could supplement data with existing sims and launch monitors to help them deliver more accurate data as well. The mission at large is to bring more data and tech integration to golf, period.
Our golf ball will work through embedded sensors and a customized core that can help pick up data from your swing and the way you make contact with the ball. All of it will be tracked in a streamlined analytics platform so you can easily make sense of key data like carry distance, spin rate, ball velocity, apex height, and more.
It’s these possibilities that make us passionate about our company. We know it can have a big impact on the game of golf.
Overall, the future of the golf simulator looks bright. We’re confident in the product we’re working on at Graff and other ongoing innovations in the industry. Ultimately, it’ll result in a better golf game for all of us.
If you’re interested in the smart golf ball we’re developing at Graff, you can be part of the golf revolution. Reserve your spot today to be one of the first to use our product when it launches.