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Visual Sports Systems: Can a $40,000 golf simulator be worth it?

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Golf simulators are nothing new. In fact, basic sports simulation systems have been around since the early 1970s. That said, modern versions hardly resemble their 40-year old counterparts — and if recent trends continue, you may be more likely to have one of these in your basement than you think.

Based in Toronto, Ontario, engineering firm Visual Sports Systems (VSS) started in 2000 by creating a simulator specific to hockey for the Hall of Fame (also located in Toronto). Over the past 15 years, Visual Sports has blossomed into one of the premier high-end interactive sports simulator companies in the market. Even as the game has witnessed a sharp decrease in participation, VSS continues to grow and expand. 2014 marked the company’s best year, posting a record 30 percent increase in sales over the previous year.

Although current platforms allow for 13 different games (hockey, baseball, soccer, etc.) on either VS (Versatile Solutions) or ES (Elite Series) platforms, it is chiefly golf simulation that drives its interest. Golf is the magnet that pulls in corporations and homeowners alike.

Commercial clients (think: cruise ships, stadium events like the Super Bowl and retail golf centers) typically purchase a VS system — costing $30,000 to $35,000 — which offers the same technology and gaming platforms as the ES, but is better suited for a quicker, turn-key set-up, install and relocation.

In fact, if you were at the Super Bowl this year, you may have seen two of Visual Sports simulators sponsored by Tommy Bahama and Chevrolet. 

If you’re looking to augment your garage or deck out your man-cave, the ES (Elite System) series will blow your mind and set you back about $45,000. Primarily, the difference between the ES and VS is that the ES system is custom built and installed to fit a particular room or area in your house. If this sounds appealing, plan on a space about 10-feet high, 14-feet wide and about 20-feet deep. Also, plan on getting a lot more than a screen that shows you about how far your shot went. 

VS Elite Simulator-In Home

For about 45K, you could augment your man cave with a VS system.

Using four ultra-high speed cameras for each technology, both the ES and VS systems accurately measure both ball and swing data utilizing proprietary V-Track and Swing-Track technology. V-track records ball data at 2000 FPS (frames per second), or 30 times faster than HD Video. Like high-end launch monitors, V-Track measures spin, launch angle, velocity (ball speed), ball flight and other pertinent data.

V-Track Ball Flight Camera1

V-Track ball flight camera

Swing-Track technology records images at a rate of 600 FPS so the player can see exactly what their swing is doing and how it impacts ball flight. For instructors, allowing a player to see ball flight, launch data and swing information at the same time, is “something very unique to this product,” according to Chris Lee, marketing director for Visual Sports Systems. It’s like having a “launch monitor and frame-by-frame swing sequence at the same time.”

SwingTrack_Club-Analysis

Screen shot of Swing-Track club analysis

So maybe you can’t stomach a $40,000 toy for the man cave just yet, but “give it 5-to-7 years,” Lee says. Like other technologies “prices have already started to come down and as demand increases, economies of scale takes over a bit.”

What that means exactly, no one can predict. However, if companies can produce the same quality product for 20 percent of the current cost, simulators will be competing against hot tubs instead of kitchen remodels and that, according to Lee, is “exceptionally realistic.”

Even at $40,000, Visual Sports provides significant value. Or put another way, if you spend $40,000 on a system, you’re going to get $40,000 worth of technology. Unlike some competitors, Visual Sports doesn’t have a large advertising budget and is very careful not to pass unnecessary costs onto the customer. 

As costs continue to decline, Lee’s optimism is grounded not only in sales projections but in what he knows to be true about golf. From the casual player seeking entertainment, to the teaching pro looking to offer something unique, to the condominium complexes wanting to revamp the traditional recreation center — there’s no shortage of people looking to make tee time anytime.

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I didn't grow up playing golf. I wasn't that lucky. But somehow the game found me and I've been smitten ever since. Like many of you, I'm a bit enthusiastic for all things golf and have a spouse which finds this "enthusiasm" borderline ridiculous. I've been told golf requires someone who strives for perfection, but realizes the futility of this approach. You have to love the journey more than the result and relish in frustration and imperfection. As a teacher and coach, I spend my days working with amazing middle school and high school student athletes teaching them to think, dream and hope. And just when they start to feel really good about themselves, I hand them a golf club!

