Is it time for a home golf simulator?
To a golf hardcore, there’s nothing cooler than the thought of being able to play golf any time of day, any time of year, and without having to even leave the house.
The problem for years has been that at-home golf was more fantasy than reality for most golfers. The golf simulator technology that allowed for this pipe dream was completely cost prohibitive.
That’s no longer the case.
Space, not price, is likely to be the biggest limiting factor when considering whether a home golf simulator is realistic for you.
There are so many great consumer-grade simulator options, and many of them may be within your budget.
With this guide, we’re going to cover it all: the good, the not-as-good, indoor vs. outdoor options, space requirements, supporting technology, your best buys for specific uses and situations, reviews, and a whole lot more.
Get ready to get a handle on the best golf simulators of 2023.
Warning: Even if you didn’t want a golf simulator before reading this, you’re at risk of becoming a potential buyer. Turn back now! These devices are highly addictive to the golf afflicted.
What is a golf simulator?
A golf simulator is a device paired with software that simulates an actual round of golf or practice session. It’s like playing a golf video game, but you use your real clubs and hit real golf balls.
A home simulator setup usually includes a computer and oftentimes a projector. You hit shots into either an impact screen or a net. The simulator tracks your swing and/or ball flight to then give you feedback about where the ball is flying virtually and where it would have landed on an actual golf course.
With some simulator software, you even have access to play famous virtual courses from all around the world.
While it may not be quite the same as actually playing Augusta National or Pebble Beach or St. Andrew’s in person, it’s pretty next-level to be able to hit the shots that those courses present from the comfort of your own home.
There is sometimes some confusion about a golf launch monitor vs. a golf simulator.
To put it simply, a golf launch monitor measures various metrics about your golf shots. It’s meant to provide data that can help a golfer better understand what they are doing well and what they need to improve.
A golf simulator is a complete system that also produces shot data but additionally simulates your ball flight in a virtual environment. A simulator setup consists of a launch monitor paired with simulator software and some additional hardware to allow for an enhanced virtual golf experience.
While golf launch monitors can be used indoors, they are most often a tool used on driving ranges for game improvement or club fitting.
Simulators can be used outdoors but are most often set up indoors for both game improvement and entertainment.
Our go-to golf guy shows you the making of his golf simulator
Top launch monitors for your home golf studio
The great thing about shopping for an indoor golf simulator is that you’ve got a range of options. It all starts with choosing your launch monitor, which when paired with simulator software, is going to give you the ability to play golf at home.
Launch monitors vary in terms of software compatibility, meaning that what you choose will determine which courses you’ll have access to, along with whether or not you’ll be able to play online against other golfers and what practice ranges and games you’ll be able to access.
Some launch monitors measure from behind, while others measure from the side.
Some are both PC- and IOS-compatible, while others only work with one or the other.
As with everything, there are pros and cons for each choice.
Let’s take a look at the best golf launch monitors for your home golf simulator setup.
Bushnell Launch Pro
If you want what many of the PGA teaching professionals use, you want the Bushnell Launch Pro.
This is a heavy-duty product that produces dead-on-accurate numbers. And while it’s a regular go-to for the pros to use as a launch monitor on the range, it also works as one of the very best indoor golf simulator options. It even does a good job of tracking putts, which not every home golf simulator does.
To access simulator functionality, you will need to purchase Bushnell’s Gold annual software package for $499 per year. This enhanced package—now $200 less as of October 2023—gives you access to FSX Play, FSX2020, 25 top courses, save sessions, create players, record unlimited unique clubs, track rounds, online game play and contests, 3D ball flight, and more!
You will also have access to Awesome Golf (auto-included with the latest Gold software package) and GSPro ($250 add-on)! Check out this latest Launch Pro update for all the details.
Keep in mind that getting the most out of your Launch Pro is going to require some significant computer horsepower. We recommend a dedicated gaming computer that’s got the oomph to give you a lag-free simulator experience.
One great advantage of the Bushnell Launch Pro is that it measures from the side rather than from behind. That can make a big difference if room depth is an issue. You can get away with less space in your golf simulator studio using this device compared to others.
One of the best things about SkyTrak+ is that it pairs with seven different simulator software packages. That’s huge in that it means you’ve got options when it comes to what virtual golf courses, driving ranges, and online games you want to access.
Whether you’re using a PC or IOS device, you’re covered with SkyTrak.
