UK weather means many golfers just don’t get to play much in the winter. A UK golf simulator build will completely change this winter nightmare!
However, building a golf simulator in the UK can be tricky. Most of the information online is directed at a US audience, and there are many UK-based nuances to consider. This article will help UK-based golfers become better informed on their quest for a home golf simulator.
UK golf simulators are more difficult and expensive to build. UK golfers may need to import simulator products which attract import taxes. Homes in the UK tend to be smaller than in the US with low ceiling heights and no basements. Strict planning laws make the construction of new spaces difficult.
My recommended UK golf simulator retailer is GolfBays, which is a UK-based and authorized retailer of golf simulator products. GolfBays offer a fantastic service alongside fast-courier shipping. They even have an indoor golf simulation centre at their base near Macclesfield.
UK vs USA Golf Simulator Markets
Market Age and Size
The indoor golf and golf simulation markets in the US are much larger than here in the UK. The population of golfers in the US is clearly bigger, but given many of the factors we’ll discuss below, the technology has had more time to take hold and become commonplace.
Golfers in the US have been attending higher-tech driving ranges such as Top Golf for longer, though these facilities are now spreading in the UK. My local driving range has recently installed Top Tracer which is great!
You can find various research and statistics on the size and growth of the golf simulation markets online, though I am always sceptical about the accuracy of the numbers involved. What seems to be clear though is that the market is on an upward trend and is expected to continue to grow over the next decade.
The weather in the UK plays a significant factor in driving the golf simulator market here.
Whilst there is some variation in the temperatures in each season, most of the time it is cold in winter across the whole country. Too cold for outdoor golf practice in the evenings, too cold in fact for evening garage golf practice too.
This is in contrast to the stark differences in temperatures between certain states in the USA, say Minnesota and Arizona.
You can still enjoy an outdoor setup throughout the warmer months in the UK, though the frequency of rain and changeable weather means you’re probably better off going for a net setup that you can quickly put up and down.
Larger retailers are based in the USA
In previous years, you would find a much wider variety of golf simulation products for sale across US-based websites, when compared to offerings in the UK.
I will say though that the degree of choice in the UK has improved markedly lately.
UK retailers such as GolfBays now offer a full range of golf simulation products, allowing UK golfers to source the equipment for a full golf simulator here in the UK without having to import any products from abroad.
Variations in Housing
The task of building a home golf simulator is, of course, a lot easier if you have the space in your home already. Living in the UK, it seems to me that it is a rarity for a golfer to naturally have a space within their house that measures large enough to house a golf simulator without at least a bit of alteration.
Houses in the UK are much less likely to feature a basement when compared to properties in North America.
Physical factors such as a shallow frost line, soil type, and the advantages of concrete slab foundations are some of the reasons for this. Additionally. many older UK houses were also built at a time when basements weren’t popular and this trend has largely continued. Weather factors such as less extreme wind events and more areas under floor risk play a role too.
The standard ceiling height in homes in the UK tends to be around 8-9ft and this seems to be similar in the US. Eight to Nine feet is usually too low for most golfers to swing a club comfortably. Larger or older homes may have higher ceilings as this was the norm at the time of construction.
UK Golf Simulators – Spaces and Rooms
You can see from the housing variations (not-quite-tall-enough ceilings and a lack of a basement) above that many golfers living in an average UK detached house will struggle to find the space required for a golf simulator.
Of course, such a build becomes even harder if you live in a semi-detached property or within a terrace or other type of dwelling.
Farms and other rural properties are more likely to have sufficient outside space to convert into usable golf simulator rooms.
A garage is likely to be the first viable option for most UK golfers who look to where they can build their golf simulator.
An attached garage on the side of a house is more likely to be suitable than an integral garage, as I find it uncommon to see an integral garage with enough ceiling height beneath the upstairs rooms.
Detached garages are clearly your best bet with their extra internal height, though pay attention to roof beams and employ a structural engineer if you think you’ll need to make any alterations here. You’ll still of course need enough width and length (many are single garages and hence narrow).
Many golfers who don’t have the required space within their home lookat the option of building an outdoor building or golf simulator shed. In the UK, there are specific planning issues relating to this possibility which we will look at next.
