Anyone looking for a tool to help with golf game improvement needs a good quality, portable launch monitor. There are some fantastic options available on the market.
Today, we’ll be looking into some of the best personal launch monitors available for less than $500, giving you the chance to get all the information you need to get better without having to go overboard on price.
With that introduction out of the way, let’s get into some tips and recommendations for budget launch monitors.
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Features to look for in golf launch monitors
Of course, the price will be one of the most important factors for those looking for an affordable model, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good product.
To give you a quick idea of what you need to know, here are 5 points that you should keep in mind while shopping around for consumer-grade radar systems and photometric monitors:
- Durability and longevity
- Simple and intuitive interface
To give you a helping hand in making your decision, we’re going to quickly go through the 5 best launch monitors out there for under $500.
1. FlightScope Mevo
The first on this list is the FlightScope Mevo launch monitor – a product that is easily one of the best on the market within the $500 price range.
With plenty of swing data, from ball speed to flight time, you can often learn quite a bit about your shots with the help of these portable launch monitors. You can even get more accurate data for indoor usage when hitting a net using small metallic stickers, which gives it even more usability.
The mobile app only improves the device’s functionality, offering new features like the Skills Challenge to help make practice a little more interesting.
Additionally, if this isn’t enough and you have a higher budget, you could even get the FlightScope Mevo Plus upgrade, which offers even more! From lateral data to additional metrics, there are a few reasons why it could be well worth the extra cash.
- It has excellent battery life.
- The Mevo can track key data like vertical launch angle, ball speed, smash factor, and much more.
- This launch monitor is one of the most precise in this price range
- All-round great quality despite its low cost
- Data overlay on videos recorded on the app for a clearer reading of how you can improve
- It doesn’t provide any 3D lateral data, making improving aspects like slice and swing accuracy.
- If you don’t use the metallic stickers, it’s not as accurate at recording data like carrying distance and spin rate indoors.
Want to check our in-depth review of FlightScope Mevo Review? Check out: FlightScope Mevo Review
2. Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
Most customers find that there’s a lot to love about the Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor, which is one of the main reasons it’s one of the best choices within this price range. It’s just as good as other consumer-level radar units, and in some ways, it’s even better.
For example, using Doppler radar technology and the camera on your mobile phone, you’ll often be able to rely on the shot data you get from this device. This is certainly a bonus for anyone’s practice sessions!
While some might find that Rapsodo’s launch monitor is a little too reliant on the smartphone app, it’s a product that has a lot to offer and can be an excellent choice for new and experienced golfers alike as long as you have a compatible iOS device.
Unfortunately for Android users, there isn’t a compatible app for these smartphones just yet.
- Easy to use and carry around with you
- Interesting features, like the shot-tracer graphics and clubhead detector
- While a little off in places, it’s a highly accurate device overall
- Using your phone’s GPS can be even more useful on the golf course
- It has one of the most extensive mobile apps, which easily makes it one of the best launch monitors
- The Rapsodo doesn’t show spin rate, which can be quite an important metric to have
- It relies heavily on smartphones and is only compatible with iOS devices.
Want to read the in-depth review of Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor? Check out: Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor Review
3. Garmin Approach G80
As a primarily GPS company, it shouldn’t surprise that this product offers excellent GPS capabilities. However, this doesn’t mean that the Garmin Approach G80 lacks its functionality as a launch monitor. It offers accuracy comparable to most of the others on this list.
There are various ways developers put the GPS to good use, from the broad range of maps available on the device to the different features, such as Plays like (which takes elevation into account) and Stat Tracking (providing a bird’s eye view of the game).
While it doesn’t have the most extensive metrics, it offers the most important ones, like ball speed, smashes factor, and swing tempo.
Overall, if you’re looking for a model that can help you to work on hitting a target distance and more, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to look into the Garmin Approach G80.
