Choosing a Projector for a Golf Simulator

Golf Simulator Projector

Our team often gets asked about the best projector for a golf simulator. Golf simulator projectors shine a high-definition or 4K image on a golf impact screen. There is nothing quite like hitting a golf ball into a screen with the golf course projected onto it.

Are projectors in a golf simulator setup a necessity? No. You can use some other sort of monitor - TV, computer screen, phone, and so on - to show your data and your ball flight.

But, a projector in your golf simulator makes for a much more immersive experience.


 

golf in Carl's Place Pro Golf Simulator enclosure

6 Tips to Buy a Projector for Your Golf Simulator

  1. Calculate Your Throw Distance
  2. Match the Aspect Ratio of your Projector to your Golf Screen
  3. Could You Save Money on Resolution?
  4. Invest in Brightness
  5. Skip the Off-Brand Generics
  6. Extra Features: Don't Forget What's Important To You

Each of those decision-making factors will help you make the best choice for your golf simulator projector.

First things first, if you already have a projector in mind, go ahead and jump over to build your golf simulator. It's a great way to skip the whys and hows of golf simulator projectors and start the setup.

Build My Simulator

We like things simple too.

Choosing a golf simulator projector tips, with BenQ and Optoma projectors

carls-tipIt’s a good idea to consider your projector from the very beginning of your golf simulator build project. The projector specifications may influence your choice of screen size.

Our very own Carl spoke more with Projector Central about golf simulator projectors.

Carl says the ideal position for a golf simulator projector would typically be about 4 feet behind the tee location.

Golf Simulator Projectors - How to Choose

Tip #1: Calculate Your Throw Distance

Finding a projector with the throw ratio you need is incredibly important. It's also the easier part of choosing a projector for your golf simulator setup.

Figuring out the throw distance you need is the harder part.

 

carls-tipA screen size calculator makes it easy to determine the throw distance necessary for a particular screen size and model of projector.

 

Here's how to calculate throw distance:

  1. Throw distance is simply the measurement from the screen to the projector lens.
  2. Calculate your throw ratio. Throw ratio is the throw distance divided by the width of the image.

Throw Ratio = Distance from Screen to Projector / Width of the Image

Throw Distance = Throw Ratio x Image Width

What this is saying is that the further the projector is from the screen, the bigger the image will get. In a golf simulator, you want a big, life-size image.

But you can't put the projector too far back or you'll end up getting some shadow from the golfer.

projector-placement-golf-simulator

Carl says that most of the time, your calculations will come out to show you that you’ll need a short throw projector, or something similar at the shorter end of the standard throws. 

Throw Distance - and where to mount your projector

To find your throw distance, you need to know where you plan to mount your projector. When choosing a golf simulator projector, check the amount of depth you have available in your golfing space.

Most golf customers mount their projector from the ceiling. They place it above, or slightly behind the tee to avoid seeing their own shadow on the projected image.

Some home golfers place a short-throw projector on the floor inside the enclosure. Of course, if you floor-mount your projector remember to build or buy a protective cover to keep it safe from golf balls and clubs.

If you need to mount your projector in a specific location, be sure the projector you select is capable of the image size you desire, at that distance. The projector itself determines the size of the image it can make, as well as, how far from the screen it needs to be mounted to achieve that size. 

Golf Simulator Projector

Standard Throw Projectors

Standard throw projectors have a throw ratio above 1.0. Be careful, a lot of times these don't work for golf simulators. They mount too far back that the projected image will go through the golfer and cause shadows on the screen. However, if you have enough space and height, you might be able to mount your projector in a spot that would avoid shadows.

Short Throw Projectors

A (non-ultra) short throw projector typically has a throw ratio between 0.4 and 1.0. These are the most common projectors used in golf simulators. They fit the space well and they balance cost and function.

Ultra Short Throw Projectors

If you have a particularly small hitting area, an ultra-short throw (UST) projector might be your only option. But, watch out, this often places the projector right next to your impact screen and directly in line with where you're hitting golf balls. If you didn't know, projectors rarely win against fast-flying golf balls. A projector is typically considered to be Ultra Short Throw Projector if it has a throw ratio of less than 0.4. 

 

Can you help me calculate throw distance?

Sure! Again, throw distance is the viewable with of your screen multiplied by the provided throw ratio in the projector specifications.

