Do Golf Simulators Improve Your Game? Only if You Use Them Right

Imagine a piece of golf equipment that lets you have a realistic game of golf at any of the best golf courses in the world from the comfort of your own home.

Well that’s exactly what golf simulators do.

Typically, golf simulators have a large screen on to which a golf course or driving range is graphically modelled and in front of which a golfer will stand on a piece of green carpet and hit golf balls into it.

Think of it as a type of virtual reality golf.

Sounds great doesn’t it? But although golf simulators are clearly a lot of fun, do they actually improve your golf game?

Golf simulators, such as SkyTrak or Trackman, offer all standards of golfer an opportunity to practice more often and effectively. The convenience of simulators combined with the accurate and immediate feedback provided on each shot enable golfers to see what they are doing right and wrong and better understand their swing.

Being able to practice your golf in the dry, perfect conditions that a golf simulator provides undoubtedly allows any golfer of any standard an opportunity to dramatically improve their game.

But with all things that sound too good to be true, there are also some catches that you need to be aware of if you are going to get the full benefit from using a golf simulator.

Golf Simulators Deliver Quality & Fun Improvements

Anyone who has ever played golf knows it is a hard sport. And the 3 main reasons for this are:

  1. The complexity of the golf swing – The golf swing is an unnatural and complex series of muscle movements that need to be merged with hand-eye co-ordination and timed well repeatedly. The fact also that there is a small margin for error makes it a very difficult motion to replicate consistently well.
  2. The time required to make big improvements – Golf can be particularly time-consuming. A round of 18 holes can take over up 4 hours to play whilst large amounts of practice time are also required to improve. It is estimated for example that it takes players between 3-4 hours a day of practice to reach a scratch handicap. That is a huge amount of time for the average golfer to fit in and around hectic family life if they are aiming to get significantly better.
  3. The tough mental challenges that the game presents – Add to all that a scoring system which not only counts every shot without exception but also includes a penalty shot mechanism which penalises a golfer an additional stroke without them actually hitting the ball again and you clearly have a game designed to wreak havoc with the mind!

What is great about golf simulators, therefore, is that they offer an opportunity for players using them to address all of these points.

A simulator can be set up in almost any indoor location where you have enough room to swing a golf club into an impact screen.

For those golfers then that are lucky enough to be able to set them up in a room in their house or garage their ability to practice increases hugely.

Not only are they able to access a practice facility at times that is much more convenient to their schedule and the demands of family life but there are also no weather restrictions meaning they are able to practice whatever the elements outside.

In addition you can also play 18 holes on a golf simulator in an hour or less!

And more chances to practice and play more means more chances to improve.

A critical element of golf simulators also is the ‘quality’ of practice that they allow golfers to achieve.

The average golfer frequently makes the mistake of thinking that the amount of time spent on the range is the key element to improvement. This, however, misses a key point.

Arriving at any practice session and for example, simply hitting 50 shots without thinking about it is a waste of time.

It is vital that all practice is structured and provides feedback if you are going to improve.

And when it comes to feedback golf simulators are fantastic.

For every shot you hit they provide a range of feedback points such as ball speed, path range, spin rates, launch angle etc.

With these various feedback points you are able to better understand your golf swing and more easily see what you are doing right and wrong.

And with that information you can get a better view of what is required to improve your swing and make it more consistent.

This, of course, does not mean you ignore the ‘feeling’ feedback you get yourself from hitting shots on the simulator and get entirely hooked on the numbers.

As you improve it will become more obvious to you what ‘feels’ a good shot when you hit it.

“Feedback is the greatest teacher there is. You look at the ball and see what it did, and if you know your swing and your mechanics, you know what you need to do to fix it.”

6 time Major Champion, Lee Trevino

But the feedback information that golf simulators give when you hit each shot will undoubtedly help you with this process as you receive accurate and immediate information on the quality of each of your shots.

This also means you will be able to dial in on your distance control, with your wedges especially, since most simulators allow you to see your average carry and total distances with each of your clubs.

Remember without feedback on your golf swing you cannot figure out what you need to improve and unlike the pros the average golfer does not have the luxury of being able to call on an expert coach to give them analytical feedback all the time.

In addition, it’s clearly not feasible for an amateur golfer to get a lesson from a qualified teaching pro every time they practice.

Golf simulators therefore provide a great facility to not only increase the volume of your practice time but more importantly its’ quality.

And with more and better practice comes increased confidence that you have a better idea where your ball is going when you step onto the golf course.

And more confidence puts you in a better frame of mind to tackle the tough mental challenges that the game throws up.

One final benefit of golf simulators that shouldn’t be overlooked also is that they are a lot of fun.

After all, golf is not our day job and there is no financial incentive for us to hit the hundreds upon hundreds of golf balls in practice that is necessary to deliver substantial improvements.

So a great perk of simulators is that the software enables you to play a variety of games and different courses including some of the most famous in the world.

When you have access to a golf simulator you therefore have the option of sneaking in 18 holes at Pebble Beach or St.Andrews in an hour after dinner.

Now that sounds like fun to me!

Forget that a Golf Simulator is not Reality and Forget About Improving

Spending time practicing on a golf simulator offers a huge opportunity for every golfer to improve their game.

Its accessibility makes practice time easier to schedule while the immediate and accurate feedback it gives enables all standards of player to get a clear understanding of what they are doing wrong with their golf swing.

But as with all good things, there are also inevitably some cons and it’s important anyone using a golf simulator on a regular basis is aware of these.

The most important one of these cons is to remember that although incredibly realistic a golf simulator is not reality.

