Every golfer has dreams of playing a round in the comfort of their own home. Having a home golf simulator is now within reach for many golfers due to advancements in technology and cost reductions.
For a while, I’ve wanted to create a comprehensive guide for all of you. I finally got in touch with someone who is an expert in this landscape. Recently I spoke with Cory Gauvreau, who is the President of Par2Pro. They are one of the leading providers of home golf simulators in North America.
After speaking with Cory for two hours, one thing became abundantly clear. There are endless combinations of materials you can use to build a home golf simulator. In his words, it’s an absolute jungle out there, which is why he has created a successful business helping golfers navigate that world.
You can spend anywhere from $500 all the way up to $70,000. There isn’t one solution that fits all, and the purpose of this article is to give you an overview of the materials you need, the space required, and some options you will have at various price levels.
Be aware that each home golf simulator has its nuanced features, and it will suit golfers’ needs separately. If you want to purchase supplies for your home setup, then I highly recommend checking out Shop Indoor Golf. I have referred many Practical Golf readers to them over the years, and everyone has been more than satisfied with their customer service.
I’ve broken up the article into several sections, which will go over some of the critical things you should know.
To build a home golf simulator, you will need five items. In each category, you will find varying costs based on the quality and durability of each material.
Be cautioned; you will get what you pay for.
If you purchase an inexpensive golf mat, net, or projector, it will likely not last over time. One thing to consider is if this is going to be a long-term fixture in your house. If this is just an experiment, and you will upgrade down the road, then it might make sense to go with the less expensive options.
Keep in mind that some of these suggestions are very generic. Cory from Par2Pro does not necessarily stand behind some of these because he customizes each specific product to a customer’s needs.
The one thing Cory stressed is that mats are crucial. Hitting mats are very costly to manufacture because they are so heavy, shipping costs can add up quickly.
There are some budget options available like this one from Cimarron.
A quality turf mat will cost you a minimum of $300-$500 like this one. They can get as expensive as $800 if you want the best in performance and durability.
My two favorite premium options are the SIGPRO Golf Mat (what I now use) and TrueStrike. After having my home simulator setup for years, I can tell you that it’s worth investing in a premium mat. It will make the experience more enjoyable, will help prevent injury, and last longer.
You can also check out my guide to golf mats to find out some more options.
Projectors can be very tricky for many reasons. Each room will have its own needs based on light, size, and the resolution that the simulator software requires. Not all projectors out there will appropriate for a home golf simulator.
There are far less expensive projectors out there for as little as $100 that might entice you, but you will likely have many issues with usability, quality, and longevity. You get what you pay for!
Optoma is a brand that typically suits the needs of many home simulators. Their H412ST model comes highly recommended.
To prevent doing any damage to your walls you are going to need a net or impact screen.
If you are using a projector, then you will need an impact screen. The price can vary anywhere between $250 to well over $1000, depending on the quality and design. Here is an excellent option if you are on a budget. Depending on the room you are using, you also should consider putting netting around the perimeter of the impact screen for any errant shots.
Another option is just to use a net without a projector, and run the simulator on a computer screen. You can even have it connected to a TV off to the side. This pop-up net
from Spornia is a good option for the entry-level. If you want a more premium solution, then check out The Net Return. They are by far the best net in my opinion. I’ve hit tens of thousands of shots into my Mini Pro Series over several years, and there is no noticeable wear.
My guide to golf nets explores a few other options as well.
This is the most crucial piece of the puzzle for your home golf simulator. The actual sensor system you choose will have an enormous impact on your experience. After speaking with Cory, I came to understand that there are endless variables. It all depends on the kind of golfer you are, your budget, the size of your room, how important accuracy is to you, and a host of other factors.
I will cover some basics when we get into different budget levels. Each system has its pros and cons, and there is no such thing as a perfect solution for everyone.
Anyone who is a regular reader of Practical Golf knows that I have been a happy SkyTrak user for years (here is my full review). I use it to practice, play simulated courses, and more importantly do testing for the site. I’ll go over more options later in this article, but I still believe it’s the best overall option for most golfers when you combine its price, accuracy, and simulation software integrations.
Almost every single simulator package is going to require a computer to run its software. Hardware is an added cost that many golfers will not consider. It’s possible you may already have a laptop, tablet, or desktop option that is capable of running the software. Most systems will require a more robust graphics card, which you can easily upgrade on an older computer if you are handy.
Additionally, it’s also worth thinking about whether or not you want to have a dedicated computer. It can be annoying to continually bring a laptop in and out. Depending on your situation, and the simulator you choose, you might need to figure an extra $500 – $2000 for this cost.
