My golf simulator is broken!!! What am I going to do? I have had my Optishot golf simulator for almost 2 years now and had a great experience improving my game. My swing has gotten better as I have moved from hitting a huge slice to being able to produce a preferred slight draw. I am now able to accurately hit a 4 iron (which as you may know is not an easy task) and feel I am well on my way to breaking 80. Now this! The lights on my Optishot have gone out causing it to no longer read my club. Is it time to upgrade? Do I move on from my Optishot? Its time to revisit the question and do a golf simulator comparison of affordable systems.
Golf Simulator Comparison
For this golf simulator comparison I will be looking at my current system, the Optishot 2 and comparing it with two other affordable simulators. I chose the P3ProSwing system and Skytrak (launch monitor). Both are popular models under $2,000 and are able to project ball flight on my impact screen. My golf simulator comparison will look not only at price but will look into accuracy, ease of use, features, other reviews, customer support, accessories needed and more. Starting with my Optishot experience, I will go through my thought process on if it is worth it to upgrade to a more expensive simulator.
|Swing Stats||Slight Edge|
|Advanced Features||Huge Edge|
Overall, the Optishot experience has been great. I got my Optishot just over a year and a half and have hit well over 5,000 shots on it. In fact, I have a post that reviewed the system a few months ago (you can see it here). At first, the main purpose of the golf simulator was to have fun hitting golf balls at home. Soon it turned into an obsession in which I wanted to break the illusive barrier of 80 consistently. I began to focus on improving my swing using the tools of the Optishot. Immediately turned my garage into a golf simulator room (golf man cave).
Not super high-tech but it was a golf simulator room that I could use to practice and play golf all year-long. During this process, I began practicing everyday doing drills that I found on the internet. Focusing on drills and tips from the 50 best instructors, I began to tweek my swing to fit my game. I am an average golfer in his 40’s who wanted to be able to draw the ball and hit it farther off the tee. The Optishot was my tool to achieve this.
So far after 3 months of using the Optishot I have proceeded to change my swing from a slice to a draw. When I started hitting balls my clubface was open and my swing path came from the outside. As I doing this golf simulator comparison my swing path is an inside-out and I have improved my accuracy. Here are the results after the first 2 months of true purposeful practice.
|Club/Goal (50 Shots Each)||White (15 ft)/Green (35 ft)||Swing Path||Swing Speed||Clubface Angle|
|All Par 3's (70%)||35/54 GIR (64%)|
|9 Iron (90%)||20/13 (66%)||Slight Inside/Out||66||Closed 1.5|
|7 Iron (70%)||8/24 (62%)||Slight Inside/Out||70||Closed 3.8|
|Hybrid/4 Iron (40%)||14/20 (68%)||Slight Inside/Out||75||Closed 1.2|
I made real improvement in terms of accuracy (only 18 white zones when I first started), greens in regulation and swing path. When I took it to the course for the my first round of the year I found that I was very accurate and hit it straight or with a draw. It was awesome.
I was well on my way to improving my swing…but there were still some issues with the Optishot that bothered me. That is why I am creating this golf simulator comparison guide.
Comparison #1 – Price
This is a big deal for me as an average golfer. I have a hard time justifying spending thousands of dollars on a golf simulator when I have a family to think about. Golf is an obsession but it is still a hobby. So lets look at the price comparison of the three systems:
|Simulator||Optishot 2||P3ProSwing |
(Software, Licenses, etc)
(Ball Spin License)
|Accessory Costs |
(Mats, Turf, etc)
(Country Club Elite)
Given the fact that I already have a projector (which I need to upgrade at some point), stance mat (I built) and a great impact screen, my golf simulator comparison will reflect that. As you can see, the Optishot 2 is the most affordable at only $350 by a large margin.
The P3ProSwing came in almost $1,000 more than an my Optishot which surprised me. The “Ball Spin License” would be nice to have but not a must. If upgrading the P3ProSwing to Lite package it would include 92 courses instead of 20. Not sure I need that many courses but with the spin license it may be worth it.
