Unlike Carl Spackler's fantasy in Caddyshack, the Golf Launchpad is almost too real. I hit a lot of bad shots in golf, and I hit a lot of bad shots in Tiger Woods golf using the Golf Launchpad. This USB controller from a company called Electric-Spin is not new (see my awful swing in this old product video), and its new feature won't be ready until sometime this summer, but that didn't stop Crave from taking some hacks with it now that spring has sprung.
The Golf Launchpad lets you use your own clubs to hit a tethered golf ball. It works with Tiger Woods PGA Tour games (2003-2007), Microsoft Links, and Hot Shots Fore and works with PCs, Macs, and the PS2. And next month, it might just work with your DVR to let you play alongside the pros during televised golf tournaments. Electric-Spin has partnered with digital TV company NDS and will release this functionality this summer--perhaps in time for the U.S. Open next month? (I've always wanted to play at Oakmont.) You'll need a DVR box that features NDS' XTVReady interactive TV technology; the NDS Web site lists a bunch of international cable providers along with DirectTV. Electric-Spin told me it plans to work with all broadcasters on all platforms. The idea is that you would plug the Golf Launchpad into the USB port on the back of your set-top box and play right in front of your TV in your living room. I'm having a hard time envisioning how the Golf Launchpad will work with a live golf tournament on TV instead of a golf video game, but Electric-Spin is not sharing details on this functionality just yet.
What I do know is that you'd better have cathedral ceilings if you plan on squeezing in a round in the middle of your living room. Although Electric-Spin claims you can swing a short iron in your home, I was unable to swing even a sand wedge in a room with an 8-foot ceiling. For my money, the best way to enjoy the Golf Launchpad is outside. I hooked it up to a laptop and headed to the backyard so that I could take full swings with both woods and irons without worrying about putting a hole in my ceiling. Trouble is that the Golf Launchpad's sensors didn't work under cloudy skies. I was able to play under blue skies, but clouds seemed to confuse the sensors. Still, if you're a golf nut and are looking for a way to practice your swing while making Tiger Woods golf much more challenging, the $249 ($199 for the PS2) Golf Launchpad is a worth the investment. (The PC/Mac version ships with Tiger Woods 2006.)
Crave will revisit the Golf Launchpad this summer when the set-top box feature is introduced. Perhaps I'll have corrected my fierce slice by then.