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While nearly every golfer would love to have their own personal golf simulator setup, many aren’t able to afford high-end, mid-range, or even some low-end packages.
Many golfers want to be able to play and practice golf rain or shine, day or night, but aren’t willing to spend more than $500 for it.
If this is you, then you’ve come to the right place. Fortunately, as golf simulator technology has advanced, very inexpensive solutions have appeared in the market that can accommodate low budgets.
In this article, we’ll review and compare our picks for the best golf simulators under $500.
Before we go further, you should understand that with these kinds of cheap golf simulators, you’ll get a limited experience and the focus will mostly be on entertainment.
You’ll have a device that measures some shot data, simulation software, and maybe a net or mat if you’re lucky, but nothing more than this. Detailed shot data, full enclosures, projectors and screens are out of the question.
Having said that, you can still get decent entertainment out of these simulators, and some will even do a decent job of of improving your game.
We have tested all of these simulator setups. Some offer less features than others, but they all give an great golf simulator experience for the cost.
Our Top Picks For Golf Simulators Under $500
The following are our top selections based on our own testing, research, and experience:
- SwingLogic SLX MicroSim Home Golf Simulator
- Phigolf 3-In-1 Home Golf Simulator
- Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
- FlightScope Mevo Launch Monitor
- OptiShot 2 Golf Simulator
- SMARTGOLF AI Golf Simulator
1. SwingLogic SLX MicroSim Home Golf Simulator
The SLX MicroSim (formerly the Tittle X) earns the #1 spot on our list because of its impressive accuracy given the super-low cost, usefulness for improving your game, and updates that help it stay relevant with modern features.
It takes features of simulator equipment worth thousands of dollars and miniaturizes them into a 7.9g device. The latest version uses the E6 CONNECT software by TruGolf, which is arguably the best simulator software currently on the market.
If you’re looking for a true golf simulator under $500 that has the best chance of improving your game with accurate feedback, this is it. On top of that, thanks to the power of E6 CONNECT, it’s great entertainment that captures the feel and enjoyment of golf.
The SLX MicroSim isn’t designed to use any balls. It comes with a sensor and a toy stick for swinging, although you can swing your own clubs with foam balls or even hit real balls into a net if you want.
This golf simulator is child and beginner friendly. We recommend it for recreational golfers.
How It Works
The SLX MicroSim uses a small, lightweight sensor to measure shot data. This sensor is mounted to an included swing stick or to your own club.
Setup involves quite a few steps, but fortunately, SLX MicroSim provides a detailed guide to walk you through the process. You need to:
- Register the device.
- Install E6 CONNECT on PC or iOS.
- Prepare the device.
- Establish some connections.
- Start playing by waiting for vibrations from the device.
With the E6 CONNECT software integration, you can play 3D-rendered real-world golf courses in 4K resolution and practice on the range. There are various play modes and you can sign up for a small monthly subscription to get 40 courses and mini-games.
For a complete picture of how to set up the SLX MicroSim and what you can do with the E6 CONNECT simulator software, refer to the user manual.
You can’t expect a high-level experience comparable to a system like the SkyTrak, but for a simulator that costs so little, it’s very accurate and just a truckload of fun. See what people are saying about it here.
2. Phigolf 3-In-1 Home Golf Simulator
Phigolf is one of the most popular and highly-rated simulator systems under $500.
The Phigolf is considered a mobile simulator game; it’s compact, portable, and can be played anywhere indoors or outdoors with up to four people.
The Phigolf simulator has many similarities to the SLX MicroSim reviewed above:
- it uses a multi-axis sensor that is attached to a club or the included swing stick.
- it’s not designed to use any balls and comes with a toy stick for swinging.
- you can optionally swing your own clubs and even hit foam, plastic, or real balls.
- it integrates with the E6 CONNECT software (currently iOS only).
Unlike the SLX MicroSim though, Phigolf also integrates with WGT (World Golf Tour) and is run entirely from an iOS or Android mobile device. Phigolf also has an in-house app that offers multiple golf courses, games and modes.
In our experience, the accuracy of Phigolf rivals that of SLX MicroSim. In addition, the large number of fun game modes in the software makes for excellent entertainment by yourself or with others.
How It Works
The Phigolf system includes a swing stick, 9-axis club sensor, and micro USB charger. The steps for setting it up can be summarized as follows:
- Charge the battery fully.
- Using the hole on the end of the swing stick or your club, mount the sensor.
- Press and hold the top of the sensor to turn it on.
- Activate Bluetooth on your mobile device and install the WGT Golf, E6 CONNECT or Phigolf app.
- Set up the app and connect it to the Phigolf device.
