While the most important pieces of golf equipment tend to be fairly obvious, there are also a couple of other things that are worth looking into too. One of the many tools that the average golfer and professional players alike can benefit from is a launch monitor.
Essentially, these devices are used to provide you with information on your game, with things like smash factor, clubhead speed and ball flight data all being noted with every swing.
As you can imagine, having one of these can certainly be beneficial – but let’s take a closer look into why they can be so important for pretty much any golfer.
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What is a personal launch monitor?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, launch monitors have been a part of professional games for quite some time now. With their ability to record data, they’ve become an indispensable tool for any experienced players. In fact, if you watch a PGA Tour, you’re likely to see a launch monitor during the warm-up sessions.
Luckily for those who aren’t in a professional setting and don’t have the cash to fork out on a normal-sized golf launch monitor, there are some excellent portable ones out there.
Much like their standard counterparts, these small devices can provide you with a variety of data on each swing of the ball, whether you’re dealing with large distance gaps or you’re using a pitching wedge.
If you’re looking to improve your game, something like this could make a huge difference and help you to make the most out of your practice sessions. A few examples of launch monitor data include ball speed numbers and your range session, although there are many more.
So, what can we learn from all this? That these tools can be incredibly useful, and this is one of the main reasons why so many individuals choose to have a portable one with them during their practice sessions and games.
How they work
Considering how useful these machines can be, you might be curious as to how they work. There are two main types of personal launch monitor, both of which provide the same results but operate in completely different ways.
Many of them use radar-based systems and the Doppler Effect to get information on your swing. They emit microwaves which the ball interferes with when hit, and by processing the reflections the golf ball causes, the device can track the movement of the ball and gather data which will be presented to you.
Other forms of launch monitor are ones that use high-definition cameras to capture the shot and provide information from there. These are photometric launch monitors. They can typically offer extremely precise data on factors like spin measurements, although can at times be limited in certain situations (for example, when there are bad lighting conditions).
Doppler or photometric?
Out of the two, it’s really up to you which one you decide to get. If you prefer to golf indoors, it might be a good idea to get a photometric one. On the other hand, a radar-based device could be better for outdoor games and practicing.
Overall though, both of them can be excellent and offer accurate (or at least, close to accurate) results as long you choose a good quality brand.
Getting set up
With everything that these devices can offer, it may seem like setting them up would be complex. However, it’s typically not too hard at all. Here’s a quick run through of how to set up a launch monitor, so you can see just how easy it is:
Getting it in place
The first step is to set up your launch monitor, and while this can vary from one device to another, it shouldn’t usually be too difficult to do. All you’ll need to do is make sure that it’s charged and read through the instruction manual and you should be good to go.
Next, you will want to calibrate the monitor, so that you can get accurate readings.
Again, this shouldn’t be too hard. You may need to calibrate it to an app if you’re using a mobile launch monitor, or wait for it to automatically calibrate itself to the environment. It can vary from one machine to another.
Take a few practice shots
Once the set up is done and it’s ready to go, you can finally start the fun part; shooting off some balls with your driver. It’s best to hit a few long range balls for about 10 minutes while watching the data change on the screen, just to make sure that it’s accurate and providing real-time readings. It can also be a good idea to try different clubs too, since this can have an effect on the data.
Benefits of using a golf launch monitor
With plenty to offer, there’s no doubt that using one of these devices can be beneficial – but here are just 5 of the key advantages that they can offer:
1. It can help you to better understand your equipment
There are simply so many different types of gear that you could be using, and if you’re not using the right ones for your play style, you might not be getting great results even if you’re a skilled player. With a launch monitor, you can learn more about what different club heads do and how they affect your game, which is crucial to picking the right equipment.
2. There are a variety of different factors that can affect your game
Outside of equipment, there are many more things that you should consider before you swing. There are simply so many different measurements and parameters to consider, and having a tool like a launch monitor to give you the data of each swing you take, you can learn a lot about the things that can help and hinder your game.
