This is the second article from GolfClubGuru which will attempt to dig more deeply into the world of indoor golf simulators than ever before. All golf simulators are not created equal, nor does price always indicate the level of performance and quality.
The good news is that over the last couple decades the relative quality of indoor golf simulators has increased, with some very good products at much lower prices than in the past. If you haven’t read it, you may want to take a look at the first article in this series which provides a tour of all of the key components and aspects of indoor sims. Future articles will dig deeply into specific products and technologies.
Here, we present a number of products representative of various price points and configurations, to help get you zeroed in on where you might want to spend your money–with an investment range of under $1,000 to over $100,000.
The original thought for this article was to identify the best products in as many as four price ranges. However, to do this properly is a huge undertaking which involves extensive diligence with each producer, and spending ample time in each simulator. We intend on doing this over time.
If you’ve searched the Web for golf sim ratings, reviews, “best lists”, etc. you know there is no shortage of information out there. But we at GolfClubGuru find almost all of these presentations lacking, often to a great degree. We have found no legitimate, in-depth analyses.
We’ve found extensive misinformation and many comments indicating a lack of foundational knowledge of indoor golf simulators by the authors. This is true for smaller sites up to the most respected authorities in golf journalism. And many sites limit their ratings and reviews to products where they appear to have a reseller agreement.
All of this said, we are not well informed enough at this time to definitively identify the best sims or the best values. We do know a fair amount. But our goal is to radically raise the bar with respect to providing information to assist you in making the most educated decision with respect to purchasing a sim. And, note that our focus is on the North American market.
So, let’s delve in…
The Best Cheap Indoor Golf Simulator (Under $1,000): OptiShot 2
Mention was made of a price category of “under $1,000”. We can refer to this as the “cheapo” category. The only product that consistently stands out in this category is OptiShot 2.
OptiShot 2 uses infrared sensors embedded in a small hitting mat. These sensors provide data on the kinematics of the club at impact. Our deep dive in a future article will fully explain this. But note that OptiShot 2 does not measure the ball–only the club.
For $299 (lowest price we’ve found) you get the hitting mat, a couple foam balls, some tees, a connection cable, and range and course software. They offer options for nets, projection screens, etc. but to have a legit sim you’ll need to add this stuff plus a computer, monitor, and projector. Or, you can just use an external monitor to the side to watch your shots and hit into a net.
Regardless, you’ll end up paying at least a few grand to get something that will hold your interest for a while. In the world of golf sims, this is somewhat of a toy.
The Best Value Golf Simulator ($1,000 – $10,000): SkyTrak
A large step above OptiShot is SkyTrak. But like OptiShot you can start with the SkyTrak tracking device and golf sim software for around $2,000. Once you add a basic net/projection screen, inexpensive projector, hitting mat, computer, and monitor you’ll be into your system for somewhere between $7-$10k.
Nonetheless, we’re anxious to thoroughly review SkyTrack because it appears to be a very promising product. One thing we like about it is that it uses imaging (high speed cameras) which we assert is the only technology worth considering.
In SkyTrak’s price category also are products by FlightScope. Very little info is available on the current FlightScope offerings, although the GolfCubGuru team actually knows a great deal about the core technology–essentially the same as what Trackman uses (see below). These systems use very sophisticated applications of radar. Radar does have limitations, including the inability to directly measure spin axis. We’ll be digging deeper into this in coming articles.
A third product that fits into this “bargain” price range is by Uneekor. This system uses imaging, and they offer various configurations. We’ve heard some good things about Uneekor, but have not learned enough to make any definitive comments.
The Best Mid-Range Golf Simulator ($10,000 – $20,000): Foresight
TruGolf is a company that somewhat spans the range from higher end “bargain” into “mid-range”. Their lowest priced system is around $10,000 and prices range to above $20,000. TruGolf uses a more sophisticated version of the optical sensor technology used by OptiShot. We’re not fans, but could be pleasantly surprised when we do the in-depth analysis.
As we segue into the “mid-range” and “premium” systems, it’s worth noting that we’re getting into some real deal stuff. Needless to say, all of these systems include some sort of enclosure, projection screen, projector, tracking, turf, and quality course and practice software. Here are a couple more “mid-range” systems to check out:
Foresight: Foresight has a couple imaging derivatives for ball tracking plus an add-on for club data. The system is quite accurate, at a very competitive price–ranging from $26,000 to over $40,000. The engineering capabilities of Foresight stand above most of the other golf sim lines, although AboutGolf is another standout (see below) and both FlightScope and Trackman have strong radar chops.
Sports Coach: In the price range of Foresight (except they do have a “Platinum” derivative at $50,000), using imaging IP, this is a very popular product in UK/EU. It’s not prevalent in North America and some personal experience indicates service is iffy. We’ll give it a good going over in the future, though.
The Best Premium Golf Simulators ($40,000+)
Now for the premium systems. We present five for you to check out, with price ranges from $40k on up:
AboutGolf: AboutGolf was the first company to apply radar in 2003 (produced by FlightScope–before Trackman), which somewhat disrupted the industry with higher accuracy than any other systems to date. However, AboutGolf moved to imaging in 2008, again with disruptive IP that was far more accurate than anything on the market. AboutGolf’s tracking IP arguably remains at the top, and AboutGolf was a pioneer in highly customized installations, but the rest of the premium sim industry has been catching up (Please note that while I have zero ownership or involvement with AboutGolf at the moment, I founded the company).
Trackman: Trackman applies its famous radar IP and apparently has become quite a good performer, albeit with radar’s limitations. Pricing starts at around $40,000 and goes up from there quite a bit.
GolfZon: GolfZon is the largest golf sim company in the world, based in Korea. They have not made a lot of headway in North America but the product is solid with an imaging based tracking system. GolfZon provides an option for an articulating hitting mat and a ball tee-up machine (the Koreans love gimmicks). They have made progress in “westernizing” their product which we used to call “pachinko golf” because of all the bells and whistles and goofy stuff on the screen. It’s now a solid product.
HD Golf: HD has come a long way and is to be commended for their dedication to advancing its product. It uses imaging-based tracking. Custom systems can get pricey, but we owe them a thorough review.
Full Swing: Full Swing over the last thirty years has been the overall top brand in North America. It lost some of its luster in the early 2000’s when AboutGolf got serious about innovating very accurate tracking, but Full Swing has stuck with it and regained their position of strength. This product line deserves a very thorough review and we look forward to that.
Note that with the premium systems you can opt for super wide, curved screens with multiple projectors, highly customized configurations, and add a myriad of cool and functional systems related to both learning and entertainment. Our future reviews of individual products will flesh out these details.
So, if today we were going to pick one product in each category, it would be as follows–qualified by the fact that we plan on really digging into all the prominent products and revising our ratings. But for now, here is our “best” list:
Keep an eye out for further installations of our golf sim journey.