Fed up waking up pumped for your round, only to find out the course is flooded? Can’t be bothered heading to the driving range? Then you need a home golf simulator. We’ve picked out the 2 best golf simulators in 2021, with one setup that can be built for under $1K, and a high end simulator for those with bigger budgets.
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Summary: 2021’s Best Golf Simulators
We’ll dig into the ‘why’ in a moment with full reviews, but in summary there’s really no contest. If you’re looking for an affordable setup, which you can put together for under only $799 including net and hitting mat then go for the OptiShot2. If you have a bigger budget, and are looking for a simulator that will give you more feedback on your swing and accurate ball flight and launch conditions, then you need a SkyTrak system.
Best Affordable Golf Simulator Under $1,000
Think you’re going to have to outlay thousands of bucks for a home golf simulator?
The OptiShot 2 is the world’s best selling golf simulator, and the good news is you can pick it up for just $799 including a hitting mat and net. That’s going to be all you need to get started if you connect to your iPad, but for the best setup you’ll probably want to pick up a projector and screen (our recommendations at the bottom of this guide).
Let’s see what you get.
OptiShot 2 Golf Simulator Review
First, let me clarify that what you are buying here is the ‘brains’ of the golf simulator (which includes tracking mat and sensor).
Do you need anything else?
Well, no, and yes…
If you buy the OptiShot 2 and nothing else (assuming you already have golf clubs), you can set it up, plug it into your laptop or PC, and swing away anywhere that you have room for a full golf swing.
You don’t even need to hit a golf ball, as the OptiShot will track the shot as if you had.
You’ll get to see the results of your shot on your computer screen straight away.
But with that being said, if you have the budget, a few extra bits and bobs (and a bit of DIY) will add to your home golf simulator experience. We’ll get to that shortly, but for now let’s carry on with the review.
The OptiShot 2: What You Get
Here’s what you’ll get in the box when you buy the OpiShot2:
- Infrared Optical Swing Pad
- OptiShot Golf 3D Software
- USB Cable (10ft)
- Foam Balls (x2)
- Adjustable Rubber Tees
- Hitting mat
Some packages also include extra swing pad replacement turf and a longer USB cable (15 ft). The longer USB cable is certainly useful, but if you buy without it no biggy as you can pick up an extra long USB cable pretty cheap.
How Does The OptiShot 2 Work?
The OptiShot’s swing pad contains 16 infrared optical sensors, which track your club through the hitting area. These 48MHz sensors emit thousands of pulses per second.
Why did I bold your club?
Because the OptiShot is not a launch monitor. It doesn’t track the flight of your ball, it tracks your club head.
So what does this mean for stats?
What Stats Does The OptiShot 2 Track?
For each swing you’ll be able to see:
- Clubhead Speed
- Face Angle
When I compared the distances reported by the OptiShot 2, to actual yardages measured on the course with my Garmin golf GPS, they were pretty close.
The system will record the stats so you can review averages for each club.
As the OptiShot does not track ball flight, you won’t get stats for launch angle or angle of attack.
But you will get to see an approximation of your ball flight on screen. And obviously if you’re hitting balls (be they real or foam) you’ll know how well you hit it.
Now let’s look at the software, and what you’ll see on screen.
What’s The OptiShot2’s Game Play Like?
I’m going to call this game play, because (aside from getting some useful feedback on your swing stats) really that’s what it is.
And yes, you can actually play a round of golf.
In fact, you can play (at least virtually) on some of the world’s best golf courses, including:
- The Golf Club Scottsdale
- Long Island Black
- Torrey White
- Torrey Black
- Palm Desert Mountains
- Palm Desert Canyons
- Barsebäck Golf Club
- Black Mountain
- The Canadian Club
- Österåkers Golf Club
- West Maui Plantation
- Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club
- Fylde Links
- Cogs Corner
- Twisted Twig
You can even play peer-to-peer against other golfers online.
Or you can just sharpen up your swing on the driving range:
As I mentioned at the start of this review, all you need to do is hook your OptiShot2 Swing Pad up to your laptop or PC, and you’ll see your shot on screen instantly.
It’s an impressive piece of kit for a great price.
The Best Home Golf Simulator In 2021
Got a bigger budget to play with?
Need more stats and feedback on your swing?
Well now let’s look at the very best home golf simulator available this year: the SkyTrak Launch Monitor.
Note: We are assuming you don’t have a spare $50K lying around for Trackman. If you do, then technically that’s the absolute best. But this one is less than 1/20th of the price.
