An Inside Look At Custom Simulator Bay Installations With InHome Golf’s James Laidlaw
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An Inside Look At Custom Simulator Bay Installations With InHome Golf’s James Laidlaw

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An Inside Look At Custom Simulator Bay Installations With InHome Golf’s James Laidlaw

The new MyGolfSpy office has been coming together over the past few months, in part due to the work of InHome Golf, a Canadian company that has emerged as a leader in custom simulator bay installations.

In the case of our new building, InHome Golf designed four simulator bays that are 12 feet tall and 14.5 feet wide. Company owner James Laidlaw and his team put together the bays, including the hitting screens, projectors, PCs, touchscreens, turf, canopies, surround walls, underfloor—everything necessary except the tracking system itself.

It’s just one of hundreds of projects InHome Golf (a division of the Indoor Golf Shop) has on their plate as the business of custom golf setups has skyrocketed in the past five years.

I recently sat down with Laidlaw to get an inside perspective on how InHome Golf has grown, what their typical project looks like, the state-of-the-custom simulator bay installation business and more.

Q: What is the typical timetable for a project like this?

Laidlaw: It’s funny, because we’re always the last to come in on a project. Our timetable is always dependent on pretty much everybody that comes before us. In the residential world, it’s like, ‘Well, we’d like to start in June but the place will be ready for us in September.’ It’s uncommon for things to happen on schedule.

For the MyGolfSpy building, I was down there in February where we built the structure, the framing, the flooring, and then I was there in late March when we did everything else. After we were done, the electrician comes in to run power to the structure. There are some custom cabinetry, tables, workstations, there that have to go in before the PCs go in and the touchscreens. Everything is kind of set with the exception of the PCs and touch screens and then, of course, whatever tracking system is being used.

Construction of hitting bays in the new MyGolfSpy building.

Q: I imagine since COVID it’s changed a lot in terms of the popularity of people wanting simulators in their houses in different areas. How would you describe the past few years?

Laidlaw: “Chaotic” would be the first word I’d use.

In 2010, so 14 years ago, I started working for HD Golf, which is a simulator company based in Canada where I’m from. I was their director of sales for four years. Even as I was selling them, I was like, “These are okay, but are simulators really a thing?”

And then we started to see the technology grow in the industry. I jumped from there to being the Trackman rep in Canada for four years after that and I was there with them when they launched their indoor golf division. It just kept growing.

So when I started InHome in 2017, I was just doing builds. I was designing screens, rooms with logos on the floor, graphic panels, all kinds of really cool stuff and helping people design their room. And it wasn’t really about the tech, because people would come with their own ideas for technology. So I would just sell them whatever they wanted and I would build the room out in a really nice fashion for them. I started to get calls and referrals and it started to really grow.

I invested in a showroom here in Toronto and then COVID hit. Thank God, I was already in the showroom. I think sales almost quadrupled that one year. It was insane.

We had to really invest heavily in staff really quickly, and do it during COVID, which was weird.

Q: How does the initial COVID bump compare to where we are now with demand for custom simulator bays? How tough was it to manage the popularity surge during the pandemic?

Laidlaw: The interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that it hasn’t come back down. Our sales went up sharply and then they continued to increase in 2021, 2022 and 2023. And it’s just now kind of leveling. It hasn’t even dipped—it’s just kind of leveled.

The indoor golf industry in the last five years now is just taking on a massive new life. And the number of commercial centers where you can go and play simulator golf – that’s a whole other story. We’ve done, I don’t know, 17 or 18 locations in the last few years just in Toronto. It’s a big deal.

During the pandemic, we were very concerned with the supply of two things: touchscreens and graphics-card chips. Ports in China were closed so a lot of stuff was just not not coming into America. I wound up buying all the touchscreens from Acer in one shot. We had the business—people were knocking on our door, so I just went out and got them and we just bought as many computers as we could upfront. Same thing with projectors.

Fortunately, we build all of our screens in-house so we were able to skirt that issue. But we were very concerned about how long it was going to take to restock. There was a surge in pricing. It wasn’t a huge surge but there was a bit of a surge in electronics pricing. It has seemed to stabilize now and come down, which is great. But even even projectors were tough to get your hands on.

Q: The personalization element to this, that has probably changed from 15 years ago, where now you could take a very unique space and kind of customize it?

Laidlaw: That actually was the origins of InHome Golf. We wanted to help people do something that the big companies weren’t doing.

All the big companies at the time, they just wanted to sell you their simulator technology. And when you would call those companies and kind of price-check one company against the other company, all of their conversations were always about technology. They would say, “Our system is more accurate, we have more golf courses, our graphics are better.”

As a sales guy working for these companies, I felt like that wasn’t the real sell. What people really wanted was a space where they could entertain. They wanted to be proud of their space. They wanted to make it a part of their home and incorporate it into their lifestyle.

So now things like custom, contoured rough around the furniture—those kinds of things, adding that flair to the house, that makes a huge difference to people. And even now when I sell people simulators, a lot of them don’t dig too deep on the technology. They really don’t care.

The other thing has happened in the industry is that we used to talk about accuracy, right? We used to talk about which system is more accurate. Well, most of the industry now has got flight physics figured out, so if you go to Uneekor, TruGolf, Foresight, Trackman, Full Swing. all the big companies, their data capture is pretty much right in the ballpark. And then you talk course selection. Well, they all have great course selection. And then you talk great graphics. Well, they’ve all got great graphics.

