A review of indoor golf simulation technologies and customer options
No longer in its infancy, the indoor golf scene is developing rapidly, both in terms of available technologies and customer experience options. However, it’s not yet sufficiently well known amongst the masses, or even the golfing community generally, to have acquired a commonly used single name that defines it. Some people call it indoor golf, others call it golf simulation, and others call it virtual golf.
Below we’re going to take a look at golf simulator technology and virtual golf experiences available within the GTA indoor golf scene, and also a little further afield.
Golf Simulator Technology Options:
Leading the golf simulation technology market are TrackMan and Foresight. Their launch monitor products are used widely across the spectrum of PGA Tour professionals, professional golf teachers and club fitters. Approximately 700 worldwide golf tour professionals use TrackMan. You’ll see their iconic orange radar boxes located behind the majority of players on the practice range at tour events around the world. Both have evolved their product offering in recent years to offer a premium indoor golf simulator experience.
Foresight offers a range of products aimed at various segments of the golf launch monitor market. Their launch monitor devices utilize high-speed camera technology to track the club, impact, and launch. The flagship product is the GCQuad. This is a 7.5lb portable device that sits near the ball impact point, facing square to the golfer and perpendicular to the target. It, therefore, needs to be lifted and relocated to accommodate right and left-handed golfers. This can be well suited to personal golf simulator usage but is not so well suited to a commercial indoor golf environment. As a result, Foresight developed the GCHawk launch monitor which is located above the impact location in the ceiling. As it doesn’t need to be moved for left and right-handed golfers, it is much better suited to an indoor golf environment where many different golfers will be playing. In 2021, Foresight also released the GC3 launch monitor, a lower-priced launch monitor device that sits below the GC Quad in the product hierarchy.
All the Foresight devices are served by their FSX2020 software to deliver their golf simulation experience. This features shot analysis, virtual golf course play and fun golf simulator games. To deliver its premium virtual golf experience, the Foresight devices capture a large amount of ball and club data captured near the point of impact. For indoor golf, this data is processed by a computer with a powerful graphics card to render shots indoors on the virtual golf practice range, golf simulator courses or golf-focused games.
TrackMan offers only one launch monitor product. They created the original launch monitor used by the elite in the professional golf industry. The current launch monitor is the TrackMan 4 device. It is powered by dual doppler radars and a camera to provide optically enhanced radar tracking (OERT). The radar technology was adapted from missile tracking technology by their co-founder Chief Technology Officer, Fredrik Tuxen. Utilizing both camera and radar, TrackMan 4 captures a similar, but slightly richer, set of club, impact and ball data points compared to the GC Quad. The radar is located behind the golfer’s impact location facing the target. This enables the TrackMan radar to track the ball from shot impact to its finishing point. Outdoors that might be 400 yards away; in an indoor golf simulator environment that might only be 10ft-11ft to the screen in an indoor golf bay. Being located behind the impact location, TrackMan does not need to be moved to accommodate right and left-handed golfers. This makes it more suitable to an indoor golf commercial environment relative to a device that needs to be moved – most significantly where multiple players are simultaneously participating as a group taking shots in rotation.
Foresight GC Quad versus TrackMan:
Since Foresight released the GCQuad in 2017 there has been much debate in the technology-focused golf community about which is superior. They are both very high-quality technologies offering excellent precision. However, TrackMan 4 usage dominates amongst tour professionals and for indoor golf simulation. At a lower price point than TrackMan, GCQuad does resonate amongst golf teaching professionals who do not need to be concerned about switching between right and left-handed golfers on a shot-by-shot basis; in lessons, only one player uses the launch monitor at a time.
Where TrackMan has established a clear technology lead as of late 2021 is not so much in the launch monitor itself but in the software supporting the overall golf simulator experience. This is evident in both the indoor golf practice and course play environment and the post virtual golf experience with the TrackMan mobile phone consumer app. In this comprehensive palm-of-the-hand solution, indoor golfers can review their practice and gameplay golf simulator sessions in detail with excellent navigation and data visualization. This extends the virtual golf experience beyond the session itself, encouraging engagement with the data to learn and improve. With every shot on every hole displayed graphically, it is also entertaining. In this complete package, arguably TrackMan has created a complete transformational indoor golf simulator experience.
At Swing Golf Lounge, we have six golf bays powered by TrackMan. We try to be unbiased and objective in the analysis of the technologies available, but we believe it to be the best overall for the complete indoor golf experience. In their most recent development, announced in October 2021, TrackMan has partnered with Titleist to produce a ball specifically tailored for TrackMan indoor golf usage. The Pro V1 and Pro v1x Radar Capture Technology (RCT) Ball have a silver reflective spin marker printed under the cover offering 99% spin rate accuracy in an indoor golf setting. This is the level of additional precision PGA Tour players have been seeking in the indoor golf environment.
