This is why launch monitors don't work as simulators

Written by James Day, founder of Urban Golf

In the modern world of golf player power is hugely important. Today, golf is built commercially on the ethos of whatever products the pros are using must be the best, seemingly ignoring the fact that players have agents whose jobs are to squeeze every last dollar of endorsement money out of their existence.

As the use of launch monitors has become commonplace in golf, big brands have emerged around the perception of allegiance from playing and teaching pros.

The reality? Playing pros are paid and sometimes even when they are not, they aren’t that clued up. Fitters and teaching pros? Mostly, they just want to be part of the gang.

Indoor golf is more than just business to me. I believe it has a role to play in the game’s future.

Our journey in simulator golf technology

I started Urban Golf 15 years ago using second generation simulators, which due to tech limitations were not up to the standard I desired. A little ambitiously, perhaps, I tried to develop my own simulator.

I knew launch monitors were becoming advanced. Radar worked well outdoors but not indoors and camera systems were just starting to emerge.

Luckily I stumbled upon an alarmingly smart man named Tim McGann, who grew to become a firm friend. He developed a launch monitor for Max Out Golf, which took high speed images at impact and for the first time directly measured speed, launch and spin accurately through cameras. We robot tested the unit at Loughborough University and verified its total accuracy. We still use this unit as calibration for our sims.

While this was significant progress, we knew our system had a few issues. Then we had a stroke of luck.

I bumped into Bill Bales at the PGA Show and he showed me the prototype for 3 trak. My heart sank, even if I did finish the job there would be another system using cameras on the market. I liked Bill, I trusted him and had known him a number of years. I decided to work with him rather than against him. We still use 3 trak technology at UG today.

Why most launch monitors don’t work as simulators

We see companies taking launch monitors with standard ball flight models, which is where the mass market is, attaching them to a graphics package and claiming golfers can now play indoor golf on them accurately. Spoiler: you can’t.

It took us years of research, learning and evaluation to get the tech we now have and for the system to be robust and intuitive. Other companies have waded into the space and tried to cut corners and are lying to you saying they have an accurate indoor simulator product. We’re happy to prove this, if anyone is interested.

When I hear one of the launch monitor companies saying they have a simulator or someone who bought a launch monitor saying they have a simulator, I have to take issue because of what I know. Their product is not accurate, and if you test it against ours you’ll see the numbers aren’t even in the same ballpark.

The truth is simple.

Radar is finished. Every other industry which previously used radar to track objects over short distances has moved to camera technology. So, you can disregard anyone using radar technology indoors.

It’s now pretty easy to track a standard golf shot using high speed cameras. So easy, it’s amazing some companies still do it badly. Soon you will be able to track a golf ball accurately on your iPhone camera.

What is not so easy is to create a system that works accurately without positioning the golf ball in a precise location and one which tracks all shots. We’ve spent years researching, testing and evolving our product to find solutions to these problems.

Other companies using cameras haven’t developed their systems to cope with all the shots required to play a round of golf. They’re sub-standard. Try hitting a lob shot on their system and you’ll see what I mean.

False information hurts us all

I know people need to make a living and therefore will tell you what you want to hear in order to shift units and make a profit. The trouble is that false information holds things back.

I want golfers to discover indoor golf, but not if their experience isn’t a good one. Playing with false numbers is never going to be a positive experience.

What we do is authentic, it’s underpinned by real passion and knowledge garnered over many years of obsessive research. The muddy waters created by bad information hold back real progress and people’s ability to make informed decisions. That is the way of the world. However, I believe authenticity will prevail.

Golfers can play a real game of golf indoors – we do it, our clients do it and soon there will be a tipping point when golfers realise they’re being duped by other companies. And then, we’ll really see indoor golf take off.

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