Example 1. You like the BenQ TH671ST projector with a throw ratio of 0.69-0.83 and a screen that is 115 inches wide and you're wondering how far away you're going to have to mount your projector. If you multiply 0.69 x 115 inches and 0.83 x 115 inches, you find out that you'll need to mount your projector between about 79 and 95 inches away from your impact screen. 

Example 2. You've found the perfect spot where you want to mount your projector. It's about 8 feet away from your screen with a width of 191 inches, which is 15.9 feet, but you're not sure which projector to get. We take the throw distance of 8 and divide by the width of 15.9, and your throw ratio is 0.50. For this setup you would probably be good shopping for a Short Throw Projector, like the Optoma ZH406ST.

Long-division skills a little rusty? Try using this easy screen size calculator.

Check the projector’s specifications for its throw ratio. The projector itself determines the maximum image size based on how far it is mounted from the screen. Don’t buy a projector that can’t fill the screen you want from the mounting point you want. 

Generally speaking, most projectors fall in a similar throw ratio range.

If your golf room requires something different, we can help! Did you know Carl's Place offers custom golf room design? We'll help you lay out the floor plan and specifications of your golf room. Schedule a consult!

golf-room-design-sunken-collageWhat golf screen size should I get?

Whether you decide on a standard aspect ratio or not, we highly recommend getting the largest golf simulator enclosure that will fit in the space you have available. This will provide you with the most comfortable space to swing your clubs, as well as, the most safety.

 

Tip #2: Match the Aspect Ratio of your Projector to your Golf Screen

Aspect ratio simply refers to the shape of the image being projected. When the ratio of the projector image and screen match, the image fills the entire screen and you will not see masking bars.

What are masking bars?

Think … “this film has been modified to fit your TV”. When a film has not been modified to fit your TV screen you often see black bars at the top and bottom or left and right of your screen. In a golf simulator, you'll see white bars if your image doesn't fill the screen.

We always advise our customers to build a golf simulator that maximizes their available space to ensure a comfortable swinging area, which sometimes results in an uncommon or non-standard aspect ratio.

Fortunately, Carl's Place will customize your golf enclosure and screen to fit your golf room.

To maximize available height, many DIY-ers choose a 4:3 aspect ratio for their impact screen.  It’s not difficult to find a projector with a 4:3 aspect ratio, but many 4:3 projectors are lower resolution. Image quality greatly increases when using a 16:9 or 16:10 projector. We recommend building a screen to match your projector’s aspect ratio if you want your projected image to fill the screen entirely. This video explains the basics of aspect ratio and resolution.

16:9 Projectors

Most of the best projectors you'll find for golf simulators are native 16:9. Projectors with a native 16:9 aspect ratio are great for 4K and HD images in a golf simulator. Note, the device you connect to the projector is often smarter than the projector itself. You can display images on your golf screen in other aspect ratios, with a few key tweaks to the settings.

4:3 Projectors

An aspect ratio of 4:3 has the shape of a CRT TV, and a 16:9 has the shape of a flat-screen TV. The 4:3 is very common for golf simulators because it allows you to go taller, giving you more room to swing, without needing a wider room.

But, when searching for a 4:3 golf simulator projector, many find they lack good image quality, so pay close attention. Consider brightness, throw distance, and resolution. We typically recommend going with a native 16:9 projector, then using a 4:3 ratio device, like a tablet, or adjusting the display settings on a PC to make the projector display in this ratio.

16:10 Projectors

The 16:10 projector is less common, but still possible to buy. Its shape is between the 4:3 and the 16:9. Though remember, you can modify the image to create a 16:10 shaped image in your golf simulator.

For some customers, the projected image is secondary while the safety of the surrounding area is the priority. Selecting a size where the aspect ratio is non-standard, so that it fits your space, is also an option. Just be aware the image will not fill the entire screen if you are using it for projection and the masking bars will be visible.

1:1 Projectors

The 1:1 aspect ratio is a square and is not a standard aspect ratio for projectors, but may work if space is limited. However, it increases the chances of seeing masking bars and you will likely have to adjust the settings on your computer.

Adjusting the settings on your computer may be difficult for most customers unless you are technically savvy.

 

carls-tipIt’s possible to force a native 16:9 projector to project in 4:3 or 1:1 aspect ratio, but it may dramatically increase the required throw distance. If you go this route, you’ll want to pay close attention to the requirements of your space and have a good understanding of how to modify your computer’s display settings.