The amount of space you have in your home for a golf simulator is also another critical factor to consider. Cory stressed that you want to have enough space to swing a club comfortably. Many times he has seen clients squeeze simulators into small spaces. They may have seemed appropriate before installation, but the golfers found it very difficult to swing freely once the screen and net were set up.
There are three separate components here, and each of them is equally important – ceiling height, room width, and finally depth.
A ceiling height of 10 feet is a “safe” distance that can accommodate most golfers’ height and swing type. Cory mentioned that he was able to build a simulator in a room with a ceiling of 8′ 2″. However, the couple was shorter than average and had very flat swings. It may be possible for you to swing clubs freely in a ceiling lower than 10 feet depending on your height and how flat or vertical your swing is. Don’t forget to consider other golfers who might be using the space if you plan on having friends or family members use it also.
When thinking about the width of the room, there are two things to consider:
If you are going to have left and right-handed golfers, then 15 feet could be appropriate. Some people have made it work in rooms that are 9 feet wide, but you might need two sensors, or move them back and forth when switching players.
In Cory’s opinion, the minimum depth of the room you will need is about 15 feet. This includes 1 foot from the wall to the screen, 8 feet from the screen to the tee, and finally 6 feet of safe distance behind the golfer.
However, if you are using a radar-based system like Trackman, you might require as much as 23 feet.
Photometric systems like Skytrak and Foresight measure from the side of the ball, and room depth is not much of an issue. However, Trackman measures from behind the golfer, and it needs to track the ball for a minimum of two revolutions to get an accurate reading.
Overall, Cory recommended to lay out the room beforehand carefully, and take measurements. Swing all of your clubs in the space, but keep in mind that once everything is set up things might appear smaller due to stance, mats, ceiling, and wall protection.
Another thing to consider is that any home golf simulators can function as a multi-purpose room. Many people will also use it as a home theater, a playroom for children, and even a place to serve Thanksgiving dinner (true story).
This is the level that I was most interested in. I know most of you reading this are not going to be able to invest $10,000 – $70,000 in a home golf simulator.
If you are on a tight budget but want a full simulation experience, you can do it for $5,000. But there will be some tradeoffs
At this price point, you are most likely looking at an OptiShot 2 simulator. It’s currently around $300, and this is the entry-level. You can have plenty of fun with a product like this, but be aware that the accuracy is limited. Optishot only measures the speed, path, and face angle of your club. From there it calculates where your ball is going but is not directly measuring the actual golf ball after impact. So you might not make great contact, but OptiShot would simulate a shot that was struck almost perfectly. It is essential to understand that the info provided could be misleading on individual shots, which could frustrate players.
The benefit of using a system like OptiShot is that you don’t need to use an actual golf ball. You can use a foam ball or a plastic one. This will allow you to save a ton of money because you don’t need to use a high impact projector screen or net. Cory has seen some people use a painter’s tarp or a bedsheet.
Recently, I posted this review of Optishot 2 if you want to read more about its features.
The popular “Golf In a Box” package for Optishot is available for under $1000.
If you want to go with a higher quality mat, projector, and net, then you should take a look at the Silver Entertainment package from Shop Indoor Golf at around $3000. You can avoid the hassle of purchasing everything separately and get a better deal overall.
However, if you do want the best experience, I’d suggest investing a little more money. The difference is enormous.
If you have a bigger budget then you can get a much more accurate simulator, and increase the quality of all the materials you will use. For most golfers, I believe this is the “sweet spot” between money invested and performance. I’ll go over several popular options that are now available.
Several years ago a launch monitor was released called SkyTrak that was geared towards consumers. It was a real game-changer for the home golf simulator market. It offers accuracy on ball data that was on par (no pun intended) with systems that were far more expensive. At $2,000 Skytrak is an excellent option for golfers who demand more accuracy. As I mentioned earlier, this is the product I use and I still believe it’s the best overall option.
Something to note about Skytrak is that currently it only gives ball data (spin, distance etc). It will not provide measurements on your actual swing.
SkyTrak has many software integrations with companies like E6 Golf, World Golf Tour, Creative Golf, and The Golf Club. These will allow you to play thousands of different golf courses, and SkyTrak also has a tremendous native software package for practice. You should note that many of the software plans come with yearly fees, so that should be factored in to your budget.
If you have some more money to invest in a unit like SkyTrak, then you will want to make sure the rest of the materials you use are going to last. If you want to purchase everything together, which I recommend, there are plenty of packages available.
Here are three popular options for under $10,000:
Training Package (Under $3500)
SkyTrak SIG10 Package (Most Popular Package)
You can read my full review of SkyTrak here.