To aim in the game, press the sensor once, rotate to the desired position, and press the sensor again to lock it. You can then make your swing. Your in-game character will mimic your swing movements and hit the ball.
More than 20 courses, including major championship venues like Valhalla, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, are available to play on the WGT app. E6 CONNECT can offer more than 40 famous courses with a paid subscription. Multiplayer and tournaments are available.
In addition, the latest 2022 upgrade to Phigolf adds swing and putting posture analysis, which includes data on club path, clubhead speed and face angle.
Get a feel for how Phigolf plays by watching this video:
For the cost, Phigolf is a great simulator solution that provides plenty of entertainment, allowing you to experience many of the world’s best courses while getting to know your golf swing better. See what users are saying about it here.
3. Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
The Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM) is a unique new launch monitor that is run through your mobile device. It’s the first launch monitor on the market to take advantage of your phone’s camera.
You may be asking: why are we including a launch monitor on a list of simulators? There are many reasons:
- it fits perfectly within a $500 budget
- it’s well-made by a reputable company (Rapsodo)
- it has many useful features that you would normally find in simulators
- Rapsodo is constantly improving and updating the MLM
The MLM records your shot for playback, provides an active tracer so you can see your ball flight, and measures an array of important speed and launch parameters. This is some of the best simulation capability you’ll get for $500 or less.
It’s currently only available for iOS, but an Android version is in discussions.
The MLM originally could only be used outdoors and had to be taken to the range or the course. Rapsodo has since come out with a new feature that allows you to use it anywhere while hitting into a net, although this means that you won’t be able to benefit from the shot tracer.
What differentiates this simulator from others in its price range are cool features like an active tracer, GPS maps that show your shot dispersion, detailed insights and trend analysis, interactive games, and the ability to receive instruction from coaches virtually.
How It Works
Setting up the MLM is fairly simple. Just charge the device, install the Rapsodo Golf app on your phone, calibrate it to the device, choose a mode, and start hitting.
The data parameters measured are clubhead speed, distance, ball speed, launch angle, launch direction, and smash factor. Not only can you view your shot data and shot trace, but using GPS, you can see exactly where your shots land.
While you can use the MLM indoors with a net, hitting outdoors where the ball can take its full flight will allow you to realize the full potential of the device.
You can also view trends and shot averages by club, which will help you understand what club to hit in different situations. You can store your video clips in a library, and easily post them to social media.
With a Premium Subscription to the Rapsodo MLM, you can store up to 10,000 shots in the library and access Insights (personalized performance graphs), Combines (performance test), and Coach Connect.
Coach Connect allows MLM users to receive virtual (paid) lessons from coaches that have signed up to the platform. Coaches can take advantage of the playback and tracer features and view your shot data to inform their critiques of your swing.
This simulator has very high ratings; people love its mobility and nifty features. If and when an Android version is released, the market for it could get a whole lot bigger than it is now.
4. FlightScope Mevo Launch Monitor
The FlightScope Mevo is another launch monitor that, with the FS Mevo Golf companion app, can be considered a golf simulator.
It receives high praise both by critics and consumers, and has been used by high-profile Tour players like Bryson DeChambeau.
In its price range, it has some of the highest user ratings, is one of the most accurate launch monitors, and provides the most detailed ball flight parameters you can find on the market.
It can be used anywhere: at home, on the range, or on the course, but you’ll need an Android or iOS device to display the data. To practice at home with real balls, you’ll need to set up a hitting net or screen.
The Mevo provides real-time performance data, and it also has a video capture feature that you can use to spot flaws in your swing. It’s small enough that it can fit in the palm of your hand.
How It Works
The Mevo uses 3D Doppler radar technology to measure carry distance, club head and ball speed, spin rate, vertical launch angle, flight time, smash factor, and apex height.
To effectively use the Mevo, you’ll need to download the FS Mevo Golf app on your mobile device. Once everything is set up, you can view data in real time for every club, record and view video with data overlay, and track your progress over time.
If you want to use the Mevo indoors, you’ll need to allow at least 8 feet of ball flight and 4 feet of space behind the impact zone.
If your budget is $500 and you’re not so concerned with seeing your shots simulated in a virtual environment, the FlightScope Mevo is something you should seriously look at.
5. OptiShot 2 Golf Simulator
The OptiShot 2 is one of the cheapest simulator solutions on the market, but it’s also very good for the price. It has been the #1 best-selling golf simulator at various times in the past.
Its main appeal is gaming and entertainment, with various game modes and potential for online and tournament play. It can be used to dial in your ball flight, fix a slice or hook, or build up your power, but for this purpose, you may be better off getting something like the SLX MicroSim reviewed above.
You can play with up to four players, use your own clubs, and access a library of top golf courses. There are two game modes:
In this mode, you can turn any golf course into a practice range.
