How To Build Your Own Golf Simulator - The Fundamentals

Up until a few years ago, the idea of owning your own Golf Simulator at home had remained an unreachable dream for the average golf enthusiast. However, with the growth of the 'golf at home' market and the advancement of golf simulation technology, having a golf simulator at home is absolutely possible, and you can save some money by doing building it yourself. Let me show you how.

I will also share how I've set up my own "Kaizen HQ" as pictured below.

Kaizen HQ SIM

The essential building blocks

A golf simulator is essentially something that will simulate the ball flight once you've hit a golf ball. You can use it for practice sessions, and you can even use a golf simulator to play world famous courses from the comfort of your own home. It can come in a number of configurations, but the fundamental building blocks remain the same. Here are the bits you need to source and install to complete your own home simulator. Some are absolutely essential and some are nice to haves that will really enhance your experience, budget allowing. 

Let's go through the essential items first.

The Location / Space

Before anything - decide on where you are going to have your golf simulator and make sure you have sufficient space.

Typically, we recommend building your simulator indoors, with a garage set up being the most popular (this is what I have). However if space is an issue, you could even do an outdoor set up, however there will be compromises and limitations for a outdoor set up - e.g. you wouldn't want to have the launch monitor permanently outside and you may not have the option of using a projector etc. 

In terms of minimum space required, here's a rule of thumb:

  • Height - 9 feet ceiling will be sufficient for most people to comfortably swing their longest golf clubs. You can still have an 'irons' only simulator if you don't have enough ceiling height. 
  • Width - 10 feet minimum is recommended, obviously wider the better. I have seen narrower simulator set ups in single car garages, but they tend to get a bit crammed and instead of aiming to the centre of the net or screen, you are hitting towards the sides. Also if you need to cater for a lefty/righty scenario, you may need another couple of feet of width.  
  • Length - 12 feet minimum to allow for space between the ball and the net/screen as well as provide you with enough space for a comfortable backswing. You may need more if you intend on using a launch monitor that is placed behind the ball, e.g. the minimum requirement for a Mevo+ unit is 15 feet. 

The above are obviously general rules of thumb and everyone's circumstances are different dependent on your height and how you swing the golf club. A good way to figure out whether you've got enough space to swing is to have a few swings with your alignment stick which is roughly the same length as your driver. Start slow and if you can get to a few full swings without hitting anything then you should be good to go. 

For my set up, I'm lucky enough to have a double garage with 9+ feet ceiling height, so space was not an issue at all. I have about 15 feet between the back of the garage and the impact screen, and about 2.5 feet of space behind the impact screen. 

Golf Hitting Mat

Our number one advice here is, do not go cheap on mats. A cheap mat will not last and may negatively impact your ball flight, but most importantly, a cheap thin mat will cause injuries in the long run. For a complete guide on purchasing a golf mat - please read our buying guide here.

Assuming you are going with a decent mat, another consideration is the size. For a more permanent indoor set up, we recommend getting a full size 5 feet by 5 feet mat. You will be comfortably standing on the same level as your hitting surface for all your clubs and you will be able to rotate the mat from time to mat to spread the wear. 

If you are setting up outside, a smaller and more portable mat maybe the way to go. 

If you just place the mat on the floor, it will eventually move due to the forces you put on the mat with your golf swing/club impact. Here are a couple of things you can do to "fix" it to the floor

  • Double sided carpet tape or Velcro - they are very effective especially if you have a smooth floor
  • You can sink it into a padded floor. If you've got padded flooring with either artificial turf or puzzle mats, you can do a 1.5m x 1.5m cut out on the flooring and 'sink' the mat in. There are a couple of advantages with this set up
    • You can get a better experience when you putt - instead of the ball falling off the edge of the mat, you have a surface that's level with the mat to give you a smoother roll. This will help your launch monitor with reading the putt too.
    • Instead of getting a full size mat, you can insert a "hitting strip" into the floor. This will be a more economical way to get a high quality hitting surface. 

For my own set up, as I'm often testing new product designs, I don't currently have a 'go-to' mat.

Golf Hitting Net or Impact Screen

Now that you've got something to hit off, you need something to hit your ball into. There are basically 2 options here:

Golf Net

A golf practice net can provide a simple, reliable and cost effective option for your golf simulator set up, especially if you are considering a outdoor set up.

The downside is that you will not be able to have a more immersive experience as you won't be able to project the image of your ball flight to a screen in front of you. 

For indoors, an added benefit of hitting into a golf net is that it is SUPER quiet. If like me, your opportunity to hit balls is after the kids have gone to bed, this can be a great option. You can even place it in front of your impact screen to deaden the noise of the ball hitting into the screen.

Click here for a full golf practice net buying guide.

Golf Impact Screen

If you are after a more immersive experience with your golf simulation, you will have to opt for an impact screen. Dependent on what you are willing to pay, you may get vast differences in terms of durability, image quality as well as level of sound dampening. 

There generally isn't any 'portability' when it comes to impact screens and you will have to attach it to your indoor space. Popular options for doing this include:

  • Attaching it directly to your wall - you can screw hooks or build a wire rope frame directly into your wall and then attach the screen.
  • Building a frame or enclosure to attach your screen onto (see below). You can either buy one from a store, or build one yourself. You can fashion one out of metal tube or even PVC pipes.

Golf Enclosure

I've gone for a slightly different route and have a white archery baffle net attached to the walls of my garage with a wire rope frame. The archery net is a very durable material that works really well with projectors and offers sound damping qualities that are only matched by the best impact screens, but at a fraction of the cost. See our Kaizen Archery Baffle here.

