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How Does a Golf Simulator Work

The Basics: How Do Golf Simulators Work

If you’re like a lot of golf enthusiasts I’m sure you want a simulator at home. While it’s not quite as good as a real golf course it’s hard to complain about playing Pebble Beach at home without a $600 green fee. Or, hitting range balls without fighting for a spot of good grass at the local golf course.

But how do golf simulators work to provide such a great virtual environment?

We’ll help uncover that mystery today so you can learn how a golf simulator works.

How Do Golf Simulators Work?

Simulators can seem a bit like magic if you’ve never used one before. So how does a simulator make it feel like you’re on the golf course and provide such realistic data? 

It comes down to the launch monitor, software, projector, and screen. Each part plays a key role in providing a realistic hitting experience indoors. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Simulators are powered by a launch monitor, golf simulator software, and projector to display graphics on a screen and analyze your golf swing.
  • If you choose to opt for a golf net instead of a screen you can still see visuals on your laptop. Or, even on an app on your phone or tablet. 
  • The higher end simulators typically provide the best graphics and most realistic playing conditions.

Keep reading to learn more about indoor golf, different golf simulators and how each component works.

Components of a Golf Simulator

If you’re a little confused behind all the tech behind a simulator, don’t worry you’re not alone. That’s why a lot of websites and brands sell a box that contains everything you need to set up an in-home simulator. One of the best examples is Sim in a box. 

However, if you prefer the DIY method, here is what you will need to get started. 

Personal Golf Launch Monitor

Golf Launch Monitor 

It’s important to first understand that a simulator is not a launch monitor. launch monitor is part of the simulation process but there are more components to it.

There are three types of simulators that provide various data points and accurate feedback.

  • Radar based launch monitors: Using Doppler radar technology these monitors emit a microwave signal that bounces back from the ball after impact. These devices need to be placed behind for the tracking system to work. A great example of this is Trackman golf.
  • Infrared simulators: Infrared simulators emit light signals to understand the position of the clubhead. These work with foam or plastic balls too. A good example of this type of monitor is the OptiShot 2.
  • Photometric simulators: These are camera based systems that capture high speed images to understand various data points. Some of the most common examples of this include Foresight launch monitors and SkyTrak.

A personal launch monitor can work as part of a simulation or work on its own.

For example, the Voice Caddie SC7 is a great personal launch monitor that also doubles as a simulator. When I go to the driving range I take the launch monitor to better understand my swing data. But then at home I also use it as a critical part of the simulator – think of it as the engine that runs it all. 

Other popular launch monitors that double as simulators include Foresight, Flightscope, Trackman, and SkyTrak. While other brands – like Golfzon – are a simulator and launch monitor but not a monitor that is sold separately.

Launch monitors provide more data than most golfers can even comprehend. Some of the most useful data points include ball’s trajectory, ball speed, club head speed, carry distance, backspin, launch angle, side spin, apex height, swing path, club path and more. This is why PGA professionals and other professional golfers all have monitors with them at nearly every range session.

Without a launch monitor, you don’t have a simulator! Here are the other pieces that comprise a golf simulator and make it all work together properly.

Golf Simulation Software

To play a virtual golf course, you need software to provide the graphics.

If you buy golf simulator packages they usually come with software to get you started playing and practicing. But if you’re going the DIY simulator route, you’ll need to figure out which golf simulator software works with your monitor.

Each software is different in terms of graphics and golf clubs or practice facilities offered. The most common software options include The Golf Club 2019, E6 Connect, and GS Pro.


The projector is another key component to your golf simulator setup. But it’s also a hassle for a lot of players who might not have the right ceiling height to install one. Which is why it’s so important to ensure you have the right room requirements for your simulator.

A projector displays the data from the software to simulate the range or course. Some must mount to the ceiling while others can work on the ground with a floor enclosure.


The fourth component to play golf inside is a hitting screen. This is a big upgrade from a net and makes it almost feel like you’re playing golf outdoors.

There are tons of different screens and enclosures to fit all sizes of simulators.

Check out the best golf impact hitting screens here.

Hitting Mat

Hitting Mat 

The final thing you need to make simulators work is a hitting mat. There are tons of different hitting mats based on size, budget, and shape.

