supplementing not replacing what indoor golf brings to the golf world
FOUNDER & CEO - ROK GOLF
Recently golf digest added a post on Instagram (here) highlighting the popularity of "screen golf" in S. Korea. The comments had an overarching negativity that was surprising. Paraphrasing a few:
Virtual golf is not 'real' golf.
Virtual golf cannot replace 'real' golf.
Who would ever play this over going to the course.
Stop trying to promote this futuristic stuff, leave it be.
Side Note: I couldn't help but imagine what if the attitude in the last comment was applied to... say... flight simulators which have helped thousands of pilots practice and train safely improving their overall skills so that we, the passengers, are in good hands when something goes wrong in the air. Thinking more about this comparison, there are many parallels between virtual golf and flight simulators... I will have to write a blog on that later!
Being a new business owner in the indoor golf industry I was alarmed, shocked and vexed by the animus expressed in the comments on the Golf Digest post.
I did provide my own reply, however finding a comment in the vast ocean of replies on an Instagram post is near impossible (and a flaw in the Instagram model in my opinion). So here is my comment (with a few grammatical corrections):
rokgolf: Indoor golf is not, and never will be a replacement for outdoor golf. However, indoor golf can offer opportunities outdoor golf simply cannot. At ROK Golf we have customers play 36 holes at lunch, play 4 rounds in 3 hours, experiment with fun 2 or 3-club challenges on different course setups, play St. Andrew's and Muirfield Village in the same day; all in rain or shine, night or day, hot or cold. Indoor golf also presents incredible opportunity for instructors to expand their capacity by removing weather, light and location barriers. The modern golfer has a difficult time finding 6 hours to play a full outdoor round and generally does not enjoy going out of their way to make it to a range only to hit crappy golf balls in variable conditions. Indoor golf provides a platform to play more golf, more frequently, in smaller more manageable chunks of time, with superior technology.
If given the opportunity to respond en mas to those who posted negative comments similar to "Virtual Golf will never replace 'real' golf" I would say
"I agree!" or "You are absolutely correct!"
I would then ask... "But, who says virtual golf is trying to be, or replace, 'real' golf?"
To the others that questioned why anyone would play virtual golf, I would simply ask "Have you tried it?"
My guess would be that those in the "why would you ever play indoor golf" camp have never practiced in a quality indoor facility and almost certainly have never played a virtual round on one of the elite indoor simulators such as Trackman's new Virtual Golf released in April 2018.
Yes, playing golf on a outdoor course is different than playing on a simulator indoors.
Yes, practicing golf outdoor on a range is different that practicing indoors on simulator.
But... being different does not make one better or worse. Each has benefits and drawbacks.
The golf community should, and will, be excited about the growth of the indoor golf industry as they gain understanding and experience with the indoor game.
When players embrace and exploit the advantages of indoor, instead of being frustrated that it is not outdoor, they will start to see why this industry is only getting bigger and more popular because indoor golf is a great way for golfers to get BETTER and HAVE FUN!
So what are some of the advantages of indoor golf?
Time - With indoor golf, 15 minutes is all you need to have a valuable session and keep the edge sharp. Experienced indoor players can play 18 holes in 30 minutes. The minimal time to play makes playing fun and valuable challenges like "play 18 holes with only 3 clubs" more practical.
Weather - It is always 70 degrees and perfect inside. No frost delay's, no 90 degree rule, no cart path only, no range being closed, no struggling to swing when you are freezing cold, no getting burnt to a crisp and almost passing out from heat stroke in a humid 100 degree August day. This also means you can play 18 and not get incredibly sweaty. 18 at lunch anyone?
Daylight - Not a problem inside. Get out of the office late... no problem. Don't worry about running out of light on 16 or figuring out how to get 18 in before lunch in the summer. Indoor golf expandes the window in which golfers can play or practice which promotes more golf!
Feedback / Data - Likely the biggest advantage inside... every swing provides you data and answers to confirm the good and highlight the bad. At ROK Golf our Trackman launch monitors provide what we like to call the "unvarnished truth" about a swing. This is the information that golfers need to improve. Metrics such as swing path, face-to-path, spin axis, spin loft, etc. along with powerful videos give you reality. It is one thing to "feel" something in your swing, it is incredibly more powerful to have those "feels" backed by data.
** Yes, you can get this feedback outside if you are fortunate enough to own launch monitor or can afford a lesson with a pro who has one... but that is the minority of golfers.
Variety - In the 'real' golf world it is very hard to play Muirfield Village in Ohio and then go right over and tee it up at St. Andrews in Scotland. Or play a course in soft wet calm conditions and then turn around and play it is hard dry windy conditions to compare. You cannot move back and forth from the range to the course or move around on the course and hit the same shot over and over at a green grass facility (the other players will not be happy as you drop 15 balls in the middle of the fairway to practice a specific shot).
Environmental Control - A scientific experiment requires a control. A baseline set of data collected in known conditions to which other data with altered variables can be compared. "How long do you hit your 7-Iron?" I purposely ask my customers. The reply is almost some yardage. "About 170" they will say. Then I will ask "Carry or total? Hitting into a hard fairway or soft green? Is that hitting to a target at the same elevation or up/down hill? Is that when it is 100 degrees or 50 degrees? Is that down wind or into the wind? Was your lie flat or on a hill?" Each condition is a variable that changes how far you will hit a ball. So do you really know? Outside, those variables change and make it impossible to know your numbers. Inside they are all constant. This allows you to truly work off of a solid baseline of data collected in a controlled environment.
Equipment / Conditions Control: Did that ball go right b/c of my swing, or the wind, or was there a chunk of mud on the ball? When you go to a typical range... what kind of golf balls do you hit? Beat up, cut almost smooth rock hard practice balls frequently covered in sand / dirt. How do they compare to your ProV1's or TP5's? How about the turf conditions on the range... are they just like the fairways on the course? If you are confined to the mats... how are they? At ROK Golf you play with your preferred balls, your clubs, in the same exact conditions enabling you to focus on the details of your swing and truly compare any changes.
We will be posting more blogs that deep dive into each of these areas and more, but this hopefully gives you the idea.