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UNITED KINGDOM – If you live for golf but can’t pay a visit to your preferred course as often as you might like, then RICHARD HALL has something that might interest you…
Only a scant few possess the wealth and resources necessary to create their own 18-hole golf course – and even those that do can still find themselves having to deal with recalcitrant Scottish farmers and environmental protesters. Thanks to the relentless onwards march of technology, however, it’s now possible to tee off whenever you please without even having to leave the house. Yes, we’re talking about an electronic imitation of the great game, but one that’s several major evolutionary steps beyond Nintendo’s little white box. The basic idea behind the eponymously named simulator from San Diego-based manufacturer, Full Swing Golf, is that you use your own clubs to smack normal golf balls against a 10×12-foot projector screen. At the exact moment of impact, a computer modeled rendering of the ball’s speed, angle and spin kicks in, finishing at the spot where the ball would have landed had you made the stroke for real.

To pull this off, the Full Swing golf simulator makes use of sophisticated infra-red tracking technology and a DLP projection system linked to a high-spec PC, which in turn runs a customized version of Microsoft’s Links LS software. As well as modeling 65 legendary courses from around the globe (including St. Andrews, Pebble Beach and Valderrama to name but three), the latter can also help you sharpen up your technique by generating various putting, driving and chipping exercises. Pro and semi-pro players can additionally choose to augment their Full Swing set up with some advanced optional extras, including a golf swing video analysis feature, weight-balance tools and a biomechanical coaching system. With those tools available to you, you could probably open your own training academy.

Once the time comes to bring those finely honed skills to bear against the opposition, you can either do it the obvious way by inviting a few friends over and making an afternoon of it, or else by making like a true 21st century citizen and hopping online to take on opponents in different continents in a series of open and private tournaments, complete with rankings and international leader boards. Full Swing Golf isn’t short of noted admirers, either. More than 4000 of the company’s golf simulators have been installed worldwide in various private clubs, luxury resorts, corporate offices, retailers and an increasing number of wealthy homes. It’s even managed to pick up a few celebrity fans along the way, with Michael Jordan, Donald Trump and Britain’s own Ricky Gervais apparently among those who’ve fallen for its charms. Investing in one won’t turn you into Tiger Woods overnight, of course, but for card-carrying golf obsessives, it’s perhaps the next best thing to a permanent residence at Gleneagle