Simulator software options for IOS:
- TrueGolf E6 Connect
- WGT Golf
Simulator software options for PC:
- The Golf Club 2019
- TruGolf E6 Connect
- Creative Golf
- Fitness Golf
- ProTee Play
And like the Launch Pro, the SkyTrak+ is a photometric system that measures from the side of the golf ball, rather than from behind. Again, this can really pay off if room depth is an issue, as you can save several feet on space requirement.Additionally, the SkyTrak+ had added several upgrades to the 2023 edition—making it highly competitive with other high-end golf launch monitors.
Garmin Approach R10
The phrase “affordable golf simulator” used to be an oxymoron. There was no such thing.
But now you can be on your way to hitting golf shots in your garage or basement with a golf launch monitor that costs only $599.99!
If it sounds too good to be true to you, you’re not alone. This device has been so popular and so revolutionary in making home golf simulation affordable that it’s been nearly impossible to keep in stock.
The Approach R10 is the size of a deck of cards, meaning it’s unbelievably portable and perfect for an on-the-go golf launch monitor.
But when you pair it with Garmin’s Home Tee Hero software package, which does cost $100 per year, you can literally play any golf course in the world at home.
Home Tee Hero gives you an animated overhead view of each hole rather than the more lifelike, granular detail you get with a more full-blown simulator software package. But the R10 is also compatible with TGC 2019, Awesome Golf, and TruGolf E6 Connect, which is totally realistic and the go-to software for many of the top golf simulators. It is also compatible with the PinSeeker app.
One thing about the R10: There’s no putting functionality. Instead, you can set the simulator for automatic two-putts or for automatic gimmes within a certain range.
The FlightScope Mevo+ is unquestionably one of the best launch monitor and golf simulator combinations.
This is another device that, because of its small size, is most often marketed as a portable launch monitor that’s perfect for outdoor use.
But the Mevo+ also comes with an IOS-only mobile subscription to the TruGolf E6 software, which now gives you 10 virtual golf courses, 17 practice ranges, and online games right out of the box. Additional golf courses are available for purchase.
Unfortunately, the included E6 software is not PC compatible, meaning you won’t have the option of using it with a projector. But the device is also compatible with PC and IOS software options that include the Golf Club 2019, GS Pro, Creative 3D, and Awesome Golf.
Also, not only does the Mevo+ track putts, but it does a very good job of it, meaning you can achieve accurate, full-round indoor golf with this device.
The new Rapsodo golf launch monitor is not just for iPhone users anymore. Both Android and iOS users can benefit from the upgrades on the MLM2PRO.
First of all, Dual Optical Camera Vision combines two cameras along with radar technology to monitor your swing.
The MLM2PRO also adds golf simulation with 30K courses, virtual driving range, and third-party simulation software compatible. You’ll even get 5 free E6 Connect courses with your purchase.
As far as data points, it adds Spin Rate, Spin Axis, and Descent Angle to the mix.
Along with vastly improved video analysis and data visualization, it also has a new golf app. Plus, for more precise spin measurement, Rapsodo partnered with Callaway to create special golf balls for indoor play—and a 3-pack is included with purchase.
You get all of this in the new Rapsodo MLM2PRO for the extremely affordable price of $699.99!
Check out this Rapsodo MLM2PRO article to learn more.
Check out this in-depth review of the MLM2PRO.
Foresight Sports GC3
The GC3 Ball Enabled Bundle is ideal for golfers seeking comprehensive ball data analysis. This bundle includes the GC3 launch monitor and features FSX Play, FSX 2020, FSX Pro, and a collection of 10 Golf Courses, providing a wealth of gaming and performance simulation options.
If you're looking to transform your home into the ultimate golfer's paradise, you'll want to opt for the GC3 Essentials Plus Bundle. It offers a complete suite of gaming and performance simulation software, ensuring you have everything you need to immerse yourself in a realistic golfing experience.
For the ultimate golfing enthusiasts, the GC3 Players Plus Bundle takes your golf simulation to the next level. With a full suite of gaming and performance simulation software included, you can turn your home into a golfer's haven. Additionally, this bundle grants you access to some of the world's most prestigious golf courses, including the renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Swing Caddie SC4
Yes, for the first time, Voice Caddie has created a golf launch monitor with simulation!
The Swing Caddie SC4 is the unique device in the personal launch monitor game in that it offers a fantastically readable, on-device display, announces distances, and has a remote control. Plus, it now offers simulation!
With simulator app integration for both iOS and Android, it connects with the free MySwingCaddie app in simulator mode, providing a complete virtual display along with metrics and stats.
Moreover, to further enhance your home simulator the SC4 is fully compatible with E6 Connect and its suite of photorealistic courses (optional subscription).
It comes with a Free Simulator Driving Range Demo and one free E6 Connect golf course.
The Swing Caddie SC4 is also compatible with Optishot Orion simulation software.
