I wasn't sure what topic to use for this post. I played a course (sort of) so maybe it belonged in my favourite courses. I played a game (sort of) so maybe it belonged in playing the game. In the end I figured that Golf Talk was probably as good a topic as any.
The weather today was threatening rain. KH was hosting its regular Tuesday trade day. I wanted to do something other than hitting the practice ground. I'd heard that golf simulators were available so I ended up at Drummond Golf opposite Southland where they had three or four newly installed simulators.
The set up was a synthetic grass bay facing a screen with a picture of a driving range. After each shot a graphic appeared showing the flight of the ball and some statistics about the club head speed, launch angle spin rate, carry distance and so on. I'm not sure whether other statistics were available for display. The statistics didn't stay on the screen quite long enough for me but they was a summary of all shots on the screen.
One thing which took a while to get used to was looking up to see the imaginary ball flying toward the target and simultaneously having the real ball rebound from exactly the same spot on the screen. The rebound was quite gentle however and I was never in any danger of being hit.
Drummond offered a range of courses. I thought I'd choose Royal Melbourne Composite because I am familiar with the course and it would provide an opportunity to look at the quality of the simulation. It took me a while to figure out that the simulator was showing the President's Cup layout which starts on 3W rather than the traditional layout which starts on 1W.
I hit what I thought was a reasonable drive on the first hole. The simulator gave me a club head speed of around 80m and a carry of about 165m. That was more than a bit deflating. As it happens I had my swing speed radar in my bag and I got it out to see how the numbers compared. My radar consistently gives readings around the 100mph range which flightscope says are really around 93mph. The simulator gave readings in the high 80s.
On the other hand the simulator was very generous with distances on short game shots like pitches from 20 to 30m which the simulator regularly said flew pin high or further.
Putting was an interesting exercise. The simulator automatically picked the right line so it was all just a matter of pace. The simulator was set up so that a putt across the synthetic grass which just reached the screen about 5m away would be measured as having traveled 5m. After becoming accustomed to the pace of the greens at KH I am sure that my putts would have gone much further than the simulator said.
What I didn't realize at first was that the simulator was very good at representing slopes. For example on a putt of 10m it might say that the putt was uphill by 30cm or downhill by 30cm. About half way through I had a putt which I knew would be very quick in reality. Sure enough a very gentle putt traveled the right simulated distance.
The same thing applies to all shots. For example the simulator showed my 3W into the 18th landing on the front edge and finishing at the very back edge just as you would expect a flattish long range shot to do.
One thing which I don't think the simulator did well was trouble shots. For example I hit a fairway wood out of the fairway bunker on 11W when in reality such a shot would be impossible. The same goes for green side bunkers. As best I could tell what the simulator saw the ball doing it assumed to be correct. The sand belt open face swing hard bunker shot would be interpreted as a successful 60m wedge shot.
The simulator was set to gimme putts inside 3m. Given the limitations of the putting simulation I thought that was probably not far from reasonable.
It took me just over an hour to warm up and play the course. For this Drummond Golf charged $35 made up of $20 for the first 30 minutes and $15 per 30 minutes after that. It was raining cats and dogs by the time I finished. I struggle to walk 18 holes these days. It was great to change clubs each shot where I wouldn't normally do that on a practice fairway. The experience was just good enough that I was reminded what it is like to play RM in an approximate sort of way.
Overall? If you couldn't play a course it would be better than nothing. It's closer to real golf than playing putt putt. If I wanted a serious analysis of my ball striking I'd find a flightscope or a trackman.
I'll probably do it again.