 

Tip #3: Save Money on Resolution

When it comes to resolution, our opinion is that opting for the highest resolution isn’t necessarily the best value for your golf simulator.

It might be tempting to narrow your search to popular 4k projector models instead of the more affordable 1080p models, but the texture and eventual wear on the impact screen surface might cancel out any significant differences in picture quality.

Carl says that 4K is great, but for the budget weary, it’s not worth it. Carl said he would prefer to spend the extra money on a laser projector that is easier to maintain than a 4K projector.

Always make sure you’re aware of the “native resolution” of the projector you’re considering. Many will list “up to” resolutions that aren’t meaningful if the native resolution is lower. If it has a native resolution of 800×600 but lists “up to” 1920×1080, it simply means that the image will technically be displayed, even if it might be all blurry and distorted. Avoid this by making sure the native resolution is clearly stated and is what you need.

The native resolution also determines the aspect ratio of the projector.

16:9 aspect ratio is the most common for home theater screens - for 1080p (1920×1080) or 4k (3840×2160),  however many indoor golfers find they don't have space to fit a 16:9 golf simulator. 4:3 tends to be the popular choice for golf simulators (1024×768 most often or even 800×600 sometimes).

carls-tipA 4K projector is great and all, but due to the texture of an impact screen and markings from flying golf balls, it will be hard to notice the difference between high definition and 4K without comparing them side by side. You could save money and just get a high-def projector, and then you can use that extra money toward a better launch monitor or software.

1080p Projectors

Generally affordable for most home golf simulator projectors, 1080p projectors are still the mainstream choice.

4K Projectors

Sometimes referred to as Ultra HD, 4K projectors are becoming an increasingly popular choice for golf simulators and home theaters. This newer technology offers four times the pixels of standard 1080p resolution. While they are becoming more affordable each year, 4K projectors are still noticeably more expensive than those with 1080p resolution.

Tip #4: Invest in Brightness

You will likely find investing in more brightness and/or laser technology to be the features that will really take your golf simulator to the next level.

How many lumens does a golf simulator projector need?

Typically you want at least 1,500 lumens for a decent picture. For a high-quality picture or in space that isn't ultra dark, buy a projector with 2,200 to 2,500 lumens. With a lot of ambient light, you may need 2,500+. But, don’t get too hung up on the lumens, just buy as bright as you can afford.

Conversely, be skeptical of high-brightness claims from ultra-cheap projectors.

When looking for good golf simulator/home theater projectors for the money, brightness-wise, look for around 2,200 to 2,500 lumens in the best models under $1,000. While cheaper models may offer more brightness (up to 3,500 lumens) they often lack in other areas that affect contrast or color. Unless you have a specific need for it, 6,000 lumens or even 4,000 or 3,000 lumens might not be necessary, because a 2,500 lumens projector (or even 1,000 lumens projector) might work just fine.

Types of Light Source in a Projector

When choosing a projector, there are several options when it comes to what produces the light. Some use a traditional lamp, some use LEDs and still others use laser technology.

Lamp Projectors

Lamp projectors can be cost effective and provide the best value in lower or intermittent usage scenarios.

LED Projectors

While typically more expensive, many buyers are opting for lamp-free models in an effort to eliminate the expense and inconvenience of regular lamp replacement. While not known for extreme brightness, the primary benefits of LED projectors are that they’re smaller in size, produce less heat and last quite a bit longer than traditional lamp projectors.

Laser Projectors

Laser projectors boast even lower maintenance, improved brightness and higher contrast than the more affordable lamp or LED models. This article provides an in-depth discussion of lamp vs. laser.

 

Tip #5: Skip the Off-Brand Generics

There are a lot of no-name projectors out there that we generally recommend avoiding. The discerning viewer will be able to easily tell the difference.

And who wants the fairway to look like pixelated rough when you hit the perfect shot?

Stick with these trusted projector brands: Optoma, Epson, BenQ, Panasonic, and ViewSonic. Any favorites we're missing?

Choosing a golf simulator projector tips, with BenQ and Optoma projectors

Tip #6: Don't Forget What's Important To You

Are there any other extras that are important to you?

If you want wireless connectivity, built-in speakers (handy for outdoors though the speakers are rarely worth using), or the ability to keep your mounting flexible with keystone correction or lens shift, be sure to look for those features in the manufacturer’s details.

