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Golf simulators: For bad weather and great golf

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By Dennis de Jesus Jr.

GolfWRX Contributor

The snow has fallen.  Another golf season in the books.

In past years, the first snowfall only brought doom and gloom for me.  I don’t ski or snowboard anymore, my tired knees cannot take the punishment.  As a Canadian I should play hockey, but I’m light years behind people my age who have been playing hockey before they could walk.  In my fantasy world, I define myself as a golfer who unfortunately has been shackled to a 5-6 month imprisonment every year when my real world is full of scraping windshields, shoveling driveways and seeing my breath with each exhale.  I go to bed and dream of lush fairways and well manicured pastures of green as far as the eye can see.  I hear the gentle flapping of a flag a hundred yards away, inviting me to approach it.  Here, the warmth of the air makes my breath invisible but in each exhale, my dreamscape environment just takes it away.

For a golf fan like myself, there are few things in the winter months that help cure the off season golf blues.  I’ve tried them all – PS3 videogames, domed indoor driving range, the heated outdoor driving range, watching more Golf Channel, reading more GolfWRX (cheap plug). They are all nice temporary solutions, but absolutely nothing compares to actually playing.  So I’ve taken golf trips the last few years to get away from the winter in Calgary – trips to Florida, Arizona, California — all wonderful and excellent golf destinations that can have my money if I had enough to give. Though there are way too many years left in my working career, these trips have already set my mind to being a snowbird as my retirement plan A (Retirement plan B is to be Holly Sonders’ personal cabana boy).

Golf trips are a great cure, but they are really expensive, especially if you are a casual visitor. As with most great ideas hatched in the mind of geniuses, I told myself, “There’s got to be a better way.”  So I went hard at work, did my research, talked to professionals and found that winning the lottery wasn’t a statistically feasible plan and that buying my own Lear jet would only be possible if I won the lottery. Back to square one.

A few weeks ago, a friend suggested I try out golf simulators as a way to scratch the itch, feed the need, get the fix … you get the idea. My impression of simulators was relegated to the ones they have at golf shops, you know, the ones where they dial up the settings ever so slightly to make you think that you are the longest, straightest shot maker in the entire world. I mean come on, a 212-yard shot straight down the pipe with a 52-degree wedge (that’s carry distance by the way – it zipped back about 36 yards after backspin).

But golf simulators were a solution I’ve never really given a chance so I packed up my clubs and headed off to my nearest golf simulator center to see if it would be the Advil to my off season golf headache.

First impression – the simulators at this golf center were something amazing. They were like the Cadillac of golf simulators when I’d only experienced a K Car.  The screens were larger, the visual display was in HD, the fake turf was flawless and I had my own clubs with me. Add to that another big screen to watch NFL and some leather club chairs to relax in and the experience was something totally different than I expected.

What I was experiencing wasn’t so much a golf simulator as it was an entertainment oasis that just happened to provide enough room to swing a driver. I’m pretty sure I was as wide eyed as a kid at Disneyland that just happened to see Mickey Mouse peek out from behind those Country Bears that no one really cares about or know what film they’re from. But I digress.

As I teed up my first shot, I couldn’t help but notice how real it all felt. Once the computer overlay interface faded away, I was enamored by the visual of the HD screen. It really looked like I was at the tee at TPC Scottsdale, a course I have actually played in real life.  Gone was the sweltering afternoon heat, but the 150 yard stakes were right where I remember them and the fairway perfectly framed by the desert trees and cactus that personalized this infamous course.

I gripped my driver and THWACK! I heard a booming sound that was unfamiliar to me, and the enclosed space echoed from the sound of my driver. I was shocked: that was the sound my tee shot makes in a simulator when I shank it. The result was a nice 180-yard pull hook that brought me right next to someone’s backyard with a tree right in front of me.  The post shot stats were telling – -the club head speed, the ball speed, the backspin all presented for everyone to see. If my four letter curse word didn’t indicate how poor of a shot that was, the large HD screen surely shouted it out for everyone to see.  And as a typical macho golf simulator rookie would do, I looked back at my playing partners and questioned how accurate this thing must be.

“Oh that’s weird, that’s a lot more right than I normally hit a mishit,” I said. Meanwhile, I thought to myself silently, “Holy crap, this thing is pretty accurate, I totally pulled that.”