Given the cold UK winters, a golf simulator shed needs the same attention to heating and insulation as an internal room would, as well as many other factors including power, lighting, and security.
Golfers who possess larger gardens may wish to utilize this space for their home practice facility. Whether you construct an outdoor net setup or embark on building an outdoor cabin for your golf simulator, this may be the best option practically.
Clearly, putting up a net and a hitting area is a much much cheaper option than building an indoor simulator setup or constructing a whole new outdoor room. Plus, you could do this whilst you think about the other option.
To build an outdoor cabin or garden room with sufficient size and height for a golf simulator, you’re likely to need planning permission (those with extremely large gardens or rural land may not fall foul of the planning points relating to distance from property boundaries, see below).
Building a Golf Simulator in the UK – Planning Permission Issues
The UK has some of the strictest planning laws in the world. This is clearly unhelpful in the noble pursuit of the construction of a golf simulator space!
If you are in the UK and considering building an outdoor room, new detached garage, or large golf simulator shed, then you need to know what the planning laws are.
It is noteworthy that these are variable across different regions of the UK too. Whilst the on-paper planning regulations may be the same, the readiness of a local council to embrace your new golf simulator project may vary by region.
There is a difference between what you can build without official planning permission (‘permitted development’) and which projects you need official local planning permission for.
According to the national regulations on ‘The Planning Portal’ government website, you can build the following under permitted development:
- “No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation.
- Outbuildings and garages to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof.
- Maximum height of 2.5 metres in the case of a building, enclosure or container within two metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse.”
You can see that you will only achieve your desired building (shed, garage, outdoor room, cabin) under permitted development if it conforms to positioning and height restrictions.
Note that these restrictions apply to outbuildings and not to extensions when there are different rules. Note also that they apply to England and Wales. There are different rules for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Comparing Golf Simulator Space Requirements with Permitted Development
Lets compare these measurements to those you will need for a functioning golf simulator space.
- A building with a pitched roof with eaves of 2.5m (8.2ft) and an apex of 4m (13ft) will be high enough in the very centre for you to swing a golf club, but the height is insufficient at the sides. Unless you have a very wide space, the height is likely to be insufficient in the indoor space as a whole too.
- Buildings like this are only an option if they have a strong roof without beams and joists occupying the space too.
- With regards to the proximity to the property boundary, you’re going to have to have a well-sized plot of land to allow the construction of such an outbuilding more than two meters away from the boundary.
So, if you don’t have the space to build your structure away from your property boundary, you’ll have to make a full planning application, which currently costs around £206 and takes around 2 months. I recommend the following steps:
- read through the information thoroughly at The Planning Portal for England and Wales or the relevant sites for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- sound out your neighbors’ opinions about the project and whether there would be any objections. Consider whether your new build would affect the light falling on your neighbor’s property.
- If you plan to build a more solid structure (eg detached garage) using a building company or local builder, seek their professional advice on the planning aspects of the project.
- You could attain pre-planning advice from the local planning department and then if you sense difficulty then submitting a proposal with a formal plan attained from a builder may be a good idea.
Note that you must not rely solely on this article for planning advice, and must do your own research and speak to your local authority if you have questions or are unclear on any point.
UK Golf Simulator Components, Taxes, Imports, and Local Sellers
Some golf simulator products will be similarly priced, allowing for currency conversion, in both the US and UK markets. Skytrak and Mevo Plus are good examples.
However, higher-end products or those that must be imported from US, European or Asian markets will be more expensive. The cost of the import and the tax burden of this is often passed to the UK consumer.
For example, the fantastic Uneekor EYE XO (my favourite launch monitor) costs $10,000 in the US and over £13,800 in the UK (over $14,500) including VAT. Whilst this seems unfair, it is simply part of the golf simulator market in the UK.
Can you buy a US product and have it shipped over to the UK?
Firstly, do any large retailers of golf simulation products offer shipping to the UK directly from their sites? Mostly, yes. Carl’s Place will assist customers with international shipping (it would be best to contact them in this case).
Other larger retailers may help customers internationally via freight forwarding services. In all cases, I would recommend contacting customer services of the site in the US and ask their advice. The customer is always responsible for taxes and import charges.
