8 Best Golf Simulators In 2020 For Use Indoors
There’s a reason golf is the favorite pastime of so many people. It’s a perfect balance between athleticism, relaxation, strategy, and a special brand of zen.
But it’s also not a sport you can jump into and expect to be an instant pro.
No, golf requires plenty of technique – literally from head to toe, in fact. And repetition for the sake of improvement and mastery isn’t just the excuse you use to slip out and hit the links on Sundays. It’s genuinely important to both your success and your overall enjoyment while you play, and actually helps you relax more into the game once you know what you’re doing.
That said, it’s not always possible to drop everything and head out for 18 holes any old time. You’ve likely got work to consider, or the weather might not cooperate. Things come up at the last minute and golf courses close now and again. Or maybe a spontaneous golfing itch just hits you at midnight.
Whatever the case may be, if you’re like most people with a busy schedule and typical responsibilities, you’re going to need an easier, less expensive, more convenient solution to work on your swing.
That’s what at-home golf simulators are for and Birdie Golf Pro is here to guide you on choosing the right one.
A high-quality at-home golf simulator can give you a fully immersive, true-to-life facsimile of the golfing weekend you dream about all year long while improving your game for the next time you go out to hit the golf course in real life.
Plenty of software exists these days to give you the most best golf game reenactment possible from a screen in the comfort of your own living room (or wherever else you’d like!).
If that sounds expensive off the bat, it doesn’t have to be! The early days of golf simulators brought into the home saw software with a price tag in the five figures – and while there are still such price tags out there in the market, you can definitely find a golf simulator that meets your needs without breaking the bank.
With that said, like any other video game, home theater or entertainment experience, you’ll need to evaluate your options and take some factors into consideration to find the best product for you. And like any other entertainment experience, of course, not all at-home golf simulators are alike.
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What Should I Be Looking for in a Golf Simulator?
For first-time golf simulator shoppers, the influx of options on the market may be intimidating, so it’s helpful to plan out some of the features you want in a system (the right tracking system, net return, the best golf mat, etc.), the things you’d like to avoid, and a few other considerations.
Think about factors like:
Price – Unless you’re just looking to get a mat and an HDMI cable hookup for your existing computer (which is certainly an option, and not necessarily a bad one), an at-home golf simulator could run you anywhere from several hundred dollars up into the high five figures, dependent on what type of experience you’re after.
And while you’re sure to find an option that will work with your preferred budget, knowing what that budget looks like beforehand is the best way to find your perfect pick among the best golf simulators in each category.
Type/Level of Experience – Continuing on from the budget consideration, it helps to know what type of experience you would like your golfing simulator to provide. Are you looking for a basic visual target to hit toward? Would you like a pinpoint-accurate 3D tracking system to analyze your swing right down to the last detail? Something in between?
All these levels do exist, of course, and having a sort of wishlist in your head of the experience you want will help narrow down the dizzying array of choices ahead of you as you shop and peruse through your options online.
Practice Data – If your golf simulator setup represents a vital part of your practice routine, and you depend on your at-home games to translate into more skill, better form, improved accuracy and higher overall performance, lots of highly-reliable practice data from your sessions should probably be a priority as you browse the features available to you with each model.
Steer towards a golf simulator that places an emphasis on giving you a comprehensive, easy-to-read analysis of every last piece of your practice, from clubhead speed to ball flight – the results will be well worth it, whether you’re showing off on the course or just achieving personal goals!
Technology Requirements – Some golfing simulator systems either require or recommend certain specific pieces of technology to keep them running at their best. This could mean the product needs a gaming PC or a certain type of graphics capability for best results, or the listing could come with a recommended set of add-on software that gives you access to more virtual courses, multiplayer functionality or other features.
As you look for your golf simulator, consider whether you’d prefer to buy one that works with the technological setup you already have at home or, if you need the extras, how much the supplemental features add onto the total price, and whether not having these things will impact your ability to play in any way.
Awards and Reviews – One of the most nerve-wracking parts of buying any new product is the worry that it won’t work the way you want it to, that it won’t be a good fit, or something will go horribly wrong. This is an especially jarring and very unpleasant train of thought that comes up for those looking to buy an expensive at-home golf simulator.
But one of the best ways to buy with as much confidence as possible is to do so armed with the knowledge that a crowd of reviewers (or a handful of awards committees whose job it is to judge the best golf simulators) stand behind the product you just added to cart. This is also a great strategy for anyone who feels a little overwhelmed by all the information in front of them and just wants a reliable, well-loved golf simulator system for their home.
