Review: Dancin’ Dogg Optishot Simulator

Optishot bethpage

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.


Sensor Unit

OptiShot – Two Piece Stance Mat

Setup:

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.

  1. Practice Zone
  2. 3DD Golf Simulator Mode
  3. Tiger Woods Mode

Practice Zone

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.

Improvements

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).

Dancin’ Dogg Website

Inside the Box

* Infrared Optical Swing Pad
* OptiShot 3DD Golf Software
* USB cable (10 ft.)
* Foam practice balls
* Adjustable rubber tees
* Quick-start guide

System Requirements

* 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.

Update 12-19-09

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.

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100 thoughts on “Review: Dancin’ Dogg Optishot Simulator”

  1. In practice mode, is there a driving range display? Or is there any mode where you can just hit the same shot over and over again?

  2. @zach: Yes, there is a driving range now with 7 flags, and you can also practice on the courses, on any hole, you can practice any shot you want and hit the same shot over and over or move around. It’s nice to be able to switch between the two modes of practicing.

  3. @charlie: My old computer was way old. Bought it in 2002, has a pentium 4 and 1 gig of ram. The new one which is way more than adequate for optishot, in fact, the requirements are substantially less than what I have, is :core i7, 4 gig ram, Radeon HD4670. The previous video card was a Radeon 9550. So there’s a big difference there too.

  4. Can this system accurately work the ball left to right? This would be my only thought. I don’t know how accurate it would be to say, draw a ball so it will be able to roll into a green past a bunker. Just curious…

  5. @Lucas: Hi Lucas,

    It actually is very accurate for draws and fades. I really enjoy practicing with this simulator especially as the weather gets colder. And they keep improving the software and adding courses.

  6. How is the aiming
    with commercial simulators the
    screen is large and u have the sense
    that u are on the tee box

  7. @TONY: Hi Tony,

    That depends on how you set it up. Because I don’t have a projector. I align my self with the sensor unit. The aim is accurate relative to that. While it would be nice if I had a projector and screen I was hitting into, I find using it this way is fine too.

    I would say the graphics though are on par with commercial simulators. The courses are beautifully rendered. Because of my setup, I don’t get the feeling as much that I am on tee, but it doesn’t matter as much because the unit is accurate.

  8. Hi Zen,

    I am about a 11 Handicap and am looking to improve over the winter months seeing that everything is closed down around me as well I have very little options for practice. I have a few questions about the Optishot and was hoping to get some feed back on it.

    1) How is the durability of the Optishot? I have a tendency to hit down on the ball at impact so I would be afraid to see $400 go to waste by damaging the hitting area. As well how protected is the infrared lasers with miss hits?

    2) Some have mentioned Fades and Draws but how does it do with a slice or hook. I have a tendency to open the club at impact causing a slice off the tee and am looking to fix this.

  9. @Will:

    Hi Will,

    The optishot is a very sturdy unit. You won’t easily damage the hitting area. I have a steep swing with my irons, which I’m slowly shallowing out, and I’ve yet to do anything to the unit. It’s built like a tank and it’s designed to take a lot of impacts.

    As far as your slice. The unit will definitely see it. It will do what that the ball would have done in real life. So if you slice in real life, you’ll slice on the unit too. However that’s an opportunity to get better. What you’ll find is that as you start to hit it straighter on the unit, you’ll hit it straighter in real life too. Use the foam balls with it (or even better is real golf balls if you have the setup for it), as that makes it more accurate. I’m not sure why, but it just is more accurate with a golf ball.

    I also recommend getting the stance mat so that you are at least at the same height as the unit. It’s about an inch tall and it make a big difference being at the right level.

  10. Hey Zen
    Does the unit have settings for wind or wet greens.
    And how tall are the ceilings where you use it.
    thanks Mavman

  11. @Mavman: Hi,

    Although the unit doesn’t have specific settings for controlling how wet the greens get, you can control how fast they are running, from very slow to lightning quick, and you can control the wind, from no wind to close to 30 MPH as well as the prevailing direction of the wind.

    I have 10 foot ceilings where I am and I feel confident swinging every club.

  12. I just purchased an Optishot and the initial distances as well as clubface angles were significantly off. After some tweaking I have been able to get the distances fairly accurate to my normal distances. However, the clubface angle has been a challenge. The Optishot registers a huge slice which I don’t hit. I have been able to adjust the offset for the individual clubs and that has dialed in my typical ball flight. When I hit it solid and in the center of the club face, the Optishot registers what I see when I am hitting on a range or actually playing. However, the offset is significantly off from what my normal club offsets are. Not that it really matters what the computer thinks my offsets are as opposed to the accuracy of the ball flight but I was wondering if this is common and if there is a set ratio or am I going to have to go through this process with each individual club. After figuring out that I need to make these adjustments, I am beginning to like this product. It would have been nice had there been some sort of calibration instructions with this product.

  13. @Scott: Hi Scott,

    I had a similar issue when I started out with the optishot. I could not believe that I was opening the face that much. It turns out though that the Optishot had it right on and it was a bitter pill to swallow. Once I got over that and decided to accept the feedback I knew what to work on. It has taken me some time to deliver a square face consistently to the ball but I can do that now. You might not think it’s the open because you might have developed some kind of compensation for it. Check your ball position as well. The unit is very accurate though in terms of detecting club face angle and path. Now when I use it, I routinely hit a soft draw or straight ball more consistently. And if I send one out to the right with an open face, well, then I know it was my swing and not the optishot.

  14. @Mark: I didn’t realize they stopped selling. Unfortunately it didn’t come in a disk, it was a download so I have no way of selling it. I’m very surprised that they stopped selling it.

  15. Just wondering if the optishot works with a mac computer. From this review, it sounds like pc’s are the only computers that work with this unit.

