Every full feature indoor golf simulator needs an impact screen. This stops the ball from becoming a permanent fixture in the walls of the place you’re practising in. Most outdoor models have impact screens too because it reduces the need to fetch the ball after you’ve struck it. Which impact screen material should you buy to fully immerse yourself in the amazing courses you want to play?
So, what’s the best impact screen material for picture quality? We think it’s the professional grade polyester mesh that you can get from Carl’s, their Premium Golf Impact Screen material really makes HD images stand out.
However, there are other options if you have a tighter budget that can offer a decent picture quality in the right circumstances. Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Impact Screens Made Of And Which Are The Best Materials?
Golf simulation is a 21st centrury technology and thus, the art of making impact screens is also pretty new. There’s been a lot of trial and error to reach the stage we’re at now where it appears most manufacturers have settled on a range of impact screen materials that serve a golf simulator well.
The most important thing is that the impact screen is made out of a fabric that won’t tear, if it rips open the moment that a golf ball thuds into it at 150+mph then you know you’ve bought the wrong fabric.
It’s also important, in many situations, that all the energy of the ball is captured by the screen and isn’t allowed to leak onto the wall behind the simulator. Most people would prefer not to have to spend a fortune re-plastering and repainting their walls every year.
However, that’s also not entirely enough as most golf simulators are designed to show a projected image of the course that you’re playing. The best screens allow for the golfer to get the best possible picture quality whilst still allowing a robust barrier between their golf ball and the wall.
Types Of Material Used For Impact Screens
There are four main types of material used in impact screens for golf simulators:
- Polyester mesh – this is a meshed fabric made entirely from polyester, it’s lightweight and durable and a very popular choice due to its relative affordability. Some manufacturers create different levels of polyester grading by layering additional layers of polyester (up to 3). The more layers, in theory, the higher the quality of the impact screen because it will be more sturdy and also allow less light to bleed through.
- Nylon mesh – nylon is less commonly chosen for impact screens, probably because it’s more expensive, it weighs roughly the same as polyester, but it ought to be a little more hard-wearing. Whether it lasts long enough to justify the price differential is a good question. We have also seen some manufacturers offering a nylon and polyester mesh blend, which could be a good halfway house between the two materials.
- Supertex – is a thin mesh material that offers durability and low cost. It’s the lowest cost material for impact screens that we could find and there are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to its use as we will touch on a little later in this review.
- Archery Baffle is a woven mesh that is, as the name suggests, used in archery and other ballistic pursuits to stop a projectile. So you’d think it would be well suited to stopping a golf ball in a golf simulator. It does stop the golf ball very well, though the holes between the mesh fibres are bigger than those in high density polyester meshes, so more light from your image will bleed through behind the screen, as we describe below.
What Structure Does The Fabric Have?
All of the above are mesh fibers. That is the fibers of the material are woven together to form a layer that looks rather like a fishing net when it’s close up. It’s actually very easy to create a mesh structure from man made fabrics and the woven structure adds strength to the impact screen.
Basically, it provides the same kind of stopping power as a football net does for a football. Each individual fiber in the mesh can stretch a little, absorb the impact and then return to its original position without distorting (at least, in theory – over time, all of these mesh fibers will distort to some extent and in general, the cheaper the fiber, the faster this will happen).
One thing you will notice is that a polyester mesh has a certain fiber-like texture to it which is slightly rough to the touch, whereas nylon mesh is very much silky smooth.
What Color Should My Impact Screen Be?
Assuming that you’re going to be projecting an image on it, then the best color is going to be a bright and clean white.
The majority of impact screens come in this color as a default option, but I did find some manufacturers that sold a range of color choices, some archery baffle nets are green!
If you’re not projecting on to the screen, then it really doesn’t matter very much, and you can choose whichever color you think will look best with your setup.
What Is Image Bleed?
Image bleed is what happens when the image that you project shines beyond the surface of the impact screen. If the mesh work of the screen has larger holes between threads, more light will be allowed through. Some of the image may be visible on a surface behind the screen.
This can’t be easily fixed without replacing your impact screen. One tactic I do recommend is placing a black blackout curtain behind your screen. Some golfers have used white curtains behind but I’ve seen that this can create a double image effect and reduce clarity further.
Cheaper screens are more likely to suffer image bleed than premium multilayer meshes. Archery baffle screens are probably the most affected.
There is an excellent picture posted by a forum member in this thread of what image bleed looks like.
