While I am someone who will not let cold temperatures, rain or a dusting of snow stop me from golfing, there is a line I draw when there is 2 feet of snow on the ground. For those of us about to settle in for the long winter golf nap, fear not because your season does not have to be over.
OptiShot has created an indoor golf simulator experience that will let even the common player keep swinging over the coldest months of the year. They have created a product that doesn’t require you to have a fancy indoor simulator room or spend thousands of dollars to truly get a good golfing experience in the comfort of your basement: The OptiShot 2.
What do I buy?
OptiShot has a variety of packages to choose from when thinking about your home practice needs. You can buy just the unit itself, a hitting mat, or a full setup that includes the net. If you don’t have any indoor area in your house, I would recommend choosing the golf in a box option. It will have everything you need to set up a good indoor simulator experience.
Getting the OptiShot set up was relatively straightforward. There are some instructions printed on the box, but basically you will download the software to run on your computer (Mac or PC will work). I followed the software setup instructions, created an account, and I was off and playing in under 5 minutes.
I initially could not get the pad to register my swings, but after some quick research realized my overhead lighting was interfering with the sensors. I dimmed the lights a bit and everything worked perfectly. I paired my OptiShot with the optional hitting mat that comes preconfigured to house the unit and had the perfect setup.
I opted to head to the virtual driving range to hit a couple of my first shots. I would highly recommend calibrating your clubs first (this is an option) as I found my distance to be off by about 20 yards before doing so. My first swings after calibration seemed to be accurate based on how my swing felt.
The system captured my normal draw ball flight and the distance was within about 5 yards of my season average. The system uses two rows of infrared sensors to capture the swing characteristics necessary to predict your shot.
You will see metrics like swing speed, angle, path, face lie and more. While I would not use these metrics to professionally fit a set of clubs, I do think for entertainment use it is more than sufficient.
While the system lets you select whether you are using a real, soft or no ball as part of the simulator, I found it important to have the right ball selected to ensure accuracy.
As I continued to use the system I found about 80% of the shots to be accurate. There were swings where I would get wild slices that went an extra 100 yards, or I would hit a shot and the system would register a distance about 20 yards less than I would expect.
While these happened both on the driving range and on the course, they continued to be less and less after calibration. In addition to the calibration, there are some other settings you can modify on a per club basis. One that I found to be most helpful was adjusting the actual distance carry. So, for example, if you know you hit your 8-iron 150 yards but the system is always showing you 140 yards, you can add an extra distance percentage to that club to further dial it in.
Playing a Round
There are 15 courses included for free as part of the OptiShot 2 system, including some notables like Torrey Pines and Bethpage Black. I found the graphics to be surprisingly good for the price point of the unit and it is quite fun to play actual rounds on the courses.
I would recommend having a laptop stand or some way to be able to easily adjust settings as you play as you will need to potentially adjust your club or aim point throughout the game.
I was impressed with the putting portion of the game, as well. I wasn’t sure what to expect when using the unit to putt, but it registered my swings nicely along with my aim. It is something to mentally get used to as your ball just rolls right off the end of the mat.
There are also game options, including stroke and match play, if you are looking to host friends for competition, and there are optional online matches you can take part in.
A big question with any artificial golf hitting surface is how it truly emulates the on-course experience, and it took me a few rounds with the OptiShot 2 to get used to. The artificial turf is a little unforgiving at first (think early season fairways), so it forced me to adjust my conception of what it should feel like and I have since gotten much more used to it.
I found the tee setup on the unit to be really nice and there are two adjustable options included. The artificial grass on the electronic unit was nice and seems like it will hold up well to frequent use.
The OptiShot hitting mat is a great addition to the actual unit. I would highly recommend getting the mat even if you own one already. Here are the reasons I would recommend investing in this accessory:
1. It is designed to house the electronics. The cutout is perfectly aligned and there’s a nice notch to run the USB cord. I tried making my own at first from an old hitting mat and failed miserably. The mat is also the right height to make your stance align with the unit.
2. It has a nicely sized hitting area. I was able to use the mat without the electronic unit for just a couple of warmup indoor swings. The grass was nice to hit off of, feels durable and should hold up nicely to continuous use.
3. The mat is cushioned. This is the first mat I have owned that has a nice foam pad underneath it. My legs were not fatigued after using this like I sometimes feel after using my other mat.
I did not test a hitting net from OptiShot as I have a built-in screen in my basement. There are a lot of options on the market for nets, but as I mentioned earlier you can use the unit without a ball. So, if you are worried about hitting indoors, you can still use this unit.
Stay tuned for a future post on how I set up my indoor hitting area and how you can do it yourself for under $100.
Is this for me?
If you are looking for an affordable indoor solution to take some swings, stay loose or hang out with your friends and play a round then this is the system for you. For the price point you are not going to beat the features and the ability to have a simulator in your own home.
I will say that this system will require you to know your game a little bit. You have to be able to separate when you hit a shot and the system tells you something potentially different. I wouldn’t use this as a low handicapper to make adjustments to my swing during the offseason as I would not trust the accuracy completely.
If you are a low or scratch golfer looking for a system that is going to give you super precise data and very realistic swing feedback, this is probably not the right setup. That being said, if you are looking to have a casual golf setup for the winter, I do not think you can go wrong at this price point for an OptiShot 2 at-home simulator.