  16. @Duke: Hi Duke,
    Yes, it’s PC only. Probably works fine through parallels or bootcamp, but I don’t have a mac so I can’t say for sure.

  17. Hi Mark, i saw that you were asking about the Georgia Peach course. I just bought the OptiShot 2 weeks ago, and was planning on buying the Georgia Peach premium course. I e-mailed OptiShot and they said they were no longer selling it due to legal reasons. I just ordered a projector and screen, and was really looking forward to playing the Georgia Peech course, it was the one i definitely wanted to own. I wonder if anyone knows of a way to download the course from someone who purchased the Georgia Peach before they took it off their premium course list. Id gladly pay more than the 49.99 price optishot was charging to get it. Does anyone know if this is someway possible. Rob

  18. I bought my Optishot today and quickly due to time restraints played one rd. It took me a few holes to figure it out, but I found you have to aim on screen as opposed to trying to hit the ball on an angle across the sensors which makes perfect sense. Curious as to where in the software you do these adjustments for clubs? Also I was using real tees as I wondered if the plastic ones sat low enough when pushed down and stayed out of the way on fairway shots

  19. What about fat shots??

    say chunking it or bunker/flop shots ?
    or topping or thin shots?
    will it register these shots too?
    will hitting 4-6 inches behind the ball break it?

  20. @Prime: It does register fat shots, chunks etc. Part of the surface that the ball rests on kind of slopes back down, so if you come in steep and you hit that part of the slope before the ball, it dramatically lowers club head speed.

    The one thing that it does not register very well is thin shots/skulls because it can’t see the launch angle of the ball. Bunker shots work pretty well, and for flop shots you can adjust the height of the shot in the software before you hit it. So it’s not ideal for flop shots, but for the rest of your stock shots it is surprisingly accurate.

  21. Just received mine a few days ago and have been playing with it. For the money it is fun. I did snap the head off my wedge because the sensor unit is quite hard. I did not like the the teeing system. I found that birdie balls are great so I don’t even use the tee any longer. For the driver I set one birdie ball on top of the other. I have to admit I am still freaked out hitting on the small sensor unit. After snapping my wedge I’m afraid to really swing. My thinking is that if I ever get over this anxiety of hitting the pad that my real game on the course will be great.

  22. @Terry Alverson: Hi Terry,
    It really helps to have a stance mat that’s at the same level as the optishot unit. I think this is the first time I’ve heard of anybody breaking a club on the unit. If you don’t have a stance mat then you need to remember that the ball is above your feet and you need to shallow out your swing.

  23. I use a birdie ball mat that is essentially the same level. It was an old club that I have used for years just to hit balls so could have been weak in the hosel already. Thanks, Zen. By the way, what steps did you take to become more consistent at impact? I am open one swing and closed the next.

  24. Wondering about the putting green. The grid shows different colors, do the colors signify left break, right break, up hill, down hill?

    After putting in the three different modes I actually find putting without a ball the most accurate.

  25. What about set back clubs to pro set clubs, WILL all set of irons work ?
    How is chipping, or punch shots work on this ?
    i understand flop shots do not work, to bad coz i love the flop shot.

    So its only for distance , great for practice.

  26. would be nice to see Jack Nackluas golf for pc , and have your own golf course making , and be able to play on the course with optishot.

    OR , tiger woods golf, have course making……….
    I miss that , bring back jake!!!!!!

  27. @Gorman:

    Hi Gorman,

    Reading the greens in optishot is very similar to reading greens in real life. The difference however is that optishot provides a grid that overlays on top of the green and you can turn it on or off. This grid shows you elevation changes in the green. By looking at the elevation changes you can determine the break in the putt whether downhilll, uphill or some side breaking combination. The other thing is that you can change the green speed. Fast greens are more challenging to putt on than slower greens, and you do have to adjust your speed as well. I hope this is helpful.

  28. @TomM: I totally agree. I would love to design a course on it or be able to take satellite photos of golf courses and use them as the basis to create a course. The courses that it comes with though are really nice. The new Scottsdale club is really nice and of course its fun to play the major championship replicas. It’s too bad they don’t sell Georgia Peach anymore as it is a blast to play and I’ll definitely have some friends over to have our own “Masters”.

  29. @marc morgan: I think it can only run on a mac if you’re running windows. I don’t belive it natively runs on mac.

  30. Wondering if there is a way to adjust how much the driver fades and draws. I can fade and draw a ball on the course but not as extreme as it shows on optishot. My draws worse case scenario are 20 to 30 yards off the fairway not 50 or 60 as they appear to be on optishot. Can that be dialed back a little?

  31. Been using the optishot for about a month and a half and it has really helped show me my problems with my swing. It reads all my clubs well except for the driver. It shows on course drives on avrage of 300(best was 355:)) but in real life the best i hit was 285 and average 250. Is there a way to dial in this range on optishot and will this affect the distance on the other clubs

  32. I’ve been using the optishot for training on putting and chipping. Is it fair to use it to try to have a consistently square putterface at impact? How critical is the setup of the pad to get accurate readings? I seem to see a lot of variance from slightly open to slightly closed. Same readings for very good players that have tried it as well. Can anyone provide some insight? Thanks.

  33. The pad definitely needs to be squared. However with squared up pad I still find a lot of variance with the driver.

    Although, my other clubs are very accurate including the putter and wedges. I get a square reading on my putter over 90% of the time. Wedges I am usually a little open.

  34. @Gorman: Yes, the pad does need to be square. I also get the most variance with the driver (and the way I see the variance is there in real life, I’m not the most accurate driver). But where I am strong is my irons, and they are spot on on the dancin’ dogg.

  35. How do I connect it to my projector? I just ordered the sim, I also tried to purchase the mat but none left.

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