Golf Launch Monitor Guide: The Best Products For Recreational Golfers
Over the past 5-10 years, there has been an explosion of golf launch monitors. While there are still plenty of expensive models out there, one area that has improved is the budget category.
This guide is intended to evaluate launch monitors for recreational golfers.
I’ll cover some of the basics for some of the commercial-quality products like Trackman and Foresight, but the main emphasis will be on products priced $2000 and below.
Budget Category ($500 & Under)
I know all of you want to save as much money as possible, so I’ll start with the less expensive golf launch monitors out there.
In this category, you will be getting basic information. None of the products at this level will give you simulated ball flight, which might be a deal-breaker for some of you. However, you can expect to get reasonable accuracy on your carry distances, spin rates, and a few other characteristics.
Swing Caddie SC200 Plus & SC300i
Swing Caddie has been one of the leaders in this category for a long time. The SC100 and SC200 launch monitors were extremely popular since, but are now both discontinued. The SC200 Plus has taken their place and is still one of the best all-around values for $289.
The SC200 Plus is easy to set up, has fairly accurate distances, and a few practice games that I like. The added a function to measure swing speed also makes it a great companion for swing speed training with SuperSpeed Golf.
In my full review of the SC200 Plus, I put it to the test against SkyTrak indoors, which is $1700 more expensive. I was very impressed with the results which you can see in the following table:
|Club||SkyTrak Yardage||SC200 Yardage||% Difference|
|Pitch Shot (LW)||53.8||55.6||3.29|
Swing Caddie also has a premium model – the SC300i, which is priced at $449 now. I got a chance to test it out and it has some impressive upgrades such as a smartphone app and enhanced data such as spin rate. You can read my full review here.
Voice Caddie SC200 Purchase Link (lowest price available)
Voice Caddie SC300i Purchase Link (lowest price available)
Released in late 2019, the Rapsodo MLM is another strong contender in this category. My testing found the unit to be extremely accurate – you can read my full review here. Additionally, the app features tons of data and video capability that really sets it apart from the competition.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks. The Rapsodo MLM requires your cell phone to track shots, which gave me some issues with battery usage. The MLM also lacks indoor functionality, which can be a deal-breaker for some golfers. But for the $500, you get a ton of features and great accuracy. I would definitely consider it one of the best overall products at this moment.
Update: Rapsodo is offering Practical Golf readers an exclusive discount on their MLM Launch monitor for a limited time here.
Golfers were extremely excited when FlightScope announced its Mevo launch monitor last year. At only $499, it boasts some features that are available in products that cost thousands of dollars more.
Compared to Voice Caddie SC200, it has some extra features such as:
- Spin rate
- Launch angle
- Total Height
Additionally, it also comes with an app that stores all of your data and allows for video swing analysis.
In my testing I found the FlightScope Mevo to be very accurate for carry distances. However, on areas like spin rate and launch angle the unit struggled a little bit based on where you use it.
Since it is a radar-based system, it needs more room indoors to see the ball travel. You can get more accurate numbers by attaching a small metallic sticker on your ball, but overall I found the spin rates indoors to be relatively inaccurate.
If you plan on using the Mevo at the range, I think you’ll see far more reliable numbers. The only caveat is that you need to attach the metallic sticker to your golf ball before each shot. You can purchase 1,000 of them for $25, which is reasonably inexpensive. Some golfers might find it a nuisance to attach them before each shot.
Overall, at $499 the FlightScope Mevo is an excellent choice for golfers who want a little more data, and want to stay within their budget.
PRGR Launch Monitor
The PRGR launch monitor was recently introduced at a lower price of $199. The unit has been available in Japan for several years and repurposed for the American market.
I had my suspicions about this tiny launch monitor that looks very unimpressive. However, during testing, I was shocked by its accuracy and ability to work both indoors and outside. You can read my full review here.
Garmin Approach G80
This is a new addition to the category from Garmin. The Approach G80 functions both as a GPS map on the golf course, and a launch monitor during your practice sessions. In my testing, I found the yardage numbers to be very accurate, which makes this an interesting value proposition because of its dual functionality. On top of that, it had a great lineup of practice features. This is definitely one of the best releases of 2019 so far.
You can find out more in my review here.
Which Budget Launch Monitor Should You Buy?
I get TONS of messages from golfers who are a little overwhelmed by the options and don’t know which launch monitor to purchase. I’ll try to simplify that decision based on your budget.
- If you want an entry-level unit and don’t want to invest a lot of money, go with the PRGR (purchase link). It’s less than $200, but this no-frills offering is very accurate. Also, you can use it as a swing-speed radar if you are training with SuperSpeed Golf.
