Trackman envy? A guide to personal launch monitors you can afford

Mobile launch monitors continue to grow in popularity and drop in price, bringing shot tracking to amateur golfers
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Malaska on using a mobile launch monitor at the range

Editor's Note: Click here for the latest 2021 roundup of portable launch monitors

By now, any avid golfer knows what a Trackman is, or even FlightScope. These are professional launch monitors, used by instructors and perhaps more importantly, clubfitters. With a wealth of technology, they can measure ball speed, launch angle, spin rates (both back spin and side spin), carry distance and overall distance, just to name a few. They are also expensive – about $20,000. So basically they're unaffordable for the average golfer, plus you'd have to have a bay to set them up in, more than likely.

What you want, if you're interested in this kind of technology, is something portable and a lot less expensive. Fortunately, technology in most everything is evolving at such a rapid rate that even highly sophisticated launch monitors are available in small packages at a much smaller price tag. We're not suggesting one that costs 1/50th of the large units is as accurate, but you might be surprised at how good some of these products are.

Furthermore, if you know how to use them – or have a pro who can help you – they can substantially improve your practice, making it much more productive. Simply put, you can get valuable feedback every time you practice if you know your numbers.

Here's a look at some options:

PRGR Black portable launch monitor ($229)

The affordable PRGR is very compact and mobile.

If nothing less than Tour-quality performance and a dizzying amount of information will suffice, you’ll have to shell out a five-figure sum for it. But if you want clear, important information that can aid your practice, you can get it for less than $200 in Japanese equipment manufacturer PRGR’s new launch monitor.

The simple, battery-powered unit provides swing speed, ball speed, smash factor and carry and total distance estimates. If you want to know how far you hit your current clubs, or want to track your progress as you try to increase your swing speed or quality of strike, this device is an excellent value.

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PRGR and Super Speed Golf holiday bundle

Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor (MSRP: $499) 2019 Update

Rapsodo has typically been a measuring device for baseball and softball and in 2019 they've brought their launch monitor tech to golf. It's beautifully portable at just 10.3 ounces and 5.3 inches long. This MLM works by calibrating your iPhone and placing it on the device, about 8 feet behind you. The device collects six measurements: ball speed, smash factor, distance, launch angle, launch direction and clubhead speed.

The device uses your phone's camera to take real-time video with added shot tracer of each shot. It also promotes a feature that auto-detects which club you have in your bag by waving it in front of the sensor for three seconds (works reasonably well).

This is a brand new product launched in July, 2019 and there are still some new features being added to the app, like the ability to adjust the club titles of your bag. It is also only avaiable on Apple iOS at the moment. (Read Brandon Tucker's full review of the Rapsodo MLM here)

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Demo of Rapsodo MLM

Swing Caddie SC200 ($350)

The Swing Caddie SC 200, from Voice Caddie. is also among the most affordable, it's fairly accurate and even talks to you. The best part is that's also very easy to use.

While it doesn't actually measure spin rate (which is one of the most valuable features of Trackman, for example), it gives you plenty of other information. Like Trackman and Flightscope, it uses Doppler radar, which is amazing, considering its size is close to that of an iPhone 6. And unlike some other portable devices, it's self-contained; no need to pair it with a phone. It uses four AAA batteries and comes with a remote control.

And here are some of the cool features: It has a barometric pressure sensor to adjust for more accurate readings. You can adjust it for different lofts of clubs for more accuracy. And it will store all your statics.

As far as reading go, you can get ball speed, clubhead speed, smash factor, carry and total distance. Additionally, you can use for it practice, set it for Random or Target mode and play games and see how you score. No doubt, this makes practice more fun and productive.

Ironically, what this portable launch monitor doesn't do is report the launch angle of your shots, though that information is certainly used in the calculations of carry and distance.

FlightScope Xi Tour (reduced to $9,000), FlightScope Mevo ($500)

The Mevo for golf is FlightScope's smallest launch monitor.

If money isn't an issue, the FlightScope Xi Tour is the closest thing to having one of the big boys. Because not only does this unit do what the Swing Caddie does, but it measures so much more like spin rate, side spin, launch angle, attack angle, face to target, face to path, swing plane (both vertical and horizontally) as well as a provide a club acceleration profile.

The FlightScope Xi Tour is fairly easy to use and it interfaces with an iPad or other device. Because it's more sophisticated, it can provide more data as well as a variety of graphs that can tell you more about your game and even help with club-fitting. You can see a virtual representation of your swing and you can play FlightScope Skills challenges. As the name would imply, it's popular with professional golfers.

