Expert Guide: The Best Golf Launch Monitors
Golfers like to make an impression.; whether it's a fancy golf bag, an expensive golf club, or a launch monitor, golfers go out of their way to make a statement.
Most golfers would agree that if they're going to spend their hard-earned money on the best golf launch monitors, they need to be practical, affordable, and, most importantly, accurate.
The Flightscope Mevo+, for instance, is a high-end, professional-grade golf launch monitor that easily tracks your ball flight data and spin axis. Golfers will love the built-in stand, which makes aligning the monitor simple. The Mevo+ has an elegant design, is constructed using highly durable materials, and provides accurate data metrics.
Garmin has been designing quality launch monitors for years, and the Garmin R10 is no exception. With its all-black design and removable tripod, the Garmin R10 exceeds expectations by displaying club and ball data, making it one of the best golf launch monitors out there.
The Garmin R10 is a portable launch monitor manufactured with high-grade materials, and its sleek design makes it the perfect choice for golfers who travel frequently.
The SkyTrak is a personal launch monitor delivering real-time metrics on everything from carry distance to ball flight, along with other data points. The SkyTrak is even used by Masters Champion and Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam; not a bad endorsement, right?
What Is A Golf launch Monitor?
A golf launch monitor uses doppler radar or high-speed cameras to measure and track data. Typically launch monitors are placed behind or to the side of your hitting area and can be used on a simulator or driving range. These metrics include:
- Club speed
- Carry distance
- Ball speed
- Club path
- Spin axis,
- Smash factor and a whole lot more.
Depending on the price, the type and accuracy of data will vary. That said, golfing technology has come a long way, like in the case of professional launch monitors, but even budget launch monitors like the Garmin R10 prove to be incredibly accurate and reliable.
Doppler Radar Technology
Simply put, radar systems take advantage of Doppler radar to track objects, in this case, a golf ball. Doppler radar bounces the microwaves off these objects and sends and receives feedback to calculate and provide valuable golf club and ball speed data.
Tour-level radar launch monitors, such as the TrackMan and FlightScope X3, feature two cameras and larger Doppler radars capable of tracking your golf ball from impact to landing. More affordable units like the Garmin R10 and the FlightScope Mevo + have smaller Doppler radar units.
For Doppler radar systems to work effectively, they need to be placed in a large enough area to "track the ball" before it hits the net or screen. Hence ensuring you have ample space is critical, especially when looking for accurate data.
Photometric Launch Monitor and Camera
Alternatively, photometric technology takes advantage of high-speed cameras that track the golf ball immediately after impact. The photometric technology then uses sophisticated simulation software to calculate accurate data points such as launch angle, flight of the golf ball, club path, and carry distance.
If you're one of those lucky golfers who have both the space and the budget, then photometric launch monitors make the ideal choice. Not only do they make a great launch monitor, but they produce highly accurate and consistent ball data and club data.
Golf launch monitors such as the Garmin Approach R10, SkyTrak, and Mevo+ provide golfers with accurate, consistent, and reliable data at an affordable price; there's a reason they lead the way in the launch monitor market.
Features Of The Best Golf Launch Monitors
While measuring the flight of the golf ball is the primary purpose for each launch monitor, most offer additional features like tracking club data and carry distance. Some allow for golf simulation, while others include features to record video clips of your swing.
You may also find simulator play, like long-drive contests and closest-to-the-pin challenges, which add an element of fun to your practice sessions.
Launch Monitor Accuracy
The Skytrak launch monitor and FlightScope Mevo+ launch monitor we've found equally accurate when tested head-to-head with tour-level devices such as the FlightScope X3 and Trackman. Regarding performance, each launch monitor provides reliable data metrics and accuracy across the board compared to any other launch monitor.
In terms of price, they are comparable, especially when it comes to the five main parameters the market is measured on:
- Ball Speed
- Launch Angle
- Sidespin, and
- Side Angle
Are You After The Best Budget Launch Monitor?
For those looking for something more affordable, the Garmin R10 is the best budget launch monitor and utilizes radar technology.
Garmin has been designing quality devices in the cycling niche for decades and, in recent years, has made a big splash in the golf industry.
The Garmin R10 has redefined golfing technology by delivering shot data and club speed, previously only available with a much higher-end launch monitor. Additionally, the R10 leads the way in golf simulation, making it, in our opinion, the best budget golf launch monitor on the market.
Our customers rave about the features of the Garmin R10 and are particularly impressed with the amount of technology included at such an affordable price. The Garmin R10 uses doppler radar technology to track your club path and can be used inside and out. The R10 is a great little portable launch monitor and is easy to set up.
One feature that users find valuable is the Garmin R10 supports golf simulator play. Users need to download the app to use the R10, but that said, you get access to metrics like spin axis, and club speed and you can even take advantage of the golf simulation to play courses and compete for prize money.
The Garmin Golf App also allows golfers to measure their data on the virtual driving range and play bucket-list golf courses from around the world.