Other Indoor Golf Simulation Technologies.
Beyond the premium Foresight and TrackMan launch monitor and golf simulator solutions, there is an increasing number of solid second-tier and also third-tier virtual golf solutions spanning a wide pricing spectrum. At the most expensive end are golf simulator systems focused on commercial and premium home installations. The cheaper end of the pricing spectrum focuses on the personal and home indoor golf usage. Some of the products that the golf simulator customer will discover upon searching are:
- Full Swing: Full Swing is a high-speed camera and infrared-based system. Their product range features two simulator systems and a launch monitor that looks similar in physical design to the GC Quad. The premium priced Pro Series simulator sits at top their range as a complete package of technology, screens and flooring. It is endorsed by Tiger Woods. The sport series is a camera based system in a similar complete out-of-the-box package. The Full Swing KIT launch monitor is a portable radar based device that sits behind the player like TrackMan. In 2022 Full swing will be integrating the e6 golf simulation platform, the virtual golf software previously used by TrackMan prior to their TrackMan bespoke Virtual Golf platform that we’ve used at Swing Golf Lounge since 2018. We explored the Full Swing option in 2018 at the PGA Show in Orlando.
- aboutGolf: about Golf has a broad offering of golf simulator products targeted at both the commercial and in-home markets. Their emphasis is on the screen viewing experience, with both a flatscreen and unique curved screen option. Their marketing emphasizes service and the general entertainment experience where the curved screens can be used for watching TV and movies, practising yoga and flight simulation. aboutGolf has a commercial endorsement arrangement with the PGA Tour. As a result, some venues using this technology use the PGA Tour logo in their marketing.
- HD Golf: An HD Golf simulator was our first direct experience of indoor golf in 2016. We were impressed by the concept and the golf course visualization on-screen. Being a Canadian golf simulator technology, it was always a contender for us at Swing Golf Lounge in Toronto. HD uses cameras to capture information that produces visually realistic shot outcomes. HD also offers a curved screen option. It’s a more subtle curve akin to a curved TV than the more wrapped curve offered by aboutGolf. They offer a decent selection of well-known championship and resort courses from around the world. Their non-golf games like darts are also fun to play.
- Golfzon: Golfzon is a South Korean indoor golf simulator technology that is very popular in Asia. It has become popular in globally. Golfzon also uses high-speed camera technology to capture impact and ball fight. If features an interesting hydraulic floor swing plates that seeks to replicate a sense of non-flat lies as might be experienced on the golf course. All of their golf simulator products also feature an auto-tee and ball retrieval system so you don’t need to bend down to tee driver shots like you would on a golf course. Golfzon installations also feature white and green brush texture surfaces to hit from to synthesize playing from sand and rough. Their course library is extensive with a particular focus on South Korea, China and Japan golf course venues.
- TruGolf: Trugolf offers commercial and in-home golf simulator products with a starting price lower than many others reviewed above. It uses an optical and infrared tracking system in its turnkey virtual golf solutions. TruGolf utilizes their E6 software that is also licensed to other golf simulator companies. It offers a range of multiple simulated sports such as hockey, baseball, soccer and footgolf at a single entertainment venue. TruGolf also offers a commercial suite to venues which avoids bespoke development of bookings platforms etc. TruGolf also offers portable ‘pop-up’ simulator solution for temporary or event installations.
- Flightscope: Flightscope’s products are based upon doppler radar technology similar TrackMan. It also incorporates a camera to capture shot data. They also use the E6 multisport software. Flightscope is used in some golf practice and teaching establishments as a cheaper alternative to TrackMan and Foresight products.
- SkyTrak: Skytrack is a camera-based budget portable golf simulator product aimed at the in-home market. They connectivity with a number of golf simulator solutions including e6.
- Uneekor: Uneekor is another camera-based golf simulator product aimed mainly at the in-home market. It is non-portable with a fixed high-speed camera. Uneekor also offers a commercial product that could be used in office environments. The software offers 5 golf courses.
In the above product summary, we have covered most of the very broad range of golf launch monitors and indoor golf simulator options available as of winter 2021/22. At the top end, TrackMan and Foresight are more likely to be used at venues where precision in impact and ball tracking capture in both practice and simulated course play are of ultimate importance to its customers, in the same way, that such precision is required by players using the same capture technologies on the PGA Tour. These premium virtual golf companies have combined that excellence with an entertainment angle also – golf-focused games beyond practice environments and course play. TrackMan and Foresight are commonly found in golf teaching and fitting establishments and premium golf simulator venues.
