Winter practice in the northeast is difficult. The weather is cold, the range balls like ice cubes, the chipping and putting greens frozen solid and you’re wearing 12 layers of clothing.
There used to be a great indoor practice place near me called “The Golf Training Center” that had a great putting green, video bays, launch monitor bays, a chipping area and a sand trap. Membership for the winter was reasonable. Last winter I spent an ungodly amount of time there, usually went for 2 or 3 hours after work and on the weekends.
It closed down last May and with winter coming I knew I needed to do something to practice indoors.
After a substantial amount of research, and careful consideration I opted for the Optishot simulator.
My research showed me that there many different kinds of simulators ranging in price from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. Optishot is priced at the lower end of the range.
The optishot is a simple unit, it has a sensor mat that’s roughly the dimensions of a legal size sheet of paper and is about an inch high. The 16 infra red sensors on the unit capture the club through the impact zone and measure club head speed, face angle, path angle, toe/center/heel contact.
I also ordered the two piece stance mat so that I am at the same height as the unit.
OptiShot – Two Piece Stance Mat
The optishot is very simple to use. Install the software, connect the USB cable to the mat and to your computer and you’re off and running. I then setup the two piece stance mat and away I go. I did not have a single setup issue, it’s plug and play as long your computer meets the minimum requirements.
Using the Optishot
The Optishot has 3 different modes in which it can be used.
- Practice Zone
- 3DD Golf Simulator Mode
- Tiger Woods Mode
The practice zone has a simple screen the simply shows you all of the information you need to know when practicing: Club head speed, face angle, path angle, toe/center/heel contact. The practice zone will show you on an image of a hole where your shots ended up, the flight path of each shot and it keeps track of your statistics like distance and whether the shot ended up left or right of the target, as well as an average of how far left and right of target they were. The screen for the Practice Zone could be spruced up. It’s very utilitarian, it gets the job done but is not inviting.
At first I was skeptical of the results I was getting because I kept seeing an open club face. I didn’t want to believe it but when I went to the driving range to compare, I was hitting them right too. When I improve on the Optishot and I go verify at the range, I end up with the same results. The optishot is a very accurate unit.
3DD Golf Simulator Mode
This is my favorite mode to practice with because you can see the ball flight in a very cool way. The camera follows the ball closely as if you’re flying with it. It really is pretty spectacular. I can aim at specific targets and really get a sense for how I’m doing. If you want you can turn off the following camera and just see the ball fly off into the distance, but I like following it so I keep that feature turned on. I do wish that the practice mode in 3DD golf would allow you to save your statistics so that you can review them later.
I prefer to practice in this mode because the way you practice is that you select a hole, then put the ball anywhere on the hole you want. So you can work on shots of any distance, up hill, down hill, etc. I can work from specific short game distances and even partial wedges.
If it’s too cold outside I can play some rounds pretty quickly. The simulator does allow you to putt but that part is not as realistic. I have it set up to auto putt. In auto putt mode if you’re more than a few feet away it is likely to two-putt, but sometimes it one putts, and if you have a gimme, it usually makes it.
Whenever you switch clubs you need to tell it which club you’re using so that it can make the appropriate changes in calculations. See you don’t actually have to hit a ball, you can hit no ball, you can hit a foam ball, or you can hit an actual ball, and by telling the system what you’re doing it makes changes to the calculations to reflect your true results.
The courses look gorgeous. They don’t look like the courses on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 on the Xbox 360 or PS3 but they have their own look and I do enjoy how they look. The courses look better than some commercial simulators I have seen.
The unit came with 4 courses, Torrey Pines North and South, a desert course and a mountain course. Bethpage Black was released just before the US open this year. I spend most of my time playing Torrey Pines South and Bethpage Black.
Tiger Woods Mode
Allows you to play Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 for the PC using the Optishot. I haven’t used it so I can’t really comment on it. For me the simulator does not need the Tiger Woods mode.
There really is only one major improvement that I would like to see in the system. Even though it has a grass top the turf area is quite hard, a little bit harder than hitting off the mats at my local course. If somehow they could incorporate some of the features of newer mats that allow you to hit down and through that would be great. My other improvement would be in the practice area of 3DD. If they would allow you to save your practice sessions so that you could see your results over time that I think would be a very useful tool for game improvement.
Overall it is an excellent unit and for the price you can’t go wrong with it. It’s accurate, easy to setup, and a lot of fun. The surface grass area is a little hard (but again better than other commercial simulators and launch monitors I’ve used).
Inside the Box
* Infrared Optical Swing Pad
* OptiShot 3DD Golf Software
* USB cable (10 ft.)
* Foam practice balls
* Adjustable rubber tees
* Quick-start guide
* Windows 7, XP or Vista Windows®
* Memory: 1 GB
* Disk Space: 3 GB
* Optional: For best display results, a high-end graphics card is required.
When I first wrote this review I had an old pc and Optishot ran well on it. We just upgraded to a new machine with a fast processor and a nice video card and OptiShot now looks amazing. Last night Dancin’ Dogg released an update to Optishot 2010. They added a few new courses and overall improved functionality. The new courses look gorgeous. The courses are:
The Masters Course at Barseback, home of the 2009 Scandinavian Masters.
The other new course is the Black Mountain Course from a luxury resort in Thailand.
The new courses are stunning and a joy to play.