The putting was another adventure in itself.  How am I supposed to gauge feel and distance when I’m putting into a screen?  The hole isn’t real and I’m trusting some numbers to tell me how far I am, but I don’t know how much pace I put on a 50 foot putt that visually looks like a 15 foot putt.  It totally messed with my mind and I often times left it short because I had no clue what I was doing (this simulator is good – it’s just like real life!).  The only saving grace I did find was the grid and the ants that crawled across the screen, which helped indicate the high/low points on the green and helped me calculate the right amount of break for the putt.  If anything, that was very useful and I would like to take the grid/ants concept out onto the real course sometime – before every putt, I’d like to lay out a transparent sheet of plastic near the pin with grid lines on it and then spill water on the plastic to watch where the beads of water end up.  This may slow the pace of play down, but I might be able to shave about seven or eight strokes off my game so it might be worth it. Thankfully, the putting did get better as the round wore on, but it will take some getting used to for sure.

For the three of us in the flight, it took us three hours to finish TPC Scottsdale.  I managed to hit some good shots and did misfire on occasion but I was impressed with how accurate the simulator was.  My average yardage was correct for virtually every club in my bag and mishits predictably went where they were supposed to go if I was to open or shut the club too early on impact.  I topped the ball once and it did exactly that on the screen, burning the grass for a while and losing distance as it skimmed along the fairway.  My putting was horrendous and I argued that a ball on any part of the green should be a gimmie, but I guess when you are playing for beer that is being way too generous.

The big takeaway from the experience was that for a few hours on a cold wintery day, I was able to enjoy the game of golf with my friends in the comfort of my own city.  I shared a few laughs, had a beer, teased and got teased just like I would in a real round.  Sure, the lie was always perfect and the NFL game next to us was a nice distraction, but it was still a round of golf when the temperature outside was below freezing.  The lush fairways I dreamt about were digital but they were there. The well manicured greens were infested with ants, but at least they were helpful.  The flag was accurately flapping with the wind and I definitely heard a bird or two invite me to this faux Scottsdale – a breathtaking course in person and not so bad in simulation. I can’t wait to play Sawgrass next week.

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum. 

Dennis de Jesus Jr. is a passionate fan of golf both outdoors and now indoors.  If he isn’t playing golf, he is thinking about ways to improve his game and sharing ideas about how to improve the game (did someone say belly drivers?)  You can follow him on twitter: @jugojr.

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Dennis lives in Calgary, Canada where golf is available (at best) six months of the year. The other six months are spent understanding the nuances of the game that make it so addicting and wonderfully frustrating. In a perfect world, Dennis would take his set of G10s and his D300S to travel the world playing and photographing the beautiful, unique landcapes of the golf world. For now, he sits at a desk and is developing an eight-layer golf ball simply called "The Tour Ocho."

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. where is santiago de compostela

    Jan 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Hurrah, that’s what I was searching for, what a stuff!
    present here at this weblog, thanks admin of this web page.

  2. Troy Vayanos

    Jan 27, 2013 at 12:54 am

    I would love to try out one of these simulators Dennis. Unfortunately we don’t have any of these in my state Queensland in Australia.

    Fortunately in Australia for have golf 365 days of the year so we don’t necessarily have quite the same need for a simulator. In saying that I would still love to try one out.

  3. Dennis de Jesus Jr.

    Jan 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I agree, sims do cost a lot in YYC. I have been to other cities where their prices were far more reasonable and even outdoor driving ranges were fairly inexpensive. The problem we face is that we have a strong demand for anything golf and people with incomes to match. Come summertime, I would also complain that our municipal courses are overpriced too – but then you see how hard it is to get a tee time. It would be so nice to live in Florida…

    Thanks for reading the article!

  4. Rangetime

    Nov 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Sims cost a lot in YYC. You do not get a sense of true ball flight. Yet then again, its warm, you get to use balls that dont feel like rocks even with the best endo fordging know to man.

    If sims lowered there absurd prices in Calgary, I would do it. Till then its the outdoor ranges and a game in my mind

  5. Mark Burk

    Nov 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    During the off season I use to hit rocks with sticks when I lived in a pipe. It is a good option if there is not a golf sim nearby.

    P.S I now live in El Camino with a camper top in the parking lot of a the golf course I work at picking the range.

    Still trying to clear my name.

  6. sebastien

    Nov 5, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I am trying to find the best simulator… (sure i can try them all… but was looking for your opinion) golfotron, virtuo, golf hd…. which one is the best in your opinon? tx

    • renoir99

      Nov 7, 2012 at 11:29 am

      In my opinion, the two best simulators are made by aboutGolf and HD Golf. aboutGolf is the simulators used on The Golf Fix. HD Golf is used by many of the Top 100 Clubfitters. HD Golf also has a lot of options if you are using it for swing work in the winter. Options like DTL/HO cameras, weight shift monitors.

