Believe it or not, Maricopa County in the United States has the most golf courses per square mile. This was painfully evident when I would get in my car and drive from Point A to Point B in my beloved Valley of the Sun. While I did from time to time go out with friends to a driving range or course, the truth of the matter is that I really didn’t like golf. Playing a single round took forever and if I had to be out in the hot, Arizona sun, I’d rather spend that time hiking. Don’t even get me started on how infrequently the beverage cart passed by. No, if I was going to play golf, I aimed to do that at home… on a sofa… in front of a television… with friends… and with a healthy supply of food and beverages. Korea, with its advanced technology has taken the notion of golf video games even further – creating the ultimate experience.
The founders of GolfZon were nestled deep in Daejeon’s technology hub, when they began developing their first system in 2000. Two years later, the company released it’s first systems, the P and P+. These initial gaming systems made use of old singing rooms by converting the unused facilities into locations where golf enthusiasts could congregate and play for a fraction of the green fees on actual courses. In the twelve years since they released their first system, GolfZon has become the premiere retailer of systems, providing recreation in more than 30 countries around the globe.
To create these golfing systems, GolfZon goes through an intense process to accurately recreate the real life environments. First, aerial photographs are taken of each course. These detailed images are accurate to within a foot of the actual topography, but that’s not the end of their data collection process. GolfZon then sends technicians to the courses to take more than 1000 photographs and map each course with GPS enabled survey equipment. With all this information, engineers can then successfully recreate a location to within six inches. Sound engineers take ambient recordings to create a natural soundtrack complete with chirping birds and babbling brooks. To date, GolfZon has released more than 170 courses and four more are introduced each month. The company is even expanding into creating fantasy courses where golfers and play through Gwanghwamun or the Grand Canyon.
The most prevalent system installed in Korea is the GolfZon N-type. It consists of a powerful computer running the simulation, a few cameras, and the amazing swing plate. This large surface tilts to simulate terrain features, providing a realistic feel to the indoor game. When a player strikes the ball, two sets of lasers plot its path and translate it to its digital counterpart. It’s a method of game play others in the industry have used; however, GolfZon’s new system takes the game to a whole new level.
GolfZon’s Vision system does away with the laser mapping system previously employed. Now, two cameras are mounted in the ceiling above the swing plate. This allows for two improvements to gaming. First, players can now place the ball anywhere in the camera recording area. When a stroke is played, the cameras record the stance, swing, speed, and club angle. This information is then crunched by the computer system to create a virtual flight path for the stuck golf ball. The second thing the cameras allow for is a diverse set of terrain. The Vision system now supports the standard tee box and fairway, but has also added an area for the rough and sandbox. These additional textual environments bring a new level of realistic game play.
An added feature of the GolfZon system is its online aspect. GolfZon Live allows players to log into the system and record their games. The system tracks every shot in great detail, enabling players to even analyze their swings electronically. There’s even a “Swing of the Day” award. Players also have the option of competing in rounds for real cash prizes, much in the way other gaming leagues run tournaments. In all, it’s no wonder that Korea’s pioneer in golf simulation is poised to branch out into new markets in North America.