Golf Simulator Vs Launch Monitor – What’s The Difference
Golf technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade or so and all of a sudden having an ultra realistic golf simulator in your life room is within the reach of almost every golfer from average to professional. Not only that, but we can also have all types of devices that will tell us how far we are hitting each club whether it is at home, at the range or even on the course.
All of this technology popping up might have got you wondering about the terms Golf Simulator and Launch Monitor? Are they the same thing or what are the differences and that is exactly what we are going to address in this article.
What Are Golf Simulators?
All Golf Simulators are also Golf Launch Monitors but all Golf Launch Monitors are not Golf Simulators. That is the main distinction that needs to be made. A Golf simulator usually involves hitting a golf ball into a hitting net and the simulator will show you how that shot plays out on a virtual golf course on a screen, projector or laptop of your choosing.
Golf Simulators use a launch monitor to determine how far the ball would have gone if you were on a real golf course.
So What is The Use For Just A Golf Launch Monitor?
If a golf simulator is also a launch monitor anyway, why would you want just a launch monitor without the simulator aspect and the answer is convenience.
While simulators offer more in the way of features and can be a more fun and encompassing piece of hardware, they are usually bigger and more bulky.
This means of course that they are less portable and you will have trouble bringing it to the range and probably impossible to bring it out on the course with you.
That is changing as the technology gets more advanced and we may see a time in the future where all launch monitors have that golf simulator technology included but we are not there yet.
The Flightscope Mevo Plus Is Portable And Has A Great Simulator
The introduction of the Flightscope Mevo Plus is the closest thing we have to a portable launch monitor with a high end simulator that is also quite portable and while it is excellent for the range, you won’t be able to bring on the actual course with you and the battery is only going to last about 1 ½ hours as well.
How Accurate Are Launch Monitors?
Launch monitors are very accurate, usually to within 5 yards for the better and more expensive devices, 10 yards for the mid range devices and 15 yards for devices like the Garmin G80 which is a innovative device that combines a personal launch monitor with a golf GPS device and while it is not super accurate it certainly shows us which direction these devices are going in.
Are Golf Simulators Accurate As Well?
Yes, golf simulators are also pretty accurate and there are three tiers of options available.
The budget options can be purchased for about $300 plus like the Optishot and while they are quite accurate, we would recommend the next tier for anyone who is more serious about improving their game.
The mid level tier is where you are going to find the serious personal golf simulators that come with the best golf simulator softwares. These devices include the Skytrak and the Mevo Plus and they will set you back around $2,000.
The high-end or commercial level simulators will command price tags from $14,000 to $20,000 before you even begin thinking about hitting nets, mats, projectors and laptops. The devices included here are the legendary Trackman, the GC2 and the GCQuad and all of these devices are super accurate. They will be most likely found in pro shops and used for golf fittings quite regularly.
Are Golf Simulators Realistic?
Golf simulators are about as realistic as you can come to playing a real round of golf while not on the course but there is obviously nothing like the real thing.
We will look at realistic under a number of categories:
So we have the least realistic graphics available in the Optishot 2, which is the cheapest option be far and it even comes with its own hitting mat and foam balls, although you can also use real ones. You could get a full set up here, including the net for under $500 if you have a laptop already.
The graphics are not as realistic as on the higher end models but it also requires a lot less graphics from your laptop so if you don’t want to have a laptop especially for the simulator but are interested in a more fun experience, this could be a great option and you are still using a full swing on all your shots and getting good accuracy.
There are two main golf software packages that come with the more expensive options and they are The Golf Club 19 and E6. Both of these golf games have very good graphics and depending on which hardware you are using, the accuracy will vary accordingly.
The software will take up a lot of space and memory on your laptop so you need to have a good one and keep the memory free for the simulator. The Flightscope Plus Complete package actually comes with a laptop included among other things.
What Equipment Do You Need For A Home Simulator
With the optishot you only need a laptop and you are good to go using the foam balls against a wall but if you want to use real golf balls, you will also need to buy a hitting net.
With the others you will also need a hitting mat, a hitting net and a laptop, you can also use a projector if you want the shot to play out on the big screen in front of you to make the experience even more realistic.
All in all, depending on your budget, you could make the golf simulator the focal point of any man cave with amazing results.
How Much Space Will You Need?
Well, it goes without saying that you will need enough space to at least swing a driver for all of the simulators with the exception of the Optishot.
The software that comes with the Optishot two has the option of turning all of the courses into par 3’s so you don’t need to fully swing the driver and you can get by with enough space to swing your irons.
The space you need for the other devices depends on what type of Launch Monitor the simulator comes with.
Two Types Of Launch Monitor
There are two types of Launch Monitor we need to be aware of, Dopplar Radar Launch Monitors and Photometric launch monitors.
Dopplar Launch Monitors
These types of Launch Monitors work by the use of radars. They are basically pinging the ball with signals as it begins its flight and the differences between each signal will be used to compute the data about how the ball is flying and where it is going to end up.