Carl’s Premium Screen is thick enough, and with enough density, to allow an absolute minimum amount of light through the screen.
What Is Impact Screen Puckering? How Do I Minimize It?
Impact screen puckering is the slight distortion of the fabric around the edges where it’s hung from the wall. This is because the material will stretch slightly and as it does, it will no longer hang exactly as it did when you first installed it.
Impact screens hung with bungees or similar may encounter this problem. You will need to ensure you achieve the same tension on each bungee, so that one part of the screen is not pulled tighter than the rest.
The ripple effect that is created in the screen can be a touch unsightly and some golfers find that this puckering can also interfere with the simulator image, not a lot, but enough to aggravate them a little.
While you can’t eliminate this problem entirely, you can reduce it. You will need to rebalance and rehang the screen using the adjustable cords on the bungees.
You will also find that the more heavy-duty and premium the material you use, the longer it takes to start showing signs of screen puckering.
Carl’s Premium screen puckers less than competitors due to it’s heavy duty design, but puckering is also a feature of how the screen has been hung. You need balanced tension in all of the fixings or bungees in order to minimise puckering.
Does Size Matter For Impact Screen Quality?
Yes, it does, very much so. Firstly, it’s really important to buy an impact screen to fit because cutting down a screen once it arrives is hard work (and you might even completely roger the screen!) – these screens are designed to resist high impact and they don’t cut easily.
Secondly, it needs to fit the space that your golf simulator allows for. You need to know exactly how much space you’re working with. You also need to take into account the size of the image you want to project onto your screen (see aspect ratio below).
Image quality does not just mean resolution.
Your image needs to have a height and width that are in proportion to what your iPad or PC are intending to show you. If your image is stretched horizontally or vertically you will definitely notice and no amount of clarity will make up for it.
What About The Aspect Ratio for an Impact Screen?
The aspect ratio of the screen you buy will definitely impact on the experience you have with your golf simulator. The idea is to create an impact screen with no wasted space – thus it feels like you’re out on the course when you’re facing the screen, but also that the height and width are in proportion to what’s on the screen.
So, the aspect ratio which is the ratio between the width of an image and its height.
We look at this in great detail here, but we would stress that most projectors use an aspect ratio of 16:9 whereas an iPad will operate in 4:3. So, you should be certain of the device you will be using, and the settings used on this device, before settling on an aspect ratio.
You will also need to consider the “throw ratio” from your projector (this determines how far you need to mount your projector away from your screen to achieve an image that fills your screen).
Finally, you will also need to take into account the space required around the edges of your screen (for hooks, fixings, etc.) to ensure that you have the setup just right.
Carl’s Place allows you to easily order the correct size and aspect ratio for your impact screen
Carl’s Place helps to minimise the stress of matching your impact screen size to the right aspect ratio. You can look at tables of sizes to ensure you get an aspect ratio that matches your projector. Take a look at our dedicated article on impact screen aspect ratios here.
What other Impact Screen Features to consider as well as Image Quality?
Impact Screen Bounceback?
One thing that you need to consider when buying or setting up a golf impact screen is “bounceback”. That’s when your ball hits the screen and comes bouncing back directly towards you. Not only is this a touch surprising when it happens, it can also be quite dangerous.
When it comes to bounceback some designs of golf impact screen are specifically meant to reduce this phenomenon.
Carl’s Premium Screen is comprised of three layers of ‘heavy-duty, tight-knit impact resistant polyester‘, which allows for very little bounceback at all.
Check out my full article on bounceback here. You may also want to spend some time thinking about how you will place the screen and what materials you’d want to put behind the screen to help reduce the problem even more.
What Are The Quietest Impact Screen Materials?
We’ve got a whole article coming soon on how to make your golf simulator quieter, so we won’t repeat it all here but rather – we’ll just focus on the impact screens.
During my research for this article, I found that the low cost Supertex was a little louder than average (though it has several benefits and is good value for money).
Otherwise, there isn’t a huge difference between polyester and nylon for the lowest volume and there is a definite relationship between a higher amount of mesh layers and a reduced volume from the impact screen.
The thicker the impact screen, the quieter it should be.
You will never get a completely silent impact but there’s no doubt that the material you choose can make a substantial difference to the noise level. Some golfers will have to prioritise the noise level of their golf simulator if they need to keep it down for the sake of neighbours, children or their partners!
Carl’s Premium Screen features a cushioned center layer, that absorbs lots of the ball’s energy so that less is transferred into the air to create sound.
