John Gordon

What golfers need to know about indoor golf simulators

If you watch golf on TV, you’ve no doubt seen players on the range, hitting a shot and then looking down at what appears to be an iPad. No, they’re not checking their email or Facetiming their friends. They are checking their club path, spin rate, clubhead speed, launch angle, carry and total distance, smash factor and much more on what’s called a launch monitor.

And, more than likely, they have a full golf simulator at home.

What’s the difference?

“The best way I can describe it that the launch monitor is the engine and the simulator is the entire car,” says Aaron Hardy of Foresight Sports Canada. Hardy is the exclusive Canadian distributor of Foresight, a product used by more than 170 PGA TOUR pros. TrackMan and SkyTrak are other popular products used by golfers and instructors worldwide, among other reputable brands.

While a monitor is portable, a simulator is a permanent or semi-permanent installation that may include some or all of the following: a monitor, net or screen, hitting mat, laptop computer, projector and, of course, a suitable indoor space. You have the option of virtually playing some of the world’s most famous courses. Foresight even offers a “Canadian course mega-deal” software package that bundles Glen Abbey Golf Club, Essex Golf and Country Club and Cobble Beach Golf Links.

Do you need a launch monitor and/or a simulator?

Yes, if you’re a serious golfer, according to Harry Nodwell, Senior Director of Product Testing at My Golf Spy, an independent online reviewer and evaluator of all things golf. “It’s a must-have if you want to get feedback and dial in your game all year round.” That last bit is especially important for golfers trapped indoors during a Canadian winter. And even more so during these COVID-19 days.

Do you want one?

The best ones are not cheap. For example, Foresight’s basic GC2 monitor starts at US$6,500 while the top-of-the-line GCQuad (what Nodwell calls the “Holy Grail of launch monitors”) starts at US$11,000. As mentioned, if you want a full in-home simulator setup, that can double that number at least.

Chris Nickel is My Golf Spy’s Director of Business Development. He is a self-diagnosed “golf and equipment junkie.” That may explain why he has a fully decked-out Foresight simulator in his basement. (That, along with the fact he has seven daughters and lives in snowy Colorado.) He says your decision is basically a cost/benefit analysis based on your desired outcome.

“You have to decide what your priorities are based on your desires and your budget,” Nickel says. “What are the deal breakers? Do you just want something to have fun with your family and friends or do you seriously want to understand how to be a better golfer?”

For proof of that closer to home, you need look no further than Tristan Mullally, Head Coach of Golf Canada’s Women’s Amateur and Young Pro Squads. He recently had a Foresight simulator installed in his garage in Dundas, Ont. As an instructor, he has used the best launch monitors available for more than 15 years to provide feedback and help his students improve. He says it’s not only made his students better but it helped him be a better instructor. But his home simulator was more of a personal purchase so he could spend quality time with his two children.

“With the COVID lockdown, every golfer wants a place to practise and we are looking for different ways to do things with our family,” Mullally says. “Why hit blindly into a net when you can actually play golf on a simulator?”

Don’t despair if you’re an avid golfer on a restricted budget. Nodwell points out that product testing at My Golf Spy has shown there are more affordable options — if you are prepared to sacrifice some accuracy and data.

Let’s say you want the whole enchilada right now, a complete home simulator setup. You will need sufficient space for all the components and to have a full swing. Hardy says his basic setup requires an area seven feet wide by seven feet high by 10 feet deep while the traditional simulator needs a space at least 12 feet wide by nine feet high by 15 feet deep. Having said that, the 6-foot-1 Nickel can’t swing his driver in his basement with its nine-foot-high ceiling. “I really needed another foot of clearance,” he says.

Hardy’s company offers Sim-In-A-Box, a “full-size, true-to-life golf simulation in a compact, easy-to-assemble format delivered right to your door.” Hardy says the kits can be put together with an Allen key, a couple of wrenches and a second set of hands. Alternatively, depending on mandated pandemic restrictions in your area, you can have a custom simulator professionally assembled in your home or garage.

For example, Andy McWilliams, a former Scottish golf professional now based near Ottawa, launched Golf Sim Gurus after seeing a demand for simulator sales, service and installation. “Things have really taken off since people haven’t been able to get out like they could before COVID,” he says. “Plus, it’s a long winter, especially if you can’t get away down south this year.” In addition to permanent installations, McWilliams sees potential in renting and installing simulators on a seasonal basis to golf courses, retail outlets and even homeowners.