The Skytrak system is the most expensive and comes with a $99 a year add-on to get online courses and competitions. This is a must for me as I really enjoy being able to play real course at home. With the Skytrak, I would also need a turf mat to hit off of and I think the Country Club Elite Mat would be do the job. It would add another $35 to the price. The Skytrak price tag puts it at the very top of my budget and would need to be so much better than the other two.
Comparison #2 – Accuracy
This is one of the crucial elements in my golf simulator comparison. The simulator needs to be as accurate as possible so that can really improve my game. The Optishot really does drop the ball on this. The accuracy of the Optishot is far from perfect especially with shanked shots and trajectory.
The system uses two rows of sensors that are about 5 1/2 inches across and 7 inches apart. It tracks only the club as it goes through the sensors. This leaves a ton of room for error. I have found that sometimes the system will not register my swing (my kids have tons of shots that don’t register which discourages them). The image below shows the sensor row (note that the turf top is an upgraded version).
The worst aspect of the Optishot sensors is on shots I know I shank. Occasionally, I will hit a really poor shot of the toe (more than I wish) and the shot will fly perfectly. It seems some of the shots that feel off actually record as square. I have gotten use to this and have made adjustments accordingly but if I have friends over to hit balls it ruins my credibility. I have missed it some shots and they have gone 300 yards. They have a FAQ sections specifically discussing this issue. Not a good sign for being accurate.
Another aspect that I do not like with the Optishot is that you have to pick the trajectory of your ball BEFORE you swing. Because it does not use ball sensors, the trajectory of the shot has to be predetermined. I found that when I went to the course I was hitting a very low draw on most of my shots.
One other thing to consider with the Optishot is that you have to calibrate your club before you use it. This means you take some swings so that it can register the swing path and face of each club. This is a pain and takes time. In addition, you need to put in your average distance for each club (which I imagine many golfers exaggerate). Not sure how much this effects the actual distance though so I won’t add it into my golf simulator comparison.
Chipping and Bunkers
I have found that the accuracy of the Optishot in regards to chipping and sand play is not very realistic. To be successful at the short game I developed a simple punch shot worked. This is not something I really want to take to the course.
The accuracy of the Optishot would be a main reason to upgrade.
The P3ProSwing, has 65 sensors that track the club. It will also track the launch angle if you purchase the upgrade. The device has 2 rows for entrance and exit and 1 row for impact. It also has entrance and exit height sensors. More sensors is a plus and should provide a better read of the club. One test of the system using a pendulum showed it is accurate to a couple of degrees.
The downside of the P3ProSwing is that if the lighting is not just right it will miss read the club. In fact, many of your clubs (mostly the woods) that have dark bottoms will not register with the system. They want you to tape your clubs with their special tape. Because the sensors react to the reflection of club, the tape helps provide a good reflection. This would be a pain. Taping each club and then having to take the tape off to go to the course would be a hassle I’m not sure I want to take on.
Also it makes me wonder how accurate the system is if you need a special tape to make it read. The website claims “The patented taping method on a P3ProSwing system allows it to be 99.9% accurate when done properly”. This is not what many of the forums and some reviews say. They point to many misreads and one even saying only to use it during the day. Ouch!
In researching the P3ProSwing, I have not found overwhelming evidence that the P3ProSwing is any more accurate then other club trackers including the Optishot.
The SkyTrak is different then the other two simulators since it tracks the ball and not the club. It uses a photometric approach which “measures what the ball is doing immediately after impact with high speed cameras”. This is known to be more accurate then just tracking the club thus the more expensive price tag. The other thing that resinates with me is that with the Optishot you do not need a ball to have it make a reading. This just seems less accurate than one that tracks the ball instead. You can read more about the Skytrak accuracy and its advantage on their website.
Furthermore, tracking the ball instead of the club allows golfers to use it outdoors as well and does not have the lighting requirements of the other two systems. Here is an accuracy test using Skytrak that shows just how accurate the device is even in outdoor conditions. Impressive.
