Let's talk about simulators. And by that, I mean indoor golf simulators.
Silly me, when I started AboutGolf in 2002 I didn't love the term "simulator". Webster's Dictionary defined "simulate" as "fake". Just looking it up online the first definition is "to give or assume the appearance or effect of often with the intent to deceive: IMITATE".
So I initially called our product an "indoor golf environment". There was no intent to deceive, fake, or imitate. The concept was you use real balls, clubs, shoes and gloves; you hit real shots that you watch virtually on a projected image; the shots are as accurate as technology allows. There's nothing fake about a golf simulator--or at least it's not intended. Everyone in the sim business is trying to do the best they can at making the best product.
And, unlike when I got started and introduced radar and then machine vision (cameras), there are a bunch of companies doing a pretty darn good job of all the stuff that needs to be done to make for an accurate golf simulator--no faking done or intended. That's a great advantage for you--the consumer. Our little industry is getting more and more competitive.
Way back when just after the turn of the millennium golf sims were not all that well known, they were sold essentially only by what I call vertical brands that provided the whole product, and they were expensive--too expensive. I was one of those with AboutGolf. Today, those vertical companies still exist. Many still charge you silly prices. Some have taken a straight-arrow approach and are priced reasonably.
But we also have what I call "aggregators", folks who work with various OEMs/suppliers, who put a combination of components together--usually at a much lower price than most of the singular companies. And, there is a third sector of the golf sim economy: DIY. Today, you can go online and in an hour or less order every component you need to assemble your own simulator. If you know what you're doing in choosing the right parts (it's not easy), and can put it all together, you can end up with a great sim for a surprisingly low relative cost.
Until recently when things have started to change, the entire sim buying market was pretty darn silly. They looked (many still do) at sims like cars. Consider a $45,000-$50,000 car. For that you can get an Audi A4, a BMW 3 series, or a C-class Mercedes. They're all great cars. But, it used to be that if you looked at three $45,000 simulators, where you'd think they were an Audi, a BMW, and a Mercedes, it might actually be an Audi, a Yugo, and a Fiat. But buyers decided based on the false assumption that price determined quality and performance. It didn't then and it doesn't now. Some sim buyers at the top end have bigger wallets and egos than brains (big dollars, little sense?).
But it's getting better. More systems have reached critical mass of tracking performance. Many use the same software. All of the major companies have decent software. And the best part is that there are great aggregators out there that can ensure you get the right product--and they add only a modest margin to the sale. In my opinion, for most, it's worth the few extra bucks versus DIY. But there are very capable DIY folks out there and the industry now serves them. Pretty cool.
Clarity.Golf and I are now adding a fourth element to the industry--knowledge. And, for whatever it's worth to you, it won't cost you a dime. Our consulting is always free. So, if you're a DIY guy we'll strive to add to your knowledge so you can make the best decisions relative to component buying, design and installation, and/or your business plan. If working with an aggregator is your best choice, we'll add to your knowledge about this option, and we can recommend an aggregator. Clarity will likely be doing some aggregating as well--but our aggregator allies are our good friends and we chose these friends carefully. If a system from one of the vertical entities is best for you, we'll add to your knowledge so you can make the best deal and get the best service.
We'd love to talk to you. Email Bill Bales, Clarity.Golf Founder, at email@example.com.
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.