Dreams…Sometimes those dreams come true and other times they’re far-fetched ideas that serve as motivation to fuel our passions.
My passion and love for the game of golf began at a young age, wandering the barren patches of grass at our local muni. At the age of 12, I was fortunate to first play indoor golf (on a simulator) a couple times during our long, cold Midwest winters. These long and cold winters kept me from honing my golf skills consistently, and it seemed as though every spring I had to restart my golf game at square one.
Every Midwest golf enthusiast tries to work on their game over the winter, which usually involves dauntingly chipping foam balls in the living room, at risk of damaging something or having your spouse yell that you’re damaging the carpet. Or maybe your space doesn’t allow for chipping, leaving you putting countless Titleists across the living room carpet while watching the PGA Tour pros playing in far-away places – dream locations like Kapalua, TPC Scottsdale in Phoenix, or the iconic Pebble Beach in the beautiful Monterey Peninsula.
The dream of ever owning my own indoor golf simulator was one of those far-fetched ideas that seemed out of touch with reality and never attainable. A quick internet search for golf simulators, for example, showed the costs being extraordinarily high and a luxury reserved for commercial businesses and the ultra rich. Unless I was to win the lottery (which I don’t play) or somehow inherit money from a rich relative, it would remain only a dream.
One day, while dreaming and falling down an internet rabbit hole, I ran across several online forums where guys were building their own indoor golf simulators at a fraction of the cost. I’m a bit of a skeptic and wondered how good can these DIY golf simulators really be? As a single-digit handicapper, I didn’t think there would be a cheaper way to have the necessary ball flight and club data to actually make it worth it. In other words, I assumed these cheaper models would have minimal game improvement data and be more like a video game vs. providing any real benefit.
Knowing the brains behind the golf simulator (aka the launch monitor) would be arguably the most expensive part, I set out to determine if there is a reasonably priced unit that would fit my budget and needs. Everyone’s budget and needs are different, and with both righty and lefty golfers in our family I knew that would be a major challenge.
We’ve all seen launch monitors that sit right next to the golf ball. Those won’t work efficiently if having to constantly move the unit back and forth each time a righty and lefty hit balls, so this parameter limited my options to a launch monitor that either A) sits behind the golfer or B) is an overhead unit.
Overhead units are exclusively used in indoor settings and can’t be utilized at a driving range or transferred to different locations. Also, the cost of these overhead units is considerably higher and they’re generally used in commercial indoor golf facilities.
After spending countless hours scanning websites, internet forums, and YouTube videos I decided to give the Flightscope Mevo+ a try. This launch monitor seemed to offer the best ball and club data within my budget while allowing both righty and lefty golfers to use it (without moving the unit). It also allows the portability to be used indoors and outdoors. This launch monitor can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of the big name brand launch monitors that the pros use and provides fairly similar accuracy.
The Flightscope Mevo+ arrived in the mail and within an hour of receiving it I was already hitting balls off a grass hitting mat into a hastily hung net in our shed. The Mevo+ was wirelessly connected to my phone and I was immediately impressed with the accuracy and ball/club data it provided. It allowed me to hit balls “on the range” and I even played a few holes of golf in our dusty shed when it was cold and rainy outside.
My dream was slowly becoming a reality.
Convincing my wife
Buying that Mevo+ was the equivalent of throwing gas on the kindling of my dream of having my own indoor golf simulator. Now if I could only accumulate enough positives, I thought, it would be an easy sell to my wife who is not a golfer.
After doing more research and figuring out ways to fit in a dedicated space for a golf simulator, I casually made the second most important pitch of my life to my wife: That we “needed” an indoor golf simulator. Her furrowed brow and skeptical stare made it well known that, in all of her wildest dreams, owning a golf simulator had never crossed her mind.
I was ready for the “What would you need that for?” question, and I thoroughly ran through my bullet points of “family” benefits, including that having a large family means finding ways to keep everyone active during cold Midwest winters. Also, having something to do will keep the kids from bugging her! This is of course a huge benefit to her. While I can’t be certain how your spouse will respond, mine reluctantly went along with the idea.
The number one problem that faces most golfers when considering building their own DIY indoor golf simulator is finding the space. The height of your ceiling is usually the biggest issue, with most simulator rooms ideally needing to be at least 10’ high. Width of the room depends on if you’d have right- and left-handed golfers (15’ min would be ideal in the case of having both), and the length of the room depends on the type of launch monitor you’re going to work with.
The last thing you want to do is build a sim in a room where you can’t take full swings or are constantly worried about hitting a wall or ceiling. This will undoubtedly ruin your golf swing and make for a frustrating playing experience.
Since we’re in the Midwest, we were trying to find a local company with reliable components to complete the remaining part of our build-out. We located an indoor golf simulator business in Milton, Wisconsin called Carl’s Place which sells everything from impact screens to full DIY golf enclosures. They have online tools to help guide your decisions around which projector to buy for your space requirements, which enclosure will work best for your situation and everything else related to setting up and operating a functional golf simulator.
While there are many other online websites that’ll provide different components for your DIY simulator build, Carl’s Place provided a great experience for us.
There’s a wide range of options you can go with based on your budget and location. I’ve talked with golfers who’ve gone very basic, for example, by using a small hitting mat, basic net, Mevo+ and an iPad, and this is a perfect and cost-effective setup for those on a limited budget – say under $2,000. This setup will still provide the data you need and even allow you to play some golf on the courses included with your Mevo+ purchase.
I decided to go completely DIY and not buy a pre-built golf enclosure because it was more cost-effective for our situation and sim location.
We used 1” EMT pipe as the frame to attach our Carl’s Place Premium Screen to. We all know that growing the game of golf has its growing pains and those shanked golf balls can wreak havoc on your room, so you’ll want to have some sort of protection on the sides and ceilings of the sim in case of mishits. I found some used seats on Facebook Marketplace and re-upholstered them to create padded walls and a padded ceiling, helping corral those errant shots.
I wanted putting turf in the entire sim area so we can practice our putting when not using the sim. There are plenty of online retailers who sell various forms of putting surfaces, and we went with Turf Factory Direct elite putting turf, because it appeared to have the best roll and price. We installed interlocking gym mats on the floor and laid down the putting turf on top of that. After cutting in a 1’ by 2’ hitting strip, we were up and running with our own indoor golf simulator!
Was it worth it?
Now that we’ve been up and running for a while, it has been an absolute blast. The ability to have our children and me stay active and play golf in any weather is priceless, and we’ve already hosted a handful of close friends for rounds on a number of popular courses.
Making the game of golf fun by playing one-club challenges (yes, Amen Corner at Augusta is very hard playing with just a 7-iron!) or having mini 3-hole games has been a ton of fun.
No longer do we need to set aside 4+ hours to complete an 18-hole round or wait for the cold, snowy Midwest winters to turn to green grass in the spring, and the comradery and friendships we grow by having these small competitions in shorter durations will hopefully help grow the game of golf in our area and create everlasting memories for our friends and family.
You can find Craig on Instagram and YouTube at @WIGolfLab