Foresight Sports GCQuad
If you want the pinnacle of launch monitor technology, the GCQuad sets a new standard in accuracy, versatility, and comprehensiveness.
With its exclusive Quadrascopic imaging, this cutting-edge device provides unparalleled precision in analyzing ball and club head performance.
Whether you're practicing indoors or outdoors, the GCQuad delivers consistent and reliable data, earning it the prestigious Golf Digest Editors' Choice Award three times.
With this bad boy, you’ll experience the ultimate launch monitor that leaves no detail unnoticed, helping you unlock your true potential on the course.
And as for having FSX Play Software in your home golf simulator … brace yourself for a golfing adventure that feels so authentic, it's like being on the course in person. The all-new graphics engine will transport you into a world of unparalleled realism, where every detail is meticulously crafted to perfection.
How to buy your home golf simulator
There’s a lot that goes into making the decision of which affordable golf simulator makes the most sense for your specific situation.
Let’s break down the most important factors for you to consider.
As we said at the outset, space the single biggest factor when determining if an indoor golf simulator is going to be an option for you.
There’s no getting around it: To swing golf clubs indoors without putting holes in walls and ceilings, and to accurately measure what the ball is doing so that you get a realistic virtual golf experience, it takes a fair amount of room.
How much room?
That depends on the device you choose. Some launch monitors measure from behind, which means they will require more room depth. Others measure from the side, saving some room depth requirement.
Some golfers are taller; others shorter. Some have steeper swings than others. Some people want a setup that can accommodate both lefties and righties.
You get the picture. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.Generally speaking, our recommendations are that you have a room that is at least:
- 10 feet high
- 15 feet wide
- 16 feet deep
Again, this is going to vary. For example, with a device like the Bushnell Launch Pro or SkyTrak+ that measures from the side of the ball, you can likely get away with room depth of only 10 feet.
It’s important to pay careful attention to the simulator software compatibility of the device you’re considering. There is a lot of variation, and it can quickly get confusing.
One of the most basic software considerations is making sure that what you’re buying will work with the computer or mobile device you plan to use in your indoor golf simulator setup. Of course, some simulator software works with IOS while some software is designed for PC use.
Some golf simulators use proprietary software, while other units work with multiple different types of software.
A unit like the SkyTrak+ is relatively software agnostic in that it works with TrueGolf E6 Connect, WGT Golf, The Golf Club 2019, Creative Golf, Fitness Golf, and ProTee Play.
The great thing about multiple software package options beyond compatibility with the type of computer you’re using is that it provides access to different golf courses and features. So, if you ever get bored with the courses you’re playing through one piece of software, the ability to switch to a new menu of options without having to buy a new launch monitor/simulator is an awesome advantage.
Photometric vs. Doppler Radar
It’s important to understand how your golf simulator system will track the golf ball to deliver your indoor virtual experience. Obviously, you want the most accurate tracking that you can afford.
Generally, golf launch monitors track the golf ball either via a photometric or doppler radar system.
A photometric system takes thousands of pictures per second in order to accurately produce precise measurements of what the ball is doing immediately after impact.
A doppler radar system tracks how your ball flies and where it lands and then calculates, rather than measures, the data that it outputs.
While each system has its advantages and disadvantages, photometric is generally preferred for indoor golf simulation while doppler radar works best for outdoor golf launch monitor use. That’s because the doppler radar system needs a longer distance to measure accurately. For indoor use, where there’s only a handful of feet between where the ball is hit and where it contacts the screen or net, a photometric system will be the more consistently accurate option.
How do you intend to use your golf launch monitor/simulator? If you’re going to transport it back and forth between the driving range and your golf simulator studio, you’ll want something that’s easy to haul.
There are ceiling-mounted simulator options that are more fixed than portable. But the units that we recommend are all small enough to move easily.
Some launch monitors, like the Garmin Approach R10, Rapsodo, or FlightScope Mevo+, can actually fit easily in your golf bag, making it super simple to move them between your indoor simulator setup and your practice sessions out on the range.
You’ll also want to consider how you intend to use the space where you plan to install your simulator setup. Will this be a dedicated space? If so, leaving a hitting mat, impact screen or net, projector, computer, and side netting all set up is no big deal. But if you’re planning to also use that room or area for other things (sometimes spouses have alternative ideas about space use), then choosing netting that collapses and stores easily and mats that roll up quickly may behoove you.
Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to buy an indoor golf simulator system. With so many advancements in technology and with so many competing products, prices have finally come down to the point that this type of golf luxury is no longer only available to professionals and the ultra wealthy.
