Golf simulators have never been more accessible, affordable or necessary with government COVID-19 health orders to ‘stay at home’. Here’s how you can join the growing army of screen-golf lovers. We are a spoiled generation of golfers. Our forefathers had to battle rainy days and brutal winters and face six-hour rounds at their local council course… if they were lucky to get a tee-time at all. Us? Even in the face of a global health crisis the sun is always shining, and the first tee is perpetually open thanks to the growing market of golf simulators. Better yet, simulators are no longer for the uber-rich. For those with unlimited funds to hackers on a budget, the range of options you can install within the confines of your house are vast. And it’s just as well. The interest in big-screen golf Down Under has hit uncharted levels.
“Once COVID-19 restrictions were announced, interest in at-home indoor sports – including golf simulation, cycling simulation, racing and flight simulation – significantly increased to a point where initial supply could not keep up with demand,” says 24/7 Golf general manager Daniel Kofoed, whose company has been selling golf simulators since 2011.
“Many of our suppliers quickly adjusted their production capacity, including some who invested in opening additional factories. In many cases we saw wait times increase to over 16 weeks for golf simulators, with a majority of consumers committing to full setups well out from delivery dates.”
Big Swing Golf chief executive officer Rob Oppedisano reports a similar spike in demand for his company’s state-of-the-art setups.
“In terms of the residential interest during COVID-19, we’re probably seeing about five times the amount of interest in people wanting a golf experience in their own homes,” he says.
Adds GolfSim Australia’s managing director Brad Huggett: “Golfers are now looking to make the most of the available space in their homes for golf, whether it be their garage, lounge room, home theatre room or shed.”
But it’s not just government health orders proving to be the catalyst for this newfound love for sim golf. The country’s booming real estate market has also played its part. Golf, mostly by necessity, remains a sport focused singularly on rural areas and suburbs. After all, when you need lots of spare land to build a course, why would you focus on the areas that have none? The answer to that question is simple: golf simulators add unmeasured value to your property. What’s more, with the increasing number of apartment buildings offering basic amenities like gyms, newer constructions are trying to compete by offering newer, more exotic amenities. Like golf simulators.
Seeing the big picture Take yourself back 25 years, when personal computers were just becoming the norm in society. Clunky, confusing and bearing – gasp! – dial-up modems, they were a far cry from today’s sleek NBN models. Just like PCs, golf simulators have evolved immensely and rapidly through the years, becoming a much more integrated part of our lives. If you haven’t seen simulators since their primitive beginning, you’ll be blown away by how fast, realistic, sophisticated, and easy to use they’ve become.
Big Swing’s simulator technology broke new ground in 2012 when it combined an overhead camera with infrared technology. Known as ‘Full Swing’ in the United States, this patented system could independently and precisely measure – not just calculate – launch conditions of the club and ball at impact, and again the ball in mid-flight as it headed towards the screen. As a result, it created the most realistic-ever virtual ball flight with no lag – you could see the entire shot exactly as you would outdoors. Golfers of all levels realised that this was no longer the simplistic simulator they’d seen in the past, but rather a legitimate, immersive way to practise, play and improve – with immediate and invaluable swing and shot data.
“Screen golf was booming in the northern hemisphere, so it made sense to bring it Down Under when it became an obvious solution to people’s time and money constraints,” Oppedisano says.
At Big Swing’s various public facilities, singles can play 18 holes in as little as 45 minutes and be charged only for the time it takes to complete their round thanks to half-hourly rates. On top of that, club hire is free. The company’s entry into the Australian market was rubber-stamped in 2014 with its first publicly accessible indoor golf venue in Melbourne’s CBD. Today, it has 20 franchised venues across the country and an additional seven commercial businesses using its simulators. Yet it’s Australia’s relatively untapped residential market that has Oppedisano most excited.
“There’s been a definite shift towards in-home premium experiences so it’s hard to see home-simulator demand slowing down,” he says. “In the short term, I’d say as long as international travel is restricted, we’ll see people exploring different ways of having a unique experience and upgrading their homes. Some of these already exist and we’re working on them too, but in the longer term I think the technology will become more connected and we’ll see more online competitions, live online golf coaching and maybe augmented reality if we look ahead far enough.”
24/7 Golf started out as a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week indoor golf practice facility in Melbourne’s Sandbelt region and CBD, catering to keen golfers who wanted convenient access to tour-level data at a time that suited them. Then, a shift happened. With the emergence of new players in the launch-monitor market, the pipedream of setting up a home simulator, which at the time started at $50,000 and went up rapidly, turned into an achievable reality for less than $10,000 with the release of highly accurate yet very affordable units such as Skytrak and FlightScope Mevo+. With the lack of suitable accessories to complement these systems, combined with consumer demand for an all-in turnkey solution, 24/7 Golf switched its operations purely to golf simulator development and sales in 2017.
