What Are Golf Simulators?

By Robert Preston
Golf simulations allow players to take to virtual representations of real courses.
Golf simulations allow players to take to virtual representations of real courses.

Golf is a popular recreational activity. However, in order to play, a golfer is bound to the weather, with no amount of advanced planning capable of preventing a thunderstorm from rolling in and canceling a day's round. One option for play on a rainy day is to turn to golf simulation, which comes in many forms.

Actual Ball Simulators

The most realistic experience in golf simulation comes in the form of simulators that allow a player to swing an actual golf club to hit a ball, or ball substitute on less expensive models, which is then used to display the results of the swing on a digital course. High-end golf simulators costing several thousand dollars allow a player to address a projection of the course before them and strike a real ball at the course. Sensors detect the speed and trajectory of the ball, and relay its movement on the course. Less-expensive varieties are available with prices as low as the low-hundreds of dollars, which feature a ball that is attached to a swinging arm and spins in place, registering the strength of the hit that way.

Arcade Simulations

Golf simulation games are also popular features in many arcades, with the Golden Tee line of arcade golf a famous source of bar entertainment. Arcade simulation games use technology known as a track ball, a ball that is exposed on the surface of the arcade machine. The player uses his palm to spin the track ball, with the speed and direction of the spin translating into the power and direction of the shot placed on the ball on the arcade screen.

Home Gaming Simulations

Another realm of golf simulation that has proven to be a successful one is the creation of golf simulation games on home gaming consoles. As consoles continue to get more and more powerful, the courses and professional players depicted in the golf simulations get increasingly more accurate and eye-catching. The method of creating swings in the home gaming simulations range from system to system. Gaming systems which feature controllers with analog sticks use one stick to align the shot, and the other stick to be pulled back and pushed forward to simulate the swing path of a golf club. Some even use motion-tracking technology to allow the player to swing the controller like a real golf club in order to make the ball move off the club in the simulation.

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