The drawback, of course, is that while it's portable, it is bigger than other portable devices, so you're not going to put this in your golf bag, even without the iPad. But for serious students of the game and even instructors, this is probably money well-spent without having to finance it like an automobile.

Of course, most golfers aren't in the market for a $9,000 portable launch monitor. FlightScope realizes this, and so two years ago they introduced the Mevo, which provides a more basic but helpful set of stats for the retail golfer.

Mevo is, by comparison, a steal at $500. It uses similar Doppler radar technology to FlightScope's more expensive offerings, but it is understandably less sophisticated, less sensitive. Nevertheless, the company touts a high enough level of accuracy that it will provide data that can help golfers improve their games.

Some advanced stats are not available with Mevo, but the biggies are: clubhead speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rate and carry, plus flight time and peak height. For the vast majority of recreational golfers and even many serious competitive players, that is plenty of information to work with.

Portability is a big asset of Mevo; chances are it's no larger or heavier than your smartphone. The free app that comes with it is pretty easy to use as well, just as long as you adjust the settings for indoor or outdoor hitting. But assembling and quickly analyzing the data from a given session - including deleting outlier shots - is quite easy and intuitive.

SkyTrak ($2,000)

Like FlightScope, SkyTrak is more sophisticated than the Swing Caddie, but isn't nearly as portable. But you can set up a virtual driving range in your house or garage, or even better, use it as a golf simulator to play famous courses from around the world.

Similar to the FlightScope Xi, it can hook up wirelessly to your iPad or personal computer and if you have a large monitor or big screen TV, you can set it up like the golf simulators that cost thousands of dollars more. Obviously, this is more difficult to take to the range, but not prohibitive. But it can can be used for game improvement, entertainment or both.

Ernest Sports ES14 ($550)

The Ernest Sports ES14 is very portable and hooks up with a mobile device via Bluetooth.

Like the Swing Caddie, the Ernest Sports ES14 is portable, but unlike the Swing Caddie, it isn't all self-contained. It uses Bluetooth to connect with a phone or iPad. It measures swing speed, ball speed, and smash factor, but also calculates spin rates instead of measuring them directly.

Unlike the Swing Caddie, which sits behind the ball, the ES14 is placed in front of the ball and at an angle, so if you hit a shank, it is possible to destroy it.

6 Min Read
August 24, 2021
Garmin's new golf product in 2021 features 14 swing metrics recorded, plus the option for video in a portable device.
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Updated 8/23/19, 04:03 PM: New devices added and updated for 2019
Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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I use the Garmin g80 and find it very accurate as a launch monitor. It also doubles as my gps with about 40,000 preloaded course.

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Why for the SkyTrak ($2,000) didn't you mention any features it does or doesn't include... spin rate? Launch angle? Etc.

This information about launch monitors is probably old and I didn't see it. I tried the swing caddie, I was looking to get more precise w/ my wedges simple shots from 40 yds to 110 yds but I found the swing caddie to be very poor at this shorter distance. Which led me to be very skeptical of longer distances as well. Has anyone tested reliability for shorter shots w/ any of these devices.

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This article says the skytrak isn't nearly as portable? How come? It seems small enough.

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Hey Mike, great article, I found it extremely helpful.

I ended up going with SkyTrak and it's been great for working on some problem areas, but even more fun with having the guys over for beers and to play a round of golf.

I actually came across a golf simulator package on that featured the SkyTrak and cost me $6,500.

With how launch monitors keep changing and growing I suspect that an even more affordable and just as accurate one will be out in the next 5 years.

Anyone here have SkyTrac? I'm considering it and would love to get another's opinion.

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I have an impact net and a tee mat set up indoors where I can hit real balls, but if im trying to fix a slice, which unit(s), if any of them, can measure my face angle and stuff the best to tell if there would be a slice or hook on the shot? as I cant tell in the short distance of space im hitting in if its going to end up anything less than straight.

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Can a portable monitor work hitting toward a net in backyard ?

It should work just fine with a net since the measurements are taken in the vicinity of the ball at impact.

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Mevo and Swing Caddie SC200 are both very good. Personally, I prefer the Mevo because I like to store the data on my ipad. The one thing all the smaller monitors lack is angle of attack. I utilize that data extensively. If money isn't a problem, definitely check out Foresight's Quad. It is in a word, "awesome

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The advantage the ES14 has over the Swing Caddie is that you can record your data in your smart device. This allows you to export the data as well as go back and review the logs in your smart device. The ES14 also talks to you but from your smart device. Its a great teaching tool and has been widely accepted by teaching pros world wide for the ease of use and accuracy. Plus price point on this is $499. Its definitely a launch monitor worth looking into.

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Trackman envy? A guide to personal launch monitors you can afford