“We now design and manufacture our own range of golf simulator enclosures and screens, and have opened up our own operations in North America based out of Ohio,” Kofoed says.
GolfSim Australia’s arrival was far more immediate.
“We came about through the pure love of the game of golf and desire to play and improve as often and as much as possible,” Huggett says. “Having played golf our entire lives, and having a strong background in design, engineering and manufacturing, we saw a way we could bring the love of golf into more peoples’ homes, more beautifully and affordably, with more design possibilities, without compromising the accuracy of the technology or appearance of the installation.”
Space-age tech in your house Golf has a long history of adapting world-first technology from the aeronautical and space industries. In fact, many former employees of NASA and Boeing are right now using their genius to reap extra metres out of the golf ball and clubface.
The FlightScope brand originally started out as a radar supplier for the defence industry in 24 countries, implementing doppler technology into cannon and projectile warfare. But it quickly adapted its skills and technology for use in sport, starting with cricket. Today, FlightScope technology is used on the PGA Tour by Major winners including Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama and Bubba Watson, as well as in the tennis industry on the ATP and WTA tours, including at Wimbledon.
Previously focused on high-performance technology, FlightScope came with a hefty price tag, but with the invention of the FlightScope Mevo, and later the Mevo+, it now offers tour-level technology to the everyday consumer at an affordable price.
“The foundation of most of our simulator packages is either the FlightScope Mevo+ or Skytrak launch monitor,” Kofoed says. “Both units provide accurate data and extreme versatility, which not only allow people to significantly improve their golf game, but are a great source of entertainment. We have customers who take their launch monitor out and hit golf balls into a paddock while playing a round of golf at one of more than 150,000 courses, as well as players who go for the whole ultimate indoor simulator experience complete with Ultra HD 4K projector, doubling as a cinema or sports bar.”
Suffice to say, launch monitor technology is the heart of a golf simulator, which is generally overhead-mounted, allowing the greatest scope for the best golf simulator designs.
“Our technology is uniquely optimised for indoor use, utilising infrared sensors and high-speed cameras to offer the highest accuracy and most engaging gameplay,” Huggett says of GolfSim.
Big Swing Golf began its journey by travelling the world to sample simulator suppliers, different indoor golf venues and visiting the PGA trade shows. “Tough job, hey?” Oppedisano jokes.
They eventually settled on Full Swing technology – the same simulators that can now be found in Big Swing Golf venues and Drummond Golf stores around the country.
“There are lots of technology types out there, from radar, Doppler, noise frequency, camera, infrared, among others, so it’s easy to get lost,” Oppedisano adds.
While there were so many layers, both personal and professional, to his remarkable resurgence before that horror car accident in February, Tiger Woods had been using a secret weapon to regain his edge.
“Consistent practice on my Full Swing Pro Series simulator was important to my return,” says Woods, who has now captured 82 PGA Tour wins, including 15 Majors. “Using the company’s patented technology gives me the most accurate ball data, which allowed me to work on shaping my shots and helped me win.”
The simulator Woods uses is identical to the Big Swing varieties you can buy for your own home. High-speed cameras and infrared light waves capture swing data (including clubhead speed, path and ball spin) and deliver state-of-the-art ball tracking capabilities.
“It just feels real,” says Woods, who is an investor, equity partner and team ambassador of the company. “I use my simulator to practise every type of shot from tee to green. Rain or shine, day or night, I can get my practice in. I have seen what’s being developed in the next several years and am excited.”
It’s not all about the golf At a technical level, the right simulator will provide immediate, measured, fact-based information for the best improvement, which means better results and a much more enjoyable golf game, says Huggett. But it’s on a personal level that might change your mind – and your partner’s! – about not having a golf simulator in your home.
“We focus on simulators being an extension of the home, through stunning design, integrated home cinema, VR, fitness and multi-sport capabilities,” Huggett says. “Yes, it can be a designated man-cave space. But it can also be a family entertainment space or entirely multipurpose use by making the simulator itself invisible.”
Adds Kofoed: “While the main purpose of the simulator is to play some of the best courses from around the world in the comfort of your own home, we’ve seen a significant trend of consumers turning simulators into a complete entertainment facility with the addition of Apple TV, Google Chromecast and alike, allowing owners to switch over to watching the latest film on Netflix or the footy on a huge screen! Some of our customers have even integrated gym and cycling equipment into their golf simulator, whereby they can participate in online fitness classes, or even ride some of the world’s most famous bike trails, all at home!”
Indeed, selling the golf simulator idea to your family isn’t the hard slog it used to be.
