The 6 Best Golf Launch Monitors
How Launch Monitors Work
Ultimately, every monitor provides a host of data that you can use to pinpoint holes in your game.
They take numerous pictures during this time, allowing the monitor to record things like ball velocity, club angle, spin rates, and more.
Radar. High speed cameras. Complicated algorithms. All marvels of modern technology, the pinnacles of millennia of human tool development, things that previous generations would likely condemn as witchcraft were they to see them firsthand.
And we use them to improve our golf swings.
All of that state-of-the-art tech is used in a golf launch monitor, analyzing enough information to navigate the space shuttle, but using it instead to figure out the hitch in your swing.
Some monitors use Doppler technology — the same kind your local weatherman uses — to analyze the full flight of your ball after you hit it. They then use the flight information of the ball to extrapolate how you struck it, exposing any flaws in your mechanics.
This technology literally evolved from the kind the military uses to track missiles, so show some respect.
Other models use high speed cameras that inspect the first couple feet of the ball's trajectory. They take numerous pictures during this time, allowing the monitor to record things like ball velocity, club angle, spin rates, and more. This gives them all the info they need to tell what the full flight of the ball would be, and where you'd end up on the course.
Ultimately, every monitor provides a host of data that you can use to pinpoint holes in your game. What data they provide varies by model, but chances are any monitor will give you plenty of information to start rebuilding your swing.
How A Launch Monitor Can Help You Shave Strokes Off Your Game
Launch monitors are impressive tools, but that's all they are — tools. Don't expect one of these to immediately turn you into Jordan Spieth in a single afternoon. Still, if you've struggled with your handicap, these machines may help you identify weaknesses that the naked eye had previously missed.
With that in mind, most experts would recommend that you use one under the watchful eye of a swing coach or course pro. You may be overwhelmed by information, or find yourself focusing on data points that aren't really that important.
This gives you an immediate leg up on the competition, allowing your club head to square up on the ball nearly every time without requiring swing correction.
The first way a monitor can help you occurs long before you ever set foot on a course. You can use one when you're getting fitted for clubs to ensure that your sticks are matched to your swing. This gives you an immediate leg up on the competition, allowing your club head to square up on the ball nearly every time without requiring swing correction.
One of the most important data points to consider is launch speed. Simply put, the harder you hit the ball, the further it's likely to go (provided you don't hit it directly at a tree or a water hazard, of course). If you're not getting much distance on your drives, it may be due to an inability to generate speed off the tee. This gives you something to work on with your coach.
You'll also be able to see your launch angle, which will determine how high the ball will fly once it's in the air. A ball hit hard and at a good angle will get you to the green in fewer strokes (which, of course, will put more pressure on you not to choke on that putt). If you're hitting the ball too high or too low, the monitor will reveal it, and then it's up to you to correct it.
However, be careful how much emphasis you place on each particular swing. Remember, one swing equals one data point — nothing more. You're looking to see what your average readings are on your normal swings, so don't go crazy over-correcting after every stroke.
And if it turns out you can't correct your swing, here's an equation you can use to still get the most out of your monitor: fun = swing + booze/time.
What To Look For In A Launch Monitor
While just about any monitor, if used properly, can improve your game, that doesn't mean that they're all created equal. Below are a few things to keep in mind before you buy one, so that you get the most bang for your buck.
Some measure things like barometric pressure and other weather variables, which is great if you're trying to determine what time of day is best for your game.
First off, it helps to know if there are any particular aspects of your game that you're most interested in working on before you commit to a particular model. For instance, if you're curious about how much spin you're putting on your drives, make sure you get a unit that measures spin rate.
Next, think about where you'll be using it. If you're taking it out on the course or the range, then a Doppler model might be your best bet. If you have limited space to swing or you practice indoors, you'll likely want a high speed camera unit instead.
Beyond that, it's all about what bells and whistles you want (and are willing to pay for). Some measure things like barometric pressure and other weather variables, which is great if you're trying to determine what time of day is best for your game. Others can communicate with your smartphone, allowing you to analyze your data at any time, like in a boring meeting or during one of your kid's dance recitals.
Regardless of which unit you choose, having a launch monitor will bring you one step closer to the perfect swing. Of course, the downside is that owning one leaves you with one less excuse as to why you can never break 80.