Considering the climate of Cleveland, golf can be a tough sport to master if you’re living in the Forest City. When snow blankets the fairways of Cleveland golf clubs or rain makes playing Cleveland Metroparks’ golf courses a pain, where can you possibly hit a few extra balls? Enter the indoor, high-tech sensation known as the golf simulator. During a typical hourlong session, players use their own clubs to crush real golf balls off an indoor mat and into a screen, which translates their shots into an interactive afternoon on the links. Different golf simulators boast a variety of specs and features. Some provide re-creations of world-famous courses, while others serve as digital driving ranges. Various models may use infrared sensors, high-speed cameras, or other motion-tracking devices to accurately project the path of each shot. Not Just for Novices In 2009, Japanese pro golfer Ryuji Imada prepared for the upcoming US Open—held at the prestigious Bethpage Black on Long Island—by playing a few rounds on the notoriously difficult course. Torrential rain pelted Bethpage that year, but Imada never even needed to bring an umbrella to practice, thanks to a golf simulator’s computer-generated replica of the real thing. His use of virtual golf as a professional practice tool underscores its rise in popularity. In the United States, many instructors have begun to incorporate golf simulators into their lessons, as they can serve as a useful tool in analyzing and adjusting a swing. In densely populated South Korea, however, digital fairways have all but supplanted their real counterpart, attracting an estimated 200,000 players daily as of 2008—six times the number at real courses.
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