Your stats will also include carry distance and total distance, allowing you to spot your weaknesses. Why is that important? Because that data can help you plan practice sessions to work on areas of your game that need improving.
Want to capture video of your swing? The Garmin makes it easy. Simply place your phone or device behind the teeing area and get instant feedback on data like ball speed and club head speed.
Our rigorous testing showed the Garmin R10 launch monitor provides golfers with reliable data points like:
- Club speed
- Ball speed
- Club face angle
- Spin axis, Smash Factor, and
- Ball flight data + more
Additionally, the shot tracer has a 90's video game vibe, which, to be honest, I find charming, not to mention it conjures up memories of me dominating Space Invaders back in the day.
The golf technology on the Garmin launch monitor does its job consistently and reliably and delivers 10 hours of battery life, resulting in more time on the driving range.
Simulator Space Required To Install Your Launch Monitor
The Skytrak is better placed as an indoor unit and can be used in a relatively small space (around 2m-3m of ball flight). Basically, anywhere you have room to swing a driver.
The FlightScope Mevo+ can be used indoors and outdoors and, as a base package, includes more software than the Skytrak launch monitor. The same can be said with the Garmin Approach R10; however, it requires about 5.1m of space to be accurate (2.4m from Mevo+ to the ball, 2.4m from ball to screen/net, 0.3m behind the screen to allow for the screen to expand during impact).
Anything above 2.85m is workable, depending on the player's height. As a rule of thumb, 3m is usually fine. To find the right launch monitor, you need to consider if you're using it inside or out. There's no use spending your hard-earned cash on a launch monitor that doesn't fit your needs.
Launch Monitor Portability
For most golfers, portability is a factor they take seriously, especially when it comes to the best golf launch monitors. Yes, depending on where you plan to use your launch monitor does matter, but knowing it's a portable launch monitor can make things much easier.
Take, for instance, the Garmin R10, which is slightly smaller when compared to the Mevo+, although we do find the case considerably bulkier, which you may want to factor in.
If you're hoping for a portable launch monitor, then the FlightScope Mevo+ is probably your best option considering its sleek and relatively lightweight design. Battery life on the FlightScope Mevo+ is only 90 minutes. An interesting side note is that our real-world testing did confirm the 90-minute battery life.
Setting Up Your Launch Monitor
Many launch monitors can be a nightmare to set up, but you'll be glad to know that when it comes to setting up these launch monitors, you will be pleasantly surprised. The Garmin R10, for example, is simple to set up and connects to Bluetooth, while the FlightScope Mevo+ and SkyTrak come with their own Wi-Fi network.
The FlightScope Mevo+ works exceptionally well; however, that said, if you're using a mobile device without a cellular plan, you may experience some problems connecting and downloading your data metrics. It can be a bit "finicky" setting it up initially, as you'll have to ensure you're disconnected from all Wi-Fi networks. This is particularly true if you have already downloaded the app.
The beauty of the SkyTrak launch monitor and Garmin R10 (Garmin golf app) is that they have a stand-alone app that is user-friendly and simple to set up. FlightScope Mevo was under some scrutiny, but as all good brands do, they heeded their customer's advice and combined both the FS Golf app and the FS Skills app.
The easiest of the three golf launch monitors to set up is the SkyTrak, specifically the physical device itself. If the launch monitor is level, it's pretty much plug-and-play without much hassle.
Alternatively, the FlightScope Mevo+ offers users more options, which is an excellent added feature for those looking to individualize their launch monitor to their specific settings.
Some of the options golfers have are:
- Choosing your golf ball
- Adjusting the weather
- Modifying the elevation
Similar to the Garmin R10, you may experience some problems if you haven't initially set the launch monitor variables correctly; the inaccuracy of essential putting analysis may result. In terms of alignment, the FlightScope Mevo+ is the clear leader over the Garmin R10 launch monitor, as it allows golfers to adjust alignment within the app.
Expert Tip: When setting the Garmin R10 launch monitor up for the first time, make sure you have alignment sticks and a tape measure to help you accurately read ball speed, club data, and ball flight.
FS Golf App VS Garmin Golf App VS SkyTrak App
When it comes to the apps of each golf launch monitor, the Garmin Approach R10 is clearly the most user-friendly and provides a stress-free experience for beginners. Compared to the FS Golf and SkyTrak, the Garmin R10 is the better app.
As mentioned, the interface is simple to use even for the least "tech-savvy" golfer. Although the Garmin app doesn't have all the "bells and whistles," it still offers all the essential settings you need to improve your game where it really matters; out on the course.
That being said, if you're a golfer who wants to "delve a bit deeper" into the metrics, a higher-end launch monitor might be better suited.
Business, Practice, Or Fun? Which Launch Monitor Is Best For You?
If you're a club fitter or PGA professional looking to gather data, you'll likely need to look at enterprise solutions. The Mevo+, with its ProPackage Data upgrade, offers fitting capabilities, and the bag-mapping feature is exceptional.