Besides the obvious benefit of frequent practice to your golf game, much of the excitement – and overall enjoyment – of using an at-home golf simulator is the feeling of immersion. After all, you’re not investing in the chance to hit a golf ball at a picture a few feet in front of you (at least, probably not).
If you’re in the market for a world-class at-home simulator, you’re likely looking for a system that makes you feel transported, while giving you feedback in real time that you can really use and courses that keep your brain and your golf club engaged and active.
And if your ideal price range falls in the five figures, Trugolf Vista 12 offers an incredible experience for the money.
- E6 Golf Connect Software – E6 Golf Connect is the gold standard for golf simulator software, and a 1-year subscription is included when you buy this specific Trugolf Vista system. Beyond the standard practice driving range, E6 offers you the ability to play on your favorite PGA courses and match your skills up against players from across the world in tournaments.
- Pinpoint-Accurate Sensors – Alongside the E6 Connect software, the Trugolf Vista comes with TruTrak2, which tracks stats like the path, launch angle and speed of your club head with three rows of sensors, so you get an in-depth, reliable analysis of every swing.
- Price tag – This model is no small investment, and trust me, you’re likely going to want many of the bells and whistles you can add onto it in order to get the full experience. While it is not by any means the most expensive golf simulator on the market, it is something of a luxury buy, and you’re going to want to make sure it’s the right product for you and your individual golfing situation.
- Sizing Needs – Consistent with its status as a seriously immersive and high-quality experience, this system needs more space than many other golf simulators. You’ll need a large room with enough height, width and depth to accommodate the projector screen and simulator enclosure setup, so make sure your home has an ideal spot to house it!
Of course, plenty of at-home golf simulator consumers are looking to splurge a bit on their experience, software, or setup without going too wild on the price tag. And don’t we all deserve to treat ourselves once in a while?
If you fall into this category, the Uneekor QED SwingBay Golf Simulator package may be exactly your cup of tea. This package is also ideal for serious players who are looking to hone their skills with frequent, focused practice on various golf courses and want as much precision and feedback as possible.
- Crystal-Clear Graphics – Practicing with the Uneekor QED system is the next-best thing to being on the golf course in person. HD display and two ultra high-speed cameras let you play and track your performance in real time, so that each impact registers accurately to help you level up your game.
- Adaptability – One of the coolest features of this model in particular is its ability to accommodate both left- and right-handed players due to its ceiling-mounted cameras. You won’t have to worry about any environmental obstacles getting in the way of your swing, and if you’re adventurous enough to learn to play ambidextrously, the sky’s the limit!
- Add-Ons Encouraged – Although this system typically draws rave reviews on its own, you’ll most likely need to purchase an upgrade of the Refine or Succeed software options to access all the golf course play features you want, which could be a drawback for anyone hoping to purchase the golf simulator system and nothing else.
A heavyweight in the industry, the SkyTrak SwingBay model continues to rack up award after award, year after year, from Golf Digest – and it earns every one.
But what makes it so special?
- The Technology – This model is a perfect poster child for the way technology has developed to give consumers a superior experience without gouging them on the price. SkyTrak brings high-speed photometric technology, fast and accurate data in real time and a high-definition display to the table so you can play as realistic a game as possible – which, let’s face it, is the only way to truly improve your performance, both virtual and on a real golf course. And besides the advanced tech, SkyTrak comes with a simple setup guide and plenty of customer support, so getting started remains simple for even the least technologically savvy out there. SkyTrak is also compatible with some of the devices you already have, including your computer or iPad, and the simulator comes with an HDMI cable.
- Customization – Some at-home golf simulator shoppers already have a good idea of what they want or the space that they’re working with, and are just looking for a system that fits seamlessly into their home. For these customers, SkyTrak offers flexible options from the size of the hitting mat you’ll be standing on to the features and golf courses you can purchase for the game experience itself, with several gaming packages at different price points to choose from, according to your goals for your golf game, the computer setup you already have, and whether you’re interested in multiplayer.
- Space-Friendliness – Very few of us are looking to renovate our entire basement level just to fit the new golf simulator we’ve been eyeing. For the majority of people, the goal is simply to find a simulator that fits neatly into your home and protects against the possibility of shattered vases or broken windows, possible. Once again, SkyTrak has these concerns covered. The system comes with a ceiling mount for its projector, so that the technology stays up and out of your way, and optional netting to put up alongside the screen to catch any stray golf balls and preserve any family heirlooms caught in the line of fire. The projector screen itself sets up on a simple framing system for maximum ease of use in both setting up and tearing down.