Photometric Launch Monitors
Photometric Launch Monitors work with the same concept except they take a series of photos of the ball instead of bouncing radar signals off of it.
Photometric launch monitors need the proper lighting conditions to see the ball fully and it can often help with the accuracy if you put some reflective tape onto the ball so the device can easily pick up and track its movement.
The space you need will depend on how far behind you the device needs to sit and how far in front of you it needs to track the ball for.
Since Photometric Launch Monitors usually sit to the side of where you will be taking your swing, they may require less space.
The Mevo Plus for example is a Doppler radar and it needs to sit 8ft behind you and track the ball for 8 feet in front of you so it needs a room depth of 16 feet to be used effectively whereas the Trackman may only need about 5/6 feet of depth.
The decision you make in the end will come down to personal preference, budget and exactly what you are looking to use the simulator for.
Golf Simulators Vs Launch Monitors
To finish up our summary, we need to look at the two devices strong points and weaknesses overall
- More Fun Than The Driving Range
- Accurate And Engaging
- More Expensive Than Launch Monitors Generally
- Can be brought The Range But Usually Too Big For The Course
- Struggle With Short Chips And Putting
Golf Launch Monitors
- Gives Accuracy Distance On Each Shot And Often Calls Them Out Loud
- Small And Portable
- Gives The Data You Need To Improve
- Can Be Used Easily On The Course
- Usually Cheaper Than Golf Simulators
- Struggle With Short Chips And Putting
Personal Launch Monitors Worth Mentioning In 2020
Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
This is a unique device in the market today and it comes in with a price tag of $500. It is a small device that hooks up with your Iphone or Ipad and it gives professional level shot data accuracy within 2.5% of Trackman and it comes at 2.5% of the cost.
It combines the device and your phone and it gives instant feedback. It will show a shot trail with how your strike went with actionable data to see what happened and how to improve.
This can only be used outdoors and does not have a simulator aspect.
The Swing Caddie SC300
A small personal dopplar radar for $500 that sits behind you as you swing and then calls out the data of your strike out loud and instantly.
This covers shot data like carry/total distance along with launch angle and smash factor.
It also shows you the data on high visibility LCD scree and it can be used in any weather conditions, it also given great accuracy.
The Garmin G80
Honourable mention for the G80 and it is not so much about the accuracy of the Dopplar Radar Launch Monitor which can be off by a bit but for the potential that this device brings to the market.
This devices combines a personal launch monitor with a full colour touch screen golf gps making it perfect for on the course or the driving range.
The accuracy can be off by a little bit but for $500, this represents a bargain for us and we look forward to seeing the next generation of this device from Garmin and how they continue to venture into the Launch Monitor and Golf Simulator market in the future.
Golf Simulators Worth Mentioning
The Trackman is the undisputed king of golf simulators and launch monitors combined as it used most often in commercial settings for club fittings and even also boasts online tournaments with prize money that often exceeds $20,000 for the winner.
The Sim runs The Golf Club and E6 Software’s like the Skytrak and Mevo Plus but it really comes into its own when we consider the accuracy it is able to obtain that comes as close to the real thing as you are going to find from a simulator right now.
It is a dopplar radar and gives all the information you could possible need from such a device like angle of approach, front spin, side spin, carry distance. Total distance and more.
Overall it is a killer device but it does cost $20,000 plus whatever set up options you need.
If Trackman has been the commercial king of Golf Simulators, Skytrak has been the personal king coming in at 10% of the price and probably 95% of the accuracy.
There is 3 second delay between when you hit the ball and when it starts to move on the screen but it is using the same software as the trackman in the golf club and the E6.
It can be brought to the range but the protective case is a must have because it needs to be protected and it needs to be level with the height of the ball on the tee.
It is a photometric launch monitor so a reflective sticker on the ball will also help with accuracy.
The unit itself will cost around $2,000 but if you wait for a sale you can pick one up for $1,600.
Flightscope Mevo Plus
Skytrack has been the king of personal simulators for many years but that appears to be under threat right now as we have a new entrant to the market in the Mevo Plus.
This comes with 6 courses of E6 for free and 17 driving range games so it already has one up on the Skytrak as they both cost the same price.
The Mevo Plus is a dopplar radar and it hooks up to the free app on your phone to display your data instantly at the range.
It is also more accurate than the Skytrak by a little bit and definitely more portable. There is also no need to pay an extra $99 per year for the Skytrak improvement plan, everything is included with the Mevo Plus.
The two drawbacks are that it needs 16 yards of depth to play accurately and the battery only lasts 1 and ½ hours so you need a portable charge with you if you want to play longer.
We hope you enjoyed our article and as you can see there is plenty of room for both types of these devices on the market and whatever you choose will come down to personal preference.
Hi, I am Matthew, a mid handicap golfer who likes to play as much as possible. I love trying out new gear and this blog is where you can find all the gear I have tested over the years!