Cory from Par2Pro also mentioned you could take a look at the Vista 8 system from TruGolf. This is a very nice integrated package that is just under $10,000.
You’ll get pretty much everything you need – a hitting enclosure, turf, projector, impact screen, and course software.
TruGolf does provide clubhead data (clubface angle and path) as well as integration with E6 Connect, which is one of the best software providers for home golf simulators.
When your budget gets beyond $10,000 a lot more options open up for you regarding accuracy, software, and the quality of your setup.
You can now purchase launch monitors from Foresight, Trackman, and Flightscope. Additionally, there are more premium packages from high-end home golf simulator companies like Full Swing Golf, SwingTrack and TRU GOLF. At these levels, you can expect to get much more accuracy concerning ball flight as well as your swing information. Additionally, the simulation software becomes much more robust.
You can really go crazy with high-end systems. The Full Swing S2 came highly recommended from Cory, and it starts at about $20,000. Believe it or not, that is actually on the lower end.
Some systems could cost you as much as $50,000 – $70,000. High-end home golf simulators can be outfitted in nice enclosures, and have the best of everything. If your budget fits into this premium category, it’s best to work with a home golf simulator company directly. It’s a significant investment, and you want to make sure you are going to be satisfied with your money.
If you have made it to the end of this article then your head might be partially spinning by now. What I listed is actually not everything that is out there. One of the final questions I asked Cory is if he believed the cost of higher-end systems would come down. In his opinion, it probably will not. Companies are constantly upgrading their technology and always offering new features that they find a way to charge more for.
The entrance of Skytrak into the market was a big change, and it is possible that other systems at that price point could become available. However, it is costly and time-consuming to develop these products, and there are only a finite amount of companies who have an interest in this market.
If you are in the market for a home golf simulator there are options at every price level, and hopefully, you understand what you will get for your money now. A great resource to purchase items, and do it yourself is Shop Indoor Golf.
If you are interested in working directly with a company who can help you make the right decision, and build the system for you, then I recommend getting in touch with Cory and his team at Par2Pro here.
If you’re a golfer who is looking to shoot their lowest scores, you’re going to find many answers in your iron play. Successful approach shots require careful planning, the right information, and of course, skillful ball-striking.
In this article, I’m going to share the following:
Let’s dig in!
For a long time, we didn’t quite understand why certain golfers scored better than others. Luckily, Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia University, cleared that up for all of us. After researching millions of shots using his revolutionary strokes-gained statistics (a measurement of relative performance), he came to the following conclusion:
My analysis of millions of golf shots reveals a consistent finding: Approach shots account for the biggest scoring advantage between golfers of every skill level. The best golfers also gain strokes with their driving, short game and putting games, but approach shots are the greatest difference-maker.
For clarity, approach shots encompass all shots outside of 100 yards that are not tee shots on a Par 4 or Par 5. As you know, that is a large percentage of your shots on the course, especially with your irons. For further information, I highly recommend reading Every Shot Counts
Ask any golfer how far they hit their 7-iron, and they’ll likely tell you how far they think they can hit it versus how far they are actually hitting it. If someone says 165 yards, that’s usually how far they can hit their 7-iron if they flush it. But what about more normal shots?
Shot Scope, a popular shot-tracking company, analyzed millions of real shots amongst their users (you can read my review of their system here). The following chart shows how far golfers at different handicap levels hit their irons on average:
As you can see, most golfers are hitting their 7-iron between 147 to 159 yards on average. And as you would expect, as the handicap level goes down, distance goes up.
If you’re interested in tee shot statistics, you can check out this article that was extremely popular a few months ago.
Another element of scoring that Mark Broadie proved (and that many of us suspected) is that golf is a game of proximity. All things being equal, and with very few exceptions, the closer you are to the hole, your chances of posting a lower score go up.
Here are aggregate proximities amongst golfers by club:
As I’ve mentioned before, this is one of the most underrated difficulties of the game. Nobody on the planet can put their golf ball where they want. As such, you have to plan accordingly (hint: don’t be so aggressive with targets).
Now let’s take a look at the proximity numbers for a “middle of the pack” player on the PGA Tour from various approach distances in 2020:
175 – 200 yards: 33 feet
150 – 175 yards: 28 feet
125 – 150 yards: 23 feet
100 – 125 yards: 19.5 feet
As you would expect, these numbers are significantly better. But they usually surprise most golfers. As good as PGA Tour players are, they are not hitting the ball next to the pin. What you see on TV is mostly a highlight reel.
Pro golfers’ main skill is keeping the ball around the hole enough to make routine pars and some birdies. But mostly, avoiding bogey or worse.
Most golfers put way too much pressure on themselves and are unrealistic with proximity in general. Hopefully, those numbers can reset your expectations.
