Those of us fortunate enough to live in warm places like Florida can play year round, but for many people in North America the golf season is over. However, just because golf courses are closed where you live doesn’t mean you have to put away your golf clubs for the winter. There are many indoor practice facilities these days, and other places offer memberships to play on indoor golf simulators too. While playing on a golf simulator can’t match the real thing, it can be a good way to maintain your swing through the winter months. Of course if you don’t feel like leaving the house to do this, there is another option – The Optishot Infrared Golf Simulator from Dancin’ Dogg Golf.
Professional golf simulators are expensive and take up a lot of space. Only those with a spare room in the house and lots of extra cash can afford to purchase one. Many of the top units sell for well over $10,000. Dancin’ Dogg Golf’s solution to this is the new Optishot Golf Simulator. Using a hitting mat that has 16 infrared sensors mated to clever computer software, the Optishot lets golfers play golf indoors at home for around $400. That’s quite a big difference in price!
So what’s the difference between the huge indoor golf simulators and the Optishot? First and foremost is the price. This is the only golf simulator I’ve seen that is even remotely affordable. For $399, you get the swing pad, software and 10 courses. For $899, you get a larger 5×5 octagonal swing mat, 9×7′ hitting net, optistix driver and a premium course of your liking to add to the 10 courses that come with the basic package. This is still way cheaper than a fixed indoor simulator that uses basically an entire room. The Optishot is of course portable, and you can set it up in any large room with tall enough ceilings.
The premium course library includes replicas of famous courses around the world: Monterrey Classic, The Old Scot, Whispering Dunes, Ponte Vedra, Capitol Club and several others. They are available separately for purchase. Can you guess which courses they are referring to?
What do you need to make the Optishot work? A Microsoft Windows PC to start. Mac users like me can try to run the software on a Windows boot camp partition or as a virtual machine with VMWare Fusion, but I didn’t have much success. The software ran fine on my Windows PC with a beefy processor and gaming level video card. The software requires Windows XP, Vista or 7, a 256MB video card, 3GB of hard drive space and 2GB RAM. Since the unit is portable it would seem to make more sense to use a laptop, but make sure the laptop can handle the load first. Optishot’s software is like a video game, and is graphic intensive. You’ll also need a fairly large room. They recommend a ceiling of at least 8.5 feet high, but I would go further and suggest at least an 11 foot ceiling. You’ll also need somewhere for the golf balls to fly like a net, especially if you plan to use real golf balls over the foam ones they supply with the unit. A good, sturdy golf practice net will do the trick.
Playing on the Optishot is fun and the software is easy to use. I found the update process to be slow and tedious, but once up to date things went smoothly. At first I had trouble with the unit’s accuracy using the foam ball, as it was telling me my 8 iron shots were going 120 yards and slicing. My normal shot is a slight draw and my normal 8 iron shot goes about 170 yards, so this was an issue. Once I moved to a room with more space and started hitting a real golf ball the results were a bit better. I’ve never encountered a golf simulator that can accurately duplicate my on-course results, but once I adjusted it was close enough to be reasonably accurate. Optishot claims accuracy of club head speed within two miles per hour, and swing path and face angle to within less than 2 degrees. The reason the Optishot doesn’t get my distances right is likely because it doesn’t measure ball speed, spin rate or launch angle, which are crucial to precisely measuring the distance a ball flies. I’m assuming Optishot’s distance measurements are estimated based on club head speed and the typical loft of the club selected. Either way, for something in this price range they did a pretty good job.
The Optishot Infrared Golf Simulator is a low cost, indoor golf simulator that works well and is fun to use. It won’t be as accurate in measuring your shots as a $40,000 Trackman dopler radar, but it will be fun to play golf at home with your friends and at the very least it s a good way to keep your game relatively sharp during the winter months. To make better use of the device, I highly recommend getting the larger 5×5 octagonal mat so your feet are level with the mat. It sits almost two inches off the ground so raising your feet to the same level is important for accurate results. I also highly recommend getting a quality indoor golf net, and making sure your ceilings are high enough to handle making a full swing with the driver. I think the best place to set up this unit is in a living room with vaulted ceilings or a garage with high ceilings. If you are a beginner golfer, the net may not always catch your shots, and you may make a mess of your family room if you sky one or shank it. Be warned, this is one of the advantages of the full size golf simulators. The last recommendation I have for using the Optishot is to use a projector to display the graphics on a wall or movie screen. This is a luxury of course, but it makes it nicer than leaning over to a small laptop screen to see your shot.
Overall, the Optishot Golf Simulator was pretty easy to set up and use. The graphics are detailed and clear and the infrared sensors do a good job at transmitting club data to the shot on the screen. For the price, you can’t get a more usable, portable at home golf simulator. It’s not even close.
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