“With the price of real estate in Australia, you can’t blame people for wanting versatility with their simulators,” Oppedisano says. “They can feature so much more than golf and cinema capabilities. Things like gun and hunting technology, kid-friendly arcade games, multiple other sports like basketball, cricket, baseball, rugby, gridiron and soccer. All Full Swing simulators can be optioned with this technology included. I’ve even known some clients to do their online yoga sessions or set up smart exercise bikes in front of the big screen to race against their friends in other houses. The perfect antidote for never-ending lockdowns!”
How much it will set you back One of the first real scenes from Tiger’s epic comeback was of the superstar in shorts, hitting a careful 9-iron into a wall-height screen on his Full Swing simulator. It isn’t hard to imagine that a $50-million mansion would have the finest technology (and finishes) money can buy, but you don’t have to have a nine-figure income to work on your game in the comfort of your basement or garage.
Of course, how much you want to outlay will depend on how many bells and whistles you’d like included in your personal playground.
“An in-home screen golf setup can start at a few thousand dollars and go up to $150,000-plus,” Oppedisano says. “There is a big difference in quality, just as you’d expect a difference in quality between a Suzuki and an S-Class Mercedes.”
But Kofoed said the good news for consumers was that stiff competition would continue to give them more for less. “Exposure of products at or around the $5,000-$10,000 price point has been limited. It’s why I’m optimistic we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to consumer-level golf simulator demand in Australia.”
One piece of advice from Huggett: try before you buy. “There is a lot of marketing hype and misleading statements,” he warns. “Understand what data is actually measured and what is calculated in your desired simulator, as this makes the biggest difference to accuracy. Some systems measure just the club and infer ball data, others measure just the ball and infer club data. You definitely want a system that measures both.”
The pitch WHY YOU SHOULD BUY A BIG SWING SIMULATOR
OPPEDISANO SAYS: Our Full Swing simulators are at the top end of the market but we don’t over-complicate things. Firstly, we find out how much space the client has, which decides the size of the solid wood booth, and then they’ll decide between two levels of technology. The ‘Sport’ model uses the more affordable linescan tracking cameras, while the ‘Pro’ uses the top-of-the-line, speed-of-light infrared sensors. Both models can be optioned with the software and alternative benefits mentioned earlier. We’ll work with the client’s builders and architects to ensure everything is to spec before we install. Full Swing now have a big point of difference by developing their own next-generation golf course software – previously they’d utilised TruGolf software. The new FS Golf software represents a substantial step up on anything else I’ve seen in the market, which we’re really excited about. We import the simulators from the USA as a turnkey product so clients only need to provide an empty space, power, data and that’s it. At this end of the market, the Pro model is the most popular product given clients are searching for the most premium experience. My stance is simple – if a Full Swing simulator is good enough for Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth or Jon Rahm to install in their own homes, when money and knowledge is no barrier, then who are we to argue?
Visit bigswinggolf.com.au or phone (03) 9565 1400 for more information.
WHY YOU SHOULD BUY A 24/7 GOLF SIMULATOR
KOFOED SAYS: 24/7 Golf is 100-perecnt Australian owned and operated. We’re full distributors of all brands that we sell, working closely with each manufacturer to develop, test and implement new technology and improvements on a weekly basis. We have a dedicated full demo facility on Melbourne’s Sandbelt open to the public, where customers can try before they buy. We’re the only facility in Australia that offers in-person demonstrations of the full Skytrak and FlightScope range. We also design, develop and manufacture our own range of golf simulator products, including our commercial-grade demountable simulator enclosures and projector screens. We’re the official technology supplier for more than 100 PGA professionals, golf clubs and facilities in Australia, including many of Australia’s biggest retail golf stores. We have five dedicated members of staff based at our Melbourne facility ready to assist all customers with any enquiry.
Our most popular packages by far are our complete Golf Simulator Enclosure packages, which include either a Skytrak or FlightScope Mevo+, one of our own golf simulator enclosures (available in three sizes), projector, software, hitting mat –the works. The great thing about our packages is the fact that they are turnkey, meaning we include everything needed to fully set up your system. Our systems start at $5,999 and work their way up to $11,798 depending on sizes and inclusions.
Customers can phone 0480 020 411, or visit 24-7.golf/golf/simulator-packages to find out more.
WHY YOU SHOULD BUY A GOLFSIM AUSTRALIA SIMULATOR
HUGGETT SAYS: GolfSim Australia is the most outstanding golf simulator experience for any level of golfer. Every space has different dimensions, access challenges and functionalities, so every GolfSim Australia simulator is individually designed, engineered and made to suit the client’s needs and space.
We offer turnkey golf simulator packages to our clients, including bespoke design and consultation, delivery and installation by our team of installers nationwide. Our premium integrated home golf simulators are the most popular, giving our clients everything they could ever dream of for their home simulator. Our most popular technologies are the QED and EYEXO. As mentioned earlier, try before you buy. We are confident that if readers hit on our simulators, they will see why ours are superior. We want to prove this to them.