This leads me to my next point…
Traditional golf stats such as fairways hit or putts per round can be misleading. That being said, greens in regulation is still a vital statistic. If anyone asks me what they can do to shoot lower scores, I usually tell them, “focus on hitting more greens per round, and work backward from there.”
But what does that mean? Well, it’s a combination of advice:
Looking at greens in regulation by club and handicap level, a couple of trends emerge:
For starters, if you want to give yourself a better opportunity to hit a green with your approach shot, you need to be closer to the hole. This is why finding ways to increase your distance off the tee is a worthwhile endeavor if you want to lower your handicap.
Not surprisingly, as the handicap level goes down, GIR goes up. There are very few exceptions to this rule in golf, but of course, having a stellar short game can buck this trend. But if you’re looking to give yourself the best opportunity to improve, you cannot ignore this statistic.
Understanding how golfers separate themselves from one another is an important topic. Many players assume that working on certain parts of the game will yield bigger results than they do. I can tell you without a doubt that if you do want to improve, your iron play should be a significant part of your plan.
A more efficient way to go about this process is to keep more detailed statistics, which shot-tracking systems like Shot Scope can help with. Sometimes, you can fix your proximity and GIR numbers by having a better understanding of your true iron distances and where you are missing your shots. Small fixes like adjusting your target and club selection can yield big results in scoring.
Like everyone else in the golf world, I was thoroughly entertained this past weekend as I watched many of the world’s best players try their best to win a Green Jacket. While I keenly observed their prodigious swings and marveled at their short game prowess, part of me remained on the lookout for subtle clues about what was happening on the mental side of the game.
Of course, DJ played great. And the fact that he overcame the ghosts of poor performances in previous majors undoubtedly made the win even sweeter. But for me, three other things stood out as reminders of what to do and not do next time I have a chance to tee it up.
Here I should emphasize I’m not looking to discover a secret psychological technique that will enable me to win on the PGA Tour … or even win another tournament at my club. I’m looking for insights to reinforce my fundamental purpose for being on the golf course — to enjoy playing, and play as well as I can, in that order.
With that filter in mind, let me share the three elements that leaped off my TV screen during the Master’s telecast:
I’ve got to admit; I’m feeling a bit sheepish writing these words … I mean … it’s Rory McIlroy for goodness sake, and if ever the golf gods crafted a swing on Mt. Olympus, it’s the affable Irishman’s. A relative hack like myself reflecting on what Rory should or shouldn’t do is a bit like making suggestions to Neil Armstrong about how he could’ve done a better job walking on the moon.
Nonetheless, I was taken aback when Rory dumped his tee shot on #16 into the adjacent pond, both by the shot itself and by his self-commentary, “that’s so bad.”
Now again, I’m looking at this from my perspective. I’m a club-level golfer, and I pay to play the game. And although I’m a mental coach, I don’t know Rory personally, so I can’t say whether his self-talk helped or hurt his cause this weekend. But I can say this with certainty … a pattern of negative self-commentary will drastically diminish the average golfer’s fun-factor and often inflate his score.
The lesson: After a bad swing, just shut up. Telling yourself it was a bad shot, or acting like Sir Nick and describing the faulty blow for all to hear, “I hit it fat … I hit it thin … I didn’t keep my head down” embeds a negative belief in your mind. If that belief gets reinforced time and time again, it will prevent you from fully enjoying your round and possibly posting a great score.
I certainly can’t blame Bryson for feeling bummed out about how things unfolded at Augusta. The clubs he was hitting into greens during his practice rounds had the golf world abuzz, and you wouldn’t need to be Sigmund Freud to conclude that anyone bold enough to suggest his par was 67 wasn’t lacking confidence and fully expected to bludgeon Bobby Jones’ sacred track.
Given his expectations, when things started to go awry during his opening round, Bryson predictably began a post-shot pattern that included looking up and shaking his head in disbelief. Note … Bryson barely verbalized his feelings … but because his body language was speaking loudly for him (especially on Saturday), words weren’t necessary. His mind would clearly get the message that the Augusta National golf course was treating him unjustly.
It’s a common behavior. Admittedly, I’ve done it myself when the wheels fall off my golfing bus. Look … I’m not saying responding to a missed three-footer with raised eyebrows is going to derail your round. But if you get into the habit of reacting to a missed putt or a bit of misfortune with negative body language, you’ll find it much harder to curtail negative self-talk, and the combination will make it very difficult to have fun … or play well.
The lesson: Although not putting words to negative emotions is important (see Rory above) and your playing partners will be grateful for your silence, refraining from complaining out loud is only half the equation. If you want to make your mental game into a strength, you must also refrain from habitually expressing yourself with negative body language during a round.
