Contrary to what you see in all those TV commercials, power in golf isn’t restricted to club and ball technologies. It’s not even contained exclusively in the gym. No, in golf today, knowledge is power—and for that matter, accuracy, too. Data unlocks our game’s potential, telling us everything about how we make the clubhead get to the ball, what the positions of the face are at impact, and what happens to the ball as it leaves the clubface and makes its way downrange. The key to that lock, of course, is golf’s modern-day magic box. Like an instant MRI of every shot, the launch monitor spits out the vital numbers of launch angle, backspin and ball speed, along with dozens of other parameters ranging from hang time and smash factor all the way to carry and total distance. Launch monitors today make it digitally clear what our potential can be: They’re the building blocks toward the performance you—or at least your teacher or your clubfitter—knew was in you.
Our Editors’ Choice launch monitors this year again are the Foresight Sports GCQuad (camera-based) and TrackMan 4 (radar-based). These two head the class in the sophistication of their measurement technologies, but also in how they use their data to educate and inspire us. That’s whether we have our sights set on tour trophies, those loving cups they hand out at the member-guest or even just writing down one number less on next Saturday’s scorecard. The GCQuad’s four ultra-high-speed cameras process 20 times the amount of data the original GC2 did and measure every conceivable swing and shot element from impact location to sidespin, all in a unit the height of a decent pyramid of range balls and easily carried in a backpack. More impressive, the system’s software packages can include as slick a golf-course simulator as you’ll find, and enough practice games and training exercises to get you ready for the big time or make you forget about the arcade.
TrackMan 4’s multiple radar system (one to track the club and one to track the ball) is now enhanced with a camera to better illustrate face impacts. Its “Combine” feature puts your full game from driver through wedge through a kind of performance and accuracy stress test to show you what clubs need the most work compared to other players like you or even other players you want to be like. Are these high-end devices a logical purchase for average golfers? No, of course not. We will say this, however: We think Foresight Sports is on the verge of changing the practice-range experience with its “Total Range” packages, and we know that TV broadcasts’ use of TrackMan is making golfers smarter about how they can get better. Finally, let’s be clear: If you’re being fit for golf clubs without the use of a launch monitor, you’re not being fit for golf clubs.
Camera-based: Foresight Sports GCQuad, $18,000
Radar-based: TrackMan 4, $19,000