Precise Golf Simulator Performance: The Long Game
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Jeff Cooper, Vice President of Engineering at aboutGOLF, has more than two decades of experience in the software business, providing automotive and aerospace customers with simulation software for kinematics and dynamics in the Computer Aided Engineering space. He joined aboutGOLF in 2011 with an interest in applying the lessons from these industries to sports simulation and looks forward to the emerging and exciting eSports market.
I have a lot of conversations with clients and prospective buyers about simulator accuracy and why I believe aboutGOLF is unbeatable. Ultimately it comes down to the precise measurements our sims make thanks to machine vision.
Every aG sim has 3Trak© technology that measures the 3D location of a golf ball with stereo vision (multiple cameras) in the first few feet of flight after being hit by the golf club. These high-performance cameras use proprietary technology for tracking golf balls traveling in excess of 220 MPH just as well as short putts rolling at 2 MPH.
3Trak© is key to an authentic golfing experience. It accurately measuring all types of shots, including ball crushing drives in the middle of the sweet spot to the occasional mishits out at the toe or in at the hosel. In fact, with aG’s machine vision, you could kick the ball with your shoe, and we’d still accurately tell you where the ball would land on the course. Now, that may sound kind of odd, but here’s why it’s important:
Estimates aren’t good enough if you want to play a realistic round of golf from tee to green or if you want to improve your handicap. Most people reduce their scores in the short game, and that’s where the aboutGOLF simulators can really help players up their game.
3 Factors for an Authentic Golf Experience
When you talk about authentic golf game simulation, there are three major pieces to it:
Measurement of the ball immediately after being struck by the club.
Accurate flight physics.
The collision of the ball with physical objects as it lands on the course.
We’ll discuss the first point further —how we precisely measure the ball in flight—in a moment. In addition to spin, this is when we calculate launch angles, velocity, and other factors.
Accurate flight physics determines the shot shape and the distance the ball travels. This is influenced by environmental factors such as wind strength and direction. Spin, velocity, and launch angles are all inputs that determine the shot shape. If the spin is estimated or incorrect, the shape of the shot and distance the ball travels will have error introduced.
The third piece is the bounce and roll of the ball or the collision of the ball with the physical objects in the scene. When a ball hits the ground, does it collide with hard-packed dirt or soft grasses that slow the ball dramatically? Does it bounce forward or glance off the side of a rock?
The Importance of Spin
Let’s stick to the long game for a moment and talk about drive simulation.
When the ball is safely hit from the center of the club face, estimating a range for spin will get your distance and shape close. When the ball is not hit from the center of the club face —either out on the toe or in at the heel—you have a twisting effect during impact that influences the spin on the ball. It no longer follows the standard rule of thumb because of the twisting of the golf club.
When this happens outdoors, you can see your shot wasn’t ideal. When you’re practicing indoors, you may not know the ball flight projected in the simulator is incorrect, resulting in false confidence until you get out onto the real course. We’ve seen this lead to confusion and frustration when your game fails to improve.
Because of our 3Trak©’s ability to accurately measure spin via rotating marks on the ball, we don’t have to make estimates. aboutGOLF simulators don’t use inputs like club type, club approach, and ball velocity to estimate spin. The marks on the surface of the golf ball allow us to accurately measure the spin so the flight physics and bounce and roll are calculated with accuracy. Unfortunately, not all of us are gifted with the experience and skill needed to hit a ball dead center every time. The 3Trak© measurements provide accurate and immediate feedback helping you improve your game.
Sometimes we choose to hit the ball with an unsual swing to avoid a hazard on a short approach to the green and shape the shot around obstacles. These scenarios cause problems for any golfer, no matter the skill level, and the aboutGOLF simulator will accurately represent the shot.
With an aG Links simulator, no matter how you hit the ball—whether it’s well-struck or poorly struck—we measure the spin of the ball in the first few feet of flight. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a gear effect or twisting of the club or anything else. Because we’re capturing the ball as it’s moving through the air, we’re measuring the spin on the ball so you can be confident that the resulting shot in the simulator is correct.
Why Use Marked Balls?
The markings on the ball allow 3Trak© to unambiguously see the rotation of the ball's surface and, therefore, measure its spin rate. We use a non-repeating pattern that wraps around the ball. No matter what portion of the pattern is seen by the cameras, the marks uniquely describe the orientation of the ball, thus significantly increasing reliability.
We see these markings as a competitive advantage. You drop your ball by the tee, address it with your club, and swing away. Your focus is on your “swing thoughts” and the shot you are trying to accomplish, not worrying about the positioning of the ball. You don’t even have to think about it.
Precision You Can See
We’re happy to show people the images captured by 3Trak© for their shots. They can see what the images look like and watch the rotation of the ball directly in the software. aboutGOLF believes this transparency is an important part of giving you confidence that your game is authentically represented.
If you are interested in game improvement while practicing indoors, you don’t have to take it on faith when you have the chance to lift the hood and see the images used to measure the ball flight.
With an aG Links system, if you mishit and the spin is off to the side, you'll see it go off to the side. Sometimes people debate whether or not the shot looks right. That's when we show them the 3Trak© images, removing the mystery of how the ball was spinning after impact.
We believe that indoor simulated golf should reflect reality. That’s the only way people will improve when they take their game outdoors.