Golf has become more a game of numbers, and no digits are more intriguing than those produced by the best launch monitors. We've got two favorites. The GCQuad from Foresight Sports processes 20 times the information of its original model thanks to its four high-speed cameras in a unit not much bigger than a shoe box. TrackMan 4 uses two Doppler radar-based systems, one that tracks the ball and another ultra-high frequency system that monitors the clubhead, all in a total package that weighs barely more than your laptop.
It used to be that instructors would deconstruct your swing by saying, "The golf ball doesn't lie," the point being that teachers could learn everything they needed to know about your swing's flaws by watching the flight of the ball. But today, any swing diagnosis is just as likely to include the phrase "check the numbers," as in look at the launch monitor. Using sophisticated cameras or radar-based detection, the top launch monitors give instant readouts on a litany of performance parameters, all invisible to the naked eye but each a vital piece in dissecting and improving distance, accuracy and efficiency of motion.
Today's launch monitors go way beyond detecting the basic parameters behind how your ball is flying. They of course see the crucial triumvirate of ball flight: launch angle, ball speed and spin. But the top models also see what the clubhead is doing on its way up to and at impact, including face angle, angle of attack into the ball, face rotation in the downswing and even the specific location on the face where club meets ball. These systems also provide details on where the ball is going and how it's getting there. They record maximum height, the angle the ball lands as it hits the ground, and the basics of carry distance and total distance. These devices are providing deep-dive details on every kind of shot from your littlest chip to your biggest drive. They'll even diagnose your putts.
But beyond all those numbers, we especially like how the GCQuad and the TrackMan 4 are more than just recording devices. They're inspirational practice tools, moving you in the direction of ball-flight paradigms. TrackMan 4 can connect to as many as six external cameras to match a video of your swing to the launch numbers it's producing. TrackMan also offers its "Combine" feature, a way to test yourself through the bag to see how consistent your game is at every distance under pressure and how it stacks up against the best players in the game.
In addition to cloud-based data storage of your swing's vital statistics, the GCQuad's software includes golf-simulator capabilities with 60 courses to choose from and a set of game-inspired animation overlays that turn any range into an arcade.
Launch monitors give us the one thing the game has desperately needed: a specific way to understand not only what we're doing, but how we're improving. None do it better than GCQuad and TrackMan 4.
Camera: Foresight Sports GCQuad, $18,000
Radar: TrackMan 4, $25,000