Comparison #3 – Durability
This is one of the main reasons why I am leaning towards moving on from my Optishot. It just isn’t very durable. Over the course of a year and a half I have had to send my Optishot back THREE times! Each time a group of sensor lights went out. Every time I have had to send it back it takes at least a month to get a new device and it cost me an additional $25 shipping.
Customer service for Optishot is great and they have always sent me another system (a refurbished one) without a hassle. They do have a 30 day money back guarantee yet I have had no problem getting my device fixed. It is just very frustrating to have to continually send it back and be without it for a month. With all this I have begun to wonder how durable this product really is.
With any system that you are hitting into I am sure you risk it breaking. Searching the internet though I could not find anything on the P3ProSwing breaking like my Optishot. P3ProSwing also has a 30 day money back guarantee but most of the complaints seem to stem around miss reads.
Since you are not hitting the actual device with the SkyTrak, I assume it would have less problems with durability. The only issue may be if you plan to take it outdoors or away from your home (which I do not plan to do much).
Comparison #4 – Swing Stats
The Optishot keeps it simple when tracking swing statistics. The main stats it tracks is: Swing Path, Face Angle, Swing Speed, Contact, Distance and Tempo. For the average golfer this is plenty but if you really want to improve there is so much more out there. One thing that confused me at first was the use of positive and negative numbers for swing path and face angle. Positive numbers move away from you and negative numbers move towards you. So a swing that moves outside-in and is closed would be two negative numbers. This took me awhile to figure out.
Also with the swing stats you will see that it gives you an average face angle or path or club speed but as with all averages it can be skewed. One or two miss reads by the machine can throw all the averages out of whack.
Overall, I found that the Optishot swing stats were enough to keep me focused but sometimes I wanted more than what it gave. For example, Optishot will tell you your swing is slight-inside out which can be anywhere from 1 to 3 degrees. This is workable but not ideal.
The P3ProSwing uses a 12 point swing analysis to help you improve your swing:
- Hit Distance
- Carry Distance
- Left/Right of Center
- Up/Down Swing Path (Angle of Attack)
- Swing Path Angle (left/right)
- Club Face Angle
- Toe/Heel Height
- Swing Tempo
- Impact Spot
- Club head Speed
- Video Analysis of Front and Side
- Launch Angle of the ball
For an additional cost you can add a ball spin license. This will give some of the same ball spin data that the SkyTrak gives.
As you can see the P3ProSwing tracks most of the same information as the Optishot but includes key stats such as “Angle of Attack” and “Launch Angle of the ball”. These are important but are they worth the extra cost?
SkyTrak is different than the other two in that since it tracks the ball and not the club it provides different data. The data that it tracks includes: Ball Speed, Launch Angle, Back Spin, Side Spin and Side Angle. This new data would definitely get some getting use to. Here is great video explaining what the SkyTrak data actually means to the golfer.
Overall, I will have to really study what the data means to my swing if I choose SkyTrak but tracking the ball is suppose to be a more accurate analysis.
Comparison #5 – Advanced Features
When doing this golf simulator comparison I have to keep in mind that the Optishot has been great for me for over a year. I have enjoyed the driving range and playing from the par 3 tees. The Optishot comes with just 15 courses but you can purchase more if you like. I have found that I do not play all the course anyway and more may not be better.
The main feature that I have come to like is the “Pinpoint Practice”. It is an accuracy test on the driving range where you attempt to get your ball within certain distances of the pin. The device will track how many you get into each zone (15 feet, 30 feet etc). Very simple yet challenging.
The downside to the practice range and Pinpoint practice is that there are only 6 set distances (flags) to hit towards. To change the distance you have to click on the side tab and then click on a spot on the range to hit from. This took me awhile to figure out and it is very difficult to get the exact distance you want (might be why my 7 iron stats above are so off as I had to do this click on a spot at 145 yard). This needs to be corrected in a future version.
