Sunday, September 18, 2011

Screen Golf, Korea, and The Economist

By Don Southerton, Editor
I have been following the rise of screen golf in Korea. In fact, I have a long time connection to screen golf.  In the late 1980s, I felt it was time to take up golf-- encouraged by a mentor who strongly suggested it was more than recreation, but a needed professional skill. It was winter and by chance a screen golf shop had opened near one of my businesses in NY. The experience did help spur my interest in golf and by spring I had at least an acceptable swing.

Jump forward 20+ years, and BCW has been working closely with Korea's top screen golf provider--Golfzon.  The technology have definitely improved--today the screen images of the golf courses are amazing and analysis from swings can help improve your game.  Interestingly, where karaoke (noraebang) once was the top after diner activity, today many Koreans find screen golf more rewarding...

The Economist recently noted


Game theory

Screen golf in Korea

Swinging solo

Sep 15th 2011, 18:11 by R.G. | SEOUL
LAST week, without bothering to make a reservation, I strolled onto the first tee at St Andrews and sloshed one down the fairway. Other golfers must book months in advance if they want to play at the Royal and Ancient Club, but not me. This is not because I am a VIP. It is because I played St Andrews virtually, at a “screen golf” shop in South Korea.
Screen golf is fantastic. You use real clubs and balls, but instead of aiming for a real hole, you aim for a picture projected onto a screen. A sensor measures the speed and direction of your clubface as it hits the ball. The computer then calculates where it would have gone, had it not slammed into the soft but tough screen ten yards in front of you. The screen shows your ball flying into the air and then landing gracefully next to the cup. (I said “your ball”. Mine tended to fall into those horrible six-foot-deep pot bunkers for which St Andrews is justly reviled.) After every shot, you can watch a film of your swing. (I should keep my head still.)
Screen golf has several advantages over the real thing. You can pick from a wide selection of the world’s great courses. You are never told: “We’re fully booked until 2020 and anyway, we don’t want people like you playing here.” It’s cheap, too: a round at Pebble Beach costs $500 in real life, but only 30,000 won ($28) at a screen-golf shop.
The virtual game has drawbacks, though. The “rough” isn’t really rough—it’s the same plastic mat from which you hit your other shots. There’s no chance to feel the wind in your hair or the turf beneath your feet. And there’s not much exercise involved, since you don’t walk between shots.
Yet for a crowded, golf-mad country like Korea, screen golf is a blessing. Tee times on real Korean courses are hard to reserve and hideously expensive. Screen-golf shops, by contrast, are everywhere. They hardly take up any space. (The one I visited was tucked in a basement in a bustling shopping district in Seoul.) You can pop in during your lunch break, or arrive drunk with your friends in the middle of the night. The game is so popular that screen golf matches between real professionals are televised.
Screen golf used to be expensive. Five years ago, I was shown around the most sumptuous suite at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The manager showed me a side room where celebrities such as Michael Jordan could play screen golf. He seemed even prouder of this little luxury than of all the tasteful gold taps and naked marble cherubs.
Today, anyone can play screen golf. And that means anyone can play St Andrews.

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