Most golfers can agree, a golf simulator is the dream.
Being able to play and practice 24/7 – regardless of the weather is as good as it gets. Sadly, finding enough room in the house isn’t that easy for a lot of people.
But just because you don’t have room doesn’t mean you still can’t play or practice at home. An outdoor golf simulator might be the perfect solution. Today we’ll take you through the steps to build an outdoor golf simulator and turn your dream into reality.
Backyard Home Golf Simulator Setup
Golf simulators are a great alternative to real golf – especially in the offseason. The only problem is the size of a room is the biggest obstacle to overcome as simulators require a ton of space.
You need to have room behind the screen to avoid bounceback. You also need a room that is wide enough for a large screen and good image quality. Plus, a room needs plenty of depth for room between you and the screen (and possibly room for the monitor).
An outdoor golf simulator solves a lot of these issues. While we’ve discussed how to build a DIY golf simulator – it’s mostly for indoor use.
So today we’ll help you build one outdoors so you can play and practice from home even if you don’t have a ton of space indoors.
- A backyard net and mat are a great way to practice at home but with a few tweaks it can become an outdoor golf simulator setup.
- Finding a space is the most important part of building an outdoor golf simulator. A gazebo, carport, or covered patio are some of the best options.
- To build an outdoor golf simulator you will need a golf net (or screen), golf mat, launch monitor, golf simulator software, and possibly a projector.
- Don’t forget to consider the noise of an outdoor simulator too – especially with neighbors close by.
- If not totally weather proof, make sure not to leave electronic components outside.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about outdoor golf simulators.
Backyard Hitting Net vs. Outdoor Golf Simulator Setup
Before getting into all things outdoor simulation, you might wonder if it’s worth it or can just use a mat and net in your backyard? This is a good question and is dependent more on you and your practice habits.
If you’ve never practiced at home, starting with a net and mat is a good starting point. This way you can test if you actually use the practice setup without spendings thousands of dollars on simulator equipment.
I say this because I once built a home gym, only to rarely use and eventually sell the equipment for a loss. Needless to say, just because something is convenient doesn’t mean you’ll always use it. Luckily, most golfers are addicted and if you’re reading this, chances are you’ll use a simulator.
Once you regularly practice in the backyard and/or want to make it even more effective, a launch monitor can help. Not only can you use it at home to measure distances and other data points, you can take it to the golf course as well. Plus, it can even work as a basic simulator if you buy the right one.
For example, a hitting net, mat, and the Voice Caddie SC4 or Rapsodo is all you need for a backyard simulator. Even if you don’t have room under a covered patio or carport, this is all the gear you need for a basic simulation software.
But if you want a more immersive experience, let’s get into what you need for a full on simulator, not just net.
Advantages of a Home Simulator
Still not convinced you need a simulator at home? Here are some of the biggest advantages to golf simulation…
- Work on your game 365 days a year. With a simulator you can play golf or practice at a virtual driving range whenever is convenient for you – even if a golf course is normally closed. There isn’t much cooler than sitting on your coach to then grabbing a golf club and going to hit at your golf simulator setup.
- Play simulated golf courses. Depending on the home golf simulator software you get, there are hundreds of courses available. Some of them might even be bucket list golf courses too.
- Have fun with friends and family. If you’re trying to get your significant other or kids into golf, a simulator is a great way to learn the game. It’s a lot less intimidating for new players too as they don’t have to worry about other people at the driving range. Plus, the entertainment value when you have people over is a great time.
Find the Right Space
As we mentioned in the intro, one of the hardest challenges with a home golf simulator is the room dimensions.
Most launch monitors and software require high ceilings and rooms with a lot of depth. This is for mounting the projector, getting enough room between the mat and screen, plus room between the monitor and player. A room that is 15-16 feet deep isn’t very easy in a lot of homes which is why outdoors usually works better.
To clarify we’re not recommending building a simulator in the open air as weather can destroy golf simulators if left outside. You’ll want and need a covered area – like a patio, gazebo, or carport. And even then, do not leave electronic components exposed to even the smallest amount of weather.
However, if you don’t have any structure but have a huge backyard you can always invest in an inflatable net cage tent. These are massive enclosures that stay up year round to create a fully immersive experience as you can hold a projector too.
This one has three sizes including:
- 12 x 10 x 10
- 15 x 13 x 13
- 18 x 15 x 15
These structures are a few thousand dollars but well worth the investment. Plus, it’s likely a lot cheaper than hiring a contractor to build a covered area.
Get The Right Gear
If you have found the perfect space, here are the main golf simulator components you’ll need to get started.
The engine that runs a simulator is the launch monitor. This device will provide tons of data about every shot including clubhead speed, ball speed, ball flight, apex, carry distance, spin, and a lot more.
Some launch monitors need to be 6-8 feet behind you when hitting – like a Flightscope Mevo+. While other devices sit next to the golf ball and don’t require as much space like a Bushnell Launch Pro.
Depending on the amount of space you have, choosing the right type of launch monitor is key. When comparing launch monitors make sure to check out data provided, price, number of courses included (if any), practice range and online challenges to name a few.
Some simulator options, like the ones from Foresight Sports or Trackman are very expensive. But others like the Skytrak launch monitor are a great choice for the everyday golfer.
Impact Screen and Enclosure
The next component of your DIY backyard simulator is a hitting screen. It’s best to buy your screen and projector together to ensure you get the right dimensions and have plenty of space.
You’ll need a few feet behind your screen too. Otherwise, if it’s right next to a wall the ball can hit the screen, ricochet back and potentially damage you or your gear.
With hitting screens there are tons of different sizes and price points for all budgets. Lower priced screens might have some more bounce back due to the weave pattern and typically won’t last as long.
