The Complete Guide to Home Golf Simulators
Every golfer has dreams of playing a round in the comfort of their own home. Having a home golf simulator is now within reach for many golfers due to advancements in technology and cost reductions.
For a while, I’ve wanted to create a comprehensive guide for all of you. I finally got in touch with someone who is an expert in this landscape. Recently I spoke with Cory Gauvreau, who is the President of Par2Pro. They are one of the leading providers of home golf simulators in North America.
After speaking with Cory for two hours, one thing became abundantly clear. There are endless combinations of materials you can use to build a home golf simulator. In his words, it’s an absolute jungle out there, which is why he has created a successful business helping golfers navigate that world.
You can spend anywhere from $500 all the way up to $70,000. There isn’t one solution that fits all, and the purpose of this article is to give you an overview of the materials you need, the space required, and some options you will have at various price levels.
Be aware that each home golf simulator has their nuanced features, and it will suit golfers’ needs separately. If you want to purchase supplies for your home setup, then I highly recommend checking out Shop Indoor Golf.
I’ve broken up the article into several sections, which will go over some of the critical things you should know.
Materials You Will Need
To build a home golf simulator, you will need five items. In each category, you will find varying costs based on the quality and durability of each material.
Be cautioned; you will get what you pay for.
If you purchase an inexpensive golf mat, net, or projector, it will likely not last over time. One thing to consider is if this is going to be a long-term fixture in your house. If this is just an experiment, and you will upgrade down the road, then it might make sense to go with the less expensive options.
Keep in mind that some of these suggestions are very generic. Cory from Par2Pro does not necessarily stand behind some of these because he customizes each specific product to a customer’s needs.
The one thing Cory stressed is that mats are crucial. Hitting mats are very costly to manufacture, because they are so heavy, shipping costs can add up quickly.
There are some budget options available like this mat from Amazon. It is only $68, and it will perform for you out of the box. However, it will likely wear down quickly within about a year.
A quality turf mat will cost you roughly $300-$500 like this one. They can get as expensive as $800 if you want the best in performance and durability. If you are on a tight budget, Cory did mention that you could contact a local driving range. See if they have any used mats they are looking to get rid of.
You can also check out my guide to golf mats to find out some more options.
Projectors can be very tricky for many reasons. Each room will have its own needs based on light, size, and the resolution that the simulator software requires. Not all projectors out there will appropriate for a home golf simulator.
There are far less expensive projectors out there for as little as $65 that might entice you, but you will likely have many issues with usability, quality, and longevity. You get what you pay for!
To prevent doing any damage to your walls (or others) you are going to need a net to hit into.
If you are using a projector, then you will need an impact screen. The price can vary anywhere between $250 to well over $1000, depending on the quality and design. Here is an excellent option if you are on a budget. Depending on the room you are using, you also should consider putting netting around the perimeter of the impact screen for any errant shots.
Another option is just to use a net without a projector, and run the simulator on a computer screen. You can even have it connected to a TV off to the side. This pop-up net from Rukket Sports is a good option for the entry level ($140). If you want a more premium solution, then check out Net Return.
My guide to golf nets explores a few other options as well.
This is the most crucial piece of the puzzle for your home golf simulator. The actual sensor system you choose will have an enormous impact on your experience. After speaking with Cory, I came to understand that there are endless variables. It all depends on the kind of golfer you are, your budget, the size of your room, how important accuracy is to you, and a host of other factors.
I couldn’t possibly give you a straight answer which system is right for you, which is why working with a company who knows what they are doing can be of great benefit. A lot of golfers will purchase home golf simulators without really understanding how they will perform, and find themselves disappointed after spending several thousand dollars when they were hoping for something more.
I will cover some basics when we get into the different budget levels. Each system has their pros and cons, and there is no such thing as a perfect solution for everyone.