    • Mark

      Nov 7, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      There is no best thing in golf simulator. It is important that you know what is your objective behind getting one and then have a demo on all the leading golf simulators and then only come to conclusion and decide which one will suit you. In addition to Renoir suggestion, I would also like you to try Bogolf simulators.

    • James Laidlaw

      Nov 13, 2012 at 10:01 am

      Sebastian,
      There are 2 key factors to qualifying golf simulators; 1) image quality – most simulators use conventional computer graphics that look and play like video games, and it’s difficult for most adults to take that seriously,
      2) Accuracy – ball and club tracking is critical to making any simulator FEEL real. If you’ve got trouble with a slice, you want your simulator to show your good shots AND your bad ones. The worst possible outcome is for you to work on your game all winter indoors and come out in the spring to realize you’ve been developing your slice instead of correcting it. Have you ever used the simulators in the big box retail stores like Dick’s, or Golf Town? If so, then you’ll know what I mean.

      You should ALWAYS try any simulator before you buy it – they are not created equally.

      Take a look at this:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=eDiOWEydCmM

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Opinion & Analysis

Bag Chatter: An Interview with Uther Supply

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Daniel Erdman of Uther Supply.

Tell us about Uther. How do you pronounce that? What are you all about? How did you start?

It’s actually pronounced “other.” We’ve gotten that question a lot and, to be honest, we’re kind of OK with it. We wanted to brand ourselves as unique, so we think it fits well. We want to create products that no one else creates. That could be towels in unique prints or some other golf goods outside of that. We’re targeting the customer that wants to be different as well…people who want to demonstrate their unique personalities.

Forgive me for being a little direct, but golf towels may not strike a lot of people as being something a lot of people would start a business with. Were you seeing a lack of something in the marketplace somehow? What prompted you to start this company selling golf towels?

It may not be conventional and I definitely recognize that. Some of my friends have laughed at me for starting a golf towel business. I guess it hit me when I was working at private clubs (I have worked at The Thornhill Club and Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto). When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together. Billy Horschel’s octopus-print pants at the 2013 US Open was something that always stuck out in my mind and in that moment when I was staring at all those bags, it all kind of came together in a way. I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.

What do you think differentiates your products from others in the marketplace? Why do you think people would buy your products?

We’ve already addressed the fact that we offer different and bold prints, but that’s obviously the first thing that most customers will notice. Beyond that, though, we put a lot of attention to detail into our products. We went through 40 different suppliers to get things right. My grandparents had a really successful flooring mat company when I was growing up. Watching them run the family business gave me the bug at a very young age to start my own business. It also taught me how much quality matters and getting the right suppliers and materials. It was so much more difficult back then without the internet, but now, a quick google search just does so much of the legwork for you.

Uther Supply’s golf towel lineup

Something that I think is very interesting here is you’re very young at only 22 years old. A lot of the people I’ve talked to recently have been in their twenties as well. Tell me a little bit about what it took to start this company. Did you have to secure an investment? A lot of people shy away from starting a company for fear of the hill being too steep to climb, if you will. Since you’re in the process of climbing it, what’s that actually like?

It definitely was difficult. The only outside funding I got were some grants and loans from business accelerator programs. Those helped tremendously. I remember having to place a very large order at my supplier at the same time my one of my funding opportunities was being processed. That particular one only had like a 20 percent acceptance rate, and if I didn’t get it, I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to fund the order. The way everything happened to be timed, I had to I place my order before I heard back from my funding application to meet a deadline. It turned out I was accepted, so that was a relief, but it was definitely pretty stressful. You know, in the beginning, you’re working for months before you generate any income. You’re doing everything for the first time like sending stuff through customs, dealing with suppliers, collecting transactions, you name it. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way and when you have zero money coming in, the mistakes you make hurt so much more. You have no processes or systems in place. It’s something you need to accept for what it is and grind through it. Social media helped accelerate things quite a bit (including meeting my sales partner Luke through Instagram). Selling on Amazon and going to the PGA show last year gave us a boost as well. It’s hard to say what the hardest part is specifically. It’s just the grind in the beginning trying to get momentum behind it. Once you get over the hump, it’s really exciting and fun, but getting up to that point is definitely not easy.

