Creativity has become a byproduct of COVID-19 as contributor Gary Van Sickle can attest. While sheltering in place, he transformed his garage into an indoor golf range thanks to OptiShot's Golf in a Box
This comes from the Office of Silver Linings: Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that shut down the economy and Pennsylvania’s golf courses for almost two months, my garage is now a golf range.
I got tired of waiting for courses to reopen so for reasons of sanity, I made a do-it-yourself jailbreak. The solution was courtesy of OptiShot 2, a simulator program I purchased and downloaded on my laptop.
How did I turn my Pittsburgh-area garage from a messy disaster area into a golf range? One step at a time. It was so easy, even a caveman could do it as long as he had a laptop and Wi-Fi.
It starts with finding a place at home with room for a golf simulator area. I needed enough room to swing a golf club without smashing a lamp or taking a divot out of the ceiling. That ruled out the low-ceiling basement, since I’m not a Smurf. I considered the foyer because of its 20-foot ceiling but the “boss” selfishly ruled that my golf range could not be a few steps from the front door. So, that left the garage, which had plenty of room.
OptiShot offers one-stop shopping with something called Golf in a Box ($799). It comes with everything I need for a portable golf simulator. It starts with the OptiShot 2 swing pad — a square of artificial turf with optical infrared sensors that analyze shots and displays them on the attached computer screen. It also comes with a hitting net, a stance mat, adjustable rubber tees and two foam golf balls.
Did I say it comes with everything? Bad Caveman. I had to supply the computer and display screen.
I went online and downloaded the OptiShot 2 software that includes 15 courses and a practice range where I get launch data on each swing.
The program is compatible with PC or Apple. Despite my Caveman’s limited technical skills, I got it all downloaded onto my MacBook Pro and was on the first tee at Golf Club of Scottsdale in less than an hour. Hey, it took a lot longer than that the rearrange the garage.
Pick a course and start playing. It really is golf-in-a-box and during the pandemic, it was a hot ticket.
“These are crazy times and stressful for a lot of people,” said Trevor Faust, OptiShot’s vice president of global sales. “It’s unfortunate. But we’re in a niche market where we’ve seen a significant increase in sales. We were up 500 percent for March and April and we’ve been able to navigate through the supply chain and keep on track.”
At OptiShotGolf.com, the Detroit-area-based company is able to ship orders within three to five days despite the recent surge in demand.
The golf experience that OptiShot 2 delivers is pretty good. All right, it’s not perfect and it certainly isn’t going to match the depth of quality of full-sized simulators that cost anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000.
I wish the swing pad turf square was slightly larger and I got better results when I hooked up additional lighting. But for a desperate Caveman shut-in like me, it’s a nice affordable option.
“No one is going to say OptiShot is better than the high-end simulators or a Trackman launch monitor but we’re a pretty good value,” Faust said. “For the price, there’s nothing like it. You can find better graphics or software but you’re going to spend ten times as much. With Golf-in-a-Box, we tried to create a turn-key solution.”
Faust is familiar with the business model. He used to work for aboutGolf, the simulator-maker based in Maumee, Ohio, and he spent four years as a PGA Tour representative for TrackMan Golf, the gold standard of launch
The basic OptiShot 2, just the sensor swing pad, cable and balls minus the net and stance mat, sells for $379. But OptiShot offers upgraded packages.
Golf in a Box 2 ($1,200) comes with a bigger, better net. Golf in a Box 3 ($2,800) includes a mounted projector (with bracket) and a large sensor screen to hit into — similar to the high-end simulator setups that provide an immersive feeling. Golf in a Box PRO ($5,000) features a retractable, swing-out sensor screen.
“Simulator technology from 15 years ago to now has continued to improve dramatically,” Faust said. “The accuracy you can get is pretty impressive.”
There’s a bonus to unpacking Golf in a Box. OptiShot has an on-line program called Season Pass that includes access to select famous courses and a competition aspect. The Mini-Tour Season Pass ($60 per year) allows the user to play an additional 25 well-known tournament courses. For trademark reasons, the courses are given different names but the lineup includes Hogan’s Alley (Riviera), Jones Lake (East Lake), Golden Gate Club (Olympic Club), Blue Behemoth (Doral Blue Monster); Monterey Classic (Pebble Beach), Old Scot (Old Course) and Jack’s Dream (Muirfield Village).
The pass also provides entry into at least two online tournaments a month.
While OptiShot was originally known as a swing-pad solution, it has established a base in online competition, which could be an even bigger business. Faust said there are 100,000 engaged OptiShot users and the online tournaments, which have prizes and sponsors, are handicapped and divided into flights.
“It’s a nice community,” Faust said, “and we’ve continued to grow it.”
OptiShot offers a game-improvement capability with its OptiShot Academy. With the help of four Michigan-based PGA professionals, it has compiled a library of 400 online instruction videos. They’re short clips, between one and six minutes long, and subscribers navigate the library on their own.
OptiShot adds up to a lot of golf in one box. As a result, I’ve been very busy in my garage. If the “boss” asks what I’m doing out there, just say I’m cleaning.
That’s believable, right?
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