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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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2021 TaylorMade SIM2 Launch Day Report: Everything you need to know about the new equipment from TaylorMade

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Today was the official launch day of the all-new 2021 TaylorMade SIM2 line of clubs, which includes drivers, fairways woods, hybrids, and irons. To summarize the newest release from the Carlsbad-based golf equipment company, for TaylorMade and the SIM2 line of clubs, it’s all about refining great products to increase speed and stability without sacrificing any of the distance golfers achieved from the original line.

If are looking for in-depth information, on the ins and outs of the new designs and the technology that makes them possible be sure to check out our full launch pieces below.

2021 TaylorMade SIM2 drivers: Better performance, piece by piece

TaylorMade SIM2 driver line

  1. Designers have taken every step to look at different materials and configurations to add forgiveness while maintaining the low spin characteristics of the original 2020 SIM design.
  2. No more sliding weight track. The sliding weight on the standard model has been removed to save mass and increase MOI (a measurement of forgiveness).
  3. Three different models to choose from with greater differentiation to help golfers get dialed in more effectively and find the design that is the best fit.
  4. More precision built into every part of the driver. The only way to make a golf club, especially a driver, better is to maximize the weight properties and geometry, and by painstakingly looking at every single component and manufacturing process, that’s exactly what TaylorMade has done.

2021 TaylorMade SIM2 fairway woods and hybrids: Building on a winning platform

Fairway woods

For 2021, TaylorMade engineers are upping their game and the SIM fairway wood platform with the launch of the TaylorMade SIM2, SIM2 Max, and SIM2 Max D (for draw) fairway woods. Each is designed to improve consistency, turf interaction, forgiveness, and reshape what is possible with each model in the line.

  • The SIM2 Titanium has a reconfigured heavy steel soleplate to go along with its 10cc smaller size to move the center of gravity farther back in the head to increase MOI. The Max and Max D models have also gotten larger to improve forgiveness.
  • Unlike the SIM2 Titanium, the SIM2 Max fairway has gotten bigger and now comes in at 190cc head in the 3-wood (compared to 185 in the 2020 version) to increase forgiveness, and although the head has gotten larger, it is still easy to elevate from tighter lies with the help of the newly redesigned two-step V Steel sole.
  • The unofficial motto of the SIM2 Max D should be “go big or go home.” It offers the largest head size at 195cc (in the 3-wood) and also has the largest face area to help those golfers who miss a bit more than they would like to admit.

Hybrids

To build on the success of the SIM Max rescue, TaylorMade has improved the original Max rescue and are also introducing an all-new model geared towards higher swing speed players looking for a hybrid that offers adjustability and workability with the 2021 (non-MAX) SIM Rescue, thanks to input from its tour staff, including Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.

  • The SIM2 Rescue draws a lot of inspiration from previous TaylorMade and (some Adams) generation hybrids, including the popular ’09 Rescue TP—except with a whole lot more technology! The profile is compact with a higher squared-off toe to have a more “iron-like” appearance from address to help golfers find the perfect transition club from long irons to fairway woods.
  • The new SIM2 Max hybrid brings everything golfer loved from the previous version and added a newly refined sole geometry to increase forgiveness and deliver more consistent results. The SIM2 Max Rescue has a C300 maraging steel face and comes with the now-familiar Twist Face, which only became a feature in the Rescue line last year.

2021 TaylorMade SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS irons

The new Cap Back is a full cavity encasing polymer cap that connects and supports the topline without touching the face. It helps produce a higher MOI since the polymer material is seven-times lighter than the steel counterpart per g/cm3 and frees up more mass to be moved low in the head to raise stability—especially for shots missed around the face, which for golfers that fit into this iron category and going to do.

Beneath the Cap Back and behind the face on the new SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS irons, you will find an improved Echo Damping System which features a more concentrated HYBRAR material. The damping system stretches across the entire face (from heel to toe) using multiple contact points and also utilizes a softer polymer blend to channel away more unwanted vibrations.

