Modern-day golfers are growing more and more tech savvy by the season. That goes for advanced stats shot tracking on the course, how they train their body and recover in between rounds, and where they spend their practice time.
Portable launch monitors have been a catalyst in driving many golfers towards a more data-driven mindset. They have become one of the biggest growth stories in golf tech over the last several years. 2021 was especially newsworthy as several new products entered the space while existing companies updated their hardware or improved their communities.
The data-minded golfer is the winner in all this. You can practically name your price for a portable launch monitor, ranging these days from about $200 up to $4,000. And of course, there are still pro-level Trackman units for those teaching pros or aspiring golfers who crave precise readings at any cost.
If you're interested in improving your swing speed, understanding your true carry distances, or simply practicing on the driving range with more accountability, it's a great time to buy your first portable launch monitor.
Features to consider in a portable launch monitor
At its most basic level, every launch monitor is trying to do the same thing: find out about as much as your swing as possible, instantly, given the technology within the small unit. Each brand is doing very different things when it comes to their marketing and features of their device. Some rely on Bluetooth tethering to a smartphone app while others are a standalone device. Some record video, others track up to 16 metrics while others only stick to four.
As for their apps, some feature games, others can be used for an in-home simulator setup. Using these devices you can play virtual rounds of golf on famous courses around the world, whether you're at the driving range or in your garage.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself before buying a portable launch monitor for yourself or as a gift for a loved one.
What metrics does the device track? At its core, every golfer wants to know their swing speed or ball speed as well as how far they hit their clubs. From there, things get really complicated in terms of axis points and side spin and smash factor. Keep in mind some monitors only track "Total Distance" which is different from "Carry Distance" especially when we're talking about irons.
How accurate is the launch monitor? Generally speaking, the smaller, less expensive devices will have inferior sensor or radar technology compared to the large devices and they admit their unit will be a few yards or degrees or miles-per-hour off. In my experience, the smaller, affordable units will return a few outlier numbers that don't jive with where the ball goes with your own eyes, especially if you haven't lined it up properly.
Does the portable launch monitor take video? Automatically recording videos can be a great perk for golfers who like to analyze their swing. But you'd be surprised how many launch monitors - even at a higher price point, don't offer this.
Do I need my smartphone in order to use the portable launch monitor? If you're on the more tech-savvy side of the spectrum, you can buy a launch monitor that connects to your phone or tablet or even smartwatch. Those golfers who are less interested in smartphone apps, or have an older generation phone, may want a device that doesn't rely on it.
Am I interested in a home golf simulator or hitting net setup? If you have room in your garage or attic for home simulator, your first step is to get a unit that is compatible with some popular consumer setups.
Do I need a subscription to use all the features? A lot of golf tech these days are upselling their devices with additional software only for premium subscribers. That might not sit well with you after you've spent several hundred to several thousand dollars on the unit.
We've done our best to answer these questions in our 2021 buyers guide. We have sorted the top picks from the most affordable ($229) to most expensive ($3,999) Have a follow-up question about launch monitors? Ask us in the comments below or on Twitter using #AskGolfPass
PRGR Portable Launch Monitor 2021
MSRP: $229.99 | Available at SuperSpeedGolf.com
Swing Metrics tracked (5): Swing Speed, Ball Speed, Carry Distance Total Distance mode, and Smash Factor
Record swing video: No
User Experience: PRGR has updated its launch monitor for 2021 and it remains a no-frills but very affordable and portable model that works indoors and out. No phone is required to use the PRGR and its controls are on the unit itself. It keeps a 500-shot history, but you can't export the data to the cloud, so this is a monitor that is used more in the moment. In an independent test, instructor Trillium Rose reported that 3 of its 4 numbers were very consistent with Trackman. Updates for 2021 include a higher-res display, higher quality processor and radar and a shot history of the last 500 shots taken.
Upgrade? PRGR is part of the Super Speed family and is suggested for use not only with your clubs but Super Speed's suite of training products. In fact, there is a holiday bundle available that includes three Overspeed training clubs and the PRGR monitor for $429.99. | View the bundle here
WATCH: The PRGR launch monitor and Super Speed Golf holiday bundle
Swing Caddie SC200+
MSRP: $349.99 | Buy at VoiceCaddie.com
Swing Metrics Tracked (4): Carry Distance, Swing Speed, Ball Speed, Smash Factor
Record Swing Video: No
User Experience: Here's another economical and highly portable unit that does not need a smart phone to use it (although it looks a lot like one). With the SC100 discontinued, the entry level launch monitor for Voice Caddie is now The SC200+, which provides only 4 metrics (you can adjust the carry distance to include rollout), but it has some interesting perks like adjustment of your numbers for atmospheric pressure conditions. Not only can it be used indoor or outdoor but you can also use it without a ball for swing speed practice. It also comes with a small remote control so you don't have to bend over to pick up the unit to change clubs. The unit tracks and stores all your shots and you can view averages for each club on the device itself.