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. T Bundus

    Apr 13, 2015 at 4:20 am

    @Thomas, I have an HD Simulator and there are actually 4 cameras and 8 stereoscopic sensors. It’s extremely accurate and doesn’t miss. The cameras are located in the top right and left of the simulator supports, as well as 2 over head. Additionally, there are 2 extra cameras for video at 450pics a second. This is far more accurate than a trackman; for numerous reasons: 1) it doesn’t move, 2) it reads spin axis, 3) spin is read via a reflective strip and not via an angle of attack calculation 4) doesn’t require you to input data i.e. human manipulation. 5) it doesn’t matter where you hit it from in the sim as long as you are somewhere in the center. There are numerous reasons why you should splash out on a real simulator if you care about accuracy. Launch angle is also there, as well as all other regular numbers you’d expect to see on a simulator and more hang time for example, club fitting and equipment comparison. These are all very usefull functions for anyone that plays golf. Choose wisely.

  2. Thomas

    Apr 10, 2015 at 1:48 am

    Key thing to look out for are 2-camera systems, they’re the most accurate (the other cameras are usually there to film your swing and allow swing analysis, but don’t actually feed the ball-flight information as far as I know. You want your ball-flight to be captured by a overhead camera and a side camera. Devices like Skytrak can’t tell where your ball lands because they’re measuring only from face on, so they are significantly off most of the time on side angle and side spin. HD golf or Aboutgolf also seem to fail, on launch angle and backspin mainly, because they only capture from above. Trackman, Sportscoach and VSS in my view have the best technology in the upscale range, it just makes sense to read the ball in 3D, I just don’t get how a “stereoscopic” camera is going to make any difference to that.

  3. Thomas

    Apr 10, 2015 at 1:36 am

    GC2 is a good tool for indoor/outdoor use, nice and flexible launch monitor which you can almost carry around with you. I haven’t tried it as a simulator is it any good at the fun bits?

  4. Thomas

    Apr 10, 2015 at 1:14 am

    I am thinking of some day getting a mancave of sorts. 40k to 80k if you go for the best products is a pretty lumpy sum of money, though, I was thinking more like 20k budget. Under 20k the stuff I’ve tried didn’t do the trick for me. At my local simulator shop we play on a Golfzon simulator, Korean stuff. It’s pretty good fun, but the courses are all Asian so no chance of playing a round at Augusta or Pebble Beach. Nice interesting courses though. As far as simulation goes, out of the 20 simulators I have tried, the Golfzon is probably average plus. It’s quite playable, reads most of your shots if you set up properly, does ok on short game but putting is an issue. Big weakness is the inability to properly read spin. Only few simulators have 3D high speed HD camera technology to properly read side and backspin. If you’re looking for the most realistic golf experience, I would go for the Trackman simulator, for 55-65k, VSS not far behind and slightly cheaper – both provide very accurate and detailed data. If you want the best data feedback for your fitting purposes, probably also Trackman. In terms of value for money and versatility, go for Sports Coach simulator, also very realistic I think prices start from about 25k and build up from there to around 70k. I would probably go for Sports Coach myself, especially because their short game modules seem to be ahead of the curve as far as I can tell, so you can actually play any shot, whereas it’s really hard to guess distances on most of the others, for the short game, and also because they have the most golf courses mapped. I personally don’t rate AboutGolf or HDGolf as much, they seem more of a rip-off to me (definitely go for Trackman if you’re going to spend 55k), but still very good product (not sure about accuracy of data). Total thumbs down to Golf Achiever which is by far the worst I have played on, can’t read a shot properly to save it’s life, not worth spending anywhere close to 20k on. Golfzon is ok, and as I understand it’s good value for money at around 20-30k (not sure about price). So that’s how far I’ve got in my market study so far… Any suggestions as to how to make do with 20k for a realistic round is welcome! I hope not to have to wait 7 years!

  5. MikeD

    Mar 31, 2015 at 4:03 am

    I played in an indoor league for two winters on similar $40k units. Was it fun? Yep. Did we drink a ton of beer? Yep.

    Would I ever, in any situation, purchase a simulator like this? Nope. Not ever.

    Is this a piece to put in a man-cave? Surely. Then all your golf buddies come and use it, drink YOUR beer, and feel great doing it.

    There are clearly more cost effective means to the simulator/trainer end. Will these sell? Sure. There are enough guys out there with disposable income to warrant this company being viable. Will it trickle down? Nah… I don’t see it. Not with the more “reasonable” options out there.

  6. John

    Mar 29, 2015 at 9:19 am

    For 40K I’d rather get a TrackMan system and get some serious practicing done

    • Thomas

      Apr 10, 2015 at 1:37 am

      Totally agree although it seems to me if you want the full simulator package it’s more like 55-65k I think?

