Golf Simulators Blur The Lines Between Virtual & Reality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5yewNCMOWQ[/youtube]The golf season in most of North America is often painfully short. Once the winds change, the temperature dips and the snow falls, most golfers have been forced to hibernate their golf game. However, with the advancement in golf simulation technology, several companies are claiming golf season no longer has to end.

Golf simulators have been around since the early 1970s. They were amusement park novelties, tucked in the back of a retail shop or in a forgotten corner of a golf center. Today, the technology has improved vastly.

Currently ranked 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Luke Donald lives in Chicago and put an aboutGolf simulator in his home a year ago. “I use it in the winter as a way to practice, simulate real golf and play some golf courses that we play on tour,” he says. “You can work the ball left to right and right to left and it’s very accurate.”

That’s a pretty good endorsement, and there are other signs of success: the sims are big in Korea and other parts of the Far East, for example. There is a residential market for those who, like Tour pro Mr. Donald, can afford the $50,000-60,000 price tag. But Mr. Bales and his fellow entrepreneurs also have their eye on driving ranges, golf shops, teaching pros, recreational centers, and the occasional bar and grill.

Today’s most advanced simulators put you in a true 3-D environment, as though you’ve been transported physically into an ultra-high-def video game. Stereoscopic cameras are trained on the hitting zone, where they record club speed, ball speed, launch angle and all components of spin. The flight of the ball, projected into the virtual course in the time it takes the ball to hit the screen, replicates the shot that would result in the outside world with remarkable precision.

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