SkyTrak Launch Monitor Review
Let me start by saying this isn’t cheap. You won’t normally get much change out of $2,000.
But what it is, is awesome.
Unlike the OptiShot2, the SkyTrak is a launch monitor. It uses high speed cameras to capture images of the golf ball immediately after impact, so it can accurately project ball flight.
Which means you’ll get stats on ball speed, spin rates, launch angle and more.
SkyTrak Launch Monitor: What You Get
Here’s what’s in the box:
- SkyTrak Launch Monitor
- Protective Metal Case
And that’s all you need.
Wait… no wires?
Nope, the SkyTrak will connect wirelessly to your PC or tablet. It doesn’t even require Wi-Fi as it contains a built in Wi-Fi hotspot. Which means you can literally take it anywhere.
So while we’re focusing on home use here, you could (if you wanted) take the SkyTrak with you to the range and get stats on all your shots.
How Does The SkyTrak Launch Monitor Work?
SkyTrak is a photometric launch monitor.
That means that instead of using a radar to track ball flight (as some other high end launch monitors do), SkyTrak actually captures images of your ball in flight for the first few feet post impact.
From these images the system is able to accurately project the rest of the shot, both in terms of distance and direction.
What Stats Does The SkyTrak Launch Monitor Track?
As well as being able to see an accurate represenation of your ball flight on screen, SkyTrak provides a ton of useful stats, including:
- Total distance
- Carry distance
- Club speed
- Ball speed
- Launch angle
- Side spin
- Back spin
- Spin axis
- Side angle
Checkout this demo from Bourne Golf Centre to see the simulator in action.
What’s The SkyTrak’s Simulator Like?
If you watched the video above, you’ll already have seen just how impressive SkyTrak’s simulator looks.
You’ll get an extremely accurate playback of your shot on screen, and when part of a full setup, it really is just like being at the driving range.
We’re not the only ones that picked the SkyTrak. GolfDigest chose it as the best value golf simulator this year.
How To Build A Full Home Golf Simulator Setup For Under $1,000
Want to take your home golf simulator experience to the next level?
Here’s everything you need to setup a home driving range.
And best of all, the whole kit and kaboodle will cost you under $1,000
You’ll need a simulator (the brains of your setup), and as we’ve already covered above, the OptiShot2 is the best affordable golf simulator on the market in 2021.
For the best playing experience, you’ll want to use the simulator with a projector (and screen).
There are a ton of cheap projectors around, but we would recommend investing $300 or so on a good quality unit.
At the end of the day, you’re doing this to see your golf shots (it’s a simulator), so you don’t want to be looking at a dim, faded image on screen.
We recommend the Epson VS250, which has a colour brightness of 3,200 lumens. That should be enough to get a clear image on your projector in most light conditions.
A projector screen shouldn’t cost too much and you should be able to pick one up for under $50.
We like this one from Excelvan, which can be used both indoors and outdoors.
It has a viewing area of 104” x 58”, and a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The OptiShot2 Golf In A Box Package has its own Swing Pad and mat. But if you’re looking for an alternative and just want to buy the simulator separately, this mat from Orlimar is supplied with an inset for the OptiShot pre cut into the turf.
You don’t want to be smashing golf balls into your projector screen.
It won’t last long.
So, you’ll need to purchase a driving net to place in front of it.
There are a ton of affordable driving nets available.
This 10x7ft net from Rukket will do the trick and it’s normally available for under $150.
If you have a bigger budget to play with, go for the Net Return Pro, which will automatically return your balls to you.
You should be able to pick up all of the above for under $1,000.
How To Setup Your Home Simulator
On the most basic level, all you need to do is put your projector screen on a wall and set up the net in front of it to catch golf balls.
Then setup your simulator, project from your PC or laptop to the projector screen, place your mat in front of the net and hit away.
It’s probably best to have a defined space for this (with nothing too breakable). A spare room or garage will suffice.
But if you want to try something a little more sophisticated (or are a DIY nut), then you could try and build your own wooden enclosure for your simulator.
Something like this…
Which is definitely the coolest thing we’ve seen today.
So let’s recap:
If you have a bit more budget, check out this golf simulator guide, which includes 2 high end simulators.
That’s it for our guide to the best golf simulators of 2021.
Creating your own home golf simulator setup is pretty straight forward and doesn’t have to break the bank.
So have fun putting it all together, and good luck for the 2021 season.
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