Beyond the premium technologies, there is a spectrum of golf simulator solutions that are suitable for commercial venues and in-home use. At the higher end, those products offer an entertaining course play experience with fun games. At the lower end, the available products and technologies lend themselves to practical solutions at a reasonable budget for playing at home when outdoor conditions are unsuitable.
Customers seeking an indoor golf experience, or even considering making an in-home golf simulator purchase will notice that many virtual golf products are endorsed by famous golfers. These are commercial marketing arrangements to make those products appear more attractive. This is the same as for any other consumer product. Association with celebrities is appealing. In this respect, there’s a distinction between the TrackMan and Foresight products and most of the others. PGA Tour professionals, teaching professionals and club fitters choose to use these products in their professional golf activities and businesses. At least with TrackMan as we know for sure, no one amongst that professional golf audience is paid to use or endorse the product. They use it because it’s the best. This may equally apply to Foresight’s premium launch monitor.
Indoor Golf Venue Options:
In the last three years, a vast array of indoor golfing options has emerged across the globe, especially in the northern hemisphere. Virtual golf has become mainstream during the ‘off-season’ making golf an all-year game, even when there’s snow on the ground outside. The golf simulator environment has many different purposes depending upon the focus of the individual golfer and their playing companions at a particular moment in time. On one day they may be engaged in focused solo or partnered practice; on another day they may be gathered socially with friends in a virtual golf environment enjoying a round of indoor golf with food and drinks. It’s a sport and social activity that will inevitably grow, offering an attractive option for people to participate in a sports activity rather than sitting in a pub or bar.
There’s one ‘alternative golf’ company that has projected this social side of golf very successfully. It’s Topgolf, now a global sports entertainment company that originated in Watford, UK, very close to the municipal golf course where the Swing Golf Lounge’s passion for the game began. Most golfers will have seen images and videos of their spectacular venues in locations like Las Vegas and Miami.
One of the new and emerging variations of the indoor golf simulator experience is that of the fully automated facility. These venues are typically open 24/7 without staff being present. Customers let themselves in with passcodes. Customer service relating to the technology or other aspects of the indoor golf experience is offered by email or phone. Some of these automated venues state that they limit the number of players in a golf simulator bay to two players. Customers are generally permitted to bring their own food and drink. By definition, alcohol is not served and cannot be legally consumed in such establishments. It’s a little unclear how these rules can be enforced without staff present.
Below we take a look at the 2021/22 GTA Indoor Golf scene.
Indoor Golf GTA: Overview
When Swing Golf Lounge opened in 2018, it was the only Toronto golf simulator venue. A prior venue had already closed. At that time a few golf simulator venues existed in Mississauga, Burlington and further afield in Ontario. We visited them alongside some venues overseas, including in our former home in London, UK. Since then, a number of indoor golf venues have emerged, serving customers with a very broad range of golf simulator technologies and virtual golf experiences. The emergence of automated indoor golf facilities has been very significant in the GTA since the explosion of interest in golf during the COVID pandemic.
Below are a few lists of regional GTA indoor golf simulator venues with a brief description of their services. Where information is publicly available, we’ve included a mention of their virtual golf technology. Some venues are more explicit about the specific technology being used. Their focus on this important angle may be dependent on the quality of the technology being used and the target market.
Indoor Golf Toronto:
Swing Golf Lounge: The one we know the best, so we’ll say a little more about it! Our indoor golf offering caters for the golfer who seeks the best and most accurate golf simulator technology – we use TrackMan. While we use the same technology that the PGA Tour pros also choose to use, we also focus on a broader virtual golf experience of the highest quality. Our venue, food and beverage offering, and service is arguably equal to that of the best private golf clubs in the GTA. It’s a relaxed and fun environment. But it’s not exclusive to a member-only audience, it’s open to everyone in the golfing and non-golfing community alike. We seek excellence in everything we do. Customers who expect the very best are regulars here. We understand that our prices are a little above the budget-end of the indoor golf experience. However, we believe our product justifies it, and so it seems, so do our customers. We’ve hosted team and client events for multinational corporate customers and also live national broadcasts in the mainstream Canadian media. We hesitate to make the bold statement that we’re the best, that’s for golfers to determine. Our reviews are all 100% genuine. We never ask for reviews.