- Possible PC Replacement – Frankly, this is consistently hailed as one of the best golf simulators in its class, so there is not much to pick on here. However – like many other models, the SkyTrak SwingBay Golf Simulator Studio comes with the recommendation that users have a quality gaming PC to get the most out of it. And, unless you are already an avid gamer with a sweet PC setup, this may mean a serious extra expense on top of the simulator itself as without it, you risk some of the features and functionality to be enjoyed.
For beginners, or those looking to fit a few casual driving range sessions in here and there on the side, it’s often a lot more sensible to find a golf simulator system that won’t dominate either your home or your wallet. For those customers, SkyTrak’s Retractable Golf Simulator package is an excellent choice.
- Portability – As the name implies, there’s no need for the simulator to be a permanent fixture in any particular room of your home, the way some larger or more complicated systems have to be. This model retracts easily (“with the push of a button,” according to the website) so it can be stored easily or simply moved from room to room depending on where you would like it. Along the same lines, this simulator comes with the option of a wall or ceiling mount for its projector for even more flexibility.
- Durability – Just because it’s a bargain doesn’t mean it can’t stand up to countless practice sessions. This model was built tough, with a HomeCourse impact screen built to withstand hard hits from a real golf ball, over and over again, rinse and repeat. The system comes fully enclosed, too, with heavy-duty netting that attaches to the simulator enclosure to protect the surrounding area from any missed hits or stray shots. You shouldn’t need to hold back while you practice for fear of breaking your golf simulator system. Not to worry – this one was built to last.
- Not the Best Screen Quality – Although this golf simulator system boasts one of the best launch monitors out there and plenty of storage convenience, the flexibility of the impact screen means you’ll have to sacrifice the razor-sharp image offered by other simulator systems. And if immersion is high on your wishlist, that diminished quality may impact your experience.
Sometimes, shopping for any new entertainment system – or, in this case, at-home golf simulator – can get a little monotonous. Before long, you’ve scrolled past countless listings of features and terminology and bragging. After you’ve seen enough of this kind of information, you’re probably ready to make things simple.
What better way to simplify your search than to go with a golf simulator model that’s been tested, proven, and showered with awards? When you’re not sure where to turn or what to choose, well-lauded classics are usually the way to go.
So, why is the GCQuad Launch Monitor Swingbay Studio so popular?
- The Launch Monitor – The Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitor is, to quote Rain or Shine, “the most accurate, dependable, and comprehensive launch monitor on the planet.” But pretty words aside, this launch monitor is the only launch monitor available that features Quadroscopic imaging to give you unparalleled detail regarding your performance so you know what you excel at and where you can improve. And speaking of performance data…
- Data Analysis – The FSX Software Version 2.3 Sports Software Program included in this package is among the leading golf simulator software offerings in the world. Data is collected in real time and reports are relayed to the player using easy-to-understand charts and illustrations on everything from ball speed to clubhead speed to the trajectory of your swing, so you don’t have to be a technology whiz to get the information you need to up your game.
- Top-Dollar Reputation – Along with one of the best launch monitors available for an indoor golf simulator, you can expect a hefty cost to go with this system. And though it is nowhere near the most expensive on the market, beware buying a system with features you don’t need or won’t use. If you’re a casual player with no intention to be more than that, and no need to know the nitty-gritty details of your ball flight, launch angle and swing impact, you may have little use for all that detail. Be sure you’re matching your needs to the simulator, rather than springing for the fanciest one available!
For the more budget-conscious, shopping down a tier shouldn’t mean sacrificing quality, experience or features. And if you go with the SkyTrak Budget Golf Simulator, it doesn’t have to! At under $5,000, this option is great for home golfers looking to make a moderate investment for as full an experience as possible.
This is another Golf Digest favorite, having won their Best Value Golf Simulator 3 years in a row from 2017-2019, and it includes the consistently popular SkyTrak Launch Monitor.
Here’s a taste of what the system offers…
- Versatility – This model includes a separate net return and impact screen that you can combine or take apart to switch between simulator and regular modes, depending on the type of practice you need at the moment. Assembly is easy, too, so changing things up isn’t a big ordeal and anyone can handle it. Side barriers are compatible with the simulator enclosure and net return as well, for an added protection factor.
- Individual Challenges – “Improving your game” means different things to different people. What would you like to be better at? You may want to break in that brand-new golf club, increase your accuracy, perfect your swing or just maintain your muscle memory and expert technique. And whatever it is you’re working on, the Game Improvement Plan recommended with this system can help you do it. It includes features like bag mapping for club fitting and skills assessments as well.
