Best Launch Monitors
When it comes to improving your game, if you’re going to get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are to start—and every step along the way. That’s why tour players have a launch monitor with them every week, even out on the course during a practice round.
That same attention to detail is increasingly possible for average golfers with their self-improvement plan, and while the best launch monitors are a luxury investment, some of the more basic units cost less than a set of clubs and serve as a legitimate gauge of whether what you’re doing and what you’re working on is the right stuff.
$500 and under
At $500, the MLM from Rapsodo is a better practice buddy than that teammate in high school who always brought the large, economy-size Gatorade and party-size Doritos. You’ll get instant readouts of important performance metrics like ball speed, launch angle and distance, but since the technology runs off your smartphone’s camera, you’ll get a video of every swing to analyze, as well. It tracks your practice session and archives them so you can see what you were doing compared to what you are doing now. Plus, the gapping feature tracks yardage averages with each club in a practice session to see if you’re getting the ideal distance spacing between clubs you need. [Note: Rapsodo MLM is an official corporate partner of Golf Digest.]
$2000 and under
The next level up are personal launch monitor devices that double as simulators. The camera-based or “photometric” SkyTrak and the radar-based Mevo+ mix the shot metrics you need from a practice session, including launch, spin, ball speed and distance, but add the game-playing feature that you might pay 10 times as much for. Both are about $2,000 for the basic unit and work well indoors (the SkyTrak requires less room and so is a more versatile alternative for varying indoor spaces, although with both there is the additional cost for the extras like course software, hitting mat, net and monitor screen). The Mevo+, whose technology is based on the successful Flightscope family of launch monitors and works with the Flightscope app for keeping track of performance over time, offers better outdoor functionality for the range and easily fits in your golf bag. The Mevo+ tracks a meaty 16 ball and swing data points, including carry and total distance, clubhead speed, ball speed, smash factor, spin rate, launch angle and angle of attack.
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Finally, if you want a tour level tool, there is no substitute for the GCQuad (photometric) or Trackman 4 (radar), the two most popular full-throttle devices used by the game’s elite players. What these machines employ, in addition to being able to analyze putting launch and roll data, is not only all the feasible launch conditions and distance metrics you or your fitter or teacher can imagine, but a way to see what the club is doing and how tight your impact pattern is on the face. So for example if you’ve noticed that your spin is low but your ball speed is off, those higher impact locations will let you know you’re not maximizing energy transfer. Both also work as simulators, too, and are equally portable so you’ll be able to see how well you‘re taking your range game to the course.