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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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Equipment

2020 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Golfer Looking to get Better

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to get better,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.” (Editor’s note: remaining installments to publish tomorrow and Wednesday)

You know the golfer looking to get better by his/her closet full of every infomercial training aid and a pursuit of forgiveness that would put the most penitent sinner to shame.

Here are our best recommendations for “golfer looking to get better” in your life.

Get a lesson

James Oh

Former tour player and now Southern California based coach to a number of fast-rising players in college and on tour, James teaches not only the swing, short game, etc., but he is also arguably one of the best Golf IQ coaches out there.

Book a lesson here. 

George Gankas

Get on the mat with the hottest teacher in the U.S. and longtime coach to Matthew Wolff and Akshay Bhatia. In a few years, these appointments will be few and far between.

Book a lesson here. 

James Ridyard

Short game teacher to the best—notably Francisco Molinari. A private session with James is expensive, but it’s worth the investment and then some. The best way on the planet to get your short game dialed.

Book a lesson here. 

Marcus Potter

Young and nimble, Marcus Potters career has taken off via word of mouth and Instagram. Schedule an in-person or video-based session with Marcus, and you will be putting like a young Ben Crenshaw.

Book a lesson here. 

Get Better at Home

PlaneMate

The hottest training aid in 2019 continued to be fire in 2020 as players are now learning how to utilize it over the winter to hit the ground running in the spring.

Buy here. 

Gankas G Box

If you really want to learn how to rotate like the best players in the world, there is no better and easier-to-use aid in the market. Good indoors and out.

Buy here. 

Get Faster

SuperSpeed Sticks

No longer a secret tool on tour, the SuperSpeed Sticks offer adults and juniors the ability and training program to truly hit it longer. If you want to build true speed and learn how you hit it farther, the SuperSpeed Sticks are a necessity.

Buy here. 

At-home practice facility

If you’ve got the dough to do it, building a Foresight hitting bay at home is almost like cheating. Not only can you dial in your swing, your clubs, and a create sound practice routines, you can also have some fun and play multiple iconic tracks over with your friends in the comfort of your own home.

Buy here. 

Wellness

Urban Golf Performance

For the SoCal crowd, buying a membership at Urban Golf Performance in Los Angeles puts you in an all-encompassing golf ecosystem that works with your body, your game, your mind and your bag. Its Equinox for golfers—and oh yeah, Collin Morikawa works out there amongst a bunch of other PGA pros and college stars.

Book here. 

For the .com crowd

Me and My Golf online membership

It’s a rabbit hole of tips, tutorials, and insight for golfers of all levels. Arguably the biggest golf platform on YouTube now offers you the VIP experience.

Buy here (7-day free trial).

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2020 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Golf gifts for the Value Seeker

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to improve,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.” (Editor’s note: remaining installments to publish tomorrow and Wednesday)

You know the value seeker by his/her eschewing of anything that will put a significant dent into the wallet while still getting the most from their game, this includes equipment, practice tools, or anything else you might find filling out a golf bag – maybe even the golf bag itself.

Here are our best recommendations for “the value seeker” in your life.

Tour Edge Hot Launch series clubs

Tour Edge and its Hot Launch line of clubs are one of the undisputed leaders when it comes to offering game improvement technology and value to golfers of all skill levels. The newest Hot Launch 521 Series, which includes the Hot Launch E521 and Hot Launch C521 line, can be broken up into two categories to help players quickly identify which clubs they should most consider, and it goes from drivers all the way down to wedges.

The Hot Launch E Series offers high-MOI, extreme game improvement designs with a singular focus on delivering easy-to-launch performance, which is built around correcting the most common miss in golf: the dreaded slice.

The Hot Launch C Series is designed for golfers who desire classicly shaped clubs that offer optimal launch and spin rates, while still getting all the benefits of easy to hit, forgiving clubs built around maximizing MOI.

Buy here.

Snell golf balls: $28.99 (when you buy 5 dozen)

The premium golf ball market if full of high-end competition from major OEMs, and in the direct to consumer market, there is value to be had at the cost of performance, but with Snell golf balls, you get the best of both worlds.

Founder Dean Snell has been in the golf ball business for over 25 years, and with Snell Golf, you can skip the middle man and go directly to the source—and save money. Beyond just saving money on one dozen, the more you buy, the more you save. When you buy 5 dozen (hopefully that’s at least a season’s worth for most golfers on your list), it breaks down to only $28.99 a box!

Buy now. 

Cleveland Huntington Beach Soft Premier putters: $129

Golfers love milled putters, and Cleveland Golf’s Huntington Beach Soft Premier line proves that you can get a milled putter packed with technology for under $150.

The Huntington Beach Soft Premier line is all about enhancing the looks and feel of the putter while continuing to offer familiar shapes and proven technology. The grey satin finish reduces glare and offers a premium look—without a premium price.

Buy here. 

GoSports Golf Practice Net: $79.99

Practicing your golf game shouldn’t just be a nice weather activity, and whether it’s winter or summer unless you are a member at a club or have already purchased a membership at a local range, buckets of golf balls can really add up.

Buy here. 

Golf Avenue gift card

Golf Avenue is one of the largest online shops for used clubs, and there is no better value when it comes to gear than buying used. They also offer a huge selection of new closeout priced bags, shoes, and accessories to help outfit any golfer with the essentials.

Buy here. 

Imperial hat: >$30

The Imperial brand is over 100 years old, but they never rest on their laurels and are constantly working on new designs and partnering with others to create unique collections. From dogs to donuts they have fun graphics and styles to find the perfect fit for any golfer on your list. You can get what amounts to a premium, custom hat at a reasonable price.

Buy here. 

Linksoul Gaiter Gift Box: $65

When it comes to premium face coverings that are stylish to boot, Linksoul’s offerings are first in class. And with the average price of a quality poly/cotton-blend gater running in the $20-25 range, take advance of the opportunity to snag four for $65.

Buy here.

Caddy Tek CaddyLite V3 3-wheel push cart: $176

There is no better way to enjoy a round of golf than walking the course, and with the Caddy Tek CaddyLite V3 you can do that in style and at a great price. It’s compact and comes with an umbrella holder along with an undercarriage cooler bag to keep your clubs and accessories at your fingertips as you stroll the course in style.

Buy here.

Gogogo ProGS24 Laser Rangefinder: $90

Nobody wants to be the “What yardage did you get?” golfer in your group, and with the Gogogo laser range finder, you won’t have to be! It can measure larger objects up to 650 yards, but also has a “flagpole locking function” to help get you locked onto the pin inside of 150 yards, along with 6X magnification for ease of use. For less than $100, it’s hard to find a better value and more highly rated (4.5 stars on Amazon.com) laser range finder!

Buy here. 

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GolfWRX Classifieds (11/23/20): Tour issue TaylorMade M5, Ping G410 LST, Jones Trooper bag

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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 mykdel – Jones Utility Trooper bag

Jones makes some of the nicest carry bags on the market for walkers and this Utility Trooper is in amazing shape and for a crazy good price – best to act fast on this one.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Jones Trooper bag 

Member mupepperbuy – Ping G410 LST driver

The only thing nicer than the G410 LST driver are these pictures of said driver for sale. Even with the G410, the G400 LST continues to be popular with golfers of all skill levels thanks to its low spin performance and stability.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Ping G400 LST

Member Snipzky9 – TaylorMade Tour Issue M5 driver head

Unlike the modern SIM, the TaylorMade M5 was never released to the public in an 8° head – only as a tour issue item, which makes this head particularly rare.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: M5 Tour Head

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

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