This is an add on item that I have not tried but I thought it might be good to include in this golf simulator comparison. The Mini Tour Season Pass is $49 a year and allows a user to play 2 tournaments a month and gives 26 more courses while the Pro Tour Season Pass gives an additional pro course. I just feel that since the Optishot is not as accurate as other machines that people online would sag bag during the tournaments. I can see people adjusting the swing speed or distance to their advantage (though this is strongly discourage) especially since prizes are on the line. It is a nice option to have and I have debated over and over whether to try it.
The Optishot extras I feel are really limited. The driving range and playing on real course are the big ticket items for the Optishot.
As for advanced features, the P3ProSwing does better than the Optishot. It has what is called an “Entertainment Pack or Skills Competition Pack” which includes a Longest Drive, Closest To The Pin and Hole in One Contest. In these contests, you can compete against players and try to get the highest scores. The Hole in One Contest is just like Closest To Pin but you try, as the title suggests, for a hole in one (good luck on that). These are basic features that could be fun with friends but not much use by myself.
The big feature that I really kind of like is the video capture capabilities of the P3ProSwing. Right now I am using an app on my phone called Swing Profile which is great but having it included with the system would be even better but after reading about it I am not so sure. It may take some technical knowledge to set it up and an external camera which detracts from the attractiveness of the feature. Since I love the Swing Profile app the video capture capabilities may not effect my choice as I continue my golf simulator comparison.
The best feature of the SkyTrak is the Skills Assessment. Since I am really focused on improving my game this feature would be invaluable. The Skills Assessment allows you to “create up to 10 target stations, decide on the number of shots for each, then work your way through your bag”. The data collected includes: Green Accuracy, Shot Dispersion, Tendencies (hit it more left or right) and a Dynamic Handicap. With this kind of data I could really hone in on where my game is lacking. The Optishot and P3ProSwing just don’t match this detail. Below top instructor Jim Hallet (who I use for my drill work) explains the importance and use of the Skill Assessment.
The SkyTrak like the P3Pro has challenges such as Closet to the Pin and Longest Drive but added a new feature called “Bag Mapping”. This is allows you to chart the distances of each club and find the gaps where you need work. Not sure I would use it but it is somewhat interesting.
With the purchase of SkyTrak’s Game Improvement Plan, you also get access to simulation play. Since the SkyTrak is a launch monitor and not a full golf simulator it uses 3rd party software to allow players to play full rounds on real courses. The SkyTrak is compatible with many of the top golf simulation software including WTG, Jack Nicklaus Golf, and The Golf Club. The flexibility is nice and being able to play full rounds is a must have for me.
Comparison #6 – Graphics
Any in-depth golf simulator comparison will take a look at the realism and graphics. While I have not seen the other two simulators in person I can say that the Optishot graphics will compete especially for a $300 simulator. Depending on your computer and projector the graphics will vary. I need to upgrade my projector to really get the full effect of my Optishot. The downside is when your ball lands in the woods or weeds. The graphics do not do a very good job of replicating this. It seems blurry and unrealistic.
Check out the graphics for yourself below:
The P3ProSwing in my opinion does not look very realistic. The other two systems seem to produce a more graphically pleasing experience. Below is an example:
When you combine SkyTrak with the WGT software you get amazing graphics that put the other two rivals to shame. It truly is clear and looks 3D. I was very impressed as I watched the video. No doubt in my mind that SkyTrak graphics are better. Take a look for yourself.
Golf Simulator Comparison
This is a big decision for me and that is why it is important to do a really in-depth golf simulator comparison. If price were no factor this would be an easy decision but since we are talking over a $1000 difference in simulators it makes it tough. In this golf simulator comparison I have taken a look at 6 different aspects. After looking at all the information it is clear to me that the BEST choice would be to upgrade to the SkyTrak. The Optishot will get me by but if I really want to take my game to the next level I need to upgrade. I was not super impressed with the P3ProSwing and don’t think it is much better than the Optishot considering it is almost $800-$1,000 more expensive.
Now the hard part….convincing my wife that the SkyTrak is the right move. I can guarantee she won’t read this great golf simulator comparison.
Wish me luck!