(I should point out that after the 3rd round, Bryson revealed he was feeling light-headed, and the feeling continued on Sunday. Some of his non-verbal responses could be attributed to not feeling well, but again, this isn’t an attempt to diagnose Bryson’s mental state. It’s simply using what I observed on TV to cast a light on the mental game of average golfers like myself.)
To say the amazing Eldrick has given us a few exceptional moments at the Masters would be quite an understatement. But I loved what he did on Sunday afternoon because it’s something I can emulate. Next time I’m coming off a disastrous hole — and there will be a next time — I hope to handle such mental challenges with the dignity and positive focus he displayed.
To recap … there he was, the great man himself, in his element at Amen Corner, tapping in on the 12th hole for a ten! What a potentially embarrassing moment. What an inopportune time to card your highest score —ever — on the PGA Tour.
But what did Tiger do? Did he wallow in his misery, blame his caddy, the wind, or his back? No. He focused on the next shot, took one shot at a time, and recorded 5 birdies on his final six holes to finish in red figures. As he said afterward, “You’re alone out there … you have to figure it out … you have to fight … no one is going to pull you out.”
In other words, Tiger took responsibility, decided to move on, and did just that. He didn’t remain chained to #12 while he was playing the remaining holes. And although I’m not privy to his private conversations, I’ve got to assume he wasn’t lamenting to his caddy Joe Lacava about the tee shot he rinsed, the 3rd shot he rinsed again, or the 6th shot he hit from the bunker at the back of the green and rinsed once again, while he was waiting to hit his tee shot on #16. When it was over, it was over.
In the past, I’ve done the opposite. I’ve let bad holes keep me mired in disappointment or frustration … and I often watch many of my playing partners do the same after a blow-up hole.
The lesson: Every golfer can have a disastrously bad hole at any time. The moment your putt drops and the hole from hell is finished, you’ve got to let it be finished … because … if you can truly leave it behind, you open yourself up to the possibility of experiencing another one of golf’s eternal truths — every golfer can have a great hole at any time.
Kent Osborne has a professional lifetime of experience as a mental coach for pro athletes and corporate executives. His current passion is golf. You can find out more about his coaching at scratchattitude.com, or on Twitter @scratchattitude
Before golf, my sport was beer-league softball. Our team was brutal, but we sure had fun. After every game, we’d gather in a semi-circle around the tailgate of Terry’s truck, have a beer or two, and decide who’d be the latest recipient of the coveted “trophy” … a wooden leg adorned with baseball hose and a shoe, given to the player who made the worst play of the night.
I played with the aptly named “Blues” for six laugh-filled seasons until fate threw a curveball. Around my 50th birthday, I injured my throwing arm and had to hang up my glove. A few weeks later — perhaps because I was desperate for something active to do — I jumped at the chance to play golf in a charity tournament with a few of my teammates. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed myself. Then and there, I decided to become a regular golfer.
But right from the very beginning, I couldn’t help but notice an obvious paradox — despite their pre-round enthusiasm, my buddies derived little enjoyment from actually playing golf.
No doubt, my pals cracked a smile whenever they rolled in a birdie, and they clearly enjoyed sharing jokes and chirping at each other as we walked down the fairway. But mostly, when it came time to execute a shot, their happy-go-lucky mood vanished as soon as they stood over the ball.
To be honest, the contrast took me by surprise. On the diamond, we laughed at our gaffs. Of course, you’d hear the occasional cuss after an error, but the bad mood would dissipate almost as soon as it appeared. I guess you could say we all knew how good we weren’t.
But on the golf course, the same guys would act as if a miss-hit carried dire consequences. They’d make a bad swing, describe the reason aloud, then routinely step to the side and rehearse a “correct” motion. On the putting green, they’d get so sour after missing a short putt you’d think they’d lost a chance to get a tour card. And these emotional storm clouds seemed to linger, and often get darker, as the round went on. At one point, I remember asking myself, “Why are they paying good money to get pissed-off at themselves?”
And so, full of righteousness, I decided to be different. With hindsight, I can see it was self-delusion, but at the time, I actually believed I’d have no problem establishing and maintaining a carefree, fun-filled approach to golf. After all, I was a successful performance coach. I’d worked with All-Stars in the NHL, and I’d been an executive coach to corporate leaders all over the globe. Frankly, I assumed I’d rise above the needless fears and foolish frustrations that regularly plagued my buddies on the links.
But like I said, it was self-delusion.