Business also increased for Hardy as a result of the pandemic but it was a two-edged sword. “Demand went up but, because of the restrictions, we couldn’t go into residences to do custom installations. We were like the pool guys: People were stranded at home and need something to do to stay active, something to keep themselves and their families entertained.” He equates the price of a home simulator to that of a couple of family vacations and it is a lot more permanent than memories and souvenirs.

“I get a call just about every day from someone who bought one of our simulators,” says Hardy. “They say it’s almost like therapy. One person told me, ‘I never would have gotten through this (COVID) without my golf simulator.’”

Click here for more on Foresight Sports Canada.

2020 John Gordon

Golf in 2020: Looking back on a year you'll never forget

TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley

 
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While participation grew across the country, most tournaments and social gatherings at golf clubs were cancelled or postponed, including the RBC Canadian Open and the CP Women’s Open. The Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada cancelled its season. All Golf Canada’s national championships and many provincial association tournaments were shelved.
“We’re going to look back on 2020 and say, ‘amongst all the challenges, amongst a lot of really difficult situations for so many people, golf was a bright light that we built from,’” Applebaum said.
For example, the COVID-19 Golf Relief Fund initiated by Golf Canada and the Canadian Golf Foundation raised more than $400,000. The fund subsidizes non-medical personal protective equipment for golf course employees as well as sanitization, hygiene and protective material expenses. It also subsidizes rounds of golf for front-line workers as well as juniors. What follows are some of the top golf-related stories from 2020, a very different year. These are just some of the headlines. Details on these stories and many others are available under News on the Golf Canada website.

January

The new World Handicap System came into effect with the goal of making the game more enjoyable by providing a consistent means of measuring performance and progress and to enable golfers of differing abilities to compete or play a casual round with anyone else on a fair and equal basis. Jared du Toit, a member of Golf Canada’s Young Pro Squad, won the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Qualifying Tournament Mexico. Grace McCann of Windsor, Ont., a past president of the former Canadian Ladies’ Golf Association, passed away at the age of 85. The Golf Journalists Association of Canada named Brooke Henderson (female professional), Corey Conners (male professional), Garrett Rank (male amateur) and Brigitte Thibault (female amateur) as players of the year for 2019.

February

Charlie Beaulieu of Lorraine, Que., was elected for a second term at Golf Canada’s annual meeting. Liz Hoffman of Thornhill, Ont., and Dale Jackson of Victoria remain as first and second vice-president respectively. Bill MacMillan of Eastern Passage, N.S., received the Bruce Mitchell Volunteer of the Year Award. Volunteer Richard Smith of Regina and golf journalist Ian Hutchison of Newmarket, Ont., received Golf Canada’s Distinguished Service Award. Celeste Dao of Notre-Dame-de-L’lle-Perrot, Que., a graduate of Team Canada’s National Junior Squad, won the NCAA’s Gold Rush tournament in California. Golf Canada named the 2020 Young Pro Squads: Hugo Bernard, Jared du Toit, Stuart Macdonald, Taylor Pendrith, Chris Crisologo and Joey Savoie for the men and Jaclyn Lee, Brittany Marchand and Maddie Szeryk for the women.
 
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March

As the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic enveloped not only Canada but the world, governments ordered the shutdown of non-essential businesses, which in most provinces included golf courses. The Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in July in Tokyo, are postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic. They will still be called the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, however.

April

Canadian Scott Pritchard, previously vice-president of the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, is promoted to executive director.

May

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most golf courses across Canada did not open on schedule this spring. Although those in British Columbia were never ordered to close, those in other provinces were shuttered until they were allowed to open when stringent anti-COVID safeguards were in place. New Brunswick courses opened April 24 with the balance of the provinces following suit throughout the month of May. Golf Canada announced the formation of the Golf Industry Advisory Council, a volunteer group of experienced professionals to support Golf Canada’s Board of Directors and management team. The council will include course owners, operators, general managers, superintendents and professionals as well as executives from the golf equipment, apparel and footwear industry. Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame announced Lorie Kane of Charlottetown was among six athletes and five builders who will receive the Order of Sports award, Canada’s highest sporting honour. The Prince Edward Island Golf Association named Alison Griffin as its new executive director. The PGA TOUR announced that it would resume without spectators in June. The Tour had suspended play since The Players Championship was cancelled in March.