- The plan also includes challenges for accuracy, speed, group competitions and more, so you can put yourself through an entire practice regimen between meetings or on a rainy day. You can even tweak the settings for the condition of the golf course or driving range and the weather. Want to practice with high wind speeds or different terrain? You got it.
- A Mat Built for Your Home – One of the drawbacks of the typical at-home hitting mat is the inadequate length. Playing on a tiny square of turf all but guarantees a scuffed-up floor or a divot in the carpet around your hitting mat from a rogue golf club. Home golfing shouldn’t come with home damage – which is precisely why the SkyTrak Budget Golf Simulator comes with a 10’ golf mat to give you plenty of elbow room and ensure the safety of your floors at the same time.
- Minimal – There is no such thing as a perfect golf simulator. Even the very best golf simulators on the market have flaws…but the flaws for this system are shockingly few, according to reviewers. There may be a few setup issues and some launch monitor configuring, and you couldn’t leave it out in the rain (like most simulators), but beyond these simple hiccups, users seem to have an especially easy time with the SkyTrak Budget Golf Simulator.
What is the Best Affordable Golf Simulator?
Chances are, unless you’re a seasoned user of golf simulators already, the veritable tidal wave of information you can find online probably doesn’t translate well or hold much meaning to you. Many, many golf simulator shoppers in the world just want to know two things – am I getting the best-quality experience for my money, and does it fit within my budget?
Don’t let the low price fool you; the OptiShot 2 Golf Simulator is one of the most rock-solid bestsellers on the market, both for casual golfers looking to brush up their skills and pros looking to fit a fast practice session in on a rough-weather day. The best part? It works with the software you’ve already got to make setup simple and give you the best experience possible. Just download the necessary software onto your Mac or PC, position the hitting mat wherever you’d like, and start swinging.
Although OptiShot will only cost you approximately the same amount as a new set of golf clubs (and offers way more in the bargain), the no-frills system brings to life an extensive selection of practice golf courses, multiplayer and driving range challenges and a diverse array of customized options.
- Ease of Use – No complex setup, tough-to-navigate programs or difficult machinery here. The OptiShot 2 Simulator can be bought, installed and used by anyone with a computer in their home – which, it’s a safe bet, is most of us. For a casual user or a newcomer to the world of home golf simulators (or even golf itself), could be a very tempting prospect. In fact, this system is a great “gateway drug” into the world of golf simulators and the sport as a whole for anyone looking who prefers to test-drive the technology before investing in a more expensive, more advanced model. Or, you know, a country club membership. “Waste not, want not” is the concept at work here, and it’s a smart one.
- Low-Maintenance – Forget the space demands and costly software extras that come part and parcel with other systems. OptiShot 2 can be put up for a quick game and then taken down and set aside before your in-laws come over. It won’t dominate the space it occupies and it doesn’t need special equipment. Just hook it up using the included USB cable, choose the golf ball you’ll use (or choose not to use one) and grab your favorite golf club. It’s one of the big advantages of the system that you won’t spend more time setting the whole thing up than you actually do practicing.
- Less Immersive – It goes without saying, but you do get what you pay for, in terms of the experience. Where a more expensive indoor golf simulator system may make you feel like you’re really on that championship PGA course alongside the other pros, OptiShot 2 is marketed at those looking to get some practice in without the impressive graphics, tracking system or granular shot data you might get with a higher price tag. This is not the model to consider if you’re looking to transform your garage into the ultimate golfing getaway.
- Minimal Data – Let’s be clear; you will have some data coming in from your sessions with the OptiShot 2. But if you’re looking for comprehensive, mind-blowingly detailed analysis of every millimeter head to toe, you’ll likely want to shop up a tier or two. This is mostly a good system for establishing a baseline with the data you get, so you have a path to start on and an easy benchmark for improvement as you go.
What’s the Most Accurate Golf Simulator?
For some, a golf simulator in-home is not a toy or a way to pass the time. There are those for whom an indoor golf simulator is, first and foremost, a training tool. These are the people who rely on the system to register their shots accurately and provide a faithful analog for the actual experience. And if you’re looking to make serious improvements, make no mistake – you will need a system that records exactly the shot you take. If you’re not seeing the same swing you just took reflected on the projector screen, how will you ever sharpen your skills?
If you’re looking for an experience that prioritizes accuracy, look no further than the GC2 Compact Golf Simulator Package paired with FSX Software. This system is a bit of a diamond in the rough. Looking at the price point, you might not expect a golf simulator that consistently ranks in the highest category for accuracy in its industry, but that’s exactly what you’re getting.