Once my game improved to the point where I could break 90 regularly, my focus slowly but surely shifted from playing golf for recreation to performing in a way that would produce a “good” score. In other words, my reason for being on the golf course was subtly but significantly changing — albeit unwittingly— from enjoying the experience of making a swing to making my swing a means to an end.
And continuing to improve my physical ability only made things worse. By the time I was skilled enough to break 80 occasionally, my expectations were so out-of-whack that my dominant on-course mood was frustration. Good shots left me feeling neutral because, after all, I should be able to make that shot. And the inevitable bad swings and missed putts left me sour at myself. To sum up, I’d say I was emotionally misaligned to what should’ve been my primary target — the joy at the heart of simply playing a game.
I mean … what is with the game of golf?
Why do otherwise contented, successful, rational people invest most of their precious emotional energy into their worst moments on the golf course and put little or no energy into their best?
In my case, there really was no excuse. I was professionally trained to know better and do better. Yet, I still fell into the trap of allowing negative feelings to diminish my enjoyment and often derail my most promising rounds.
I see three reasons for the error of my ways:
First, the nature of the mind. All of us are hard-wired to pay attention to negatives because it gave us an evolutionary advantage. The ability to notice when something looked or sounded out-of-place at the watering hole kept stone-age hunter-gatherers alive. But that ability can have the average golfer over-focused on mechanical flaws and under-invested in how good it feels to make a good swing.
Second, the nature of the game. To play any sport to the best of your ability, the subconscious mind must be center stage, and the conscious mind needs to take a back seat. But unlike many other sports, golf doesn’t allow us to react to a ball or an angry opponent, thereby automatically engaging the subconscious. In golf, we initiate the action. Not only that, but there’s a lot of time between shots, which equates to your thoughts moving to the forefront of your awareness. No wonder it’s difficult to get into “the zone” and stay there for 18 holes!
Third, mainstream golf psychology’s overemphasis on positive thinking. Look, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with positive thinking. What I’m saying is this — you can’t think your way out of a negative emotional state. As anyone anxious about public speaking will tell you, once fear or frustration really kicks in, no amount of positive self-talk will get rid of it. Something more is required, and believing your emotions are less important than your thoughts doesn’t lend itself to fixing the problem.
Here’s the simple practice that helped me change my habitual on-course emotions from mostly negative to mostly positive — I made a commitment to feeling great when I made a great shot. (And here I’m talking about a great shot for me, not for Mr. McIlroy or his peers on the PGA Tour).
And the keyword here is feeling. I’m not talking about changing my thoughts by saying “great shot” to myself or even saying it aloud. I’m talking about an Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup chest pump kind of feeling … the kind of emotion that actually comes from such a genuine, heartfelt passion for the game that it imprints itself on your memory.
You have that passion … or you wouldn’t be a fan of Practical Golf. Let yourself feel it where it matters most — on the golf course, immediately after you make a great swing or drain a great putt. Don’t respond to your best moments with a ho-hum attitude. Permit yourself to punctuate a great swing by letting yourself relish the accomplishment.
It’s definitely a better way for me to play the game, and it just might be a better way for you as well.
Kent Osborne has a professional lifetime of experience as a mental coach for pro athletes and corporate executives. His current passion is golf. You can find out more about his coaching at scratchattitude.com, or on Twitter @scratchattitude
The post Falling Into, and Getting Out of, Golf’s Deepest Trap appeared first on Practical Golf.
Recently, Voice Caddie released their SL1 Rangefinder. Interestingly, it offers a combination of features that no other product has on the market right now (not even Bushnell).
The SL1 integrates GPS, laser, and green undulation technology, allowing it to offer golfers multiple data points when they consider their target and club selection.
After testing it on the course, I was thoroughly impressed by its performance. Also, I was a bit surprised. Voice Caddie is traditionally known for its launch monitors, but now they have a product worth considering for golfers who want a distance measuring device that has it all for under $500.
My usual recommendation is that most golfers should use GPS data over a rangefinder. However, rangefinders are the overwhelming product purchase of choice in the distance-measurement category. Well, now, you can have your cake and eat it too!
Voice Caddie has done an excellent job of using GPS yardages in its SL1 rangefinder. There is a small OLED screen below the lens that displays your front, center, and back yardages to the green for starters. So if you’re in a situation where you can’t see the pin, you can quickly take a look at the screen to see your distances.
Additionally, Voice Caddie has added GPS data into the viewing area of the lens. When you lock onto the target, you can see your yardage to the pin, the front and back yardages, and the actual change in the slope’s elevation.
Overall, if you’re looking for a rangefinder that also has GPS yardages, I think the Voice Caddie SL1 has succeeded at combining the two.