If you’re using a space that is only for your simulator, you can buy a screen that isn’t retractable. However, if you’re using this space for other things – like parking your car – a retractable screen is a good idea. With the click of a button your screen can disappear in 30 seconds and clear up the space for anything else.
Additionally, it’s also worth noting that you might need an enclosure setup as well. This will make the simulator setup more expensive but provide a better simulation experience.
Like hitting screens, enclosures (and side netting) come in all different sizes to fit all types of budget. An enclosure can also help catch errant shots too.
Once you have a solid launch monitor and hitting screen, next up is the hitting mat. There are tons of choices depending on size and budget.
Don’t worry, hitting off golf mats isn’t like the old days where it could hurt your back. Now, they’re better designed than ever and some higher end ones have a realistic fairway feel.
If you intend to use your simulator as a multi-purpose area, I’d suggest getting a smaller one so you can move it easily. But if the simulator is going to stay up year round in an outdoor space, invest in a larger, high end mat for a better hitting experience.
Golf Simulator Software
The launch monitor you choose might come with some virtual golf courses but usually not too many.
In fact some launch monitors don’t even come with any golf courses and instead only have a practice range. So you might need to buy software – which is typically an annual subscription fee or sometimes a one-time fee.
Some of the most common software options are E6 connect, TGC 2019, GSPRO, and others. Paired with the right hitting screen, it can make it feel like you’re on the golf course.
Golf Projector (Optional)
Finally, if you have a launch monitor and screen, you’ll need a projector to display the graphics. Some simulators require a ceiling mount which might require installation on your end.
However, more and more simulators have short throw projectors. These don’t require ceiling installation and come with an enclosure that is a few feet in front of the hitting area.
Outdoor Golf Simulator Accessories
Finally, if you want to make your backyard simulator even better there are tons of accessories to think about.
- Ball Tray: If you want to make it feel like a driving range, a ball tray that sits next to your hitting mat is a great idea. It’ll keep things organized and make your simulator look more professional too.
- Dual purpose mat: Depending on the screen you choose some bounceback might happen and a larger mat that extends to the screen can help. Some of them also double as a hitting mat and putting green like this one from Rain or Shine Golf.
- Side barrier netting: If you have an outdoor setup it’s a good idea to invest in some side netting in case an errant shot occurs.
- Launch monitor enclosure: There are a lot of launch monitor options to complete your virtual environment but most of them aren’t protected. So make sure to buy an enclosure too.
- Chipping Net: A simulator is a great way to improve your long game but don’t forget your short game too. Invest in a chipping net especially if you have a big backyard.
- Outdoor Putting Green: Putting is one of the most important parts of the game and outdoor green is a great accessory to your simulator.
- Storage: To store all your golf equipment it’s a good idea to invest in a storage system. This way you can store all of your gear when you aren’t hitting balls.
FAQs About Home Golf Simulators
Do you have more questions about building an outdoor golf simulator? If so, keep reading through the most commonly asked questions by future golf simulator owners here.
What do you need to build your own golf simulator?
To build a home golf simulator – indoors or outdoors – you’ll need plenty of space first and foremost.
Once you have a space with the right dimensions, you’ll need a launch monitor, net or screen, hitting mat, and projector. Not to mention there are tons of other accessories to make it even better.
Read our full article on how golf simulators work.
How do you build a golf simulator enclosure?
Enclosures make a simulator more effective thanks to a higher quality image. Plus, they also come with side hitting nets that help catch errant shots.
There are tons of golf simulator enclosures and it depends on your space and budget. Make sure to check out our best golf simulator enclosures post now.
How big of a shed do you need for a golf simulator?
A shed – aka man cave – can also work for a golf simulator. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the weather and can leave it up 365 days/year.
Do you need planning permission for a golf simulator?
In most cases you don’t need a planning permit for a golf simulator. Most can fit in a room, garage, shed, or covered patio.
However, if you’re building a new outdoor golf setup just for your simulator experience, you might need to check with the city council. Depending on the city and design of your outdoor golf simulator you might need a permit.
How deep does a basement need to be for a golf simulator?
A basement is a great alternative to an outdoor golf simulator as you won’t have to worry about the weather. It also blocks out a lot of sound that might occur if you have an outdoor golf simulator setup or install one in your garage.
But the dimensions might be a problem as you’ll need at least 13 feet of depth.
Not to mention if you plan to install a ceiling mounted projector and simulator screen, plenty of height too. Make sure you can swing a golf club first before shopping for different components.
Can you use Skytrak outside?
Yes, you can use Skytrak launch monitor – a top name in the game – indoors or outdoors.
Hitting golf balls at home is a game-changer.
When you can play a virtual golf course or hit range balls in your backyard or garage, it can help your game tremendously. Especially if you live in a place with a long offseason and extreme temperatures.
There’s nothing better than starting your season off feeling like your game is ready instead of taking months to get in form. What’s great about simulators is that you can make a DIY one on nearly any size budget.
Even if you can’t afford a hitting screen, projector, and software yet, a net and mat are a great starting point. With the help of a launch monitor you learn tons about your game.
If you love the outdoor hitting area then you can always upgrade too.
Final Thoughts on Best Outdoor Golf Simulators
A backyard golf simulator is a great way to play/practice from home – even if you don’t have the space inside. Don’t forget you can always upgrade your setup over time so don’t let a smaller budget get in the way of building a great at home practice facility.
If you build an outdoor simulator and love it, it might be time to build an outdoor putting green too. This way you can work on your short game and long game without leaving home. But remember, we do not recommend leaving any electronic equipment exposed to weather.
Hopefully this article will lead to a great simulator experience and take your game to the next level.