Indoor Golf Training: VR or Simulator
There’s no denying that the surge in VR technologies has brought our wildest virtual reality dreams closer to, well, reality. The quality of immersion in today’s VR tech is unprecedented, far beyond its humble beginnings with Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. For the golf industry, VR is fast becoming a way for viewers to experience golfing events and tournaments digitally. So while virtual reality has come a long way in the past couple years, what does that mean for golf simulators?
For Visual Sports and other companies dealing in golf simulation, the advent of VR tech can be seen as a disrupter for our industry. In general, VR is far more affordable than a full-fledged golf simulator and takes up far less space. It’s also a more immersive experience; bringing users into a full, 360 degree, 3D environment versus the projected 2D image of your average golf simulator. So if you’re looking to play indoor golf, it seems like choosing VR over a simulator is a no-brainer right? Well, not necessarily. There are still plenty of great reasons to go with a golf simulator over virtual reality golf, especially if you are a serious golfer. In this article we’re going to cover some of the differences between VR golf games and golf simulators and why a great golf simulator is still the way to go for serious golfers looking for a way to play indoors or during the off-season.
As fantastic as VR is at immersing its users in a simulated world, it’s still somewhat lacking in realistic interactivity. This is especially true when trying to play golf in VR. Most virtual reality golf games like The Golf Club VR or Everyday Golf VR have users utilize a VR controller to take their swing. This may be fine for a more casual golf player but serious golfers want to be able to practice their swing with real clubs. While VR may be able to simulate the arc of a swinging club with a VR controller, it’s still nothing like holding an actual golf club in your hands and taking a swing at a golf ball. While there are specialized golf services that use VR and actual golf clubs for swing analysis, these are special training programs with an instructor. Until VR golf games freely allow users to interact with the game via real golf clubs, a full-fledged golf simulator is still a more realistic indoor golf experience.
Tying in to interaction, realistic feedback is missing in virtual reality golf. There’s no doubt that VR golf games do have great visual and audial feedback that make you really feel like you’re on a golf course. Additionally, they give you a fantastic visual representation of your swing complete with swing analysis and shot metrics. However, the kind of feedback we’re talking about is physical. Being able to feel the weight of a club in your hands and experience its impact with the golf ball during a swing are the kinds of feedback you need if you’re playing indoor golf to get better at your outdoor golf game. Since the only thing that is computer-generated in a golf simulator is the course and ball flight, players still have to try to properly swing a golf club and strike a golf ball.
With interaction and feedback combined, what we’re really getting at is the usefulness for VR as a way to practice playing golf. Unless you’re a casual golf player or just a VR gamer, VR golf games cannot compare to golf simulators for meaningful indoor golf practice. Granted, golf simulators do come in a variety of models, with lower-priced simulators not having swing analysis or golf ball flight tracking. However, if you compare a full-fledged golf simulator with the most advanced VR golf games out now, a quality simulator is still the choice for many serious golfers. For many of our users and clients, a key motivator for getting a golf simulator is to be able to improve their own golf game or to help improve the game of others. Until VR technology develops more ways for users to reliably interact with the virtual environment and the environment to react with physical feedback, golf simulators as a whole will continue to have the upper hand as golf training tools. At this point, it’s difficult to translate those virtual golf skills developed into the real sport of golf when you lack the physical development that comes from using real golf clubs and golf balls.
We hope you found this brief breakdown of some of the limitations of VR for golf practice interesting. It’s easy to get excited over new and shiny technology without first considering if it will deliver the kind of experience and value you expect. That’s why we still feel that quality golf simulators have a major role to play for both the amateur and professional golfer. But who knows what the future will hold? VR tech is progressing at a fantastic rate and people are finding great ways to utilize a virtual environment for both entertainment and improvement. So we’re not saying that there’s no place for VR for golf training, because even now there are some amazing VR training programs and services that can help golfers play better. What we want to illustrate is that, at the end of the day, you still need to practice those swings with an actual club and ball if you want to improve your golf game. That halfway space of the virtual and the real is where quality golf simulators still thrive as the best option for indoor golf.
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