- Great in both launch monitor and GPS functionalities
- The GPS unit comes with over 40,000 courses and easy to use map functionality
- Additional features like target mode and practice mode
- It’s easy to use, both in set up and while playing
- 15-hour battery life to allow you to play for longer
- Not quite as accurate or extensive as other products in this price range
- If you just want a launch monitor, you could find similar features for a lower price on other devices
4. Voice Caddie Swing Caddie SC300i
This Swing Caddie unit may not look too different from its predecessor model, but there’s a lot more in store for those who purchase the SC300i.
The Swing Caddie SC300i is an excellent choice in many ways, with features like voice output and simplicity only making it even better.
The target mode and practice mode can also be a great way to focus on different aspects of your game and make your practice sessions a little more interesting.
The smartphone app can also help make your Swing Caddie a more functional launch monitor, with the addition of spin rate and newer sensors making it far more efficient.
With this in mind, it’s a worthwhile option for those looking for the best launch monitor for a low price.
While often known as the Swing Caddie SC300, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the same model. The original SC300 has been discontinued.
- The interface is clear and easy to use
- Plenty of data points for you to examine; from smash, factor to carry, and total yardages
- With its Doppler radar technology, you can rely on accurate shot data on the golf course.
- Upgrades to the smartphone app have only helped to make the unit even better.
- It’s not always the best for indoor use, and to make the most out of it, you’ll typically want to practice at the range.
- While it has a good battery life, it tends to take quite a while to charge fully.
5. PRGR Black Pocket Launch Monitor
Anyone looking for the simplest yet accurate launch monitor available should consider taking a closer look into this particular model from PRGR. Featuring all the important measurements, from launch angle to ball speed, it’s a unit that you can rely on to get the job done.
Most users will find that the Launch Monitor is one of the most basic choices on this list, preceding flashy features and graphics for a simple, accurate unit that you can easily carry around with you in your pocket.
Since it uses a Doppler radar system and doesn’t have a mobile app to connect to, it’s usually not the best model to pick for an indoor launch monitor.
Additionally, it’s not as comprehensive as other models, but it can be an excellent purchase for anyone starting and looking for a good product to get to grips with.
- It’s an incredibly straightforward and easy to use a budget launch monitor
- The Doppler radar technology is highly accurate, so you can ensure you get the data you need
- Due to its simplicity, it’s also much easier to set up
- Ball speed, launch angle, smash factor, and a few more data points
- It’s one of the most affordable options on the market for its quality
- It’s a fairly basic launch monitor; it can provide decent results, but there are no extensive and advanced statistics, which you might need if you want to take your game up a notch.
- Unlike most launch monitors in this price range, the PRGR Black Pocket Launch Monitor doesn’t have a mobile app.
- If you’re looking for something to impress your golfing buddies, this might not be it.
What to look for in a golf launch monitor?
With everything that the products can potentially offer, it’s not hard to see why so many golfers use these tools in their practice sessions.
Of course, you may not get the most advanced bag mapping functions or more comprehensive features from cheaper models, but from the 5 examples above, you can see just how much you could get from a unit under $500.
Luckily for those of you who aren’t entirely sure what to buy, we’re here to help you with a quick golf launch monitor guide to buying the perfect one for your needs.
The most important consideration of all: How will it be used?
Ideally, you’ll want to pick a launch monitor that suits your needs, and there are often a variety of things to consider in this regard before buying.
What are the differences in launch monitor technology?
For example, if you’re planning on playing indoors and swinging into a net, it might not be a great idea to go for a model that solely relies on a Doppler radar system since these are best suited to the range and measuring distances.
Likewise, photometric systems aren’t always the most effective out on the golf course. So in this aspect alone, you can see that your decision will be vital to getting accurate data.
Different kinds of ball data
Typically, the type of metrics that you’ll get from your device will be similar since most will have the more common measurements. However, there are some that you may not see as often.
As a whole, your swing and ball flight data can be essential, and whether you want to hit your target distance or get some key spin metrics, it’s worth considering how different statistics can help you improve.
