Walking the range at a PGA Tour event, it's apparent that although there might be a few tour players who still don't own launch monitors, there aren't any who haven't been on one and don't know what the numbers mean. And that's increasingly true not only for tour players but college players and top junior players, too. And there isn't a single clubfitter on Golf Digest's 100 Best Clubfitters who doesn't use these ball-flight analysis tools the way the rest of us use our cars. Because when it comes to getting your entire game dialed in, the best way to get where you want to go is to know the numbers.
Truth is, golf has become more a game of numbers, and no digits are more intriguing than those produced by the best launch monitors. Though there are many models available at an array of price points, we stayed at the very top of the ladder to select our two favorites. The GCQuad from Foresight Sports, our top pick for camera-based systems, processes 20 times the information about your swing, your clubs, impact and beyond compared to its original model thanks to its four high-speed cameras in a unit not much bigger than a high-end shoe box. Meanwhile, TrackMan 4, our choice for radar-based systems, uses two Doppler radar mechanisms, 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.
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, 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.
GCQuad and TrackMan 4 have expanded their reach to even analyze your putting game, including breaking down launch, skid and roll while also understanding what's wrong (or right) with your stroke before it even gets to the ball.
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.
Camera-based: Foresight Sports GCQuad, $18,000
Radar-based: TrackMan 4, $19,000