The Sand Trap: We like the Sandtrap. It’s a fun place. It’s located on King West near Liberty Village. In Downtown Toronto. They have a nice bar and friendly atmosphere. They use Full Swing’s golf technology. The Sand Trap offers lessons with a PGA professional.
Paramount Golf: Paramount Golf has two locations in Toronto as of October 2021. They are located at Bathurst and Lawrence and also at York Mills and Leslie. A third location is scheduled to open at Dufferin and King late in 2021. The new location will feature a bar. The Paramount website doesn’t disclose the golf simulator technology used and we haven’t been there to experience it.
Master Golf: Master Golf is located in Etobicoke not far from Swing Golf Lounge. It is a new 24/7 automated golf simulator facility where customers enter with a keycode. The website doesn’t have much information and also doesn’t specify which golf simulator technology they use. Master Golf claims to be Etobicoke’s premier indoor golf facility.
Modern Golf: Modern Golf originated in Etobicoke as a premium club-fitting business. We have previously been customers. They offer an excellent service. The Modern Golf business model has evolved, and they now offer lessons and golf leagues. They have also expanded their presence across Canada with operations in Vancouver, Calgary and Vaughan in Toronto. With their primary focus on club fitting and lessons, Modern Golf operates with normal business hours and doesn’t off a bar and food menu. Consistent with their status as Canada’s leading independent club-fitter, they use TrackMan technology.
Indoor Golf Mississauga:
Back Nine HD Golf: Back Nine is a well-established and popular indoor golf simulator venue in Mississauga. It has nine golf bays with golf simulator technology from HD Golf. Back Nine has recently been refurbished. Pricing is in the near-premium range. Back Nine also has a licensed bar.
Tees Indoor Golf: Tees is also a long-established indoor golf facility in Mississauga. They have five golf bays featuring aboutGolf golf simulator technology. It is a fully licensed venue with a bar. They also offer lessons. Pricing at Tees is marginally below the premium level.
Fieldro Golf: Fieldro Golf is located in Mississauga. Its golf simulator bays are located alongside each other in an open-plan style. Lessons are offered at competitive rates and hourly rates are at the lower end of the price spectrum. Fieldro does not disclose its golf simulator technology on its website.
Next Golf: Next Golf is a fully-automated golf facility located in Mississauga. It opened in 2021. Next golf offers low hourly rates in its Uneekor technology bays with higher rates in its single TrackMan powered suite. From the website, it appears that Next Golf uses the E6 software with TrackMan for simulated course play, not TrackMan’s Virtual Golf simulator product. Customer support is provided remotely by phone or email while customers are at the venue. Next Golf is highly rated on Google with a remarkable number of reviews since its opening.
Swang Golf: Swang Golf is another recently opened fully automated virtual golf venue in the GTA, located on Matheson Boulevard. It has a remarkably similar name and logo styling to Swing Golf Lounge! The two businesses are very different and are not associated in any way. The Swang website features some amusing fake reviews from the world’s top golfers. It’s not clear what technology Swang uses. Their pricing is aimed at the budget end of the pricing spectrum.
Birdies Indoor Golf: Birdies Indoor Golf is located on Cawthra Road in Mississauga. It is also an unstaffed, automated virtual golf facility open 24 hours. Rates are priced at the budget end of the spectrum similar to the other automated golf simulation facilities emerging on the GTA indoor golf scene. Birdies use the South Korean golf simulator technology called Impactvision.
Indoor Golf North York:
TracerGolf: TracerGolf operates 24/7 automated golf simulator facilities in two GTA locations. Their North York location is at Finch & Dufferin. The other is in Scarborough. Their business is growing rapidly with 5 more GTA locations planned, in Pickering, Mississauga, Oakville, Whitby and Newmarket. TracerGolf uses a golf simulator technology called Impact Vision. We haven’t reviewed that product in the above launch monitor and golf simulator overview as there is very little information on the internet. The limited information available indicates that it is a system from South Korea where indoor golf is very popular. Their rates are very competitively priced.
Indoor Golf Thornhill:
Target Golf: Target Golf operates a single golf simulator venue in Thornhill, and has been in business for several years. Target Golf is now planning to open additional golf simulator venues catering to the Vaughan, Aurora/Newmarket and Mississauga indoor golf market. Their rates are very much at the budget end of the price spectrum. The technology used is called Bravo, which appears to be a South Korean technology.