Do you intend to watch movies and play games on your impact screen?
Golf simulation is not the only use for a premium quality impact screen! You can also project your favourite movies and video games to enjoy them on your very own big screen.
Clearly when you use your impact screen for these purposes, you want the highest quality picture from your impact screen.
Many people spend literally thousands on an amazing projector, even shelling out on 4k projectors (you should know that as of 2020, getting both native 4k resolution and a ‘short’ throw ratio in the same projector is extremely expensive). You’ll never achieve the clarity of a 4k picture though if your screen isn’t up to scratch.
A premium high quality multi-layer screen (such as Carl’s Premium Screen) will be able to show off your 4k picture well. Aim for low ambient light and no bright lights (eg windows) or objects behind the screen too. Then your high resolution image and projector will shine!
What Impact Screen Material Will Give The Best Picture Quality?
Why I recommend Carl’s Premium Impact Screen
Our preferred pick for picture quality is the Premium Quality Golf Impact screen sold by Carl’s. This is a triple woven polyester mesh screen and if you want glorious HD it can handle it, no problem.
It is a little more expensive that some other choices, but the picture quality is unrivalled.
Alternative Impact Screen Options
Par2Pro sell a range of high quality impact screens that will be excellent additions to your golf simulator. Their SQ screens are ‘super quiet’ and have very little bounceback.
Plus, the team at Par2Pro have attained a reputation for great customer service. Check out some reviews in a forum thread here.
This is a thin mesh material that offers high durability and low cost.
Take a look here at Supertex screens at Spectrum Golf’s website. They claim you will achieve ‘Movie Screen Image Quality’. I’ve not used a SuperTex screen myself, you can find reviews from other Golf Simulator owners in this forum thread here. It comes with a 6 month warranty as standard.
They offer a pretty unique way of hanging the screen, where there is a soft bar structure fed through the edges of the screen, which takes the screen’s weight. This leads to less image puckering and distortion and is a fantastic idea.
Buy a Premium Carl’s Place Screen with an Enclosure as a Package
Carl’s Place sell pre-designed enclosures along with their screens so there’s no guesswork on your side. You will get a premium screen included with a ready to construct enclosure and be practicing in a new golf simulator in no time!
Check out Alternative Premium Full Golf Simulator Packages
Did you know you can buy virtually your whole golf simulator as one package, which is great for those who don’t want to worry about things like aspect ratios and types of mesh.
Many such packages come with your preferred launch monitor included.
Check out these excellent Skytrak Packages from Shop Indoor Golf!
These packages feature a ‘premium polyester screen‘ which is handmade in the USA.
Beware Of Bargains (Cheap Imported Impact Screens From China and Beyond)
We love a bargain and we’re acutely aware of the fact that golf is an expensive hobby and that when you add a golf simulator on top, you’re adding a lot of extra expense to your life. So, we completely understand the desire to save a few bucks and look for the cheapest possible impact screens.
The cheapest we could find were dramatically cheaper than the pro-manufacturers’ offerings that I recommend and were imported from China and various other low-cost manufacturing strongholds. My enthusiasm for these bargains grew as I’ve seen other golf simulator entusiasts unbox them and find them to look and feel fairly similar to the more expensive options.
That lasts until golf balls are fired at them. It typically takes fewer than 50 balls to start leaving marks in the cheap impact screen material. If you set this kind of screen up inside without doing similar tests, the odds are pretty good that your ball is going to end up going through the screen after even short term regular use.
So, as much as we love to save a few bucks – our conclusion on this matter is pretty simple, stay away from screens that are just too cheap to be true, they won’t deliver the quality you need from an impact screen and you’ll have to replace it almost immediately and that kind of defeats the point!
Prioritise your Impact Screen
I always say that the golf mat and impact screen are the core features of your golf simulator, you should aim for quality with these two items. There is a wide range of launch monitors to choose from, which will determine the overall cost of your simulator. You can research DIY solutions for your enclosure and the rest of your room, but a top quality mat and screen will always serve you well.
The best impact screen material for picture quality? I believe you can’t really beat Carl’s Premium grade polyester mesh impact screen. It is a little more expensive than some competitors, but if your primary criteria for your impact screen is image quality, there is no better option. However, if your budget is a bit tighter, then check out their Preferred Screen option, or take a look at Par2Pro too.
Another lower budget option is Supertex could provide a good quality image assuming you optimise your setup and lighting conditions.