  7. Birdeez

    Mar 27, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    A huge issue besides cost is space. Not many have 10ft ceilings in the basement.

    • Thomas

      Apr 10, 2015 at 1:51 am

      Ever thought of digging deeper into your basement? Do you know what is beneath?

  8. other paul

    Mar 27, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    I got to try skytrak for $2000. The straighter you hit it the more accurate it is. Also had a $2000 optional software package. If you include PC, projector and the screen and frame, $10000. But I could use it just fine for $5000. Wouldn’t use for club fitting. But it was fun like crazy.

  9. bob

    Mar 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I have a foresight gc2 in the basement with The Golf Club software all in for projector and all was around 12k. Beats most of these 50k units also. There is also skytrack that is suppose to have some simulation software coming out soon and skytrack unit only costs 2k. Not sure how these big 50k simulators are going to survive with better cheaper solutions out there.

    • Kyle

      Mar 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      You get what you pay for. The more expensive ones will be more accurate. To some, that’s important. To others, not as much. I’d love to get a track an setup in the future if possible.

      • Brian

        Mar 28, 2015 at 10:07 am

        My $300 Optishot is better than this $45,000 ES because it’s cheaper. Is a reasoning I hear here. ??? As long as you hit I straight and square every time. Is the justification?

    • Chris

      Mar 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      I’d be interested to know what makes your unit better than the ES or VS systems? These high end companies are doing very well and growing – So it seems they’re competing quite well.

      • Scooter McGavin

        Mar 29, 2015 at 10:19 am

        I don’t think he’s trying to say that the GC2 is necessarily better in its performance than this system, but the Foresight system is one of the more accurate compact systems out there, which is why numerous fitters and teachers use it. I think he was trying to inquire about what you’re getting from this 45k system that you wouldn’t get from a system, that even brand new you could probably assemble for 20k (isn’t a new GC2 around 10-15k or something?). Is it just the custom room design that accounts for the much higher cost? The slow motion swing camera feature could factor in some, but I doubt the system is much more accurate than the Foresight.

  10. Josh

    Mar 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Living in Michigan, the value of one of these seems much more justified this time of year. Cabin fever does cravy things to ya

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WRX Spotlight: GolfBalls.com’s AlignXL personalized golf balls

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Product: GolfBalls.com’s AlignXL personalized golf balls

Pitch: From GolfBalls.com: “Featuring a durable, Tour-Proven golf ball alignment aid printed halfway around the golf ball with your personalization, AlignXL will take your game to the next level by giving you ultimate visibility to your ball alignment both on the green and the tee.”

Our take on GolfBalls.com’s AlignXL personalized golf balls

Beyond drawn-on designs with your own Sharpie, golf ball custom printing is nearly ubiquitous in the year 2019—and that’s not a bad thing. GolfBalls.com, for example, offers a full range of text and graphics printing. So do plenty of other sites. Heck, Titleist itself offers a myriad of custom options for your Pro V1.

All that by way of saying, it takes something unique to catch our eye in the custom ball space. Enter GolfBall.com’s AlignXL printing blends two concepts: drawing a line on your ball for alignment and adding personalized text. Plus, the font is pretty cool too.

Check it out below.

 

 

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Tour Edge launches 3 new HL4 iron sets: HL4 Iron, HL4 Iron-Wood, and HL4 Triple Combo

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Three new Tour Edge Hot Launch iron sets are hitting the market: Tour Edge’s HL4 Iron set, the HL4 Iron-Wood set and the HL4 Triple Combo set. This is the fourth edition of the Hot Launch series from Tour Edge founder and master club designer, David Glod.

Tour Edge promises “the best technology and performance at a mid-tier price point,” per a release, with national availability of the irons beginning August 1. Also notable: the company promises all custom fit orders will ship within an incredible 48 hours.

Tour Edge HL4 Iron Set

Tour Edge crafts HL4 irons from 431 stainless steel, and all irons feature an expanded undercut cavity for maximum forgiveness. The cavity allows engineers to position more weight away from the club face, thus elevating both MOI and CT. The company also credits the cavity with elevating launches and ball speeds, in combination with a shallower face and wider sole. In brief: easier to hit and hit high.

“The HL4 Irons are traditional in looks only,” said David Glod. “Their advanced game improvement tech and design techniques make them beautiful performers at a price well below the majority of irons available on the market.”

Additional HL4 features include advanced toe weighting technology for enhanced stability and Variable Face Thickness for better performance on off-center strikes.

