How Do Portable Launch Monitors Work?

For the most part, any individual who is interested in taking their golf game to the next level needs a good launch monitor. Essentially, these devices are used to measure and calculate the many different factors of what happens when you strike a golf ball. But how do portable launch monitors work?

As you can probably imagine, these can be an indispensable tool for golfers, allowing a player to get access to useful information that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

From the different technology used to the information they can provide, here’s everything you need to know about golf launch monitors.

What are golf launch monitors?

In simple terms; a piece of tech like this is essential for any golf fans. From those who enjoy it on a casual level to professionals playing in tours around the world, these products are essential.

While the cost may seem a little high for some, the insight that they can offer on each of your swings, from spin loft to ball flight, can be useful to novices and professional players alike.

If you want to improve your game, it might be worth finding a good portable launch monitor. We’re here to help you find out a little more about how they work and how to choose the right one.

How does a launch monitor work?

If you look a little closer into these devices, you’re likely to find that there are two main types to choose from. Let’s break them down, so you can get a better idea of what they both have to offer:

1 – Doppler launch monitors

The Doppler monitor works by taking a scientific approach, using the Doppler Effect and radar based systems to track the flight of the ball. The device radiates a microwave signal, which the moving ball interferes with, and reflects the signal back to a sensor in the device.

While this is just a simple explanation, it should be enough to give you an idea of how they function. The technology in these launchers is also used in the defense industry, so you can rest assured that it won’t let you down if you find a good quality machine.

These devices can often provide players with a broad range of information based on the signals, from dynamic loft to the angle of attack and swing speed used.

2 – Photometric launch monitors

On the other hand, there are photometric launchers; a smart camera system developed by Foresight Sports which have HD cameras to capture data from the ball and club at impact, and use its software and algorithms to determine a variety of different parameters, such as ball speed and carry distance (as well as much more).

The Foresight Sports GC2 Smart Camera System can be just as effective as the Doppler launch monitors, with the ability to measure specific details of each golf swing, from back and side spin to the impact of your golf clubs.

What kind of data can they provide?

Both types of launch monitors are able to provide a golfer with a wide variety of information, which is why they can be so valuable to both beginners and experts.

From the ideal ball speed launch angle to the ability to project club data (from club path to clubhead speed), there’s plenty that these pieces of technology have to offer.

Which one is best?

While both of these kinds of launch monitors operate differently, they both have the ability to provide you with a high level of precision. Each take full advantage of their technology (whether it’s camera or Doppler) to record data at impact and show you the information you need.

Generally speaking, as long as you find a good machine, you shouldn’t have to worry – the most important thing to do is consider what you want and find the monitor that best suits you.

A man getting ready to drive a golf ball off the tee

How can you benefit from using a launch monitor?

While we’ve only briefly covered what these launch monitors can do, it’s still quite clear that they are beneficial because of their ability to provide you with invaluable data.

The measurements and information that you’ll have access to can be an incredible help, which is a key reason why launch monitors are commonly used by professional players on the PGA Tour and even club manufacturers.

Could a launch monitor help to improve your game?

For those who play on a more casual level, it may seem like these devices are best suited for the pros.

However, there is one major advantage that could come with having one; it could help you to get better at golf in general.

While this isn’t necessarily a guarantee, the ability to get data on your game could allow you to see where you’re going wrong – as well as what you’re doing right. In a sense, it can provide you with accurate feedback of every swing you take, which can be perfect for anyone looking to improve. Especially if you are not having golf lessons.

How to practice with a launch monitor

In most cases, the data that these devices can provide could do a lot to help you – although it’s important that you know what all this information is and how the feedback relates to your game.

What launch monitor data do you need to know?

Before you decide to get playing, it might be worth learning a little more about the info on offer. Typically, it’s the data that they provide which will make all the difference to your practice sessions. Some of the main ones you should know are:

  • Golf ball speed
  • Carry
  • Clubhead speed
  • Launch direction and launch angle
  • Smash factor (your efficiency when striking a ball)
  • Spin rate
  • Swing data (such as swing plan, or swing changes)

There are many more things that you could consider too, like dynamic loft, distance control, your attack angle and much more. Just take a shot at the ball and use the readings to assist you.

The head you use can also be worth considering, and this is where club head measurement technology comes into play. You can learn even more about club head speed, the effectiveness of your heads, the right face angle to use and the ideal club face for your swing path.

How can knowing all this help?

With a better understanding of how these factors work, you’re likely to find that it’ll be easier to read a launch monitor and make sense of what you’re doing right and wrong – which will ultimately be better for your golf game.