Perspectives from the GolfWRX forums

mycowdog: Hit the 9* sim2, about a dozen swings. Easy to hit, nice launch and spin for me. I haven’t played a TM driver. Many more to test, but I was impressed.

Stanks: Will it get the M6 outta the bag?! Looks promising!

J-Zone: Spent time with both heads today, I think people will be thoroughly impressed once they have them in hand. They look much better than the pictures, and is a very premium looking driver. Did not have time to compare to SIM1.0, but they feel a bit more firm (subjective) with a muted thwack vs a longer ringing or ting sensation.The Max will be the home run for TM people who have a very neutral delivery or want consistent spin, and the Standard is going to fit anyone who wants to cut spin but not in a super alarming way.Max launched super easy, but I can see guys needing to go up in loft if they were in standard 1.0 and went standard 2.0.

More from the GolfWRX forums

GolfWRX’s resident equipment tester, Brian Knudson of the Club Junkie podcast, had this to say

SIM2: TaylorMade kept the sound and feel great, muted and very responsive. Offers a really neutral ball flight and skilled players will love to be able to work the ball with ease and precision. Misses of the toe still keep a decent amount of trajectory, but still lose some distance. The most penetrating flight of the 3 SIM2 drivers.

SIM2 Max: Very stable head and little higher ball flight than the SIM2. Little more spin than SIM2, can see a little rise with shots into the wind. Shots hit off the low heal carry straighter and farther than last year’s SIM Max. Straighter misses for me on all shots that I was hitting.

SIM2 Ti fairway: The sound and feel are really good and love the smaller profile from address. Slightly more of a “crack” sound at impact. Could really feel the ball compress off the face and it seemed to really come off hot. Ball launches higher than last year, even on miss hits. Toe and heel mishits stay on line really well, would easily keep those shots in the fairway. Fairway just wants to get straight, little harder to work the ball and flight shots down. Pretty neutral ball flight with maybe just a touch of natural draw.

SIM 2 Max fairway: Good sound, little more metallic and higher pitched than its titanium sibling. Head is very stable and might have offered a little more forgiveness than the Ti. Higher ball flight and little more spin, but well struck shots carry a long well. Slices and hooks tend to have a little less curvature to those shots.

SIM2 Max Hybrid: High ball flight that carries a good distance. Easy to square up the club and find the center of the face repeatedly. Shots hit low on the face still get way up in the air and carry really well. Harder to hit fades since there is some draw built into the head, but overall the ball wants to go straight.

SIM2 Rescue: Sound and feel are very muted, heavy “crack” at impact. Penetrating ball flight that is flat, but you can still get the ball off the turf without too much effort. Pretty straight ball flight with more emphasis on the ball wanting to fall right. Easy to work the ball and flight it down as low as you would like. Shots even struck on the toe didn’t draw much and still stayed on a better line that I expected from a smaller club head.

Here’s what the biggest YouTube testers and reviews have to say on the newest Ping G425 line

From the Twitterverse

 

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GolfWRX Classifieds (01/19/21): PXG driver, Toulon Portland, TaylorMade Spider

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member 03trdblack – PXG 0811 XF Gen 2 Head

The MOI is high and the price is low on this 0811 XF driver head. Get it while the getting’s good!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: PXG Driver head

Member endy – Toulon Portland

Whether it’s Portland, Maine, Portland, Oregon, or Portland by Toulon—all are great, but only one is a putter.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Toulon Portland 

Member brushie – TaylorMade MySpider

Does winter have you feeling a little blue? Well, cheer up because now you can get a putter that just so happens to match that particular hue.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: TaylorMade Spider

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

You can also follow along on Instagram: GolfWRX Classifieds

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2021 TaylorMade SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS irons

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The 2021 SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS irons from TaylorMade are about bringing together key technologies from the previous generation and combining it with their all-new Cap Back cavity design to increase distance with more face flex and improve sound by completely changing the cavity design.