In the PinPoint Driving Range, there are six different target greens with precision rings and accuracy grids. You can hit to any one of them to improve your shot accuracy.
You can also place your ball anywhere you want on any course, and either follow the ball after the shot or keep playing from the same spot over and over.
In this mode, you can play any of 15 OptiShot courses including Kapalua Golf – The Plantation Course, The Golf Club Scottsdale, Crooked Stick, and Torrey Pines.
There are 8 different game types which include stroke play, match play, best ball, and skins.
You also have access to many customization options. For example, you can manage clubsets, change the camera view, view a putting grid, change the measurements, and alter the weather.
How OptiShot 2 Works
OptiShot consists of an optical swing pad with 16 high-speed 48MHz infrared sensors that measure clubhead speed, distance, face angle, swing plane, tempo, and face contact point.
Also included is the OptiShot 3D software which contains the golf courses and simulation display.
For setup, all you need to do is unpack the OptiShot 2, install the software on your PC or Mac, and follow the instructions to connect it to the swing pad.
There are many special packages available with the OptiShot simulator that make for a better experience, including hitting mats and projector screens. This, however, brings the cost beyond $500, so it would be up to you if you want to accommodate that.
6. SMARTGOLF AI Golf Simulator
The SMARTGOLF is an interesting and unique golf simulator.
Not only does it analyze your swing, render it in a 3D environment, and provide various numerical data metrics, but it also offers one-point swing coaching through machine-learned AI algorithms.
By swinging a special AI golf club stick containing IMU motion sensors, your posture and various aspects of your swing are measured, and the system diagnoses issues with your swing and offers tips to fix them.
The SMARTGOLF simulator is highly portable and just requires an app on your mobile device to run.
How It Works
To use the SMARTGOLF simulator, you’ll need to:
- Install the SMARTGOLF AI Analyzer app for Android or iOS. Through Bluetooth, it can be connected to various devices including tablets and TVs.
- Turn on the AI club using the switch on the end, and connect it to the app through the Bluetooth settings window. The bulb at the other end of the club will flash green.
- Get into your address position with the club, push the start button on the side, and swing.
After your swing, you will be able to view a 3D rendering of your swing, various club metrics, and get coaching advice (with vibrations) in real time. Metrics include speed, tempo, smash factor, path angle, face angle, distance, and angle gap.
In addition, the system offers various games such as approach games, putting games, tunnel games and target games. You can play by yourself, or you can play with other players around the world and observe their swing patterns.
The SMARTGOLF simulator is an excellent tool for technical-minded golfers or swing coaches, but if you’re looking for easy, user-friendly entertainment, there are probably better options out there. It can be a bit difficult and confusing to figure out how to use the system to its full potential.
Investing in a golf simulator under $500 isn’t as big a step as if you were spending $4000 or more, but it’s still a good idea to consider factors that will affect the experience and match them with your goals.
Here are the most important factors you need to consider when figuring out which golf simulator will best meet your needs:
Size is obviously an essential factor in golf simulators.
With the majority of inexpensive simulators, you’ll only have a tracking device and software, which takes up little to no space. All you’ll need is enough space to swing your longest club or the provided swing stick unimpeded.
If you’re using a radar-based launch monitor like the Mevo or Rapsodo MLM, you’ll need at least 6-8 feet of space behind where you hit the ball.
You can try to invest in a quality net or mat, but chances are high that this is going to push the cost above $500.
In general, net setups tend to require about nine feet of height. Your space should be able to easily accommodate this.
One thing you should consider is ease of transport. If you don’t have a net or mat, mobility is not an issue at all.
Moreover, all of the simulators on this page are highly portable, which is a natural consequence of their very low price. Some are actively advertised as being mobile, and others can just about fit in your pocket.
Net setups are usually easy to set up, take down and transport. The Net Return Pro Series V2 Net, for example, can be set up in 5 minutes and comes with a duffle bag for easy transport and storage.
Do you plan to have a dedicated where your golf simulator will always be located, or will there be times when you need to move it?
Maybe you travel periodically and want to be able to easily take it with you. Maybe you just want to pack it away during certain times of the year (like summer, when you can get out to the golf course).
Whatever the case, if portability is important to you, make sure that transporting your simulator is straightforward and relatively painless.
3. Net Vs. No Net
Projectors and screens will undoubtedly bump the cost of a simulator well over $500, so we won’t even consider them in this guide.
It turns out that you can invest in a decent net without passing this cost threshold, although combining it with side barriers and a hitting mat is probably out of the question.
The question is: do you want to spend a bit more for a net, or are you content with just having a simulator system and using foam, plastic, or no balls at all?