There are actually a wide variety of ways that you can use the info given to you. You could gain a better grasp of distances and how different factors can affect that (from weather to the club you’re using), as well as much more.

With the many statistics that golf simulation software provide, you can also use it to improve your swing tempo, too. You could even use it to try out new clubs and find out how they suit your play style.

When practicing with a golf launch monitor, the main thing to remember is that the statistics and data can be used to help you in a wide variety of ways – you just have to understand how. 

Overall, from the launch angle to carry distance, using a launch monitor during your practice sessions can make a difference and help you to become a better golfer. Rather than just hitting golf balls and relying on your own calculations, it’s often best to learn from a machine that can analyze everything for you and use that analysis to your advantage.

Someone at a golf driving range practicing with their irons and a portable launch monitor

What could you do to improve your golf game?

There are many different things that you could learn about your play style from a launch monitor. For example, ball flight data could help you to better understand how hard to hit the ball, swing speed, attack angle, etc., or even if you’re using the right golf club for a particular situation.

For the most part, if a golf shot isn’t perfect, you can figure out a few possible solutions from launch monitor data – and that’s one of the main reasons why so many golfers make use of these devices.

If you go to a practice area and know how to use these boxes, you could get all the ball data and swing data you need to improve your game. Just set it to practice mode and take a few golf shots to see where you could improve.

How accurate are portable launch monitors?

Typically, the level of precision on golf projections can vary from one golf simulator to another. A decent one will generally offer you accurate readings, although it might be worth considering that there are sometimes margins for error.

On the plus side, they’re generally excellent, and minor misreadings shouldn’t hinder the results too drastically.

How reliable are they on ball speed?

The precision of these devices can extend to a wide variety of factors. From the landing angle, to driving range; there are plenty of things that launch monitor technology can pick up on.

One of the most important factors for any golfer hoping to improve their game is ball speed, and the good news is that modern machines can keep track of this and much more, including the smash factor and club speed.

What’s the better choice; Doppler or photometric?

For example, while radar-based systems can be highly accurate, they tend to be less effective in indoor environments due to the fact that the machine will have to make some assumptions in their results due to the limitations of the area.

So, while they do work when hitting into a net, they might not offer the same level of accuracy as they would in an outdoor area.

Which brands are worth checking out?

When it comes to devices, consistency and reliability are often things that can vary greatly from one machine to another.

The Flightscope Mevo is a portable launch monitor that’s great in many ways, but somewhat limited in terms of precision. However, it’s fairly priced and an excellent choice for those who are starting out.

The Garmin launch monitor is another great product, making use of GPS and radar technology to provide consistency on every shot. As a general rule of thumb, higher quality launch monitors will provide you with higher accuracy, so you should always aim to find a good product when buying.

Ball on a tee at a golf driving range

FAQ section

How do launch monitors measure spin?

While doppler and camera based-devices use different systems and gather information in their own ways, they both provide the same data on a variety of aspects, including the spin rate.
Doppler radar monitors use the oscillator and antenna to generate and radiate a signal, and photometric ones use cameras to capture the info they need; from ball flight data, to back spin.

Is there a launch monitor app?

While there are a few different applications for smartphones that aim to perform the same task, most of them just aren’t quite at the standard of a good launch monitor.

Can golf simulators detect slice?

Slice is a common problem, and can be caused by a number of issues. Thanks to how launch monitors can survey the situation, they can often highlight the issue and help you to avoid it, whether it’s a common issue like the clubface being open or something else.
If you suffer from slice you may also like to read: Best golf balls for a slice

Which is the best golf launch monitor?

While there are several different systems to choose from, there are a number of ones that tend to stand out above the rest.
We mentioned a couple of brands earlier on, but you might also want to look into the machines from a company like Skytrak too. Even if there’s a higher price tag, getting a better device over a lesser one is a no brainer.

Are golf ball launch monitors accurate?

Accuracy is vital for any golfer, and as mentioned previously, there can be different factors that could affect the reliability of a device; from the environment, to the brand. However, most modern ones are highly efficient at surveying the scene and providing accurate data.

How can you use them?

In most cases, launching monitors aren’t hard to set up. When they’re up and ready to go, all you need to do is take your shot and analyze the information.
This could help you with aspects like trajectory, acceleration and understanding yardages, and even how different conditions and variables can affect that (as just a few examples).

Conclusion

If you now have a better grasp of what golf monitoring technologies are and how you can use them to your advantage, you may be interested in getting one for yourself.

There are so many different characteristics and metrics that affect your performance on each swing, and knowing them could make all the difference and allow you to make some improvements ready for when you’re next on the field.

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