What’s new in the SIM2 Max irons

2021 TaylorMade SIM2 Irons

What started out as SpeedBridge, which we should note would make a great title for a Keanu Reeves action thriller/car movie that somehow has its culminating scene take place on a bridge, in the SIM Max and SIM Max OS irons has evolved to something bigger—dare we call it a sequel—with the all-new Cap Back.

What is Cap Back?

SIM2 Max iron Capback

The Cap Back design of the new 2021 SIM2 Max irons replaces the metal speed bridge that ran from the rear of the sole to the top line of the 2020 models. This little strip of metal created tension to help support the topline and allowed engineers to bring more weight from the top of the iron low to lower the center of gravity and increase launch.

2020 SIM2 iron with SpeedBridge

It also allowed the face to flex like a big oversized tennis racket to create more ball speed around a larger area.

The new Cap Back is a full cavity encasing polymer cap that connects and supports the topline without touching the face. It helps produce a higher MOI since the polymer material is seven-times lighter than the steel counterpart per g/cm3 and frees up more mass to be moved low in the head to raise stability—especially for shots missed around the face, which for golfers that fit into this iron category and going to do.

Faster Sim2 Max face

“We set out to take game improvement irons to the next level with SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS. To create Cap Back Design, we utilized multi-material advancements learned from our metalwoods to unlock forgiveness and distance with forged iron like feel. We leveraged a completely new construction to achieve the performance that golfers in this category both need and want.”

– Matt Bovee, Product Creation | Irons Category

SIM2 Max and Max OS iron technology

2021 TaylorMade SIM2 Max OS irons cavity

All-new Echo Damping System

Beneath the Cap Back and behind the face on the new SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS irons, you will find an improved Echo Damping System which features a more concentrated HYBRAR material. The damping system stretches across the entire face (from heel to toe) using multiple contact points and also utilizes a softer polymer blend to channel away more unwanted vibrations.

SIM2 Max OS vs. SIM2 Max sole profile

This vibration channeling helps contribute to what TaylorMade likes to call a forged-like feel while still promoting maximum face flex.

Progressive Inverted Cone Technology

TaylorMade’s Inverted Cone Technology (ICT) is strategically positioned into each SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS iron as a way to help increase the sweet spot and minimize mis-hits.

The reason for this is shots hit on the toe of longer irons generally result in a miss to the right, TaylorMade engineers have positioned the ICT towards the toe in both SIM2 Max and SIMs Max OS irons to counteract this. Through this move, the engineers have created a draw bias in the longer irons to minimize this common miss without resorting to adding additional offset typically found in larger game improvement designs.

Other technology carryovers from the previous generations that can be found in the SIM2 Max irons include the fluted hosel, 360° undercut cavity -now positioned under the polymer cap back, and an ultra-thin face.

What makes the Max OS irons different?

Sim2 Max OS vs Sim2 Max from address

The SIM2 Max OS irons are everything the SIM Max irons are and more, including everything you would expect from a maximum game improvement irons are packed with all the same technology of the SIM2 Max irons but put together in a wider-soled, lower CG, stronger lofted, more draw-biased package to help golfers that are looking for every advantage.

Specs, pricing, and availability

The SIM2 Max and Max OS irons will be available for preorder starting January 19 and will be in retail locations beginning February 10.

Both sets will be priced at $799 steel (KBS Max MT 85 steel ) and $899 graphite (Fujikura’s Ventus Blue graphite, 7S, 6R & 5A) in 7 piece set configurations 4-pitching wedge – which is a departure from the way TaylorMade has assembled stock sets in the past. This allows golfers to choose whether they would prefer to order the matching wedges for the set – which include a gap wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge, or go with something else to find proper gapping.

The SIM2 Max and SIM2 Max OS irons will also be available for women and come outfitted with the Aldila NV Ladies iron shaft and the Lamkin Ladies Sonar grip.

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