It should also be mentioned that you’re based out of Canada. A lot of people would assume being in the Great White North would make the game of golf a challenging proposition. How long/short is your golf season in Ontario? How do you stay sharp over the Canadian winters? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to play golf when it’s far too cold for most of us? To what lengths will you go?

It can get interesting for sure. I first started golfing because of my hockey friends. Yes, a lot of us do play hockey up here. It was a natural transition for a lot of us to play hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. However, if you do happen to get a golf itch in the winter, you will have to get creative. It’s pretty easy to go to just an indoor simulator to practice. Sometimes I would go to Golf Town (our version of Golf Galaxy) to pretend to demo clubs in order to practice my swing. That can get you by for a while, but it’s not the same as hitting an actual golf ball and watching it fly through the air, you know? So when you get to that point, there’s a nice indoor/outdoor range near me with covered, heated hitting bays. Our golf season is from like April through October, so that leaves a lot of time in between. Golf vacations become necessary sometimes.

Before starting Uther, you alluded to your experience working at golf courses. First off, you must have some good stories. No need to mention any names, but what’s your favorite story from that stage of life? Also, what was it like to go from working at a club to having to court those golf clubs to become your customer, stock your products, etc? Was that really easy or really difficult?

Well, I have a bunch of stories involving golf carts. Just in case the old golf directors read this, I won’t give too many details. Working at a course is great. You can’t get a better “office” than going to the course every day. There’s nothing like watching the sunrise on a dew-covered golf course, especially when you’re being paid. Some of my best memories were after tournaments where three of us guys would clean like 80 golf carts. We would all have fun and get to know each other. It didn’t really feel like work.

In both instances (working for a course and now selling to them), it doesn’t really feel so much like work. It does take a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t feel like drudgery, that’s for sure. The difference is that there’s a lot more behind the scenes work that I’m doing now. We recently did a towel for the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance in collaboration with State Apparel. It took us a lot of back and forth to get that product right, but once we did, we came up with a custom, one-off product that our customers really loved. And watching them react to it was incredible. Stuff like that really keeps you going.

Bo Links, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, holding custom towel developed with Uther Supply

This question is unabashedly inspired by (ahem…lifted from) one of Rick Shiels’ recent posts. (Giving credit where it’s due here). If you had to “Tin Cup” it (i.e. play a round of golf with only one club), what club would it be and how many extra strokes do you think it would take? So, if you were to play your home course, your normal score is what? And what would your “Tin Cup” score be, you think?

If I had to choose one club for a Tin Cup round, I think it would be a five iron. My home course (and the public golf course I worked for) is Richmond Hill Golf Club. It’s only like 6,000 yards, so I feel like I could totally get by with a five iron and get on any green in 3. I typically shoot like an 80-85. I don’t think I would be that far off the number honestly. I trust the five iron, but also, I know my course pretty well and I think that club would suit it nicely. Now that you ask, though, I feel like I’m dying to try it!

What tour pro would you most like to have a beer with? Not necessarily the guy you’d want to play golf with or pick his brain about the game. Who do you think is the most likeable guy on tour? Who would you most like to befriend, if you will?

I would definitely have to go with Rickie Fowler. He’s got a bold style for sure, but he owns it and I really dig that. I love that he congratulates the other guys on tour and is supportive of them when they win tournaments. He seems so humble. He’s also really adventurous. He’s into motocross. I’m not into motocross, but I love the adventurous spirit. He just seems like a really cool guy from what I can tell.

It’s almost hard to believe, but the PGA Merchandise Show is fast approaching (January 23-26, 2018 in Orlando, FL for those who don’t know). Will you be exhibiting? What are you most looking forward to? That question is, of course, about what steps you think Uther will take, but also, are you looking forward to anything specific from other manufacturers? What companies’ booths are you planning on going to?

We will definitely be at the show and we’re really looking forward to it. Come see us at booth 3988! I walked the show last year but wasn’t exhibiting, so I would go up to potential customers and pitch my products to them. That was a lot of work and it was quite stressful being out on a limb like that. We’ve been working on this year’s show since August and I think it’s going to be a ton of fun. We’ve got some really cool stuff planned. You also get to meet so many people there, which is just a blast. As far as other stuff I’m looking forward to, Greyson Clothiers is definitely at the top of the list. Charlie’s story is so interesting and I just love their products.

Uther Supply plaid towel on the course

Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you on website, social media, etc.