- The Camera – One of the crowning features that gives the GC2 Compact Golf Simulator Package its place among the best golf simulators is the stereoscopic camera system inside it that brings in and breaks down ball characteristics at the crucial point of club impact, capturing images at 10,000 frames per second to catch every detail.
- Take it Anywhere – Even some of the best simulators in existence are limited to indoor use due to delicate technological features – usually concerning the launch monitor itself , but this particular model is an exception, with a launch monitor that can function indoors or outdoors without losing any accuracy. At-home golf does not have to mean indoor golf if you have the right system and a superior launch monitor.
- HMT Add-On – If you really want to up the type of data you’re getting, consider purchasing the Head Measurement Technology, which feeds you helpful data like club speed, smash factor and more.
Are At-Home Golf Simulators Worth It?
The game of golf itself notoriously requires a pretty considerable investment. You have to take into account the golf clubs, other gear, any lessons you might want to take, and membership fees to the golf course of your choice, if applicable.
Similarly, an at-home indoor golf simulator system costs a fair amount of money, no matter which price tier you decide to shop in. And not just the system itself. You usually need to factor in any software add-ons you’re going to have to have in order to get the features, golf courses or challenges you want, any customizations or upgrades you decide to purchase in terms of the golf mat, accessories or actual system, and sometimes a few installation costs.
Looking at all these factors together is enough to make anyone stop and think. Is even the best golf simulator worth it?
Well, that all depends.
As you’re considering the pros and cons of buying an at-home golf simulator, think through the following:
What’s My Goal?
Why do you want a simulator in the first place? Some users are simply looking for a bigger, fancier, more immersive XBox. Some are serious golfers who are dedicated to practicing, improving, and continually bettering themselves as a player. Still others want a creative way to get some exercise and mental stimulation in the middle of what might otherwise be a monotonous kind of day.
Now – none of these are bad reasons to buy a simulator. Far from it! But they do have some bearing on whether the purchase will be worth it, because they determine how impactful the result of using the simulator is going to be.
If golfing is your greatest passion or your life’s work, having a way to realistically practice your technique and get helpful feedback on your performance is not only worth it, it’s a vital part of improving as an athlete. Plus, in comparison to hiring a coach or spending more time on the course itself, the simulator you’re eyeing might actually be a bargain.
For the more casual user, you may want to estimate how much time you think you’ll be interested in putting in. After all, you’d hate to spend a sizable chunk of money only to use your system once and then let it gather dust in the garage. Alternatively, if you look forward to spending a few evenings a week beating your personal best during a driving range practice or just letting your mind relax while you hit a ball or two, a simulator is probably a great investment for you.
And of course, if you’re the type of customer who just needs a break in the middle of your day to get the blood pumping and center your mind, and you’d prefer to do it golfing, an at-home simulator is almost definitely the way to go. Many of us would much rather head down to the basement for a quick round of golf than drive out to the gym, and it’s healthy to have a convenient and fun way to get active!
What’s My Budget Like?
This may be more of a temporary concern for some prospective simulator shoppers, but it’s helpful to plan out what kind of golf simulator you want (features, software, setup, etc.) versus how much you’re willing to invest. If you’re in the market for the best all-out pro experience, but you’re only checking out the lowest price tiers for simulators, you wouldn’t want to settle for less just to get your hands on any old simulator.
It also depends on how you’re planning to buy. Rain or Shine offers monthly payment plans on lots of their indoor golf simulator models, and this can be a great option for the avid coupon-clipping golf fans in the world. It’s an avenue for ownership that means you don’t have to drop a huge amount on an expensive golf simulator in cash, but rather spread the expense out over time.
Where Will I Put My Golf Simulator System?
Rain or Shine’s website does an excellent job of addressing this point, but it does bear repeating: make sure you have enough space for your at-home golf simulator. Many are the tales of excited home golfers who get their simulator system home, raise their driver to take that enthusiastic first full swing and…
End up paying out the nose to repair the damage inflicted by a flying club head to their ceiling.
On a less dramatic note, most indoor golf simulators do need a certain amount of space – this is always listed on the product page – to be set up. Just make sure that you have the right room in mind for your simulator, so you can avoid both a disappointing outcome upon setting up your simulator, and any costly damages that result from a game.
Side note: Adding side nets to your purchase is generally a good idea. Stray golf balls are no friend to drywall.
At the end of the day, it’s all about shopping smart. Great at-home golf simulators come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and custom considerations, so just equip yourself with the right knowledge to make a purchase you’ll love!