GOLF SIMULATOR GUIDE

The Countdown to 10,000 Hours

Malcolm Gladwell popularized a theory that greatness can be achieved through 10,000 hours of practice.  Perseverance supersedes potential.  Inspired by this notion, this intrepid soul quit his job in an attempt to get on tour.  He might not have had he read David Epstein's book The Sports Gene.  David argues some athletes are created more equal than others.  What does it mean for us ?  While the two might disagree on the importance of potential, they would likely agree you can only become all that you can be through practice.  That's what we're striving towards.

Where To Start

The launch monitor is the heart of any simulator setup.  Launch monitors can be segmented into camera or radar based systems.  Camera systems take a series of photographs.  The speed, spin and initial angle are then calculated over a finite space.  An algorithm  predicts the remaining ball flight.  Radar based systems such as Trackman track actual ball flight.  There are pros and cons associated with each approach.  Is it more important to know the exact ball flight taking into the wind or not ?  We've changed our initial thoughts on this and might have made a different decision if we had sufficient space for a Trackman.  However, we didn't so narrowed our options to two camera based systems: SkyTrak and Foresight Sports GC2.     

SkyTrak: The Good, The Bad, Any Ugly ?

SkyTrak has two big positivies.  It is the far more economical option being approximately one-third of the price.  SkyTrak also operates as an open platform allowing it to be used with a range of software options including E6 and The Golf Club.  The downside is that SkyTrak has a very limited field of view.  The SkyTrak's hitting zone is so finite that the unit emits a light to pinpoint exactly where to position a ball.  Nevertheless, we still had a number of shots which failed to register.  We also noticed a bit of lag waiting for before the ball to take flight on the simulator after being struck.  This was for every shot and not just select ones. The degree to which sitting in traffic annoys you is probably a good barometer whether this will bother you.   

Foresight: GC2 and GCQuad

We opted for the GC2, but upgraded to the Quad within 6 months.  Foresight has a strong reputation for making the most accurate camera based launch monitors.  We never had the opportunity to do a head-to-head test so relied on this guy's recommendation.  To be honest we weren't as concerned about minor carry differences on good shots, but did care about whether bad shots were really being captured.  

The downside of the GC2 is the price.  The unit is far more expensive.  In addition, you then need to add the cost of Foresight's FSX software and a gaming computer needed to run FSX.  Oddly, despite the need for a powerful graphics card, FSX itself has pretty lackluster graphics lagging well behind E6 and The Golf Club.  Note you can now elect to purchase an E6 Connect package, but you are still required to own / purchase FSX. 

We upgraded to the GCQuad within six months.  The unit is not advertised as being any more accurate, but is still a significant upgrade.  The Quad's field of view is far greater which allows for a much larger hitting zone.  While we didn't have too much trouble with the GC2 when hitting off a mat, we did have some issues when hitting off a tee.  The enlarged hitting zone of the Quad solved this issue.  It also allows the unit to capture club head data without the need for a separate piece of hardware.  (Note unlocking this feature requires an additional fee).  There is also the ability to unlock putting analysis (which also requires a separate additional fee).  The unit is also more robust and does not require a protective case like the GC2 or SkyTrak to protect against mishits.  

Rest of Set-up

Our room presented a number of challenges for the specialist company (Golf Swing Systems) we hired.  The room for our simulator is fairly small with a window and a doorway at the other.  There are also cabinets along one side of the wall.  Given these constraints, Golf Swing Systems installed a rail at the top of the ceiling allowing the hitting screen to be retracted.  Tension is provided by a metal bar at that runs through a loop at the bottom of the screen which can be removed.  Curtains run along both sides of the screen which can also be expanded / contracted. 

We opted to have a putting carpet laid down across the entire room with a large mat placed on top.  Our projector is a short throw model that can be placed off-centre.  

What We Would Do Differently

In hindsight, we should have gone straight for the Quad.  We didn't think we would want club head data, but soon did.  We were able to trade-in the GC2 pretty easily, but still lost some money not opting initially for the Quad.  

We have never retracted the hitting net so should have opted for a different alternative.  This is the biggest regret and something that will look to change.  The putting carpet was unnecessary.  The hitting matt is so large that the usable area of the putting carpet is fairly limited.  The hitting matt is great because it can take a normal tee.  However, it's not great that the tee goes flying everywhere.  

How Much Use Have Gotten 

There are periods when the simulator very much but overall it's gotten fair amount of use.  Biggest surprise is in how much have take the Quad out on the range or course.  Biggest disappointment is lack of interest playing courses on the simulator due to poor graphics.  Hopefully that changes when new version of FSX is released or bite the bullet for the E6 Connect package.

BigLittleBirdie!