Portable launch monitors continue to proliferate as amatuer golfers get smarter about how all the numbers like launch angle, ball speed, apex and spin rates add up to create the ball flight they have. Garmin, best known in golf for its wearable GPS devices, is the latest company to go big into launch monitors with their new Garmin Approach R10.
This isn't technically Garmin's first-ever launch monitor. Their G80 device was a handheld GPS/Launch Monitor hybrid that could be used on the course as GPS and also track swings either on the course or at the range. But the G80's launch monitor component was fairly limiting, providing four simple metrics.
The R10 is no such hybrid. Its aim is a consumer-priced launch monitor ($599 MSRP) for avid golfers seeking advanced swing data that can be used at the driving range, indoors or in your backyard. The R10 is a slick unit that is just 8 ounces and packs up into a carrying case that will easily fit into your golf bag or use the clip to attach it to the outside of it like a rangefinder.
The Garmin R10: Setup
Setup with the Garmin R10 is quite easy: Turn on the unit, boot up the Garmin Golf app on your smartphone, and pair the monitor and phone in your bluetooth settings. The device attaches magnetically to a tripod, which should be set six feet straight behind your hitting area and will blink green when it's ready to go. It also comes with a carrying clip for your phone that attaches anywhere on your golf bag so you don't have to bend over or pick up the device itself to change clubs or view recent data.
As far as being a "dummy-proof" gadget, as long as you can connect it to bluetooth and can access the garmin Golf app on your phone, you'll be fine.
The Garmin R10: User Experience
In order to use the R10, your smartphone's Garmin Golf app (free) will need to be running for the duration of the session. The only button on the monitor itself is a power button. You'll use the phone app to select clubs (having already set up my bag in my Garmin Golf app, it knew which clubs I had) and view your results. Rest assured, if you forget to change clubs in the app, you can edit it in the app.
The app instantly returns 14 metrics from the popular carry distance, smash factor and ball speed to the more detailed, like spin rate and spin axis. It is a little surreal to receive your "Carry Distance" audibly from the app before your ball has hit the ground. But launch monitors these days are able to gather just about everything they need from impact.
It's also worth mentioning that you can use your phone to automatically record video of each swing. I recorded swings both down the line and to the side. The app will then assign the swing video to each shot in the session. You can export these videos to your phone's storage if you'd like.
To view all the ways the R10 charts each swing from apex to club path, click on the three screen shots in this tweet:
You can select which one of the 14 metrics you'd like to receive audibly (if at all). If you have AirPods or other headphones, I'd recommend using those so the person next to you on the range doesn't have to hear about your spin rates or apex or whatever. The battery of the device is also quite good with up to 10 hours of battery life (an hour session drained just 10%).
The app also has a "notes" feature for each shot so you can tag it "good" or "bad" and write down things like "tried weaker grip" or "50% wedge."
Shortcomings of the Garmin R10
Overall the Garmin Approach R10 is very easy to set up and generally accurate. It's also addicting to use and helps gamify your dull range session. But, with some additional integration, it could be excellent. Garmin has a whole suite of golf and fitness products at this time, from golf/activity watches to the CT10 club sensors. Their chief advantage in the launch monitor realm could be associating it with its smartwatches, club sensors and A.I.-fueled Virtual Caddie. At this time, however, the R10 doesn't connect to anything but the Garmin Golf smartphone app. For example, I'd like to able to start a range session on my s42 or s62 watch and receive real time results to it, and not just on the phone display. Enabling the sessions from a Garmin watch could also conceivably open up the option to record fitness data within the session as well. Or, if you have the CT10 club sensors, the app would ideally detect which club you're hitting automatically instead of having to toggle these items on the phone app. Range sessions could even fuel your Garmin watch's Virtual Caddie intelligence more accurately than the on-course data itself because you can get a more accurate carry number (The Approach s62 can't detect the precise finish of your approach shot unless you have the CT10 censor starter pack for putting and wedges).
I've also shouted into various clouds over the years about many golf apps owning your scoring or swing data and not making it easily exportable (GolfPad is an applaudable exception). With the R10 specifically, I'd like to be able to export or download my data in .xls or .csv format, or email it to my coach, who can look at my session from home. The only real way to see your numbers is via the Garmin Golf phone app. It's not yet available on Garmin's desktop Connect app. (Rapsodo, for example, has their Coach Connect feature that allows you to share sessions with coaches via their portal. | View full Rapsodo MLM review)
Is the Approach R10 accurate? Like any launch monitor I've tried at this price, the occasional ball hit didn't seem to return accurate numbers (I know I striped that 8-iron, but it didn't carry 184 yards - that might be due to alignment error). Garmin's specs on the R10 indicate a range of +/- 5 yards for carry distance, +/- 1mph for ball speed, +/- 3mph for clubhead speed, and within 1 degree of launch angle/direction. I also found that a few topped hybrids had inaccurate carry distances. But, if you're examining your swings overall, you should be able to see the signal beyond the noise. (Note: A Garmin R10 message board has some users who say using the unit indoors is returning woefully short yardage).
Additional notes: Using the Garmin Approach R10's range session feature is free, but you have to subscribe for cloud video storage, plus other simulator games like Home Tee Hero, Weekly Tournament and E6 Connect. ($9.99/mo. or $99 annually). As of publishing, the Garmin website was indicating the R10 is backordered by 6-8 weeks. Other sites are suggesting backorders up to 12 weeks.
Why should golfers use a launch monitor?
Like any tech, launch monitors should be used for good and not evil. In a recent session, I found myself trying to raise my swing speed with my driver. I got it up to 114mph from 109mph (boom!), but I'm a little fearful that in the process I got into some sloppy or dangerous habits. I did, however, watch a GolfPass video tip from Devan Bonebrake this week recently about setup with the driver. My driver launch has been pretty low lately, and the reminder of tilting my spine angle a little with the driver was an "Aha!" moment for me. I was able to apply this tip and the R10 to improve my launch angle and carry distance.
Launch monitors are an investment but a highly powerful piece of technology that can be very illuminating when used properly. I recently spoke with top instructor Mike Malaska about the ways mobile launch monitors can help his students: