After you've chosen what tracking device you wish to use, with which software, the next most important piece of technology is the projector.
I've done a lot of learning just recently about what's going on with projectors. A guy named Bob Wudeck is who I have to thank for that. Bob is Senior Director of Business Development for BenQ, a major multinational tech company deeply involved in projection IP.
BenQ has become obsessed with indoor golf and delivering the perfect simulator projection technology. "In the last couple of years, we have been focusing on using our expertise in laser technology and color accuracy to create an immersive simulation experience", Bob told me. That's code for "we've got some really cool new IP".
But there are many serviceable brands and models available. The key is to understand how to choose the right model for you:
Cost: This is the driving factor for most. There are acceptable options well under a thousand dollars, and my favorite at the high end is about five thousand.
Bulb vs Laser: Bulbs or lasers are the most practical choices today. Bulbs are phasing out. Lasers and LED lighting are taking over. Today, lasers are more expensive but have very long lives, turn on instantly, and stay brighter longer. Bulbs decline and need to be replaced. Bulb units can be purchased for well under $1k. Entry level lasers start a bit over a thousand, and the best lasers start at $2.5k and can run into five figures.
WUXGA: There is still an obtainable resolution below WUXGA, at 1024x728. I've seen decent units under $600. You'll pay more like $850 for a good WUXGA bulb unit at 4000 lumens - but many of these models are being replaced with lasers. The above-mentioned laser at 4000 lumens at $1.5k is indeed WUXGA. Numerous brands provide ~5000 lumen WUXGA lasers priced in and around $2.5k. My high end WUXGA favorite, at 5500 lumens, is around $4k. But you can spend a multiple of this to get 10,000 lumens or more (all WUXGA).
4k: If you want value or extraordinary brightness, choose WUXGA. If you want the best, 4k is it. You can find a 4k projector for around $2,000. My favorite is about $5,000–at 5100 lumens. Note that much higher lumen 4k projection is not available today. One can hope 4k lasers will get brighter and cheaper–although 5000 lumens is a lot..
Projection Distance: Each model has a specific lens and that lens has a specific throw or throw range. Most home installations will want to use a short throw lens, while commercial installations will often want the projector farther back. The throw range determines where you can place your projector to get the image you wish. A good calculator can be found by Googling "projection calculator pro".
These are the big items, noting that I did not make brightness a topic. Brightness is a direct product of cost and other choices. Within the above parameters I would not make choices based on lumens.
It has been gratifying to see club fitting come to the fore in mainstream golf. Twenty years ago few thought about getting fit. We didn't have dedicated club-fitting stores. Golf Digest didn't rate the top 100 club fitters.
All that has changed, and club fitting is seeing 20% annual growth rates. Cool stuff. But it's time to get real. Golf has never done well with tech. And, many–make that most, of the organizations and folks in the fitting industry remain relatively…
The time has come to do a deep dive into what's going on in the fitting industry. This is an anecdotal start but we'll fill in the gaps over time and pull it all together eventually for a treatise on club fitting.
The largest club fitting entity in the U.S. charges $400 for a full bag fitting. The fittings can take several hours. Their model is to fit by testing a handful of shafts with a common head (irons/woods), and comparing data. The one that goes the farthest, in most cases, wins. Then they test that shaft with a handful of heads and, typically, the one that goes the farthest is the chosen shaft/head fit. Then they more casually look at lie angles and other stuff relative to making adjustments there.
Here's the problem. If your current clubs aren't fit well, you almost definitely are not making the same swing you'd make if your clubs were well fit.
Everytime you hit those ill-fitting clubs you consciously and subconsciously react to the result. If it felt great and went great, you try to repeat it next time. If it didn't, you iterate. Over time, with ill-fitting clubs you will iterate away from your natural swing type and tendencies.
What does this mean? It means that if you have been playing with ill fitting clubs for a while the odds are your swing has migrated in a direction to get ball contact closer to the center of the clubface. It's a contrived swing you continually reinforce swing after swing (we call that proprioception).
So, in your $400 fitting as above, you hit six shots to warm up, and six shots with each of maybe seven shafts, and then six shots with the two best shafts and each of seven heads. Your swing is not going to migrate–six shots is not enough. You're getting fit to your contrived swing.
A guy walks into a clothing store to buy a suit. He puts it on and one sleeve is hanging way too long. The salesman–the fitter–suggests the guy cock his shoulders to the opposite side, evening up the sleeves. But the trousers have one leg longer than the other. So the salesman suggests the person cocks one hip higher to even things out. And he walks out of the store with his new duds. Two guys see him walking down the street, one shoulder low and one hip high, walking oddly. One guy says "Look at that poor crippled guy over there.". The other guy says "Yes, but his suit fits great."
What's the solution to this? Don't fit this way. This is the wrong way to fit. The right way to fit is to see past the contrived swing to the player's core swing type and fit to that. The level of instant gratification is much less with this approach–it takes time to recover your natural swing type.
That said, if you got a $400 fit and it helped, super cool. But think how much better you could get if you fit to your optimum swing.
More to come.
Bill Bales has been a force in golf simulation for over thirty years including as developer of Microsoft Golf, AboutGolf — under Bill’s control–#1 premium sim in North America — PlayData (producer of launch tracking for AboutGolf’s simulator), and Clarity.Golf.