So what is separating one company from the other? A BMW and a Toyota both get you to work but one’s going to get you there in a little more style, right? And that’s where the industry is going—how do you want to trick your room out? We do full custom every time. We’re going to custom-build your room to get the maximum width of the room the maximum height and we’re going to build it out for you.

One of the simulator bays from InHome Golf.

Q: How does someone know which tracking system is right for their bay?

Laidlaw: Some mid-priced units are are sufficient for some people, right? I always tell people if you’re the guy that gets up at 4 a.m. and you’re grinding on your 7-iron to get your spin rates or your launch angles within a 10th of a degree, then there’s certain types of technology that’s more suited towards you.

But if you’re just going to come in on a Friday night with your buds and crack open the beer fridge or pour some wine and it’s really more of an entertainment facility, which is 99 percent of our clientele, you you absolutely don’t need some of that more advanced tech.

Laidlaw: It’s a real cross-section. New builds, we basically call it a retrofit, or a new build. And retrofit just simply means you have the space in your house or your garage, and we’re putting it in, and there’s no construction going on where you’re actually building a garage for the simulator.

A lot of people are building homes and they want to make sure they’ve got that golf room built in before they start. And that’s a big part of it right now but there are different price points. If you’re going to custom design, that’s going to cost you a little more for sure. We’re part of the Indoor Golf Shop, which is an online store that has built-ready kits that just click together if want to put something like that in your garage. So if you’re at that entry level kind of stage, you can just go get that from the website and have it shipped to your house and you could be up and running on the weekend.

But if you want to custom build it, like what we do, we’ve got to build the frame, we’ve got to cut the material. We don’t stock screen sizes, for example—we custom cut them.

Q: For a custom build, what would be the lowest price someone could pay for a reasonable setup?

Laidlaw: You’re probably looking at $25,000-30,000. And that’s not including the tracking system. So that would get you the room, screens, canopy trim, turf, strike mats, projector, computer and touchscreen. Really everything except for a tracking system.

So then, if you wanted to go with a solid mid-range tracking system, you are at eight or nine grand for that, plus some software. So anywhere around $35,000 and up is kind of where you’re at.

InHome Golf takes personalized budgets and comes up with a custom plan for each client.

Q: How would you describe competition within the custom build space? What is the landscape like for companies like yours?

Laidlaw: Back in 2018, I would say there were there only a handful of companies in North America that were like ours in terms of being technology agnostic.

In the simulator world, you’ve got the technology companies that sell their own tech and do their own builds. And then there’s the technology-agnostic companies like ours who will sell whatever technology.

Now there’s more of the technology-agnostic companies. There are little companies popping up—there are not a lot of barriers to entry because you just have to understand how to put an impact screen together. So I think that’s growing. I think it’s keeping a check on pricing, which is fair. That’s how industries work.

There are a few options out there for you now. It’s worthwhile exploring, for sure. I’m a big fan of saying to go ahead and price-check us against everybody else. Go ahead and do that. And quality-check us, too.

We have our own screens that we manufacture now, so we import the materials specifically for us. We don’t sell these to other simulator companies. We don’t buy it from other simulator companies. So these are unique in the industry, in my opinion, and they are the best simulator screens going.

Q: Is the majority of your business in the United States?

Laidlaw: I started InHome in Canada. During COVID, I opened a location in New Jersey because there was so much work coming from the upper northeast with Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania—a lot of business in those areas. We expanded into the U.S. and built that business.

Since then, we merged our operations with Indoor Golf Shop and now we have showrooms in New Jersey, Miami, Dallas and we just signed a lease on our Chicago location.

The U.S. is definitely a much bigger market but the Canadian market is hot. There’s a lot of business here. And we’ve been one of the only companies in this area for a long time. I still live and work here in Toronto. So I think both countries are roughly doing about the same right now with maybe a little more business in the U.S.

Q: Do you see the installation business hitting a plateau at some point?

Laidlaw: How can it not? In the meantime, we’re just running.

But one thing that is clear is that the general public has embraced indoor golf finally. The technology is finally got to a point where the mid-range systems are accurate. That means the average golfer can go to a commercial center and walk away feeling like they were actually golfing as opposed to playing some kind of video game.

That, to me, was when I first got in the industry. That’s kind of what I felt like. Only the hardcore real golfers were into it. The people on the fence weren’t attracted to it because it wasn’t good enough. It was still kind of hokey. Now we’re past that.

When I got in this business a long time ago, like one out of every two commercial centers would fail. I was selling simulators to guys for six or seven bays and, as a group, we’d flip a coin and go, “I don’t know if they’ll be in business next year.”

Now, every place that I’ve built in the past four years is still open.

If you want to learn more about InHome Golf, you can learn more about them here.

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Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean is a longtime golf journalist and underachieving 8 handicap who enjoys the game in all forms. If he didn't have an official career writing about golf, Sean would spend most of his free time writing about it anyway. When he isn't playing golf, you can find Sean watching his beloved Florida Panthers hockey team, traveling to a national park or listening to music on his record player. He lives in Nashville with his wife and dog (of course the dog's name is Hogan).

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm

Sean Fairholm





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