Golf has entered the age of the launch monitor. There are now fittings for every club, balls, and even shoes, all based on the numbers generated by launch monitors. But for many years, access to launch monitors was restricted to those willing to pay $20,000 for a TrackMan or getting 15 minutes in a hitting bay in a golf retailer.
However, in recent years a few companies have popped up offering launch monitors at prices that are more reasonable to the avid amateur golfer. The ability to take your own monitor to the driving range between lessons or create an indoor practice space for the winter is becoming more and more affordable.
And combined with the right software, it’s now feasible to create a full-on simulator in your living room, basement or garage. The leader of the pack for affordable launch monitors is SkyTrak.
The SkyTrak launch monitor is a remarkably compact device that operates wirelessly, so you can take it and set it up pretty much anywhere. It connects wirelessly to a mobile device or computer (I suggest a tablet or laptop computer with a decent-sized screen) and immediately displays your shot on your computer screen.
SkyTrak uses photometric technology, essentially a camera that’s able to collect numerous high-speed images at and immediately after impact. It uses these images to extrapolate the result of your shot, which is displayed on the monitor along with important and informative stats like ball speed, launch angle, side spin, back spin, and shot yardage.
The basic SkyTrak includes a practice driving range with launch monitor numbers. This alone is enough to help the average golfer immensely, and makes wintertime practice possible in cold climates. It does a great job of picking up almost every shot I hit, missing only about 2-3% of the shots.
The most frequently missed shots were full lob wedges that must’ve gone too high too quickly, and the occasional mis-hit driver. Almost every shot off the ground registered and made sense for how it felt. There weren’t any instances of a shot I knew I hooked showing up as a slice. And the distances it returned were spot-on for how long I tend to hit my clubs.
SkyTrak offers annual subscription packages that really open up the possibilities of the launch monitor. The Game Improvement plan, available for $99.95/year, adds a number of features to make practicing more fun and useful. It offers fun upgrades like long-drive contests, closest-to-the-pin, and target practice, as well as environmental controls so you can see how your shots would be affected by different weather.
More importantly, if offers session history which compiles all your stats so you can find out your shot dispersion, yardage gaps between clubs, and other trends in your shot patterns. They call this “bag mapping,” and it’s some of the most valuable information you can get. You’ll find out crucial information that you can take out to the course to minimize big numbers and optimize your golf game. It also offers a skills assessment to help determine your weaknesses and develop drills to improve them.
The software is user-friendly and fairly intuitive to use. With relatively little time invested, you can learn what all the numbers mean and how you can use your practice sessions to improve them. If you have adjustable clubs, the monitor is incredibly useful to determine exactly which settings will benefit you the most.
If you’re interested in upgrading your basic SkyTrak to a full-on golf simulator, you can do that too through one of several one-time or recurring-fee packages. Some of the best golf courses in the world are rendered in gorgeous high-definition graphics, and there are even live online tournaments you can participate in.
The SkyTrak is a major step forward in bringing the ability to practice like the pros into the average golfer’s home. It’s a well-built, well-thought out piece of technology that will benefit absolutely any golfer, from rote beginners to touring professionals.