So, the big news is that we will be expanding beyond golf towels. We will be launching some gloves and hats that I’m really excited about. We have six different golf gloves as well as bucket and baseball hats we’ll be rolling out in some very fun prints and colors (because that’s what we do). Definitely a good idea to check out our website, which is www.uthersupply.com. The website has a link to sign up for our email list which will send out some discount codes from time to time. There will also be some exclusive and limited-edition products on the website at times too. @Uthersupply is our handle on all social media platforms. Business customers can reach us at contact@uthersupply.com to collaborate with us on custom products. We’d love to have people come see what we’re about!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tara Iti: A Golfer’s Paradise

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This trip couldn’t have started better. Tara Iti Golf Club is magic! No disrespect to the home of golf, but this course might be as special as it gets when it comes to playing links golf.

Catch Up: The Start of My Golf Adventure

Tara Iti is a masterpiece that opened late in 2015. It’s designed by the famous golf architect Tom Doak, and it’s located on a large piece of land on the North Island of New Zealand around 1.5 hours from Auckland. It’s well hidden from houses and traffic, so you can just focus on your game and the stunning property.

The course brings swift fairways and plenty of risk-reward opportunities, offering a bevy of challenging shots that you need to plan carefully in order to get close to the flag. I loved especially the shapes presented by the fairways and waste areas, which make it feel as though the entire course is seamlessly woven together. I also like the idea they’ve got here of playing the ball as it lies. No bunkers, just waste areas.

On a personal note, my match against Johan was halved. He played very well on the first nine while I did well on the back nine.

What’s key to success to Tara Iti is a polished short game in combination with the ability to hit the fairways. I found my favorite hole at No. 17, a strikingly beautiful short par-3 that pops up between the wild sand dunes. There are three iconic trees to the left with the sea and a beautiful island as a backdrop.

Up Next: Kauri Cliffs on the northern peak of New Zealand. It is said to be one of the most scenic courses in the world.

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Opinion & Analysis

Life as a left-handed golfer

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“My bad, forgot you were a lefty,” my cart partner says, driving to the wrong side of the ball for the third straight hole.

“All good. Let me just grab my wedge and putter and you can head over to your ball,” I say, realizing I left that wedge on No. 2.

“Too bad you can’t use one of mine!” my hilarious buddy jokes. And just like that, we’re off. The life as a lefty.

Saturday morning rounds usually start casually enough. Tees are thrown and partners drawn. As I approach the ball, my laser-like focus after a terrible range session is typically interrupted by everyone’s favorite knee-slapper.

“Did anyone ever tell you you stand on the wrong side of the ball?” ZING!

“Actually, I’m standing to the right of the ball if you really look at it,” a younger me once quipped, a joke that would confuse and embarrass all involved. And then, with the confidence of an awkward night at the improv, I dead block one that nestles next to a tree.

As we cruise down the rough, my chauffeur politely asks, “You pulled your drive, correct?”

“Yeah, missed left side,” I mumble, preferring not to get into that brain teaser.

Now, this ball may be perched to the right of the tree, giving me a lucky angle in. “Man, what a time to be left-handed, eh?” Or, to my chagrin, settled just to the left of it forcing me to play it sideways. “Ugh, what a tough break being left-handed, huh?”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, I don’t fault anyone for making these observations; even I think left-handed players look outrageous on the golf course. The most experienced golfer will still see a fellow lefty in the middle of their ensuing fairway and wonder, “Why is this guy hitting it toward us?”

We’ve been conditioned to think this way. I like to call it The Ugly Duckling Syndrome. Maybe someday, we too will turn into swans and have the beautiful swings that all right-handed golfers like to say we have (we don’t). The compliment usually comes in around No. 6 as he’s starting to get the hang of this cart thing and your wedge is still holes behind.

“You have a good swing there. You remind me of Phil Mickelson. I bet you are a big fan of his?”

Sure, why not. I also have a Mark Brunell jersey, Mike Vick fathead, and I exclusively watch James Harden play basketball.

Sarcasm aside, us lefties are a proud bunch and really do love playing with or seeing another lefty on the course. For many of us, it’s the only chance we have to try different equipment. We take full advantage.

Seeing another lefty at the club is like seeing a long-lost friend on Thanksgiving Eve. We might wave, give a head nod or take an air swing, but I promise you we are acknowledging each other. Have you ever been out on the lake and pulled off the friendly wave to a fellow boater? That’s being a lefty on the golf course.

Now, we like you righties; we know your charm. You provide us an endless supply of dad jokes and sometimes you have an original one. And when we finally have a second to go grab that wedge left on No. 2, we know you’ll return it with a smile. “Well, at least you knew I wasn’t going to keep this one, Mickelson!”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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