A golf simulator is a great way to hone your game and play spectacular courses from your home. They allow you to work on developing your swing as well as fine tune your approach shot to the toughest greens - right at home. For the most realistic and immersive experience, the projector is one of the most overlooked - but important parts of your setup.
We’ll explain what are the most important features in choosing a golf simulator, how much they cost, and provide some helpful tools such as our BenQ golf projector finder to help find the right model that will turn your garage or extra space into Augusta National, Torrey Pines, or Carnoustie.
The first thing to consider is the aspect ratio of the screen. For smaller setups, a 4:3 or square aspect ratio offers the most hitting zone in a small area. Projectors with native 4:3 aspect ratio (XGA) have lower resolution, but you can also setup a higher resolution projector to display in a 4:3 mode. A widescreen aspect ratio is more realistic and enables you to see a better view of the hole away from the fairway. Native 16:9 and 16:10 widescreen projectors offer higher resolution– and are easy to use as a home theater or large screen TV.
4:3 signal as projected by a 16:9/16:10 projector
Resolution is what enables you to see the details on every tree and the subtle contours of a sand trap. The bigger your impact screen, the more important resolution becomes in creating a realistic image. Typically smaller systems will use 1080p or lower resolution, and WUXGA is used for mid-sized screens. For the best widescreen experience, a 4K projector will create an immersive image even on impact screen larger than 14 feet wide. This is especially important if you are using a system such as Foresight, TruGolf, and other simulators that support 4K output.
．The best mounting position for a projector is just behind and above the hitting area, roughly 4 feet behind the tee location, so the projector is away from the club path and sufficiently away from the screen to avoid being hit by a rebounding golf ball (and without a shadow).
．The “throw ratio” of a projector determines the distance needed for the projector to fill up your impact screen. You can use a online projector calculator to determine how far back the projector needs to be – or do the math yourself using the formula shown below. For most home simulation setups you will want a “short throw” projector, which has a throw ratio around 1.0 or less.
Using a 16:9 or 16:10 projector to adjust the image to a 4:3 aspect ratio
．For a 16:9 projector, throw ratio = 0.5625 x D / H
．For a 16:10 projector, throw ratio = 0.625 x D / H
．Most projectors are either mounted on ceilings, on the floor in front of the impact screen, or to the side of the playing area using optical image correction tools such as lens shift and keystone correction. Some projector models have “digital shrink” which is helpful to mount the projector further back from the playing area – and reduce the image size so it doesn’t overfill the screen.
Golf simulation projectors need to be brighter than a home theater projector, since you need enough light in the room for your camera to see your club and track the ball spin as it travels to the impact screen. A 3000 ANSI lumen projector is a good starting point for a smaller impact screen, and if you have a square impact screen, a 4:3 XGA resolution projector will provide more brightness than a native 16:9 projector that is displaying a 4:3 image. For larger screens that are 10 feet or wider, you will want to look for a 4000 lumen or brighter laser projector. 5000 lumen laser projectors are the most popular choice with brighter room and a bigger screens.
Note: On a native 16:9 projector, a 4:3 image uses 75% of the screen, reducing light output by 25%. So you need to multiply the brightness requirements by 1.33. For a native 16:10 projector, a 4:3 image uses 83% of the projector’s display, reducing the light output by 17%, which means you'll need to multiply brightness by 1.2.
The other element to consider for a realistic simulator is color accuracy. A projector with high color accuracy properly shows the bumps in the fairway, and the contour of a sandtrap. Many higher brightness projectors (4000 lumen or higher) don’t specify color accuracy – so look for a projector that specifies color accuracy (typically as a percentage of Rec.709) to ensure you get a bright – and realistic – image.
If you don’t want to be buying expensive replacement lamps for your golf simulation projector – consider a laser-based projectors. They retain high brightness levels for over a decade (20,000 hours), compared with just a few thousand hours on lamp projectors. Laser projectors instantly turn on/off without any warm-up, so when you ready to hit a few holes there’s no awkward waiting around as the projector slowly becomes bright enough to start playing.