Almost every single simulator package is going to require a computer to run its software. Hardware is an added cost that many golfers will not consider. It’s possible you may already have a laptop, tablet, or desktop option that is capable of running the software. Most systems will require a more robust graphics card, which you can easily upgrade on an older computer if you are handy.
Additionally, it’s also worth thinking about whether or not you want to have a dedicated computer. It can be annoying to continually bring a laptop in and out. Depending on your situation, and the simulator you choose, you might need to figure an extra $500 – $2000 for this cost.
The amount of space you have in your home for a golf simulator is also another critical factor to consider. Cory stressed that you want to have enough space to swing a club comfortably. Many times he has seen clients squeeze simulators into small spaces. They may have seemed appropriate before installation, but the golfers found it very difficult to swing freely once the screen and net were set up.
There are three separate components here, and each of them is equally important – ceiling height, room width, and finally depth.
A ceiling height of 10 feet is a “safe” distance that can accommodate most golfers’ height and swing type. Cory mentioned that he was able to build a simulator in a room with a ceiling of 8′ 2″. However, the couple was shorter than average and had very flat swings. It may be possible for you to swing clubs freely in a ceiling lower than 10 feet depending on your height and how flat or vertical your swing is. Don’t forget to consider other golfers who might be using the space if you plan on having friends or family members use it also.
When thinking about the width of the room, there are two things to consider:
- Will the room only be for a right-handed golfer, or will lefties be playing as well?
- Sh*nks happen, do you have enough space to protect your walls?
If you are going to have left and right-handed golfers, then 15 feet could be appropriate. Some people have made it work in rooms that are 9 feet wide, but you might need two sensors, or move them back and forth when switching players.
In Cory’s opinion, the minimum depth of the room you will need is about 15 feet. This includes 1 foot from the wall to the screen, 8 feet from the screen to the tee, and finally 6 feet of safe distance behind the golfer.
However, if you are using a radar-based system like Trackman, you might require as much as 23 feet.
Photometric systems like Skytrak and Foresight measure from the side of the ball, and room depth is not much of an issue. However, Trackman measures from behind the golfer, and it needs to track the ball for a minimum of two revolutions to get an accurate reading.
Overall, Cory recommended to lay out the room beforehand carefully, and take measurements. Swing all of your clubs in the space, but keep in mind that once everything is set up things might appear smaller due to stance, mats, ceiling, and wall protection.
Another thing to consider is that any home golf simulators can function as a multi-purpose room. Many people will also use it as a home theater, a playroom for children, and even a place to serve Thanksgiving dinner (true story).
Budget/DIY Setup – Under $5000
This is the level that I was most interested in. I know most of you reading this are not going to be able to invest $10,000 – $70,000 in a home golf simulator.
If you are on a tight budget but want a full simulation experience, you can do it for well under $5,000.
At this price point, you are most likely looking at an OptiShot simulator. It’s currently around $300, and this is the entry level. You can have plenty of fun with a product like this, but be aware that the accuracy is limited. Optishot only measures the speed, path, and face angle of your club. From there it calculates where your ball is going but is not directly measuring the actual golf ball after impact. So you might not make great contact, but OptiShot would simulate a shot that was struck almost perfectly. It is essential to understand that the info provided could be misleading on individual shots, which could frustrate players.
The benefit of using a system like OptiShot is that you don’t need to use an actual golf ball. You can use a foam ball or a plastic one. This will allow you to save a ton of money because you don’t need to use a high impact projector screen or net. Cory has seen some people use painter’s tarp or a bed sheet, which will save you several hundred dollars.
Recently, I posted this review of Optishot 2 if you want to read more about its features.
As I mentioned earlier, the mat and projector you use can significantly vary in quality. If you you to you can purchase this mat for $70 (you will need to cut out a space for OptiShot in it), and get a projector as low as $65. Be aware that the durability and quality will be greatly sacrificed here.