3. You can take the guesswork out of golf
While there’s something quite satisfying about being able to make a good swing on the fly, there’s also a lot to love about having all the info you need right there to help you out. You can find out if your skills and yardages are accurate and how to improve on them for future reference.
4. Being prepared for anything that comes your way
Another one of the key benefits that comes with having a launch monitor on your side is that it can give you a better opportunity to prepare for different conditions and situations. With a good golf simulator, you can have the chance to learn more about specific scenarios and how they could affect your game. For the most part, whether you’re on the golf course or an indoor facility, your launch monitor can help you out.
5. Improving your game
Finally, one of the most important aspects of all is that they can be essential to anybody who is hoping to get better. Golf isn’t an easy sport, and whether you’re a novice or a more experienced player, you could benefit substantially from all the data that a launch monitor has to offer.
Ways to use the data collected by the monitor
As mentioned earlier, these devices can provide you with a broad range of information. However, it may not be quite as useful if you don’t know what to do with it. Here are the main pieces of data it can provide and a brief explanation of what they mean to give you a better idea:
One of the most important aspects to pay attention to is ball speed. As you may have guessed, this is the ball’s speed after impact. The better the hit, the better your total ball speed and distance will be.
Most players will also pay close attention to the smash factor. This measures the energy transfer between the club and ball on impact, which is essentially the strength of the hit. The higher the smash factor, the more powerful the shot will be.
Another vital piece of data is clubhead speed, which is the speed of the club before it makes impact. The faster you hit the ball, the higher your club head speed will be, and the more distance you’re likely to get off the tee.
As the name implies, this tells you the angle of ascent after you strike the ball. Launch angle can be essential if you find your hits to be off and when testing your club heads.
While a little less common than the rest, spin rate is crucial for those who want to get the ideal amount of spin. Spin rates can actually be one of the most important factors in some situations, and thankfully, it’s available on most launch monitors.
This measurement is simply how far the ball travels in the air, a piece of data that can be quite useful when testing different club heads, from fairway woods to iron ones. It can also be useful for anyone who wants to work on their distance control, too.
While there can be other information on offer from certain products too, such as swing speed or driving range, the ones above are likely to be on most devices.
Overall, the shot data that you get can be important in a variety of aspect of your game, helping you to know when to swing faster or choose the right angle of attack when you hit real balls outside of practice mode.
How accurate are personal launch monitors?
While it can depend on the environment and the device you have, most modern launch monitors are incredibly precise. Although, it may not be ideal to use a Doppler launch monitor indoors when hitting into a net, or a photometric one in certain conditions outdoors.
A mobile launch monitor may not always be as accurate, especially if they’re relying on the phone’s camera, although there are still a few good applications out there.
How do you practice with a launch monitor?
Most golfers have used a launch monitor at some point, and you can rest assured that it’s not too difficult to practice with them, especially if you’re working with an instructor.
If you’re alone, all you need to do is understand the data that the device can provide and find out what you’re doing wrong. For example, you might find that your attack angle is off, or that your average ball speed is too low – and with this information, you can adjust your strikes.
You could also find out what you’re doing right too. Perhaps your ball position and strike is spot on, or maybe you’re already doing just fine with distance gapping. Essentially, this could allow you to play to your strengths and hone your skills, which will certainly help to shoot lower scores.
From your wedge game to tee shots, there are plenty of situations that you can learn from and take a step up. Plus, any of the data you get, from your launch angle to carry distance, can help you to fast track your improvement.
Do portable launch monitors work hitting into a net?
While you can hit balls into a net, most radar-based systems won’t be quite as effective due to the fact that the information they receive will be limited. A photometric one may be more efficient with a hitting net, which can be even more useful if you’re using golf simulators.
Which launch monitor is best?
There are a number of great products available on the internet. For the most part, all you’ll need to do is your research and find out which one is best for you, since many of them can offer different features and (most importantly for some) price ranges.
If you’re looking for a good device, it might be worth checking out a product like the Swing Caddie.
Hopefully, all this will give you a better grasp of why launch monitors can be useful and how you could make the most out of one. Better yet, there are quite a few different products for you to choose from, giving you the opportunity to find the perfect one for your needs.