One of the main distinguishing features of any rangefinder is its ability to lock on to the pin and how fast it does it. Many of the cheaper lasers in the market struggle to identify a pin. Often, it requires several attempts before locking on to the correct yardage (sometimes they can pick up a tree behind the green instead). Also, in poor lighting conditions such as fog, they won’t even pick up the pin at all.
Another frustration can be time. Cheaper models can take as long as 3-6 seconds to display the pin yardage because of inferior components. When we reviewed the TecTecTec Ult-X, our tester found slowness issues and its ability to lock on to the pin. When people wonder if they should purchase a less expensive laser, this can be one of the tradeoffs with certain brands. From what I’ve learned, it has a lot to do with the quality of manufacturer these companies have access to overseas. Components matter when it comes to functionality, and inferior factories will cut corners.
When I first tested the Voice Caddie SL1, I was shocked at how fast it displayed the pin yardage. It wasn’t a matter of seconds. It felt as though it was instantaneous. As soon as I was done pressing the button, the light vibration had already registered along with all of the screen’s yardage information.
The reason why the SL1 is so fast is that it’s using its GPS data to filter out the background and hone in on the pin. Because it already knows the green’s confines, it can quickly determine the pin’s location even in poor lighting conditions. If you don’t want to waste time before your shot, this is perhaps the SL1’s strongest feature. It’s lightning-fast.
On top of that, the viewing lens is extremely sharp and offers plenty of magnification. Voice Caddie states that their margin of error is only 1 yard and touts to accurately measure up to 1,000 yards.
A feature that sets the Voice Caddie SL1 apart from any other product on the market is its green undulation data. On the small LED screen below the lens, you have the option of displaying a thermal image of the green, which shows its undulations. Using satellite imagery, they have been able to map out the slopes of greens. They debuted this functionality on their G1 GPS watch as well, and it’s something that no one else has at the moment.
The more red shading represents the highest points of the green, and as you transition to orange, yellow, and blue, you start to see the lowest parts.
My course has tons of false fronts and big changes in slope on the greens. It was interesting to see how the maps represented each green. I found the heat maps to be pretty spot on. You can clearly see the overall slopes of any green and any unexpected trouble awaiting you. For golfers who have trouble identifying the overall slope of a green, particularly when they putt, this can help.
I should note that this feature is not available on every golf course. They are mostly finished adding courses in the USA, and you can search their database to find out what features your course currently has here.
As you would expect, the Voice Caddie SL1 automatically displays yardages based on changes in height (slope adjustment). So whether you are facing an uphill target, or a downhill one, it will calculate how far it will play. You can disable this function for tournaments by changing the settings.
One thing you should know that makes it a little different than most rangefinders is the battery. Usually, you only need to change the batteries on a laser once or twice a year. But since the SL1 uses GPS data, it has an internal battery that needs to be recharged.
If you are only using the laser feature, one charge should last you about 30 days. However, if you want to play with the GPS enabled (most of you will) – the battery should last about 3-4 rounds or about 20 hours.
Voice Caddie has not been traditionally known for its prowess in the premium distance-measurement category. If anything, their line of launch monitors under the Swing Caddie brand (the Sc200+ and SC300) have been their biggest successes to date.
The combination of speed, accuracy, GPS integration, and green mapping data make the Voice Caddie SL1 a very worthy choice in the premium rangefinder category. If you want the latest technology and are willing to pay for it, this product should be strongly considered even though its name has not traditionally carried much weight amongst lasers.
Practical Golf readers can get the lowest price available on the Voice Caddie SL1 Rangefinder using this link.
Like many golfers, I signed up for a WHOOP this summer after learning that the PGA Tour was distributing the bands to players, caddies, officials and golf journalists. The decision came after PGA Tour player Nick Watney decided to seek out a Covid-19 test after noticing abnormal readings from his WHOOP, which is a band worn on the wrist or upper arm to monitor various medical data. Watney was asymptomatic at the time and had just recently tested negative—suggesting that WHOOP had provided an early warning that Watney might be infected.
The efficacy of the WHOOP as a means of preventing the transmission of Covid-19 is far from settled, but I’ve held on to the WHOOP for reasons unrelated to the pandemic. Primarily, I wear the WHOOP because I feel it helps my overall health—and, as a result, I believe it will help my golf game by extending the years I can remain healthy and competitive.
In 2011, I wrote a feature article for TIME Magazine on scientists who experiment on themselves. I hypothesized at the time that many ordinary people would soon fall into this category through the adoption of “smart-connected” wearables and self-tracking. But at the time, the technology was clunky and immature, so I wasn’t an early adopter myself. But I’ve always felt that wearables can play a crucial role in living up to the wise Delphic maxim: Know Thyself.
