No doubt, one of the biggest obstacles to playing and practicing more golf is the time it takes to do both. Unless you live on a golf course, you have to drive yourself there, check in, spend four hours or more on the course or, at the very least, drag yourself and your clubs out to the range and hit balls.
But what if you could practice and play without leaving your home?
You can, of course, if you can bring the golf course in house. Doing just that is becoming more and more practical these days.
Time is just one reason golf simulators are gaining popularity in the home market. There are other reasons, of course, like weather and the fact that technology is rendering the golf simulator experience more realistic than ever.
Tour players like Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Tiger Woods can practice or play without leaving the house. That's because all of them, as well as others like NBA player Steph Curry, have installed Full Swing golf simulators. It's the same simulator the Golf Channel uses in studio for its golf instruction segments. Curry, a scratch golfer who finds it difficult to play and practice during the NBA season, said once he had space in his house for a sim, it was a "no-brainer." And Woods reportedly used his to work through his comeback over the past few years, and we all know how that turned out.
While getting a Full Swing Simulator in your house might not help you win a green jacket like it did for Woods (his fifth), it might be a fantasy worth exploring. And you don't have to be a tour player, celebrity or super rich. It's more doable than you might think. In fact, if you already have a home theater room, you're more than halfway there.
Starting around $25,000 or so
That's right; for less than the price of an average new car, you could have a Full Swing golf simulator installed in your home. The entry level Sports Series product has most of the technology of its higher priced sims, but doesn't go with all the custom build-outs around it, like a floor and padded or wood walls. Still, it offers 85 golf different courses, a customizable driving range option and most importantly, realistic conditions.
As Joe Rathburn, sales manager for Full Swing Simulators explains, all the simulators come with the company's patented dual tracking system, which means it uses two types of technology – infrared (or line scan in the Sports Series) to track the ball, and an overhead camera to track the golf club and golfer. The ION3 overhead camera provides instant video feedback of the golfer's club so that you can analyze your swing at impact. (This is available on both sport and pro models.)
“It can fit almost any space, starting at Nine feet tall and 11 ½-feet wide and can expand from there," Rathburn said. "All the tracking equipment is part of the buildout and can also be mounted to a support arm in the ceiling. It’s very popular for existing basements and garages where space is at a premium,”
So there you have it: for the price of a car (and there are financing options) you can join those who don't have to leave the house to play golf. The entry level sim from Full Swing is certainly enjoyable, but you can dream bigger, of course. If you have the means, why not a "Mercedes Benz S Class" sim? You can spend up to $90,000 or so for the fully equipped model. These tricked out sims, like the Pro 2, really do offer everything -- the best technology, the most space, and custom looks with quality wood, flooring and video.
It's a home theater too
As previously mentioned, for those who already have a home theater, converting it with a Full Swing Golf simulator is a pretty easy transition. One of the best parts is that you don't lose your home theater in the process. It's simply retrofitted to allow you to play golf in that space as well watch movies or sporting events.
Snedeker said he wasn't getting a lot of use out of his home theater, so the conversion made a lot of sense. Like many tour players, he decided to go with the Pro Series (which can range from around $40,000 to $90,000 depending on level of build out as well as whether or not it's regular, wide or super-wide screen).
"We had this space downstairs that was a home theater that we weren't using and it seemed like a great way for me to get some practice in while I'm at home and for my kids to get into the game a little bit. It's easy and fun down here," said Snedeker, an eight-time PGA Tour winner and Fedex Cup champion who lives in Nashville with his wife Mandy and two young children. "It allows us more time to spend together as a family."
Indeed, not only does it allow Snedeker time to practice at home, but the simulator has other activities on it like soccer, field goal kicking and even home run derby among its 13 different sports. And it uses real balls, from the balls in your golf bag, to real footballs, baseballs and soccer balls.
While Snedeker already had a home theater, it's certainly not a requirement. Some have converted their dining rooms or other spaces in their homes. Realistically, you just need enough space to comfortably swing. A ceiling around 10 feet or higher is also ideal.
Once you're ready, you simply make the call to Full Swing. The company's team can then take your specs and design the system for you. Once that's done, they come out and finish the job. They will also work with your contractor, whether its part of a renovation or new construction.
"Ultimately all you need is space, power and an internet connection, and we have a solution for that space," Rathburn said. "As long as you feel comfortable swinging in a space that you have, we have a system for it."
30 years of experience
While Full Swing, which is based in Carlsbad, Calif., is continually improving the experience, it is still based around the same infrared technology that it was founded on 30 years ago.
Today, the Full Swing's dual tracking system also has that overhead camera that captures clubhead speed, club path, face angle, spin axis and back spin. Combining the measurements of both gives a very accurate picture of ball flight.
For the higher-end Pro Series, you can also add video analysis or balance plate technology, which is very beneficial for teaching or learning.
Also on Pro Series, the ball flight is picked up instantaneously into the virtual world. In other words, when you see your actual ball hit the screen, it appears to continue out into space. There's no delay, and that makes the experience more realistic.
And of course, Full Swing comes loaded with lots of iconic courses, mapped out to nearly every detail.
And as technology advances, so does your system. By using the internet, the company can troubleshoot or update software easily. So you only need a software update, not new equipment.