A $600-$1000 radar-based launch monitor also does an excellent job for recreational golfers looking for club performance data. At the $600-$1000 price point, the Garmin R10 is a quality launch monitor and offers golfers ample shot data to help enhance their game.For those looking to have a good time with friends, units that offer games like "closest to the pin" or "long drive comps" are your best option. For example, the SkyTrak comes jam-packed with a selection of simulator play and launch monitor technology that extends the unit's capabilities beyond just swing capture.
6 Expert Takeaways For Launch Monitors
Let's take a quick look at the six takeaways every golfer needs to know about launch monitors.
Type of Launch Monitor
Depending on where you intend to use your launch monitor will influence the one you need. Before purchasing your golf launch monitor, consider factors like where you'll be using it and whether or not you have enough dedicated space to get the most out of it.
Launch Monitor Battery
There's nothing worse than being halfway through practice sessions, looking down, and seeing your battery life is in low-power mode. The two primary factors impacting battery life are the length of your practice session and camera use. Battery life, though, won't be an issue if you remember to charge it beforehand.
Launch Monitor Tech
Thanks to modern-day technology, golf launch monitors have come a long way. They provide golfers with accurate and consistent data and are considerably cheaper than the golf launch monitors of years gone by. If you're serious about improving your golf game, you need a launch monitor.
Value For Money
As with any portable launch monitor, there's always room for improvement; that being said, the best golf launch monitors now offer incredible value for money, especially considering the club data and metrics you get access to. All the launch models we tested did an excellent job of measuring launch angle and ball speed.
To ensure you get the most accurate ball speed data from any launch monitor, use the same golf balls you use on course. Using different golf balls or, God forbid, a "driving range ball" will play havoc with the shot data.
Inside or Out
One last factor to consider is the location you use your golf launch monitor. Take, for instance, our test results on the Skytrak launch monitor. When testing the Skytrack outside, it took 3 X longer to read the ball flight data than inside. Not a great result, especially if you want accurate club and ball data.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Accurate Is The Garmin Approach R10 Launch Monitor?
According to Garmin, the Garmin golf launch monitor comes with accuracy, which ranges between +/- 4.8 kph for clubhead speed and 1.6 kph for ball speed. The Garmin r10 launch monitor also boasts an impressive +/- 1° reading for launch direction and launch angle and +/- 4.5 meters for carry distance. When rigorously tested, we found the Garmin golf launch monitor incredibly accurate.
What Data Can I Get From A Personal Golf Launch Monitor?
Golf launch monitors are available across a wide range of prices. That said, if you own a golf launch monitor in the $2000 price range, you should get access to data points such as ball speed, ball flight, launch angle, carry and spin. However, you'll need to consider higher-end units if you're a numbers geek and want more detailed data like club head speed and offline and dispersion stats.
Is It Worth Buying A Golf Launch Monitor?
YES, Whether you're a club golfer, a pro, or want to have some fun, a golf launch monitor will improve all areas of your golf game. Golf launch monitors allow you to track data like ball flight, speed, and launch angle. This data is invaluable because it provides an instant overview of your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to pinpoint areas of your golf game that need improvement.
What Is Smash Factor?
Simply put, Smash Factor is ball speed divided by club head speed. For instance, let's say you swing your 3-wood at 100mph generating 150 mph of ball speed. Here the Smash Factor would be 1.50. Basically, the higher the Smash Factor, the more ball speed you create for a specific club.
Does The Garmin R10 Require A Subscription?
Garmin offers users the option of both free and paid subscriptions. Garmin has made subscriptions very affordable at just $14.99 AUD per month or $144.99 AUD annually. While the free option is great, we highly recommend purchasing the membership subscription to take advantage of all the data, not to mention features like access to 42,000 golf courses and green contours for nearly 9,000 courses.
Are Golf Launch Monitors Worth It?
We believe golf launch monitors are worth every penny. Not only do launch monitors provide in-depth club data on your golf swing, but they also provide your friends and family with years and years of fun. Golf launch monitors are the most effective way to analyze your shot data and lower your handicap from the comfort of your home.
Do Golf Launch Monitors Improve Your Golf?
A golf launch monitor is jam-packed with golf technology and will help you bomb longer drives, putt better, and stripe your long irons like a frozen rope. All the data you need plus more is instantly displayed with the best launch monitor. With a golf launch monitor, there's no more guessing during your practice sessions. You get all the accurate data you need to manage your golf game and, more importantly, lower your handicap.
How Much Does A Golf Launch Monitor Cost?
Golf launch monitors range in price from a few hundred dollars, such as the Garmin R10, right up to 5-figures for a higher-end unit. Before purchasing your launch monitor, consider factors such as your budget, how often you'll be using it, and where you'll be using it. With the advancement in golf technology, launch monitors like the Garmin Approach R10 are now extremely affordable for club, recreational, and pro golfers.