You’ll have to determine how important it is for you to be able to take real golf shots with real balls. This is obviously more realistic and will be better for your game improvement.
4. Entertainment Vs. Game-Improvement
The golf simulators featured on this page can be divided into two main categories: entertainment packages and launch monitors.
The SLX MicroSim, OptiShot 2 and Phigolf are “simulators in a box” that focus more on entertainment in virtual worlds than serious golf game improvement. They are child-friendly, and two of them come with toy swing sticks.
The FlightScope Mevo and Rapsodo MLM, in contrast, use video playback apps to function at their best and don’t simulate golf in virtual worlds.
The SMARTGOLF AI is somewhere in the middle — it has entertaining game modes but its swing analysis features require some technical knowledge about the golf swing.
If a “Wii Sports” type of experience appeals to you, then you should get a simulator entertainment package. If you’re only interested in understanding your shot data and improving your golf game, you might want to consider a launch monitor/app combo.
You should also consider what kinds of things you want to do, games you want to play, and activities you want to take part in on your golf simulator.
Many of the best golf simulators under $500 have surprisingly good software that delivers plenty of entertainment.
E6 CONNECT, integrated with the SLX MicroSim and Phigolf simulators, is a high-quality software option that offers practice modes, full course play, and other optional add-on features.
OptiShot has software that allows you to practice and play multiple different game types including stroke play, match play, better ball, and alternate shot.
The Phigolf simulator’s integration with the WGT app allows you to play 12+ world-famous golf courses, online multiplayer, and tournaments. The Phigolf app offers various modes including swing and putting analysis, nearest-to-pin, local multiplayer, approach, putting, and tournaments.
What software features do you want at your disposal? If you want more courses and features, you’ll likely have to throw down some extra cash. Consider the software when looking at simulators, and make your decision accordingly.
We know you don’t want to spend more than $500. Even at this very small budget, it’s generally true that the closer you get to the $500 mark, the more you’ll get in terms of equipment and software.
In this guide, we have included golf simulators over a range of prices under the $500 mark. Whether you stay within this budget or decide to spend more on a better golf simulator setup, you don’t have to drop the full cost of a simulator at once.
Our recommended golf simulator source here provides easy financing options that allow you to pay for your golf simulator over the course of a year or longer. Don’t forget about this option.
Golf simulators have become a lot more accessible and affordable over the years, even reaching price points of only a few hundred dollars.
An inexpensive golf simulator can provide you with great entertainment for years, and it can even help you understand your swing and improve your game, particularly if it has launch monitor and swing analysis capabilities.
Each of the simulator options reviewed above offer excellent value for the cost. We’ve given you the information you need to make a decision; now it’s up to you to go the rest of the way.
While it’s likely that no golf simulator setup will tick every one of your boxes, some will come pretty close to doing so. If you want a higher-quality experience, consider increasing your budget to $1000 or even $5000.
We highly recommend reading consumer and professional reviews of golf simulators to acquire useful insights as to how they actually perform. This will help you a lot in the decision-making process.
Thanks for reading this guide. Have you tried any of the simulators reviewed in this article? Leave a comment below.
Pretty great article.
Make note rhapsodo was IOS only.
Optishot is windows only. Can be run with some other software on mac.
I just assembled the optishot 2 and supporting net and projector setup… scrimping and working hard… my full cost is 1010 dollars.
I recommend trampoline mats as potential safety screens. They are cost effective and bullet proof.
Cheaper than a commercial containment net system.
Back to my review of your info.
Spot on review… i have read hundreds of websites to gain what understandings i hold.
Fyi if you plan too big with out the details ahead of time , it can cost extra.
Optishot holds the program hostage to the home screen of your computer. It will minimize… then drag to another monitor etc..but wont allow you to re maximize in the other monitor.
Optishot has a resolution limit of 1024 x 768. Uhg
Projectors: three types below cast the pic from different lengths away from the screen.
Ultra short throw is what you need for a golf sim.
1 to 3 feet from screen
Short throw could be used
4 to 12 feet from screen
Movie or conference room style are not what you want.
14 to 45 foot… away… ends up casting into the player swinging the club.
Fly Elise is software that will allow special projection set up to odd shaped screens or for exceptionally large screens.
My home sewn canvas screen 180 inches diagonal. 156 of material wide (curved format).
Two projectors are needed with the software fly.elise to fill the screen.
Trampoline frame tubes make great top and bottom gf screen frame shape holders.
My 50 dollar (some are free on craiglist) 12 foot trampoline supplied me with 4 tube sections that span 10 feet nicely.
Downfall of self designing… is i have torn down and rebuilt my net system 3 times… maybe one more adjust to get my projectors in the right place.
Interesting, thanks for sharing. Some great info for those that want to increase their budget.