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Opinion & Analysis

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

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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