Upgrade? Voice Caddie also has a $499 model, the SC300i, which has advanced features like additional metrics like apex data and launch angle, connecting to a personal phone or tablet app via Bluetooth, provides voice output and remote control.
Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
MSRP: $499 | Currently on sale at GolfBalls.com for $424
Swing Metrics tracked (6): Distance, Ball Speed, Club Speed, Smash Factor, Shot Type, Launch Angle, Launch Direction
Record Swing Video? Yes
User Experience: Rapsodo's MLM has been out for a few years now with a unique device that combines its launch monitor hardware with your iPhone (Android not available). It provides six metrics (carry distance is omitted; it only shows total distance). It promotes an accuracy level for these metrics within 2% of Trackman. Rapsodo is among the smallest and most portable units you can by, thanks to the fact it also relies on your smartphone. The phone can automatically record swing video (100 videos stored free, then you need a premium subscription), a nice perk, and the video will also show your trajectory line, a pretty cool touch. A downside to setting up the phone on the unit however is you have to bend down to pick up the phone to change clubs (you can also wave your club in front of the sensor but it can be finicky). On hot days in full sun, the phone can overheat, so make sure it is shaded by something. | View our full 2020 product review of the Rapsodo MLM
Upgrade: Rapsodo has a $99/yr. premium membership that includes more cloud video storage, additional session insights, slo-mo replay, and access to their "Coach Connect" feature which allows you to share your sessions with top coaches and receive feedback from them through the app.
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Ernest Sports ESB1
MSRP: $499 | Available at ErnestSports.com
Swing Metrics tracked (6): Distance, Ball Speed, Launch Angle, Spin Rate, Club Head Speed, Smash Factor
Record Swing Video? Yes
User Experience: Ernest Sports has multiple consumer and pro-level launch monitor models (we're spotlighting the ESB1 because their $199 ES12 is currently sold out this fall). The ESB1 uses two Doppler radars to track six swing metrics. Like Rapsodo and Garmin it is used in tandem with a mobile app, but unlike those units there is also some on-device display you can view. Using the ES Range App (iOS only at this time), The ESB1 also has some neat features like a voice command that lets you change clubs without tinkering with the unit and start or stop recording video (which has a shot tracer).
Upgrade? All the games for the ESB1 come included with purchase but you can add an engraving for $25. Ernest offers a couple pro-grade models, the Patriot1 and ES Tour Plus.
MSRP: $499 | FlightScopeMevo.com
Swing Metrics Tracked (8): Carry Distance, Clubhead speed, Smash Factor, Apex Height, Flight Time, Ball Speed, Spin Rate, Vertical Launch Angle
Record Video? Yes
User Experience: The Flightscope Mevo is the smallest launch monitor of these listed, making it highly transportable. It is also feature-packed for the price. Used with a phone or tablet app, the Mevo's tiny camera tracks 8 metrics and you can toggle a variety of displays and settings on the app during the session. This includes setting slo-mo video or even setting the altitude of the session. Your sessions can be viewed in the mobile app, but MyFlightScope.com has even more robust reporting for all your swings. A standout UX feature about the Mevo (and Mevo+) is its connectivity to Apple Watch. You can view each swing's data instantly on the watch and toggle between clubs. You can also receive audible alerts to your Airpods, too.
Upgrade? All the app features are free but Mevo does not come with a phone mount, so if you want to take a lot of video, you may want to add on one of their SelfieGolf sticks. Flightscope also sells the Mevo+ for $1,999 (scroll down for details) which includes more games and WiFi connectivity.
