Simulators Are Redefining Sports (Here’s How + Their Evolution)

The sports simulator market is vastly overlooked…

  • $19.5 Billion — that’s the 𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘶𝘦 of simulator facilities in the U.S. across tennis, golf, cricket, and baseball.
  • $6,000 — that’s the average price of a simulator.
  • 1% — that’s the percentage of athletes with their own simulator.

A handful of factors make the simulator market appealing (and it starts in sports).

Let’s Dive In 👇

History of Simulators

The first motion simulator was created in 1910, and it was called the “Sanders Teacher”.

It was developed to help with pilot training — simulating what it would be like to be in a real plane.

sanders teacher

However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that motion simulators started to come together…

They used powerful imagery and videos to display what the passenger was actually doing — such as flight simulation, driving simulation, or amusement rides.

And not long after, they found their way to sports.

History of Golf Simulators

Just like personal computers, golf simulators have evolved immensely and rapidly through the years:

1970s — golf coach Dave Pelz wanted to improve his student’s swings in a controlled environment so he developed the first simulator that used cameras to capture the swing and analyze it in real-time.

1980s — companies began developing more advanced simulators that used sensors to track the clubhead & ball, then used that data to create a virtual representation of the golf shot.

first sports simulator

1990s — companies began developing simulators that were more accessible to the general public.

2000s — technology and computing power advancements brought the cost down on simulators, still expensive, but they were more realistic than earlier models.

Golf Simulators Today

Simulators use high-speed cameras and sensors to track the ball and clubhead, accurately simulating the flight of the ball and its spin.

Additionally, virtual reality technology is used to create immersive experiences (allowing players to feel as if they are actually on a golf course).

modern golf simulator

Many modern simulators also offer multiplayer capabilities, highly realistic graphics, and increased accessibility with a wide range of options available at different price points.

You can find simulators today in thousands of:

  • bars
  • homes
  • offices
  • golf courses
  • sportainment centers

Tour pros are even using them to prepare for events.

Sportainment Driven by Simulators

Nearly every company below relies on “simulator technology” to operate their facilities.

sportainment market map
  • TopGolf isn’t golf, but a ball-whacking activity with enhanced trackers in the golf balls.
  • Jumpshot isn’t basketball, but a ball-shooting activity driven by motion technology.
  • Batbox isn’t baseball, but ball-whacking activity with enhanced simulators driving the experience.

Having dug into the sportainment space over the last few months, the resounding feedback has been that…

The technology stack is extremely important — many of the venues license the tech to third parties (adding to their top-line revenues).

A growing sportainment market = a growing simulator market.

Current Simulator Market

Current types of training products in the market: 🏌

  • VR headsets
  • Coach trainers
  • Toy-like simulators
  • Conventional simulators
  • Smartphone training apps
  • Batting Cages / Driving Ranges

As simulator technology gets cheaper, more accurate, and increasingly portable it seems like an intriguing opportunity.

Add in gamification + AI and it gets even more interesting.

Looking Ahead

While this post focused heavily on golf…

Many sports are beginning to benefit from simulators.

woman golfer swinging on a simulator

The next big wave is making them more affordable and portable for all consumers.

By 2040, I would be shocked if most sports families don’t have some sort of simulator technology in their household.

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