When it comes to putting on a golf simulator, you’ve got three general options:
- You can putt a real ball on a mat in front of the simulator. As with your full-swing shots, the simulator will pick up the speed and direction the ball is moving as it comes off your putter face, and it will then take that data to determine where the putt traveled.
- You can set the unit to auto-putt. That means that after you reach the green, the simulator will automatically add to your score the number of putts it thinks you would have taken to get the ball into the hole based on the distance you had to cover. Or, you could choose to automatically two-putt every green if you wanted.
- You can manually input your putts. Rather than choosing auto-putt, which gives decision-making control to the simulator, you can treat each putting situation individually. Say you know you’d make that 10-footer for birdie. Mark it down as a one-putt, and head for the next tee box.
Now, let’s be real: Even the best putting simulator setup will fall short of an in-person experience.
You could argue that hitting any club on a home golf simulator isn’t the same as on the actual course. And that’s true to an extent. Generally, when you’re using a simulator, you will be hitting off a mat or at a driving range. That means you don’t have the uneven or bare lies you might encounter with the real thing. In other words, the setup for each shot is perfect, which any golfer knows isn’t realistic.
That said, with full shots, you are still swinging the club just as you would on the course. And how you impact the ball (spin, where on the clubface you make contact, etc.) will produce the same distance and direction you’d get on the course.
There are even options for creating a more realistic experience, including mats with longer turf to simulate the rough. And most simulator software will adjust the distance and direction of your shots based on the simulated conditions, like if you’re hitting into the wind or out of the sand, etc.
But with putting, it’s a bit further from reality. That’s because putting on a mat isn’t going to allow for the undulation and speed changes you’d face on the actual course. Sure, the simulator will indicate if your putt is uphill or downhill or breaks left or right. But you’re still going to be putting in a straight line on a mat with a level surface. After you’ve made your stroke, the simulator will indicate whether you hit it too hard or soft based on the simulated conditions.
Bottom line: There’s just no way to perfectly replicate putting on an actual green in outdoor conditions. But some products get closer to reality than others.