Play­ing ev­ery day is cheaper and eas­ier than you think

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - DO IT YOURSELF - BY MATTHEW RUDY

One of the first real scenes from Tiger Woods’ 2016 come­back was of the su­per­star in shorts, hit­ting a care­ful 9-iron into a wall-height screen on a fancy in-home simulator. It isn’t hard to imag­ine that a $50-mil­lion man­sion would have the finest tech­nol­ogy (and fin­ishes) money can buy, but you don’t have to have a nine-fig­ure in­come to work on your game in the com­fort of your base­ment or garage. Mike Rohr and Kyle Mor­ris each did it from scratch— Rohr in un­used ware­house space at his com­pany out­side Detroit, and Mor­ris for his teach­ing stu­dio in Dublin, Ohio. Depend­ing on the level of tech­nol­ogy you want, a com­plete build-out with turf, net­ting, screen, com­puter, soft­ware and pro­jec­tor will run you $3,000 at the low end and up­ward of $50,000 if you check all the op­tion boxes.

Rohr’s project was down and dirty. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the space at his car­pet busi­ness (and his ex­pe­ri­ence in­stalling floors and as a for­mer in­struc­tor at TPC Scotts­dale), he sourced and built ev­ery­thing for the hit­ting area for less than $500. He bought a sec­ond-hand FlightS­cope Kudu in­door radar track­ing sys­tem for $1,700, and a screen, pro­jec­tor and an or­di­nary PC for an­other $750.

The setup is less than el­e­gant, with the pro­jec­tor and com­puter rest­ing on an em­ployee re­frig­er­a­tor, but Rohr hap­pily bashes balls through the cold Michi­gan win­ters. He even used one of his car­pet­ing tricks to get a more re­al­is­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. “I re­moved the cen­ter sec­tion of the hit­ting mat and added a small cut-out of turf,” says Rohr, who posts videos of his mus­cle-shirted 108-miles-per­hour 8-irons on Face­book and In­sta­gram. “It flies away like a divot, which re­duces the im­pact on your joints and gives you more re­al­is­tic num­bers on the radar.”

Mor­ris started his project with far less handy­man cre­den­tials, but he had a big­ger bud­get and a more am­bi­tious goal: build an en­closed simulator space from the bare studs for his bou­tique golf-in­struc­tion stu­dio. It took him two months and about $35,000—which in­cludes the cost of a top-of-the-line $25,000 Track­Man radar sys­tem. “My ex­per­tise walk­ing in? I could screw in a light bulb,” says Mor­ris, whose fin­ished prod­uct can be found at The Golf Room in Dublin. “I’m no Bob Vila, but my wife is su­per handy. She ar­chi­tected out how it would look, and I put it to­gether piece by piece.”

To build a vi­able simulator that can ac­com­mo­date the full bag, you need at least 15 feet of run from the tee area to the screen, 10 feet of width and 10-foot high ceil­ings. The frame­work for the screen isn’t com­pli­cated to make, and the turf and net­ting for the floors and walls is rel­a­tively cheap. “Re­ally, all you need are three pieces of an­gle iron bolted to a stud, a screen, a mat, a simulator and a pro­jec­tor, a com­puter and an HDMI split­ter,” Mor­ris says. “The ex­pense comes with up­grad­ing the tech­nol­ogy. If you’re go­ing to do an in­door simulator, why would you use some­thing that isn’t ac­cu­rate? What’s the point? For a de­cent player, there’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween hit­ting a 7-iron 145 and 152.”

Mor­ris’ pol­ished space looks like a high-end dis­play at the PGA Mer­chan­dise Show, with mood light­ing and nice chairs. Metic­u­lous spread­sheet work tells him he saved $15,000 off Track­Man’s $50,000 sticker price for a turnkey stu­dio build-out. The learn­ing curve was such that when Mor­ris built an­other simulator bay next door, he cut a week off the as­sem­bly time. “It’s kind of like hav­ing that sec­ond kid,” Mor­ris says. “You know what to ex­pect the next time around.”

One com­mon mis­take? Fail­ing to take into ac­count what hap­pens when you don’t catch shots ex­actly, um, flush. You’re go­ing to want car­pet or pad­ding off to the sides to keep shanks from ric­o­chet­ing off your head.

Rohr and Mor­ris say there’s plenty of ground be­tween a bare-bones setup—built around a sec­ond-hand radar unit or a $2,000 photo-based unit like Sky Trak— and a pro­fes­sional-grade rig for any­body to find the right com­bi­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy and econ­omy. “If I was putting one in my house, I wouldn’t need some of the bells and whis­tles, but if you’re al­ready com­mit­ting to spend $25,000 on a Track­Man, what’s an­other $1,000 or $1,500 to get a nicer screen or a higher-qual­ity hit­ting mat?” says Mor­ris, who added a match­ing simulator in the bay next to his first build. “You could also get a Fore­sight Sports GC2 launch mon­i­tor—which you could also take out­side—and have a nice setup for around $8,000.”

If the bliz­zard of simulator, screen, pro­jec­tor and mat op­tions make your head hurt, you can leave the de­ci­sions to the ex­perts. Full Swing Golf sells a do-ity­our­self ver­sion of its pop­u­lar S2 simulator that comes with ev­ery­thing you need in one box. The com­pany says it would take two rea­son­ably handy peo­ple two days to put the pack­age to­gether fol­low­ing the video in­struc­tions. What does “rea­son­ably handy” mean? That you’d be com­fort­able in­stalling a pow­ered garage-door opener.

The S2 starts at $19,900, or you could spend $50,000 or more to up­grade to the S8 model Woods and Jor­dan Spi­eth have in their homes—and see all of your shanks and foo­zles in high-def­i­ni­tion.

Con­ve­nience does have a price.

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