I find it empowering to be able to monitor my biometrics, and WHOOP offers a variety of measurements for me to track. Using an optical HR monitor, the WHOOP band can measure a user’s heartrate, sleep, respiration rate and something called heart-rate variability (HRV), a measurement that can indicate how well a user has recovered from recent stress.
The band is paired with a smartphone app that is designed to tell athletes whether they need to take it easy (to improve recovery) or go harder (to increase strain). Strain can be either the result of a workout or because of some exogenous factor—stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, an illness and so on. Each day when you wake up, WHOOP gives you a recovery score that lets you know how hard you should push yourself that day. The band measures the strain of each workout and the cumulative strain of your day’s activity—and a “strain coach” tells you when you are approaching the optimal strain given your overnight recovery. If you exceed that level of strain, the band warns you that you may suffer reduced recovery the next day.
The more you wear the band the more accurate it becomes—both in measuring your normal “baseline” but also in recognizing your activities. For instance, after logging a certain number of golf rounds or cycling sessions, the band will automatically recognize when you start playing golf or cycling and keep track of the activity (and the strain it causes). It also tracks your progress by, for instance, automatically reporting when you work harder during an activity than is typical–e.g., “You spent 16 minutes at 70-80% of your max heart rate during this workout, which is 4 minutes longer than you normally spend when cycling.”
Even before WHOOP became a free accessory on tour, it had a popular following among elite golfers including Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. I find this puzzling: the device is clearly designed for a different sort of athlete—those who often overtrain, thus increasing the risk of injury or diminishing fitness gains (I’m thinking cyclists, marathoners, triathletes, and so on). What’s more, because the device only measures heart rate and respiration, and can’t measure stress hormones and other internal responses to stress, it seems a better fit for athletes that take on heavy cardio strain than those who focus on resistance training (such as golfers). Indeed, when I do a heavy weight-lifting session I am always shocked at how little strain the band registers. I won’t see confirmation of my hard work until the next morning, when I see a reduced recovery.
If you want to understand how Rory uses his WHOOP, he’s recorded a podcast on it. For me, I’ve found the WHOOP has helped my golf game in two main ways:
These are admittedly modest contributions to my golf game—which I probably could have acquired from any smartwatch or other wearable that monitors basic biometric data. So why do I still use the WHOOP? I’m a believer that overall health is underemphasized in golf fitness instruction, which tends to focus on strength and mobility. What good is hitting 170mph ball speed at 50 years old if you suffer a myocardial infarction at 55? I wear a WHOOP because it’s not targeted specifically for golfers, but athletes. Wearing it helps me self-identify as a person who is conscientious about their fitness and overall health—not just my ability to hit a golf ball over vast distances.
Other wearables have “gamification” features such as Apple Watch’s “activity rings” and the virtual coins or stars that other wearables award to users at certain exercise milestones. I like that WHOOP has none of that—it assumes that you are serious about your fitness and can stay motivated without the use of behavioral gimmicks. It was designed with competitive athletes in mind. My desire to be the type of person who wears a WHOOP helps me be that type of person—it keeps me motivated, even as staying fit gets harder and harder in middle age.
But the most important reason I have kept my WHOOP has nothing to do with physical benefits—but rather the improvement it has made to my mental health. Partly this is through an increase in cardio since using the device (some studies show regular aerobic exercise to be as effective for treating mild depression as pharmaceuticals). But mostly it’s through WHOOPs “community” feature which has allowed me to connect with my friends and keep tabs on their sleep and activity levels. If I see a friend in Dallas hasn’t been sleeping well, I can reach out and ask if everything is alright. If a friend in London has a particularly epic workout, I’ll cheer them on.
These interactions have been a lifeline for me during a difficult time. Researchers have found that women’s friendships are conducted face to face: They talk, gossip, cry together. Men’s friendships are side by side: We play golf. Watch sports on TV, and so on. I would never pick up the phone to just chew the fat with my friend in Dallas or London (perhaps I should). But being able to check-in and talk about our sleep, recovery, and workouts has provided a needed source of connection and an excuse to sustain the friendship.
Has my WHOOP made me a better golfer? Not in the short term. But golf is a lifetime pursuit. Staying happy, healthy and connected to friends and family is a great foundation for longevity—and my WHOOP has certainly helped with that.
Would I recommend the WHOOP to other golfers? It depends. If you already have a smartwatch or other wearable fitness tracker (such as a Fitbit or Oura), I see no reason why you would need a WHOOP. But if like me, you are a late-adopter to smart-connected wearables, then the WHOOP can be a great option for building life-long healthy habits.
Eben Harrell is an editor, writer and competitive amateur golfer who splits his time between Colorado and Scotland.