And I don’t mean that golfers who use simulators are not going to realise that.

I mean it simply as a reminder that when you use a golf simulator you are not replicating exactly playing on a golf course and as such it is vital you use it as a ‘complementary’ tool to fulfil your golf improvement strategy.

Too much practice and playing on the golf simulator in preference to getting out onto the course will not help your game in the long run.

Think about it. On a golf simulator you always have a perfect lie and flat stance in perfect conditions with no distractions.

No gust of wind ever appears to blow what looked like a great shot into a plugged lie in the bunker.

You can almost always recover any shot you play and never lose a golf ball.

And if you choose you can decide that those nasty 3 to 4-foot putts are always ‘gimmies’ on the software you’re using.

As anyone who has played golf knows that is not close to reality.

Lies, stances and conditions are rarely perfect and if you are like me a round will almost always involve at least one or two shots that stray well off line leading to a few minutes looking for a ball or indeed losing one.

I’m also never getting immediate and accurate feedback on the launch angle, club head speed and spin rate of my last shot out on the golf course.

These points are not made to diminish the benefits that golf simulators can provide.

They are simply made as a warning not to overdo it and think that your ‘dynamic handicap’ and stats on the simulator are the most important thing in your game.

Your score on your scorecard on the golf course always is.

Players spending too much time on simulators frequently talk about everything feeling incredibly technical when they get back to the golf course with their minds obsessed and cluttered with stats.

So just always bear in mind you need to be always balancing your time on the simulator with getting out onto the course to get the ‘ultimate’ feedback on how well your golf game is shaping up.

Do the Pros Use Golf Simulators?

I don’t know about you but when it comes to golf but I am always keeping an eye out on what the pros are doing to improve.

While putting on an extra 40lbs of muscle like Bryson DeChambeau to gain extra distance is not something I am ever going to be too interested in copying when it comes to technology there are always more things that I’m able to follow their lead on to try and eek out some well-needed improvements in my game.

So what are the pros doing when it comes to golf simulators?

As a whole the top pros use a golf simulator at home as one of their practice tools. Full Swing, High Definition and Trackman simulators are the most popular and help the pros to practice more frequently in controlled conditions. They also allow them to play virtual practice rounds at the courses of upcoming events.

So the reasons professional golfers use golf simulators are pretty much exactly the same as they are for amateurs.

While it is part of a professional player’s job to play in all kinds of conditions it is not ideal for them either to go out and practice in the wet or cold weather.

Regardless of the weather therefore they can get to work on specific aspects of their game and get a detailed and immediate analysis of each of their swings.

The ability to practice playing courses on the golf simulator which come up on the PGA Tour stops is another key reason pros are consistently using them.

And when it came to Tiger Woods’ truly amazing comeback to win the Tour Championship in 2018 it turns out that a golf simulator was an important part of his successful return from serious injury.

So much so that Woods is now not only a user of Full Swing simulators, one of the main manufacturers in the market today.

He’s also an investor, equity partner and ambassador for the company!

So it seems pretty clear the pros are convinced by the value of golf simulators.

Below is a table of the golf simulators being used by a select group of the top pros in their homes.

Full Swing
Pro Widescreen & Virtual Green
Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland,
Full Swing
Pro Series
Jordan Speith, Brandt Snedeker
High DefinitionBryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen, Tommy Fleetwood, Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, Fred Couples
Trackman 4Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Nelly Korda, Danny Willett
Foresight Sports GC2Rickie Fowler

Are Golf Simulators Worth the Cost?

And so we get down to the inevitable question after all this – are golf simulators worth the cost?

To answer this it’s obviously important to know what the costs of simulators are. And it’s safe to say they are not cheap.

While costs have come down a good set up is still going to cost thousands of dollars. Go for the full bells and whistles option and you’re going to spend in the region of $50,000!

And while some of the launch monitors which comprise part of the full golf simulator set up can highlight the way to a cheaper option the additional peripherals that you need to complete the simulator experience are still going to drive the costs up.

In addition to the launch monitor, you are going to need an impact screen to hit your ball into, a good mat to hit off, a protective case for the launch monitor itself and additional software costing hundreds of dollars if you want to virtually play the great courses.

..”Simulators are an incredibly complimentary instruction tool. The realism of the courses is fantastic and the accuracy of the system in measuring a golfer’s swing is very impressive.”

Sean Foley, PGA Tour Instructor and former coach of Tiger Woods.

And if you are going to hook up the launch monitor to your personal computer you are going to need a PC with an excellent processor and graphics card if you are going to get the full benefit of the software.

So given golf simulators are a significant investment the simplest way to base your decision on whether it is worth it or not is to consider how important improving your game is to you.

If you are absolutely intent and serious about getting better and are willing to spend the time and money to get there then the investment in a simulator will pay off if you use it right.

There is no doubt they offer a great opportunity to players of all standards to improve and often significantly so.

And if you are willing to spend the money and think it will help you then what’s the problem?

But unless you are very serious about improving, or indeed don’t have the space to set up a golf simulator at home or in the garage, there are certainly plenty of alternatives, and certainly less costly, options for you to try first in your effort to improve.

Final Thought

No golfer in the history of the game has ever been told to stop practicing.

Without practice you will never get better. That unfortunately is a simple fact when it comes to golf.

A piece of equipment therefore that allows average golfers a chance to practice better and more easily is clearly a positive development and golf simulators are just that.

As with all good things however there are always drawbacks and golf simulators need both space and money.

But if you are desperate to improve and are willing to make the investment the opportunity to improve your game using one is definitely there.

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