June

Despite months of planning, the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of Golf Canada on June 6, 1895, also fell victim to the pandemic. Nevertheless, the historic occasion was commemorated virtually with pivotal moments in Canadian golf being recalled on social media platforms using the hashtag #GolfCanada125. Golf Canada announces that St. George’s Golf and Country Club will play host to the 2021 RBC Canadian Open. The 2020 championship, scheduled for St. George’s, was cancelled due to the pandemic.

July

Team Canada’s Brigitte Thibault of Rosemere, Que., won the Women’s Western Amateur in Illinois. The LPGA Tour announced it would resume July 31 without spectators after having suspended play in February.

August

Golf Canada and Canadian Pacific announced that Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club will play host to the 2022 CP Women’s Open.
 
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The Golf Canada Women in Coaching Program, a partnership between Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada with the goal of putting the sport on the path to further balance between the sexes at a high level, was announced. The new and free Golf Canada app was launched, allowing golfers nationwide to record and track their scores, trace where they have played and provide detailed game statistics as a game improvement tool. https://twitter.com/GolfCanada/status/1307001584820330500 The PGA TOUR announced that the 2024 Presidents Cup will return to The Royal Montreal Golf Club. The event, which pits the top male pros from the U.S. against the best from the rest of the world (except Britain and Europe), was held there in 2007. Golf Canada and U.S.-based First Tee announced the launch of First Tee-Canada. The partnership will bring First Tee’s youth development emphasis to strengthen Golf Canada’s junior golf activities —previously conducted under the Future Links brand — that reach kids in schools and at golf facilities. The innovative First Tee curriculum will focus on empowering young people to build strength of character through the game of golf.
 
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September

The third annual CP Women’s Leadership Summit, held virtually due to the pandemic, provided inspiring stories and a networking opportunity along with accepting donations for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation. Hosted by TSN anchor Lindsay Hamilton, speakers included golfers Lorie Kane and Brooke Henderson, Olympians Marnie McBean and Perdita Felicien and other prominent women in leadership positions. “It was a success story for us,” said Mary Beth McKenna, assistant RBC Canadian Open tournament director who has co-led the event since it began. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCxNbGnzwAM The Golf Journalists Association of Canada announced that Kim Locke of Toronto, founder and president of SCOREGolf, was the 2020 recipient of the Dick Grimm Award. The association’s highest honour is awarded in memory of the late Richard Grimm whose legendary service to the RBC Canadian Open and the Canadian golf industry remains unparalleled. Laurent Desmarchais of Bromont, Que., a member of Team Canada’s junior squad, went wire-to-wire to win the season-ending Canada Life Series Championship at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley.

October

PGA TOUR Champions rookie Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., had victory in sight leading by three strokes heading into the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Virginia but fellow rookie Phil Mickelson denied him the win. It was Weir’s third top-10 finish in eight starts on the tour. PGA of Canada member Jennifer Greggain of Chilliwack, B.C., was named coach of the National Junior Squads by Golf Canada, working with head coach Robert Ratliffe. Findlay Young of Prince George, B.C., a former Golf Canada president and honourary life governor, passed away at the age of 92.

November

Twenty-nine athletes, male and female, were named by Golf Canada to represent Team Canada as part of the 2021 national Amateur and Junior Squads. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all athletes from the 2020 squad were able to return in 2021, provided they met team eligibility criteria. Aaron Cockerill of Stone Mountain, Man., finished T4 at the JoBurg Open in South Africa, his best career finish on the European Tour. The Economic Impact of Golf in Canada (2019) report, conducted on behalf of the national Allied Golf Associations (We Are Golf), was released. Among its findings were that the Canadian golf industry generated $18.2 billion in economic benefits, employs the equivalent of nearly 249,000 people through direct and spin-off effects and contributed to $10.6 billion in household income. https://twitter.com/GolfCanada/status/1323327060404850697 Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., finished in a tie for 10th at the Masters, which was postponed from its traditional April date due to the pandemic. That finish guaranteed him a spot in the 2021 Masters.
 
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Golf Genius Software, the leading worldwide provider of tournament management solutions, announced that Golf Canada and the provincial golf associations will begin using Golf Genius Tournament Management for their competitions in 2021.
So while what lies ahead for 2021 remains unclear, we can only hope that when we compile next year’s “Year in Review,” life as we know it will have returned to a semblance of normality, on the course and off.]]>