Garmin R10 Approach
MSRP: $599 | Currently backordered 6-8 weeks at Garmin.com
Swing Metrics tracked (14): Backspin, SideSpin, Face-to-Path, Launch Direction, Club Path, Club Face, Attack Angle, Launch Angle, Total Distance, Carry Distance, Total Deviation, Carry Deviation Degrees & Yards, Club Speed, Ball Speed, Launch Angle, Launch Direction, Smash Factor, Apex height
Record swing video? Yes
User Experience: Garmin's Approach R10 is a more sophisticated and advanced launch monitor over their original model, the G80, a small hybrid model that doubled as on-course GPS. The R10 is very portable, easy to set up and is controlled with the Garmin Golf app. It promotes a directional accuracy of +/- 1 degree. For distance, +/- 5 yards and +/- 3 mph for clubhead speed. Once you set up the monitor behind your position on the range, you can control everything from your phone and it comes with a phone mount that can attach easily to your golf bag. At this time, the sessions are only accessible on the Garmin Golf app and cannot be viewed on the Garmin Connect desktop app. We'd also hoped for more connectivity between the R10 and Garmin's golf wearables like the Approach s62. | View our full 2021 product review of the Garmin R10 Approach
Upgrade? Garmin has a premium $99/yr. membership where users can play virtual courses via Home Tee Hero and store more video of their sessions.
MSRP: $1999 | Available at RainorShineGolf.com
Swing Metrics Tracked (16): Carry Distance, Clubhead speed, Smash Factor, Apex Heigh, Flight Time, Ball Speed, Spin Rate, Vertical Launch Angle, Horizontal Launch Angle, Lateral Landing, Angle of Attack, Total Distance, Roll Distance, Spin Axis, Spin Loft, Shot Shape
Record Swing Video? Yes
User Experience: At four times the cost of the Mevo and significantly larger in size, the Mevo+ delivers far more features than its little sibling. While the desktop app is the same for viewing sessions, the Mevo+ has a separate mobile app that has more data visualizations of each shot and your sessions. Since the Mevo+ also records shot shaping and spin metrics, it is a particularly strong device when used with a home simulator setup. Purchase of the Mevo+ also comes with 5 golf courses and 17 driving ranges included you can play on simulation as well as the E6 gaming app.
Upgrade? Want to upgrade your garage or basement? The Mevo+ can be used as the technology for a Rain Or Shine Swing Bay home simulator setup ($8,000).
Bushnell Launch Pro
MSRP: $2,999 | Pre-order at Bushnell.com
Swing Metrics Tracked: Carry distance, Ball Speed, Total Spin, Launch Angle, Horizontal Launch Angle, Clubhead Speed, Smash Factor (Additional metrics included in Gold upgrade package: Club path in/out, Angle of attack, Spin Tilt Axis, Back Spin, Side Spin)
Record Swing Video? Yes
User Experience: Rangefinder staple Bushnell has an ambitious entry into the launch monitor space this fall with a partnership with Foresight Sports, which uses camera technology instead of radar. At a foot high and 5 pounds in weight, it is larger than the most portable units and won't fit in your bag but it's still easy to carry to the tee. The launch pro software to use with the device is free for the first year and $99 each year after. This launch monitor is positioned to the side of your ball and not "down the line" like many other units. It also comes with 'club markers' you can attach to your clubheads so it will auto-detect which club was used for the shot.
Upgrade? There are a multitude of upgrade options from their Gold plan to installing a full-on indoor simulator at $11,799 or an indoor net option at $6,500 plus shipping.
Full Swing KIT
MSRP: $3,999 | Available at FullSwingGolf.com
Swing Metrics Tracked (16): Carry Distance, Total Distance, Spin Rate, Spin Axix, Face Angle, Face-to-Path, Attack Angle, Launch Angle, Ball Speed, Club Speed, Smash Factor, Club Path, Horizontal Angle, Apex Height, Side Carry Distance, Side Total Distance
Record Swing Video? Yes
User Experience: Brand new for 2021, golf simulator leader Full Swing has entered the portable launch monitor market with a splash. They've teamed up with Tiger Woods to design a powerful but very portable launch monitor that rivals the pro-grade units seen on Tour with 16 total metrics tracked. They installed patented RADAR tech that is more compact than the larger launch monitor for portability that can fit in your golf bag. It also has a camera built it. It features ultra-connectivity with WiFi and Bluetooth that enables the unit to all your IOS devices, from Apple Watch to iPad and Airpods. From here you see colorful insights and is a 4k camera with 1080p output. You can view metrics instantly on your IOS devices within the free Full Swing app.
Upgrade? Full Swing includes all features and accessories and a free app. There is a premium app at $99/annual fee that offers more historical data and trend analysis. In Q1 2022, Full Swing will offer indoor game play subscription and one-time payment options.