Check out the best golf hitting mats here.

FAQs About Golf Simulators

Do you have more questions about golf simulators to see if you should invest in one for your home? If so, keep reading through the most frequently asked questions and answers now. 

How realistic are golf simulators?

Golf simulators – which are powered by launch monitors – are very realistic to the driving range or round of golf. Of course each launch monitor applauds their accuracy, we’d estimate they’re correct (in terms of distance, spin, and other metrics) at least 90-95% of the time.

The price also plays a big role in how realistic and accurate a launch monitor is as well. Some launch monitors are only $500 or $700 while others are 4 – 10X (or more) the price. The more expensive the monitor, the more accurate results. Plus, more expensive models tend to provide a better simulation experience as well. 

What data do simulators provide? 

What’s great about golf simulators is that they provide tons of information about each swing. If you go to the driving range without a launch monitor, there is a lot more guessing about each swing. But a launch monitor can help out a ton by providing information about the club and ball data. 

Do golf simulators detect spin?

Yes, golf simulators detect spin, distance, ball flight, and tons of other metrics. The most basic and inexpensive models will provide 5-7 ball and swing data points. While the more expensive models will provide 10-15 (or more) data points to learn a ton about your game.

This is why so many golf instructors use launch monitors with players they coach. The extra data makes it easier to see how swing changes lead to better numbers. Plus, some players are more analytical than others and this type of data is very helpful in trusting new swing changes. 

Can you play a round of golf on a simulator?

Yes, you can play a round of golf on a simulator without actually going to the course. An average round of 18 holes will only take about an hour which is a fraction of the time compared to 4–5 hours on the golf course.

While simulators are great to play a round of golf on, they’re also a great virtual driving range too. Launch monitors can provide tons of information about your ball and club data to help you practice with purpose. Plus, some software has built-in practice options to hone all parts of your game unlike a normal driving range. 

Do golf simulators need the internet?

The simulator itself doesn’t typically require Wi-Fi but the app on your phone, tablet, or computer will need internet access. 

Can you use real golf balls?

Yes, when you play golf in a simulator you can use real balls which makes it feel like real golf. No foam or plastic balls required.

Does Tiger Woods use a golf simulator?

Tiger has used the Full Swing Golf Simulator since 2015. Needless to say, that’s a pretty ringing endorsement from arguably the greatest player of all time. 

However, these simulators are not cheap. The Sport version is priced at $44,900 while Tiger’s simulator is $54,900. 

Indoor Golf Simulator

Why do I hit shorter on a simulator?

Most simulators are quite accurate to a round on the golf course. But if you find yourself significantly shorter it might be your inability to swing freely. If a room is small and somewhat cramped it’s hard to swing with as much power and speed.

Additionally, it’s important to use the same type of golf ball with your simulator as you do on the course. For example, if you play a Titleist Pro V1 on the course and then use generic range balls with your simulator, it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges. Use older versions of your preferred ball in practice to get the most accurate data possible. 

My Experience

I love to practice but living in Arizona makes it very difficult to work on the game in summer months. Even if you get to the golf course early it’s still 90 degrees in summer months. While it’s hot, playing a round seems much more bearable than banging balls under the hot sun. 

Luckily, I found a private golf simulator studio nearby and it’s helped my game a ton. Since I live in an apartment I can’t build one at home so this worked out great. Not only can I practice 24/7, but I can also go through different skills challenges, play tons of great golf courses, and play faster.

Simulators are a great idea if you’re an avid player and can’t get enough of this game. Plus, you won’t have to commute to the course as much which can save your time for other activities. 

Plus, what’s great about golf simulators is that they’re cheaper than ever. Whether you have $500 or $5,000 to spend, it’s a great investment in your game. 

Final Thoughts on How Do Golf Simulators Work?

As you can tell there are different golf simulators for all types of players and budgets.

But the reason that simulators work is that they have a monitor that provides golf club and ball data for each swing. That information is then sent to the software which sends information to the projector and then displayed on the screen.

Now that you know how golf simulators work, it’s time to find one that suits your budget and room dimensions. 

Then, once you have a simulator, it’s important to learn how to practice efficiently with it. Check our guide to at home simulator practice here

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