GOLF simulators are compensating for a lack of courses and teaching facilities in China, according to a local businessman. Gary Knill, the general manager of Golf Link, a Hong Kong-based golf products company, will be displaying the US$78,000 machine at the First International Hong Kong and China Golf Exhibition and Conference which starts today and runs until Saturday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. He said during the past two years his firm had sold more than 40 Golf Link simulators in China where there were about 100,000 golfers and 18 fully completed courses. Guangdong had 20 simulators, Beijing three and Shanghai eight. Other major cities each had one. 'The simulator provides the opportunity to play golf without having to worry about daylight or weather conditions,' Mr Knill said. It represented a great challenge and an effective teaching tool, he said. Capturing 'optimum realism' in a confined space is achieved through the use of a high-quality video, a computer for tracking the flight of the ball and updating information, an overhead video camera for stroke analysis and optional sound effects. A maximum of eight golfers can play at a time. A golfer can choose to play nine or 18 holes from a selection of 14 famous courses, including The Belfry in Britain (site of the 1993 Ryder Cup), Pinehurst (site of the PGA Tour Championship in North Carolina), Torrey Pines in San Diego and Banff Springs in the Canadian Rockies. A player can also use the simulator to practice driving, chipping and putting. Stepping on to a mat, the player has an overhead view of the hole. On-screen information provides locations of hazards and distances required to reach the green. When the ball is struck into the three-by-four-metre screen, software designed to track the ball reads the flight data and immediately simulates the path of the ball on to the screen. Information on the distance the ball has travelled and distance from the hole is then displayed. Mr Knill said Sportech, an optional analyser, could be integrated into the simulator to analyse a player's swing. 'It allows a player to gauge club head control, club head speed, club head impact, the distance the ball would have carried, angle of the club head, trajectory of the ball and follow-through speed.' Sportech also gauged the golfer's pivotal balance, which was 'essential to improving a player's game'. An overhead video camera allows a player to check his swing on the screen as it is happening. An instant replay is available. Golf Link differs from other simulators because it is the only machine to measure putting through computer tracking of the ball rather than by club head speed. When the ball hits the screen, a simulated ball appears, rolling with the contours of the green. For shots less than three metres, a player has to sink his putt into the cup located at the base of the simulator unit. Mr Knill said there were six Golf Link units in Hong Kong, including one recently installed by his company at the teaching centre of the new Kau Sai Chau public course in Sai Kung. Mr Knill said it was difficult to pinpoint who was using the simulators as it depended on where the machines were located. 'We have a simulator at the Lost City [a nightclub complex in Tsim Sha Tsui] where it is a fun thing. 'At the Hong Kong Football Club, a pro gives lessons,' he said. Mr Knill said two players could play 18 holes in about one hour and 15 minutes.