Yes, it’s an unusually chilly day by South Florida standards – the kind that’ll keep most folks off the course. But at least we’ve got the option. A lot of you trapped in northern locales have already shoved the clubs into the closet for the winter and, barring a repeat of last year’s record-warm temps, resigned yourselves to months of carpet putting.
You poor, poor things.
But if you still consider the old return-a-ball a snowbound golfer’s best friend, you really need to get out more. (Or at least invest in a Wii.) Specifically, you need to find a facility with an indoor simulator – golf’s version of the lonely guy’s inflatable doll. It’s the next best thing to playing for real. Sometimes, it’s even better.
If you’re not familiar with the simulator, it’s a pretty simple concept. You hit shots at a video screen featuring animated hole graphics, usually from a world-famous course. A monitor reads your launch specs and, on screen, the “ball” flies as though you actually struck it. Make a fade swing and it fades. Top the ball and watch it skitter into the Swilcan Burn. Hammer a drive and it floats high against the sky above Pebble Beach.
Yeah, simulators are super-cool.
They’re also becoming easier to find. In fact, New England Golf Monthly has taken to calling winter “indoor golf season,” supplying an online guide to facilities with simulators and a rundown of models available for home installation.
There’s good news on the latter front, too. While home simulators are typically uber-expensive – we’re talking 20 grand on the low end – a company called Dancin’ Dogg offers a basic setup starting at just $399. Rather than a giant screen, your laptop or TV can serve as the “course” while you smash balls into a net.
With a simulator, you’ll never get stuck behind a doddering foursome on a weed-infested muni. Instead, you’ll tee it up at St. Andrews, TPC Sawgrass, Royal Melbourne and dozens of other classics. (Courses vary by manufacturer.) That’s right – eagle the 18th at Pebble, make a sandy from the Road Hole Bunker or ace the 17th at TPC.
And you’re only on the hook for a round of simulated drinks.
If you like to compete, simulators can arrange contests like longest drive and closest to the pin. Many facilities even host tournaments and league play.
Best of all, you can actually improve your game while taking a rip at, say, Whistling Straits. Simulators deliver all kinds of need-to-know info, like swing and ball speed, launch angle and shot distance. If only such feedback were available on the course.
Like I said, in some ways simulators are even better than the real thing. Now put away that putt-return doohickey, fire up the Google machine and locate your nearest near-golf facility. While you’re at it, go ahead and let the air out of the doll. You won’t be needing her this winter.