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.
Materials You Will Need
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.
Nets and Impact Screens
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:
- Will the room only be for a right-handed golfer, or will lefties be playing as well?
- Sh*nks happen, do you have enough space to protect your walls?
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).
Budget/DIY Setup – Under $5000
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.
Mid Range – Under $10,000 (Best Value)
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.
SkyTrak – My #1 Overall Pick
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.
High End – $10,000 and beyond
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.
Which Home Golf Simulator is Right for You?
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.