Precise Golf Simulator Performance: The Short Game
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.
aboutGOLF indoor golf simulators truly excel at the short game. We believe this is critical because most of golf is played within 150 yards from the pin. That’s where golfers take the most shots, and it’s where players have the biggest opportunity to improve their score.
It stands to reason that someone investing in a golf simulator would want to heavily weigh its ability to accurately represent an authentic short game experience, including a variety of shot types such as chip, flop, bump and runs, putts from the fringe, etc.
The Precision Essentials: A Brief Recap
Estimates for spin, velocity, and launch angles aren’t good enough if you want to play a realistic round of golf from tee to green. They are particularly risky when you want to improve your handicap.
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.
As I mentioned in my last post, every aboutGOLF simulator 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. You can read more about that here.
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 angle are all inputs that determine the shot shape. If the spin is incorrect, the shot shape 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 each factor varies with the type of shot you’re taking. For example, a putt can get some flight, but it’s not typical. Accurate flight physics is less of a factor than the shape of the green, velocity, and where the ball connects with the clubface.
Why is aboutGOLF’s Short Game so Good?
Spin is very influential with a long drive, but it isn’t as critical for the short game. If a ball is in flight for eight seconds, there’s more time for the forces to work on the ball and push it. If the ball is in flight for just two seconds, there’s a lot less time for it to be influenced.
So, if spin isn’t our short game differentiator, what is?
We measure the ball’s flight in the first 15-20 inches after club impact. 3Trak© stereo machine vision takes multiple photographs from different angles that allow us to measure the ball position in 3D space with a high degree of accuracy.
This is critical, especially with short shots with high launch angles—such as those in close proximity to the green.
Because 3Trak© accurately captures the 3D vector of the ball, we can project a precise shot shape, including unusual combinations such as high launch angle and low ball velocity—characteristic of flop shots intended to just barely clear greenside bunkers.
What About the VERY Short Game?
The aboutGOLF putting experience is excellent. For every putt, we capture a dozen or so pairs of images in the first 6 inches of motion, allowing for extremely short putts even on challenging, downhill terrain.
Alternative technologies can be problematic during putting, which is an important reason why we moved to machine vision for our simulators. We found it eroded the tee-to-green experience to end with an anti-climactic six-foot gimme.
We encourage customers to try putting in our simulators. We successfully measure putts as short as six inches with uncannily accurate results.
In the case of a putt, the flight physics portion is less significant. The main focus is measuring ball speed and direction. The speed and contour of the green with the physics of the bounce and roll will determine the trajectory of the putt.
When customers try putting on our golf simulators, they appreciate the fact that we accurately represent long (50+ feet) and short putts equally well.
For more input from a customer on how aboutGOLF’s short game helped his handicap, check out Danny Ellis’s customer story.