While Proof Golf is all about golf on and off the course, one of our favorite modes of play is definitely in the simulator. But our setup didn’t come about overnight: it took time, testing and research to compile all the various pieces and requirements needed to make a great golf simulator setup. I’ve already talked about what my early setups looked like with nets and mats out in the driveway, but what we now have front and center in the office is something altogether different.
And while we’ve spent some money on this setup, I’ve done all I can to keep the cost down. Where expenses go up with items like the enclosure and computer, I’ve tried to offset those by finding the best, most cost effective projector, hitting mat, and flooring solutions to help keep the overall budget in-check. At the end of the day, we’re under $10K (about $8400 to be exact), and while that sounds like a lot, consider the fact that most setups get sold as $25K builds and only go upwards from there.
We’re planning on making a video about golf simulator setups for smaller budgets soon, so be sure to get subscribed to YouTube and follow on all our social channels linked below in the footer to make sure you don’t miss that. But for now, let’s look at what we’ve built out in our office on a not-completely-ridiculous budget to make for a stellar golf simulator setup that we use every single day here at Proof Golf.
Start with the simulator enclosure
We’ll start with the biggest, baddest part of the true golf simulator setup: the hitting bay. We’ve tried out a few different solution over the years, including a self-made version that was an utter catastrophe. DIY bays like what you can find at Carl’s Place are the way to go, and even though they cost a bit more than something you may cook up on your own, you’ll be glad you spent the money on this part of the setup. Trust me.
The computer to run the show
Like we’ve done with impact screens and hitting bays, I’ve tried a lot of different computing setups. In the end, I landed on a dedicated tower as I could get more computing power for less money when not paying for a keyboard, trackpad and a screen like you do in a laptop. My laptops over the years were fine, but they all ran into performance issues with pushing GSPro at ultra settings and I’m the type that wants all the graphic fidelity I can get. To achieve the best performance, desktop-class GPUs help, so I sold my laptops and invested in the SkyTech Chronos Gaming PC. It’s a beast, and there’s nothing I throw at it that it can’t handle; and even when it needs a bit more juice, I’ll be able to manually upgrade it with ease.
The all-important launch monitor
A screen, a hitting bay and a computer only get you so far, however, and you’re going to have to invest in a device to track your actual golf shots to make all of this work. You and I are just getting to know one another, but you’re likely picking up on a pattern, here: I buy and try a lot of gear. And the same goes with launch monitors.
I’ve had the SwingCaddie SC100, the Mevo+ (original), SkyTrak (original), the Garmin Approach R10, and now the Bushnell Launch Pro. Funny enough, this is actually my second time owning the Bushnell, and now that it works with all the software I love, you’d basically have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands to get me to part with it.
Simply put: I love this launch monitor. For indoor setups, optical sensors are best as they focus in on the ball launch speed, angle, and spin axis for precise measurements regardless of room size. Radar-based devices like the Garmin R10 or Mevo+ need lots of space to pick up on those nuances, and neither those or even the vaunted Trackman can actually measure spin axis. Yeah, I know, it was a shock to me too, but optical sensors are the only way to actually measure spin axis indoors.
And that’s why – though I still own the Garmin Approach R10 – I love the Bushnell Luanch Pro. Sure, you need a yearly subscription, but you can get your foot in the door with a wildly-accurate launch monitor for $2999 at this point, and it works both in your setup and at the range if you want. With other options like the Uneekor Eye Mini or even the hard-to-get Rapsodo MLM2Pro (a radar/camera combo device) out there on the market, the Bushnell might not be the best option for you. But for us, it’s been fantastic, reliable, and wildly-fun to use.
A mat to hit from
There’s no real way to do all of this without a hitting mat, however, and as you may have already guessed, I’ve been through my fair share of these, too. We even went all-in on a Fiberbuilt Hourglass mat and, after a few months, went looking for something else. You want a mat that can stand up to daily use, absorb downward contact from irons, and feel as natural as possible under your clubhead. We didn’t want to spend what it costs to buy a Country Club Elite mat, so I did some digging and found something quite similar with a drastically reduced price tag: the 5 Star ReACTION 5×5 Golf Mat.
Silly naming aside, this mat has been my absolute favorite. And after months of daily use, you can barely tell it has been hit on. Where cheaper mats cover our hardware in fine, green dust, there’s not been a trace of that stuff since changing mats and the 5×5 area means we have zero issue with any club in the bag. It’ll even take an actual tee if you want, so there’s not really anything this mat can’t do. At $380, it’s far cheaper than a similar Country Club Elite, and I’d argue it is just as good.
A projector creates immersion
While you can technically use a launch monitor, computer and hitting mat to get some basic simulation, you really need a great projector to display your software on the big screen to create a truly immersive setup. The Epson Home Cinema 3800 is the best non-commercial projector I’ve found that gets plenty bright with tons of contrast and comes packed with a bunch of extra features that make setup a snap.
At 3000 ANSI lumens and a 100,000:1 contrast ratio, the image that this projector puts out is fantastic when you don’t have sunlight pouring in from the windows. Some shades or blackout curtains take care of this in quick order, and though our video above was shot with the windows wide open, trust me when I tell you that the image on this screen looks amazing when the sun is diminished a bit.
The other benefits of the Home Cinema 3800 come in the form of setup. With manual lens shifting both horizontally and vertically, it is quite simple to get the projector pointed in basically the right direction and dial it in with the lens shift adjustments. After you do this, the corner keystone adjustments make squaring your image up a snap, and there’s no other projector I’ve tried (and I’ve tried quite a few) that makes setup so easy.
You’ll want some software
Though all launch monitors come with some basic software, you’re going to want to get something that lets you play real courses. A few years ago, I would have said that The Golf Club 2019 was the best option as it has so many courses available to play. But that has swiftly changed over the past 12 months and my absolute go-to simulator software is now GSPro. At this point, I wouldn’t buy a launch monitor if GSPro wasn’t supported.
Luckily, GSPro works with a bunch of launch monitors out of the box, and even devices like the Bushnell Launch Pro and Garmin Approach R10 work just fine with GSPro’s open API setup. There’s a tiny learning curve, but the GSPro Discord is full of useful information that can help you get setup with not much work involved at all, and the end result is worth it. And to make it even sweeter, GSPro costs just $250 per year, and that includes every single course available. Comparatively, it’s an absolute steal!
GSPro’s courses and designs have simply gone next-level, and it is the game I’d recommend to anyone setting up a golf simulator at this point. Their courses are built by a community of designers, so there are more and more being added every day, putting them at a total 528 as I write this post. And I’m not kidding: new courses arrive nearly every day at this point, so you might even see a course you’ve played before popping up in the official list before too long.
So that’s it! Those are all the pieces that make our golf simulator a dynamic, immersive experience; and it didn’t cost a fortune to put together. Our total comes to about $8400, and while I totally understand that is a large sum to pay, we find the fact that we use it almost every single day reason enough to feel like it’s all worth it. Golf outdoors is clearly an amazing thing, but screen golf is growing thanks to the quickness of rounds and the overall accessibility upsides. Building your own simulator is no longer a pipe dream, and we hope that by showing you our setup, you might be able to get to the finish line a bit quicker.