X-Golf Ann Arbor
1345 E. Michigan Ave. Saline, Michigan (just outside Ann Arbor)
Teacher’s Comments: A pleasant, and high-tech way to spend an hour or two working on your game.
Michigan can be hard on the golf game. Our glorious summers are relatively short and it always seems as though I am just finding my best game when cooler weather starts. The balls don’t fly as far, the clothes are bulkier, and then snow ends the game. Although I usually get in a couple of frozen rounds in January and February, by spring, I have a full coat of rust. Heated driving ranges are always available, but pounding ball after ball off a stiff matt into a white wasteland is just not a good option.
Technology now offers a viable solution: golf simulators.
I recently was invited to test X-Golf Ann Arbor’s new simulators, and now am anxious to go back. Located in strip mall off Michigan Avenue between Saline and Ann Arbor, X-Golf offer a fun and instructive experience.
X-Golf Ann Arbor Is Fun
First the fun.
X-Golf Ann Arbor has five simulators which offer play on some fifty courses from the United States, Japan and Korea (the parent company is Korean). I played Spyglass Hill. It was a great “round.” The graphics are very good — on a par with top end video games — and the ball flight/distance is exactly what I thought it should be. When I knew that I flushed a shot, the results showed up on the screen. So, too did the bad shots. I was amazed at how well X-Golf simulated pitching, chipping and putting. I could produce the same low running shots I usually do with an eight iron, and the high pitches with a wedge. Putting, while much more like a video game with its moving-dots-on-a-grid indicating green tilt, also felt very accurate.
To begin each shot, players tap a button on the floor console at the back of the booth. A ball rolls out or a slot and onto a hole that contains the tee. The tee then rises up for a swing. Tee height can be adjusted on the floor console, and the computer remembers preferred heights for each player. For shots from the fairway, the ball is rolled off the tee and onto a marked area of artificial turf. At this point, the tee descends back into its lair. To putt, the ball is place on a small side area.
Shots can be aimed left or right with the help of buttons on the floor console. Previews of putts also can be summoned.
The entire thing operated smoothly and without a hitch.
Placing the ball on the correct spot on the hitting area is the key to making this work. A combination of high speed cameras, infrared lasers and impact sensors take readings of the clubhead and ball as it leaves the zone, calculating path, angle of attack, trajectory, velocity and other factors. The data is run through a model on blisteringly fast computers and the results instantaneously shown on the screen.
Unlike some other simulators I’ve used, the ball does not actually need to hit the screen for results. This means that mishit balls are more accurately portrayed … I dribbled a few. It also results in a more accurate putting simulation. A putted ball’s speed, spin and direction is measured as it crosses a couple of sensor zones just in front of the putting area. Thus, a short putt really does require the touch of a short putt.
I really felt as though I was playing a round of golf (minus the walking, fresh air, sunshine, et. al.)
X-Golf Ann Arbor Is Instructive
Now for the “instructive” part:
After every shot, data appears briefly on the screen displaying such things as club path, club head speed, spin rate, angle, ball speed and smash factor. On the floor console at the back of the booth, a line of lights indicates how whether the ball was hit fat or thin. Sensors under the hitting area can detect where the club made its impact in relation to the ball. This alone makes the simulator vastly more useful to me than a driving range.
I think I could significantly improve my game with a round here each week until the weather improves and local courses open again.
For what it’s worth, European Tour player Sam Horsfield stopped in to play a couple of times and the owners reported that he said the simulator was spot-on in terms of accuracy.
X-Golf Ann Arbor Also Has A Bar!
Each of the five simulator bays are clean, spacious and separated from each other by nets and/or walls. The bays all have couches for sitting between shots, and bag racks. It is really a pleasant environment. Adding to the enjoyment is a full service bar (offering beer and liquor) and various finger foods. The lounge area has a Golden Tee and a couple of other arcade games. The entire facility has a warm, but industrial vibe.
Pricing at X-Golf Ann Arbor is very reasonable. Off peak rates are $30 an hour. Mon – Friday peak hours is $45. Weekends come in at $50. Plan on an hour for each player.
X-Golf Ann Arbor also offers golf lessons.
I plan to go back soon.