Golf simulators use a range of hi-tech software to offer a wide variety of data to re-create golf shots, provide information about your shots, and help you analyse, in-depth, your golf game.
If you are looking for a basic or a high-end unit, there is something for everyone. Clip on units, such as the R-Motion, are 3D motion tracking devices that attach to your golf club and recreate your ball-flight in a realistic 3D computer based simulation game. Powered by Rapsodo, the creators of the SkyTrak launch monitor, the R-Motion is accurate enough to give you a real-life experience on some wonderful pre-loaded golf courses.
Being a 3D motion tracking device, the R-Motion is small enough to be used in any location with enough room to set up a net, mat and swing a club. The technology included in the R-Motion is incredible and provides realistic ball flights, even on miss-hits and allows you to enjoy a round of golf from the comfort of your own home.
Coming in at 300$ the R-Motion is the most accurate and detailed golf simulator available at this price and is a definite addition to the practice aids of any serious golfer that is affected by cold weather and course closures. Plus you get to test out the award-winning software from The Golf Club.
At a similar price, you can find the Optishot2.
Using a different technology base of 16 infra-red sensors to capture initial ball data and the path and angle of clubface to determine the outcome of the swing. The Optishot2 can also be used in almost any environment where you can set up a TV, mat, net and have enough space to swing a golf club.
Having owned an Optishot2 for a period, mostly as a practice aid, the Optishot2 provided relative accuracy, although it is awkward to set up, as it requires the calibration of all clubs separately, so if you are going to play a complete round you need to spend a while correctly calibrating your clubs for an accurate reading.
A good option for those wanting something at the lower end of the money spectrum, but it is not as simple to set up as the R-Motion simulator.
Another big player in the golf simulator/launch monitor scene are Ernest Sports, who have a range of simulators to tempt the avid golfer.
Their entry product would be the ES12, a portable launch monitor that is incredibly accurate and easy to use.
Download the app and off you go, you can have a reading of various parameters that will help you improve your game. The unit makes use of Doppler Radar to capture the initial stages of your ball flight, and with the pre-loaded algorithms the units recreate your ball flight. Unlike the OptiShot2 or the R-Motion simulator there are no pre-loaded courses to play, so this is just a practice aid, rather than an interactive golf simulator.
Ernest Sports also offers the ES14 which is basically an upgraded version of the ES12, and still lacks the option of playing golf courses in a virtual experience. As with the ES12 and ES14, the ES16 also lacks the option of play, but the combination of Doppler Radar and photometric tracking, Ernest Sports has created a stunning personal launch monitor at a reasonable price in comparison to their competitors. The combination of the Doppler Radar and photometric technology is revolutionary in the golf simulator market and the information provided is impressively accurate.
Onto another product powered by Rapsodo, the SkyTrak golf simulator, which is arguably the best simulator on the market when price, adaptability, and accuracy are considered.
Providing incredibly accurate results, the SkyTrak, much like the R-Motion, is testament to the ingenuity and quality that Rapsodo produces. Unlike the Ernest Sports launch monitors, SkyTrak has the added benefit of game play on various platforms and the results are incredible.
It is more expensive at around 1500$ but the realism and accuracy is superb. The SkyTrak uses photometric technology that captures high speed photos of the ball to simulate the trajectory, distance, ball speed, club speed and spin rates.
From these simulators, we move up to units such as the GCQuad or GC2 by Foresight, a complete package, that utilizes photometric technology. Their new unit uses Quadrascopic cameras to increase the accuracy of the information provided, making it one of the most accurate units on the market. If you want to use these systems as a simulator then you will need to fork out for their performance simulator software, which is not cheap considering the units come in at over 12,000$…in my opinion, the inclusion of the simulation software should be as standard.
Finally, onto the Trackman, considered the most accurate launch monitor, the Trackman uses dual Doppler Radar technology, to capture both club and ball data for incredible accuracy. Simulation systems are available, but starting at around the 50000$ mark, they are only for the truly serious golfer.
So, there you go, a few of the simulator/launch monitor options available, how they work and how they perform. (Alex Ward, Professional Golfer, WGTF Golf Coach since 2006, NLP Practitioner, Club Fitter and Club builder, owner of GolfStash)