For retailers that don’t do international (UK) shipping, can you arrange a freight forwarding service? Yes, you can. The question is whether it will be less expensive in the long run compared to simply paying the higher price here in the UK.
Embarking on this strategy adds an element of risk to the purchase (more steps, more companies handling the product) and it will be longer before you take ownership of your prized equipment.
You will have to pay VAT and import duty on the imported goods. This will add a level of cost to your golf simulator purchases.
I did an example calculation using the site simplyduty.com which can be used to estimate the import charges payable on goods transported between countries.
Different parts of a golf simulator are likely to fall into different import code categories from the point of view of customs (eg golf clubs vs golf equipment vs computing devices vs screens and enclosures). Hence they will be subject to different levels of import duty. Take a look at the official government customs site for more information here.
VAT is likely to be charged at 20% and then your import duty will be in the region of 0-6%, meaning an extra couple of grand on a $10,000 purchase. Your cost (at today’s exchange rate with a struggling pound) in GBP to import a $10,000 launch monitor would hence be around £11,420.
Using the example of the ($10k) Uneekor Eye Xo, this is still cheaper than buying a new Eye Xo in the UK (currently about £13890 including VAT). However, you also have to add the costs of shipping from the US and shipping insurance on top of that figure. So the difference will be smaller.
With any golf simulator equipment that you import into the UK, make sure each item (particularly the launch monitor) is not geo-locked. For example, the early iterations of the Bushnell Launch Pro is a USA-only device.
Currency Exchange and the Weak Pound
The pound has been struggling lately and this directly effects those seeking to buy golf simulator equipment in different currencies.
Say you wish to buy a Uneekor Eye Xo at $10,000 and have it shipped to the UK. Lets consider the price without shipping and taxes for a second. At the time of writing, the $10,000 Eye Xo will cost you £9000 in GBP, having risen from around £7400 at the start of the year.
Hopefully, the pound will improve, and it’ll be cheaper to import golf simulator equipment (amongst many other things) in the near future. A weak pound is likely to effect the cost of imported products from UK golf simulator retailers as well as imports directly from the US to a UK consumer.
Avoid Cheap Deals from Asia
It can be tempting to opt for attractive-looking deals on Ebay and other sites where golf simulator equipment can look too good to be true. These ‘deals’ often have cheap shipping rates too.
However, I do not recommend these products for a golf simulator here in the UK. They are likely to be of poor quality and if they are marketed as proper golf simulation brands, I would definitely question the authenticity.
If you can afford to lose money on an item like this then try it out, and let me know the results. I often see cheap impact screens for sale on Ebay, which are imported from Asia, but the quality does seem to be lacking.
UK Commercial Golf Simulator Businesses
There is a growing number of commercial indoor golf businesses in the UK. These are split into the following:
- Golf professionals at local clubs offering time on a golf club-based golf simualtor / launch monitor setup in return for money (usually an hourly rate).
- Specialised golf simulator businesses existing outwith a golf club, where you can pay by the hour. These are often still associated with a golf pro offering lessons or golf club maintenence services etc.
- Larger golf simulation businesses that double up as a sports bar or entertainment facility.
Here in the UK, we are yet to see the explosion of indoor golf – sports bar-type businesses that you will see in the US. I’d love the idea of a few drinks with a group of mates whilst playing a round at Augusta. I hope this type of setup will catch on here.
Back at golf clubs, many more local pros are investing in a launch monitor and golf simulator setup that can be rented out by the hour to customers. This increases their revenues and allows them to make back the cost of a teaching-launch monitor much quicker.
Larger (VAT registered) UK golf simulator companies will be able to claim back the VAT cost associated with the more expensive equipment provided they are used for commercial purposes. This can save quite a bit of money, but you should see advice.
I recommend speaking to an accountant or tax advisor when setting up a commercial golf simulator business, as getting such points right is imperative.
UK Golf Simulators Summary
I expect the golf simulation market in the UK to continue to grow and for UK golfers to become more and more accustomed to using launch monitors for practice.
As in many sectors, the UK and European markets may lag behind that of the US, and economic problems and the cost of living crisis are likely to slow the development of an expensive recreational market such as the golf simulator.
However, if you have the space at home for a golf simulator and you’re in the UK, go for it! I’d love to heatr of your progress and see pictures of your UK simulator builds!