That’s not to say that a personal golf simulator setup isn’t expensive. When you factor in the unit itself, the software, and the accompanying equipment it will take to do it right, it’s not cheap. But when you consider that you can now get the unit itself, in the case of the Garmin Approach R10, Swing Caddie SC4, and Rapsodo MLM2PRO for way under $1,000, you have to realize that this is all becoming so much more accessible and affordable than it was not too long ago.
PlayBetter.com offers several turnkey solutions that provide you with everything you need, including the launch monitor, hitting mat, net or screen, side netting, projector, ceiling mount, and cables. For example, you can get everything you need to fire up a SkyTrak+ in your house for around $7,000 with free shipping and free 30-day returns.
You can also save some money with a little ingenuity. There are a lot of DIY golf simulator build ideas on the internet.
What do you need for a home golf simulator?
We’ve touched on this throughout this guide, but let’s get a handle on all of the equipment and accessories you’ll need to pull off a personal golf simulator setup.
Golf Launch Monitor
As discussed, this is the heart of your home simulator system. This is the device that is going to track your golf shots and allow you to see your virtual ball flight on a screen. There’s no golf simulator without a golf launch monitor.
This is the component that takes a golf launch monitor and turns it into a golf simulator. Pairing your launch monitor with a software package is what allows you to play virtual golf and to see your ball flying through the air and landing on a simulated golf course or driving range.
As we’ve touched on, different golf launch monitors are compatible with different software packages. Some launch monitors use proprietary software. Others are compatible with multiple different software options.
The software is what’s going to determine which golf courses you’ll be able to play virtually as well as whether or not you’ll be able to play online games against other garage golf simulator warriors.
Computer or Mobile Device
You’ll need a computer or mobile device to achieve a simulated golf experience. This is the component that runs the software that in turn runs the launch monitor.
For an ideal setup, we recommend a dedicated gaming computer; you know, something robust and with enough memory to deliver a glitch-free experience.
Now, the computer or mobile device you use is going to depend on the launch monitor and accompanying software that you’ve chosen. Some setups are only compatible with IOS or PC, while others give you options for either.
Net or Impact Screen + Projector
So, you can totally get away with a home simulator setup that includes a golf hitting net. This would be what collects your ball when you hit it and what stops you from firing golf shots into your wall.
Now, if you really want to do it right, you’ll consider an impact screen instead of a hitting net. The advantage here is that you can project an image onto an impact screen. That means that you can connect your launch monitor-software-computer system to a projector that displays an image of the virtual golf course you’re playing. Now, you can hit the ball and watch it fly right in front of you, just like on an actual outdoor course.
If you go with a projector, you’re going to also need to factor in whatever hardware is needed to mount it.
Alternatively, with a hitting net, you can place a computer, tablet , or TV to the side of where you’re hitting and watch your virtual experience that way. It’s a little less natural, but it absolutely will get the job done and will save you some money. Hey, you’re playing golf in your house! What more do you want?!
You need something that is going to simulate the grass that you’d be hitting off of if you were outdoors.
A word of caution: Not all hitting mats are created equally. Some are cheaply made and will wear out quickly. They also might be as hard as a rock to hit off of and could end up causing injury.
Other hitting mats are going to present a truly lifelike hitting experience that mimics actual turf. As with everything golf simulator-related, you’ve got choices.
Do you need side netting?
Should you have side netting?
I don’t know. Have you ever hit an errant golf shot? Surely, you’ve never suffered the dreaded shank.
If you’re perfect, nah, no need for side netting.
If you’re like the rest of us, it would probably be a good idea. There are few things less pleasant than telling your spouse that you put a hole in the wall using your new golf simulator toy.
Best golf simulator packages
As mentioned earlier, PlayBetter.com has turnkey solutions to your home simulator setup needs.
Whether you choose a Bushnell Launch Pro, Garmin Approach R10, or anything in between, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to complete your home golf studio.
So, if you want to save a ton of time and get your launch monitor, hitting mat, hitting net or impact screen, side netting, projector, mounting hardware, and cables all with one purchase, we’re your source.
We offer a PlayBetter SimStudio complete home golf simulator package for each launch monitor. Each package is designed for different room sizes so that you can find what fits your space best. They're high-quality and super easy for one person to set up in less than an hour.
Best golf simulator of 2023: Final thoughts
By now, we hope you realize that if you’ve got the space, you can in fact enjoy indoor golf.
No, it’s not cheap. But it’s also a heck of a lot more affordable than it was even a short while ago.
What didn’t we cover? What questions do you have? Our mission at PlayBetter.com is to help you play better! Whatever we can do to assist you in sorting through all of the various information available so that you can make your best decisions, we’re happy to do. Let us know how we can help.