Not all of us are blessed with a handy golf course in easy distance of our home or workplace. Although we might manage to make it out every other weekend or at least once a month, most of us simply cannot spend as much time on the course as we’d like to in an ideal world.
This is where at-home practice comes in useful. Fitting a few rounds into your Sunday morning or weekday after work is much easier when you have the option to do so in your own backyard or living room, rather than having to drive to a golf course out of town. It also saves on cost, allows you to dress more casually, and gives you extra time to spend with your loved ones.
Of course, at-home practice will never replicate hitting the fairway with your friends and colleagues for a bit of friendly competition, but it could make all the difference next time you make it onto the green.
Whether you want to develop your swing technique or improve your putting ability, there is plenty of equipment that you can easily set up at home. Many home golfers favour a little gadget called PuttOUT. This is a portable piece of kit that folds out into a small plastic ramp. Simply set it up on a level surface, putt towards the ramp and the clever device will hold perfect putts whilst returning made putts the exact same distance they would have travelled past the hole. It even rejects bad putts.
If you want to take your home practice further, combine the PuttOUT or similar product with a custom-made putting mat. This gives you the perfect surface on which to practice your skills, without worrying about an unmown lawn or warped floorboards.
If you really want to practice hitting those balls, then you should invest in a driving net or enclosure. These lightweight pop-up structures fit into your garden (or if you’re brave, your garage), and catch any balls that are hit at them. They even provide a target at the dead centre, so that you have something to aim towards.
Despite all this great equipment available on the market at affordable prices, it’s not necessary to buy anything extra in order to practice at home. You can simply use an overturned mug to putt into, or place a second golf ball as a target.
Golfing Games (non-VR)
You are probably already familiar with the wide range of games now available online through different gaming platforms. What you might not be aware of is the selection of golfing games available on your smartphone or tablet, your games console and even your PC.
Whilst on-screen games will not be the same as the real life experience, they are great for getting your head in the game and scratching that itch that comes when you can’t make it out to the fairway.
Classics like Maximum Games: The Golf Club 2 and EA’s Rory McIlroy PGA Tour offer fantastic graphics, realistic gameplay, recognisable courses to play on and even the option to build your own. Golf Club 2 is available across PlayStation and Xbox consoles as well as in a PC ready version, whereas Rory McIlroy sticks to the games consoles for now.
If you’re looking for something a little cuter or a little wackier, then the Nintendo Switch has you covered. Games like Party Golf, Golf Story and Infinite Mini Golf are low on the realism but high on the amusement factor. Mobile gaming options can really go either way; the medium lends itself to simpler, more abstract gaming but titles like WGT Golf and PGA Tour Golf Shootout do manage to create some pretty realistic gameplay for such a small screen.
The best way to combine the feel of live at-home practice and the scope of golf gaming environments is through the rapidly developing field of VR technology. The Golf Club VR is available to download from Steam and is compatible with major headsets like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. This game allows for full immersion into the golfing environment, with detailed soundscapes, impressive graphics and thousands of kilometres to explore in game.
Alternatively, Everybody’s Golf VR on the PlayStation offers a supportive environment for beginners and old hands alike to practice their skills on expansive, realistic terrain, including multiple courses, 360 degree vision and the option of a virtual caddie too. Details like uneven terrain and changing wind direction make this a pretty realistic experience, without stepping too far outside of anyone’s comfort zone.
If you can’t make it to the real golf course for whatever reason, then VR gaming is the best way to enjoy that fairway feeling whilst still practicing your swing and putting ability. It’s certainly worth investing in a headset for more than the novelty factor.