Just How Big is the Golf Sim Market?
The Net Return’s John Burrough reckons it’s as high as 10,000+ home installs.
Interview:/ Christopher Holder
‘No one’s thrown a club in a golf sim!’ I doubt that’s entirely the case, but John Burrough has a point: when it comes to indoor golf, the stakes are definitely lower — if you slice your Titleist Pro V1 so hard that it exits Earth’s orbit, then it’s much easier to be philosophical about it.
Which is perhaps one reason why indoor golf participation (including putt putt and driving ranges, as well as simulators) is so high. Conversely, golf club membership numbers continue to slide. One thing we can all agree on: the future of golf will have a strong sim component.
John Burrough’s perspective carries some weight. He’s a PGA golf pro doing work with The Net Return business in Australia. Some years back, entrepreneur and high-performance personal trainer, HT Tran, took on The Net Return as the exclusive Australian importer — recognising its value as an indestructible sports net especially useful for golfers practising their swing.
The business developed into marketing golf sim technology and home installations. Spearheading much of the push is John Burrough:
“Nothing will replace the golf course. Being out there in the fresh air enjoying the physicality of the course — it’s primal and exciting. That said, I love indoor golf. The moment I encountered the Trackman launch monitor I could see the possibilities.
“From a pro golfer’s perspective, a high- quality sim allows you to work on your game with all the feedback you need in a manner that’s far more efficient and powerful than before. Of course, you don’t have to be a pro to really get good use out of a golf sim, it can be a bit of fun with your mates without the pressure of being away from your family or other commitments for hours on end.”
SWING OF THINGS
John Burrough specifies and installs plenty of golf sims into residential situations as well as commercial bays. The business, The Net Return Australia, is at the pointy end of the golf sim market and continues to explore the state of the art, including alternative turf options and automatically slanting base plate to simulate different lies for the golf ball. So what are the key elements of a satisfying sim experience?:
“The room, is No.1 — it has the single biggest impact on the experience. If the ceiling height is too low, then you won’t be able to practice using your driver or long irons. You’ll feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable. The minimum we require is 2.72m but you’ll appreciate any extra height.
“Next, is the launch monitor. It needs to provide consistent data without mis-reads. A flakey launch monitor is a big source of frustration. You don’t need a million data points, just consistent performance. I have personally tested lots of launch monitors under lots of different conditions, and it’s important to find the right model and technology that’s best for you.
“The game sim is another piece of the puzzle for home installs. Even for those who come to us saying they only want the install for practice, eventually want a software suite to play courses.”
Once you start to talk about the software, then you’re talking about projectors… and graphics cards.
“Today’s golf sim software is in 4K and look amazing. Often we find our clients’ PCs and graphics cards can’t handle that kind of video bandwidth, but it’s worth investing in the computer hardware to enjoy the extra definition.
“In our showroom, we’ve selected BenQ’s LK936ST 4K laser projector to display just how amazing the software can look. The high brightness LK936ST has a Golf Mode, which enhances the greens and the blues to really make the graphics pop. In fact, we’ve made BenQ our preferred projection partner on all our Net Return installations.”
Unlike the flat-panel display world, 4K projectors are still comparatively rare. But a 4K image isn’t the most important feature:
“Prior to acquiring the BenQ LK936ST, one of our other installs uses another 4K projector that’s proven to be way less versatile because it doesn’t have the lens shift and keystone features. Without lens shift you’re forced to mount the projector directly overhead, and even though we have the ceiling height, it was doing weird things to our clients’ swing.
“The BenQ LK936ST has plenty of lens shift, which means you can mount it off to one side without impacting the quality of the image.”
Even though golf sim tech is becoming realistically affordable for regular folk, specialist installers are busier than ever. The AV ‘plumbing’ isn’t the issue but it’s the one percenters of the install that can generate most of the frustration and angst.
“We have golf simulator kits we can send out to clients, and some people love the challenge of tinkering until it’s perfect. But others will quickly hit a technical brick wall. The kits aren’t idiotproof and don’t build themselves. But it’s true that the tech has come a long way in a very short time and has made home installs practically and financially possible.
“Studies show that over a million Australians are participating in golf of some description — either as a club member, on the driving range, playing putt putt or using a golf sim. That’s a big market and we’ve got our sights set on reaching at least one percent of those people with a golf sim solution. There’s plenty of business and interest out there.”