One final note: don’t be lured to pay more for a Bluetooth or smart WiFi projector that leads with that claim, because it may or may not make it better overall.


Golf Simulator Projector Comparison

In the spreadsheet below, we compare not only the projectors we sell, but a couple others that are also popular golf simulator projectors. Click on the screenshot of the spreadsheet to see more. 

Document comparing golf simulator projectors


Projector Recommendations

What is the best projector for a golf simulator?

In general, if you're shopping for the best short-throw projector, take a look at the BenQ TH671ST. It's a budget-friendly option with keystone correction so it fits many indoor golf rooms. Other honorable mentions: Optoma's GT1080HDR has flexible setup options, BenQ's LU710 and LH710 have fantastic image quality, or go big with the 4K UHD BenQ LK936ST. You'll feel like you're right there at the tee.

The BenQ LW500ST is also a great entry-level option.

You can probably tell though, shopping for a projector is no easy task. You have to consider throw ratio, setup needs, image quality, and more. 

For a projector that will give you the best bang for your buck, you'd do well to look at the BenQ LU710 and LH710.

BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK PROJECTORS:
BenQ LU710 and BenQ LH710

Yeah, these two BenQ projectors might be a little higher priced, but typically you get what you pay for, which stands true here. They are bright and have a great contrast ratio, providing a high-quality image in your golf simulator enclosure. And, you won’t have to worry about replacing the lamp often as both provide up to 20,000 hours. 

BenQ LU710 Projector

  • See Pricing

  • Type: DLP/Laser

  • Aspect Ratio: 16:10

  • Throw Distance: 3.1 feet to 24 feet

  • Lumens: 4,000

  • Lamp Life: 20,000 hours

  • Contrast: 3,000,000:1

  • Resolution: 1920×1200

  • Keystone Correction: Horizontal and Vertical

  • Additional Features: full HD 3D; Revolutionary BlueCore Laser Technology; LumiExpert Ambient Light Detector.

BenQ LH710 Projector

  • See Pricing

  • Type: DLP/Laser

  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9

  • Throw Distance: 3.2 feet to 24.6 feet

  • Lumens: 4,000

  • Lamp Life: 20,000 hours

  • Contrast: 3,000,000:1

  • Resolution: 1920×1080

  • Keystone Correction: Horizontal and Vertical

  • Additional Features: High precision lens; Certified Ip5X dust proof mechanism to guarantee an ultra high level of image quality while reducing maintenance costs; LumiExpert technology can automatically detect the ambient light conditions of a meeting room and adjust brightness; BlueCore Laser Technology for superior brightness, performance and durability.

If budget is your top priority, we highly recommend the BenQ TH671ST as one of the best short-throw projectors out there. It doesn't have horizontal keystone correction, so it's easiest to use when you can center mount it.

BEST SHORT THROW PROJECTOR:
BenQ TH671ST

The BenQ TH671ST fits the need for those who have space restrictions and need to use a short-throw projector. You also won’t have to worry about your wallet thickness too much.

BenQ TH671ST Projector

  • See Pricing

  • Type: DLP

  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9

  • Throw Distance: 3.6 feet to 15 feet

  • Lumens: 3,000

  • Lamp Life: 4,000 hours / 15,000 hours (eco)

  • Contrast: 10,000:1

  • Resolution: 1920×1080

  • Keystone Correction: Vertical only

BEST 4K PROJECTOR FOR IMAGE QUALITY:
BenQ LK936ST

An ultra 4K HD experience to go with your high-end golf simulator setup. The best projector for a golf simulator enclosure where HD image quality is your top priority is the BenQ LK936ST. Note: This projector goes well with a Carl's Place Golf Simulator Enclosure for a truly immersive indoor golf experience. 

BenQ LK936ST Projector

  • See Pricing

  • Type: DLP

  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (4K HD)

  • Throw Distance: 1.9 feet to 17.7 feet

  • Lumens: 5,100

  • Lamp Life: Up To 30,000 hours

  • Contrast: 3,000,000:1

  • Resolution: 3840x2160

  • Keystone Correction: Horizontal and Vertical

  • Additional Features: Short throw, DICOM, Full HD 3D

Those are Carl's Place's top recommendations when you're looking for a projector for your golf simulator. Whether your priority is budget, image quality, short throw, or the best all-around golf simulator projector, one of these will fit your needs.