Indoor Golf Vaughan:
Peak Performance Golf: Peak Performance Golf is an indoor golf performance academy in Vaughan. They moved to a new location in 2021. We were customers at their prior location a few years ago. Peak Performance has a team of golf professional coaching staff. They use a combination of Foresight GCHawk overhead-mounted launch monitors and Skytrak portable launch monitors. Pricing at Peak is in the premium range, consistent with their usage of superior GC Hawk technology in some of the golf bays. Interestingly, they offer a ‘Mind Gym’ focusing on the fundamentally important area of sports performance psychology.
Kudos Golf: Kudos Golf is a newer virtual golf facility located at Winges Road in Vaughan. It is also a budget-priced 24/7 unstaffed and fully automated indoor golf venue. It has nine golf bays which is well beyond the scale of most golf simulator facilities. It isn’t clear from the Kudos website which technology they use. It appears that the two premium bays utilize the E6 software. Their website mentions ball flight tracking using audio amongst other capture technology.
Indoor Golf Oakville:
Oakville Indoor Golf Centre: Oakville Indoor Golf Centre is located on North Service Road West in Oakville. From their website, it appears they have two golf bays. Their technology is aboutGolf, which is commercially endorsed by the PGA Tour. Oakville Indoor Golf offers teaching with four resident golf professionals. Golf simulator rates are near-premium level.
Parfect Swing: Parfect Swing is an indoor golf simulation venue in Oakville established a couple of years ago. It has three golf bays featuring TrackMan technology. Accordingly, their pricing is in the premium range. Parfect offers lessons and has a pro shop. Parfect Swing does not have a bar.
Indoor Golf Burlington:
Virtual golf in Burlington deserves a special mention. Prior to the opening of Swing Golf Lounge in 2018, Burlington was arguably the best-served area for indoor golf, not only in the GTA but also in Ontario.
Faraway Greens: Faraway Greens is a full-service indoor golf facility with seven bays operating HD Golf simulator technology. The venue has a nice bar and a friendly atmosphere. They run leagues and host events. Faraway Green rates are near-premium level, consistent with the indoor golf experience that can be enjoyed there.
The Golfers Academy: The Golfers Academy is a golf training and practice venue with TrackMan technology throughout. The golf bays are in individual rooms. Being a golf training facility, The Golfers Academy does not have a bar. Rates are in the premium range consistent with their use of TrackMan technology.
Indoor Golf Markham:
Markham Golf Dome: Markham Golf Dome is a long-standing and well-regarded golf practice venue on Burncrest Road in Markham. They offer both a double-decker outdoor range and indoor golf in a dome environment. Markham Golf Dome has been voted one of the best golf practice facilities in North America. Golf Lessons, clinics and Junior programs are offered. In their studio, Foresight GC Quad is used for golf lessons in the dome.
Beyond technology-powered indoor golf venues, the GTA also has a number of traditional driving ranges. Below is a summary list of the main driving range venues.
Bathgate Golf Centre: Bathgate Golf Centre is located on Eglinton Avenue East in Mississauga. They have 200 grass tees and 25 mats set in a 20-acre plot. Information on Bathgate Golf Centre is best viewed on their Facebook page.
iRange Toronto: iRange Toronto is a fully automated outdoor golf range in Brampton. They use Top Golf’s TopTracer Range technology. Screens in the golf bays enable customers to capture impact and flight data. Games are also available in the TopTracer Range software.
Brampton Golf Range: Brampton Golf Range is located at Bovaird Dr. West & Edenbrook Hill Drive in Brampton. It offers both grass and mat tees with a 300-yard fairway cut range. Lessons are available there.
Ninth Line Family Golf Academy: Ninth Line Golf Academy has a 45 grass tee range and a 3600 ft putting green. They also have 25 mat bays. Golf lessons, clinics and junior golf programs are available.
Centennial Park Golf Centre: Centennial Park Golf Centre is located in Centennial Park, Mississauga. It has 34 bay driving range measuring 300 yards. The facility also features a popular 27-hole executive golf course. Their academy offers golf lessons, clinics and junior golf camps.
The Docks Driving Range: The Docks Driving Range is located on Cherry Street in the Lower Don Lands in downtown Toronto. The venue also offers volleyball, beach soccer and a soccer dome. They also offer a clubhouse.
Vic Hadfield Golf Centre: The Vic Hadfield Golf Centre in Oakville features 120 grass tees and 50 hitting mat areas. The 300-yard range features target areas, bunkers, chipping areas and putting greens. They also have a mini-putt and a party room.
Tee Zone Driving Range: Tee Zone is another outdoor driving range in Oakville. It features 70 grass-hitting stations and 70 artificial turf-hitting stations. The venue features a large putting green, short game areas and a bunker. The David Fritz Golf Academy is located there.