Technically you could get yourself into a basic home golf simulator for around $500 (if you have a computer that can run the OptiShot software already). Be aware that accessory costs like projector mounts and cable could add about $50- $200 more to your cost.
If you want to go with a higher quality mat, projector, and net, then you should take a look at the Silver Entertainment package from Shop Indoor Golf at around $3000. You can avoid the hassle of purchasing everything separately and get a better deal overall.
Cory did mention a simulator package from a company called P3Proswing. He felt this was an underrated option at the budget level. It’s a bit more expensive at $1000, but the accuracy is better than a system like OptiShot. You can find more about them here.
Mid Range – Under $10,000
If you have a bigger budget then you can get a much more accurate simulator, and increase the quality of all the materials you will use.
Several years ago a launch monitor was released called SkyTrak that was geared towards consumers. It was a real game changer for the home golf simulator market. It offers accuracy on ball data that was on par (no pun intended) with systems that were far more expensive. At $2,000 Skytrak is an excellent option for golfers who demand more accuracy.
Something to note about Skytrak is that currently it only gives ball data (spin, distance etc). It will not provide measurements on your actual swing. The unit itself must be next to the golf ball, and some people have had issues with damage from errant swings. However, Cory believes Skytrak is going to fit the needs of most golfers at this price level. SkyTrak has several software integrations that will allow you to play golf courses and has a tremendous native software package for practice.
If you have some more money to invest in a unit like SkyTrak, then you will want to make sure the rest of the materials you use are going to last. Here is a potential package you can use:
You can read my full review of SkyTrak here.
If you want to purchase everything together, there are a couple of packages available.
At just over $3000, you can get the SkyTrak Indoor Silver Training Package which includes SkyTrak, a high-end net from Net Return, and a 6′ x 10′ roll-up turf.
If you are looking for a more premium setup with a projector, then the SkyTrak Gold Training Package might interest you. At around $7,000 you’ll get SkyTrak, a TrueStrike Mat, Projector, and the Net Return Simulator Series Studio. This is essentially everything you need to build a higher-end simulation setup.
Cory also mentioned you could take a look at the Vista 8 system from TRU GOLF. This is a very nice integrated package that is just under $10,000.
Additionally, the ProTee system is another great option.
High End – $10,000 and beyond
When your budget gets beyond $10,000 a lot more options open up for you regarding accuracy, software, and the quality of your setup.
You can now purchase launch monitors from Foresight, Trackman, and Flightscope. Additionally, there are more premium packages from high-end home golf simulator companies like Full Swing Golf, SwingTrack and TRU GOLF. At these levels, you can expect to get much more accuracy concerning ball flight as well as your swing information. Additionally, the simulation software becomes much more robust.
You can really go crazy with high-end systems. The Full Swing S2 came highly recommended from Cory, and it starts at about $20,000. Believe it or not, that is actually on the lower end.
Some systems could cost you as much as $50,000 – $70,000. High-end home golf simulators can be outfitted in nice enclosures, and have the best of everything. If your budget fits into this premium category, it’s best to work with a home golf simulator company directly. It’s a significant investment, and you want to make sure you are going to be satisfied with your money.
Which Home Golf Simulator is Right for You?
If you have made it to the end of this article then your head might be partially spinning by now. What I listed is actually not everything that is out there. One of the final questions I asked Cory is if he believed the cost of higher-end systems would come down. In his opinion, it probably will not. Companies are constantly upgrading their technology and always offering new features that they find a way to charge more for.
The entrance of Skytrak into the market was a big change, and it is possible that other systems at that price point could become available. However, it is costly and time-consuming to develop these products, and there are only a finite amount of companies who have an interest in this market.
If you are in the market for a home golf simulator there are options at every price level, and hopefully, you understand what you will get for your money now. A great resource to purchase items, and do it yourself is Shop Indoor Golf.
If you are interested in working directly with a company who can help you make the right decision, and build the system for you, then I recommend getting in touch with Cory and his team at Par2Pro here.