The only downside of this material is that it does have tiny gaps where the light of the projector may bleed through. An easy solution for this problem is to have a bed sheet hung directly behind the baffle, but if you are after top end resolution with a 4k projector then this may not be the one for you. But if you want an entry level impact screen that will do a good job with a projector, this material deserves some serious consideration. What made me switch to this from a budget level impact screen (for roughly the same retail price) was how much quieter it is and I'm sure it will last longer.

See below for an example of how my archery screen looks with a projector.

Kaizen Golf Simulator

[2022 update] we have now launched our Premium Impact Screen as well as our flagship Professional Golf Impact Screen which offer high picture quality at a competitive price point. See photo below of what the latest set up with our Professional Impact Screen looks like.

Kaizen golf professional golf impact screen

Also be sure to check out our comprehensive Buying Guide for Golf Simulator Impact Screens.

 

Golf Launch Monitor

Now to the brains of the entire set up. The launch monitor is the star of the show for any golf simulator set up. Essentially you need something that can accurately measure or (less preferred) calculate ball launch data such as speed, side and back spin, launch angle etc to then simulate ball flight.

Also another key requirement is that the launch monitor is able to output the simulated ball flight through it's own app or through a 3rd party app. 

In this market, it's very much a matter of 'you get what you pay for' in terms of features and accuracy. As this is not a launch monitor guide, I will just briefly provide some popular examples of launch monitors you would find at each price point

  • < 1K - examples include the Optishot 2 and the new Garmin R10 launch monitors. The Garmin is slightly more expensive but offers a lot more features and uses doppler radar technology which is a lot more accurate than the Optishot 2 which uses infrared that only measures club data. The shortfall with the Garmin unit is that uses club data to estimate ball spin data instead of directly measuring it.
  • < 5K - the Skytrak and Mevo+ units are the prominent players here. At this price range, you get a much more accurate unit that is sufficient for all golf simulation purposes and these are by far the most popular units for home golf simulators. The Skytrak is what I have and I absolutely love it.
  • High end - a step up from the Skytrak and the Mevo+ are the more commercial grade units which are more typically used for coaching/fitting scenarios. 

Display

Finally to complete your set up, you will need something to display the simulated ball flight. Most launch monitors will pair with phones, tablets as well as PCs. You can just use those devices to cast the image to a TV or you can project the image to your impact screen via a projector.

...and for a basic set up, that's all there is to it!

What sort of total budget am I looking at?

Dependent on what you go with costs will vary significantly. Generally the launch monitor is the most expensive part of your set up. Let's tackle the cheapest and the most expensive set ups.

If you are budget conscious or just want to give golf simulation a try, you can get your own golf simulator set up for just touch over $1K with the following items (assuming you BYO a phone/tablet).  

  1. Net + Mat - we've currently got a net + mat package for as low as $215 (3m Portable Net + Portable Mat)
  2. Garmin R10 launch monitor - $879 through Garmin 

You can always upgrade your set up as you go. And given how portable this combination is, you can easily set this up outside in the backyard. 

If budget is no issue, you could be spending up to $20-30k for the latest and greatest trackman or GC Quad launch monitors, and the enclosure + projector will cost another $10K ball park. 

Optional extras

For the full experience, especially if you want to have an immersive experience playing world famous golf courses, consider adding the following to your set up. 

  • Projector - having your ball flight projected to the impact screen will definitely enhance your golf simulation experience, especially when you are in 'playing' mode. You can opt for an entry level projector or you can go for the high end HD/4K options. I went cheap for a $200 unit, although it does the job, this is definitely high up on the upgrade list. You will also need to adjust your lighting set up as well to get to the right level of ambient lighting for a sharper image.
  • Simulator software - although most launch monitors come with their out of the box software offerings. But for ultra-realistic gaming experience, you will again need to shell out for third party software, especially when it comes to course play. The high end software packages could cost over $1K and would require a gaming PC to run smoothly due to the picture quality. I have the no-frills 'Fitness Golf' software which has ~160 golf courses (including Augusta, St Andrews and Pebble Beach) and offers everything I need for ~$300 (AUD). Note 'Fitness Golf' is only available for Skytrak users and would require an upgraded Skytrak annual subscription plan. See below for a "simulated vs real" of the famous 7th hole at Pebble Beach, the angles are slightly different but you get the idea...
Sim pebble 7

Pebble real 7

  • Sound proofing tiles - add some dark foam sound proofing tiles to the top and sides of your screen will not only dampen the noise levels, it will also enhance the looks of  your set up as well as offer added protection for the odd stray shots and ricochets. You can also use black curtains for this too. 
  • Flooring/Putting Green - make your mates more jealous by finishing off your simulator set up with some floor padding (foam puzzle mats are good for this) with some putting turf/Putting Green on top for the ultimate look. 

Final Thoughts

If you are a keen golfer and are lucky enough to have the space required, the idea or the dream of owning your own golf simulator is becoming more and more affordable to achieve. 

I hope this article has given you the inspiration to start your golf simulator journey, regardless of your budget. If you are planning to build you own golf simulator or have already set up a simulator, I hope this has given you some ideas to improve your set ups.

As I write this post, Sydney is in the middle of our strictest COVID lockdown and I no longer have access to my golf club due to travel distance restrictions. As a golf enthusiast, having the sim set up right in my garage has just been simply incredible.

 

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