There are pros and cons to every projector, so be sure to select the best one for your needs (whether that's the best 4k projector, a value-packed projector under $2,500, or even the best you can get under $1,000).

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Projector Terminology
Anything we mentioned cause you some confusion? There are so many terms and measurements when it comes to projectors, here's a projector dictionary you might find useful.

aspect ratio - width of golf screen by height of golf screen, referring to the shape of the image being projected on your golf screen

"When the aspect ratio of the projector, image, and screen match, the image fills the entire golf projector screen and you will not see masking bars."

contrast ratio - the comparison of the luminosity between the brightest white on a screen and the darkest black

"A projector might have a great lumens rating, but if the contrast ratio is low, your image will look washed out. In a dark room, a contrast ratio of at least 1,500:1 is good, but 2,000:1 or higher is excellent."

input lag -the time between when the audio/video signal from the input source (computer, tablet or other device) is received by the projector and when the projector actually projects the video that corresponds to that signal

"The lower the input lag, the better for your golf simulator."

keystone correction -a projector feature that allows you to skew the projected image to make it rectangular and fill your screen as much as possible, particularly important when your projector is not perfectly perpendicular to your golf simulator screen

"If you want to golf in a simulator shaped like a trapezoid, you don't need to worry about keystone correction."

lamp projectors - the tried and true way that has been around almost since the invention of the wheel

"Some new innovations, such as brighter light and increased lifespan, are being added, however, lamp projectors are a low-maintenance affordable option for golf simulators."

laser projectors - one of the fastest-growing technologies in the projector industry

"There are many benefits to laser projectors such as: high lamp life, low maintenance, lower heat (typically), and higher lumen output, which is great for a larger setup."

led projectors - combines red, green, and blue lights to create an image

"Since they don't through a lamp as quickly, LED projectors are low maintenance, making them great in hard-to-reach or high-use places like golf simulators."

LCD vs. DLP - two different kinds of technology that decide how a projector functions

"Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) has three separate glass panels – one for red, blue and green. Kind of similar to stained glass in a church, but not really. As light passes through the LCD panels, individual pixels can be opened to allow light to pass or closed to block the light, as if each little pixel were fitted with a Venetian blind. This activity modulates the light and produces the image that is projected onto the screen, which helps with color saturation and provides a somewhat sharper image."

"The Digital Light Processing (DLP) chip – no, it’s not edible – is a reflective surface made up of thousands of tiny mirrors with each mirror representing a single pixel. Light from the projector’s lamp is directed onto the surface of the DLP chip and the mirrors wobble back and forth, directing light either into the lens path to turn the pixel on, or away from the lens path to turn it off. DLP is known for its smoother video, showing less pixels and having higher contrast for “blacker” blacks."

lumen - the unit of measurement for how bright that projector’s image will be

"The farther away the projector is from the golf screen, or the more ambient light you are dealing with, the higher lumen number you will want."

resolution - the number of pixels used to create an image by a projector, expressed as the number of pixels on the horizontal axis by the number of pixels on the vertical axis

"The higher the resolution of the projector, the more pixels it depicts and the more detailed the image."

native resolution - the actual, true and physical resolution of the projector

"The projector will never be able to display more actual pixels than its native resolution."

maximum resolution - the highest resolution signal that the projector has been programmed to process and display

"A projector may market a high maximum resolution, but a discerning shopper should look for native resolution, as they know matching that to their golf screen size will result in the best image quality."

scaling - when a projector converts a signal that does not match its native resolution

"When a projector gets a signal that does not match its native resolution, it must convert that signal to the format of its native resolution in order to display it properly. This will always lose something in the image."

short-throw projector - a projector with a lens that has a throw ratio of 0.4 or less

"Short-throw projectors can create a large image with a small distance between screen and projector."

throw distance - the distance from projector to screen

"the amount of space between the projector lens and screen surface, compact spaces"

throw ratio - the distance from projector to screen divided by the width of the image

"A projector's throw ratio assumes you're using the full width of the native resolution, which isn't true for many home golfers."

ultra short-throw projector - a projector with a lens that has a throw ratio of 0.4 or less, so it can be placed super close to the screen

"An ultra short-throw projector is more often used in home theaters because, in a golf simulator, it will get pummeled by golf balls and break."

 

Overwhelmed with the terminology? We get it. You can always ask for help. Call between 8am and 4pm Central Time and you'll get a real human who loves to talk aspect ratio.

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