The HL4 Iron set is a 7-piece set with options from 4-iron to 9-iron, as well as a pitching wedge, approach wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge. Right- and left-handed availability.

Tour Edge HL4 Iron-Wood Set

“The iron-wood is a best-seller for Tour Edge and this revolutionary set has become famous for vastly improving countless numbers of golf games,” said Executive Vice President of Tour Edge John Craig. “We were one of the first to ever make a hollow body iron and we have been able to perfect it over the years to the point where this set provides the very best in launch, distance and forgiveness. Every golfer can benefit greatly from this club and from this set.”

The seven-piece set is available in 12 different individual lofts and is designed to fill the space between 2-iron and lob wedge in a set.

Tour Edge HL4 Triple Combo Set

“The Triple Combo set combines three different HL4 models in a perfect seven-club blend,” according to Tour Edge. “The set earns classification as a maximum game improvement set due to the ease of use and added distance it provides, but it really stands out as a set that will bring added distance, efficiency and control to your golf game.”

The HL4 Triple Combo includes two HL4 hybrids (22 and 25 degrees), two HL4 Iron-Woods (29 and 32 degrees) and three HL4 Irons (35, 40 and 44 degrees.)

HL4 Custom Fitting

“We see HL4 as being the best value available in the custom fitting market,” said Glod. “That is why we created our 48-hour custom fitting delivery guarantee and why we are making a significant commitment to advertise HL4 heavily on the Golf Channel and elsewhere with the message of Get Fit. Spend Less. Play Better. We want to open up custom fitting to thousands of new golfers who are looking for innovation and performance at logical prices.”

“We are aggressively marketing the message that every golfer should be getting custom fit, and that it is especially mid to high handicap players who have the most to gain by getting fit,” “Our goal is to open the flood gates on custom fitting and HL4 has proven to be the perfect product to accomplish this goal with its advanced technology, top-tier performance and amazing price structure.” —Tour Edge Vice President of Marketing Jon Claffey.

The company plans to have 750-plus custom fitting centers across the country. All custom fit orders received by Tour Edge by 2:30 PM Central standard time will be built at Tour Edge headquarters in Batavia, IL and shipped to any continental U.S. state in 48-hours (either back to the Tour Edge fitting location or directly to the end consumer).

HL4 Iron Specs

The HL4 Iron set: $419.99 in steel. $489.99 in graphite. The entire set will be available in right and left-handed models.

7-piece HL4 Iron-Wood set: $529.99 in steel. $599.99 in graphite. The entire set will be available in right and left-handed models.

HL4 Triple Combo set: $569.99 in steel. $599.99 in graphite. The entire set will be available in right and left-handed models.

Stock shafts: UST Mamiya. Also available: KBS Tour 90 steel shafts.

 

 

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Forum Thread of the Day: “If you could get one thing from any tour truck, what would it be, and which truck?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from NYCGolfNut who has created an interesting discussion which our members have got stuck into in our forums. NYCGolfNut has asked, “If you could get one thing from any tour truck, what would it be, and which truck?”.

Our members have shown a diverse taste in their answers to NYCGolfNut’s question, even if they have found it difficult to pick just one item!

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • bodhi555: “I’d go back in time to the Nike truck and get another set of Satin VR Pros, 1 inch longer with S400 Tour Issues fitted. Failing that a new set of Engage Wedges.”
  • sharkiesj: “Confirming groove set of i3 Blades from the Ping Tour van. And a freakin’ Tour finish PLD putter. Then I’d take the putter and smash the inside of the van to smithereens. I’d throw the putter back and say, Yo, I’ll see you next week at the next tour stop. This van better be fixed, and my putter fixed too. JC, that outta get them to release the PLD.”
  • cmagnusson: “Cobra truck, CB/MBs in a custom made One-Length set. Either that or go to the Odyssey truck and get a custom made White Hot Pro #1 arm-lock with a Stroke-lab shaft.”
  • golfingguru11: “Callaway lefty tour only stuff. Diamond epic flash, apex dots and one of Phil’s backup putters.”
  • martinritch1: “I have a specific shopping list. 1. Callaway 10.5 triple diamond head. 2. Taylormade GAPR lo bonded head with a Nippon Modus GOST shaft. 3. Vokey Raw 60 low bounce K. 4. Taylormade Hi-Toe 60 low bounce. 5. Scotty Cameron Circle T X5 flow neck.”

Entire Thread: “If you could get one thing from any tour truck, what would it be, and which truck?”

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