Here are some examples of common data provided by portable launch monitors:
Golf ball speed is another one of the essential pieces of data you can get from a personal launch monitor.
While calculating this can often be quite complex, it’s easy to understand what it does; it measures the speed of the ball when the clubhead clears it. Ball speed is often essential for estimating carry distance, too.
When looking around for a good golf launch monitor, you’re likely to find that most of them will have carry distance.
Geared more towards outdoor launch monitor model users, carry distance is excellent for those who prefer to practice out on the range but is still important even when hitting a net.
Like ball speed, clubhead speed is a fairly simple stat to understand; it measures the speed the clubhead travels before hitting the ball.
Once again, this factor is essential to carry distance.
Another essential piece of data found on most of the best golf launch monitor’s launch angles is the measurement of the trajectory of your shots.
This can be so important because understanding it and mastering it can impact your game.
Smash factor is more or less a combination of club speed and ball speed together; a statistic that shows the club’s impact on the ball.
Since this is popular among customers, most golf launch monitors can calculate the smash factor.
While not included on every personal launch monitor out there, ball spin rate can be essential, considering factors like backspin and sidespin.
Typically, camera-based golf launch monitors are better at detecting spin rate than radar ones.
Key points for consideration before buying
Does it fit your budget?
There are truly some excellent launch monitors available for great prices, although there are certainly some more premium devices that might be well outside of your budget, so be mindful of this while shopping around.
How long is it likely to last?
Even if you’re not looking for expensive launch monitors, you can still find quality devices that will stick around for many years.
How small is it?
When buying a portable launch monitor, size matters – after all, you want to be able to fit it into your golf bag and still have plenty of room for all your other gear.
Is it easy enough to use?
Nobody likes to deal with complex technology when they have other things to do, so simplicity is often key for any professional launch monitor. From the interface to set up, be sure to remember the ease of use.
Data overlay is a feature worth considering since it can make it easier to see how the statistics compare to your actions.
What information can you get from the device?
From launch angle to swing speed, measurements are one of the most important things that a launch monitor has to offer since these are the main points that you’ll be following when working on your game.
How accurate is it?
While metrics are necessary, they may not mean much to a golfer if the device itself isn’t accurate. Of course, most expensive launch monitors will have a variety of measurements as well as accurate readings, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find both in cheaper models, too.
Can a launch monitor detect a slice?
It depends on the model. While some of them can visualize your shots in various ways (including slices), those that provide 2D data may not be able to provide the same information.
Do launch monitors work when hitting into a net?
Typically, photometric launch monitors are ideal for hitting into a net, while the functionality of radar systems tends to be lacking when it comes to indoor use.
Will a launch monitor improve your game?
If you use it right and pay attention to the data, there’s a good chance that you’ll get better with a good quality golf launch monitor on your side.
What do launch monitors tell you?
Dispersion data, swing data, and shot data can all be essential to your game improvement. However, it is worth noting that there are many more that you could find while searching around on the golf launch monitor market, and in most cases, it can be worth looking into what these are if you come across them.
By learning to control factors like swing speed and how your impact affects ball flight, you can drastically improve your skills as a golfer.
These are a few good examples of other metrics for vertical launch angle, swing tempo, and club speed measurements, although these are far from all the available data points.
What launch monitor do the pros use?
Professional golfers use several higher-end models, such as the Foresight Sports GC2, SkyTrak, and Trackman units. While these are far more expensive, they are more popular among the experts.
So, what’s the best golf launch monitor for you? Well, while we don’t know for sure which one you’ll find to be the most useful, we would certainly recommend the FlightScope Mevo launch monitor.
While it’s not without its flaws, it’s a great product with data and accuracy comparable to far more expensive products like Sky Trak, which you won’t want to miss out on for such a great price. While the Rapsodo is on the same level, it’s unfortunately not as widely accessible and therefore isn’t even an option for some golfers.
Whether you choose the Flightscope Mevo or any of the other launch monitors mentioned on this list, we’re certain that you’ll be happy with the results.