- My favorite overall value right now is the SC200 Plus from Swing Caddie (purchase link). For $289, you get enhanced features such as practice games, a wireless remote, and the ability to use it as a swing-speed radar.
- If you value features such as apps and enhanced data, and your budget is closer to $450 – $500, my two picks are the Rapsodo MLM (purchase link) and the Swing Caddie SC300 (purchase link). The Rapsodo unit is perhaps a little more accurate, and the app is more robust but requires the use of extra hardware such as your iPhone or iPad. If you value simplicity and ease of use, then the SC300 might be a better choice for you.
If you’re still stumped, don’t hesitate to contact me with questions here.
SkyTrak – The Best Overall Option ($2,000)
SkyTrak was a significant breakthrough in the golf launch monitor market when it came out. Recreational golfers now have access to a launch monitor that can provide very accurate ball data and allow for full simulation of golf courses.
Priced at $2,000 it is more expensive than the budget launch monitors, but it offers far more data. SkyTrak gives a simulated (and very accurate) representation of your ball flight. You’ll also have access to critical data such as distance, launch angle, spin rate, ball speed, dispersion, and other measurements.
Additionally, you have access to play simulated golf courses through some of the most popular packages such as World Golf Tour, TruGolf, The Golf Club Game, and several others.
I have owned SkyTrak for a year now and I love it. You can read my in-depth review here, and also my complete guide to home golf simulators to give you some ideas on home setups. Overall, it is a great practice companion and incredibly fun to play simulated courses in the comfort of your home.
If you have the budget, I believe this is the best overall launch monitor option for recreational golfers.
Thoughts On Commercial Launch Monitors
I am sure you have heard of other launch monitors from companies like Trackman, Foresight Sports, and FlightScope. They offer more information about your golf swing along with your ball flight. Additionally, they are more accurate than the budget models discussed.
There’s only one problem. Products like Trackman are incredibly expensive. Depending on which model you purchase, a commercial launch monitor can set you back anywhere between $5,000 to more than $20,000.
Most golfers don’t have that kind of budget. On top of that, I believe the information they offer is overkill for most golfers. These launch monitors are best suited for teaching professionals, club fitters, and advanced players.
Wrapping It Up
If you are in the market for a golf launch monitor, and you don’t have a huge budget, there are now multiple options available. If used correctly, they can be handy practice companions. This article explores ideas on how to practice with launch monitors effectively.
If you are looking for a quality net to go along with your launch monitor, we recommend reading our Spornia SPG-7 review.
Here some related articles I have written on equipment you can use with your launch monitor:
Nice reviews on products and very useful. I’m in the process of setting up a indoor practice area in my garage and researching products to use. Its nice you have links to reviews on nets and mats. I’m going to check them out too.
Any under $500 Launch Monitors that ALSO show the
(A) Launch Angle
(B) Spin Rate
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The only two that will display spin rates & launch angle are the Swing Caddie SC300 (spin rates through its mobile app) and the FlightScope Mevo. Thanks for reading the newsletter!
I notice you don’t include any of the ES products. Like the ES12,14, or the brand new ES-B1.
Is there a reason, or are you just not familiar with them?
I would also be interested to know your thoughts on the ES B1.
I’m looking for a good indoor monitor that also syncs with a phone or iPad to provide video replay of my swing (from the side or back) sync’ed with my swing being detected from the launch monitor . Do any of these products or the SkyTrak do that?
Skytrak has a deal with swing catalyst I believe it is. You need a special camera for a true swing analysis though.
Pete Mohs says
Do any of these launch monitors show you the flight path of the ball?
Pete – the only launch monitor in the consumer category that will show you a simulated ball flight is SkyTrak
What do you feel is the best launch monitor for determining wedge distances of between 30 – 100 yards? I read the Garmin doesn’t register below 50 yards. Is that correct?
David – most of the models I tested did well for shorter wedges distances (PRGR, SC200, SC300). However, they can struggle if you have an abnormally high launch angle with shorter wedge shots. Sometimes the ball can be out of view of the sensor for those that add a lot of loft at impact.
graeme Robb says
Has anyone tried combining launch monitors with smash bag?
wondering if it would still read the club speed.
my SC200+ is on its way
So i am stuck between sc300 and the MEVO. Do you have a preference ? Is the MEVO still getting updates ?
I leaned more towards the SC300 because it was much easier to use, and performed better indoors.
I bought the Mevo launch monitor to practice in the garage during the lockdown. I was able to really dial in my swing speed and make the adjustments that I needed to maximize clubhead speed. I now take it to the range or use it in the garage. It’s small, lightweight, and powerful. Combining it with my phone camera has helped tremendously. If you are ain the market for one, this guy is great
I am looking for a monitor that includes club path. What is the cheapest monitor that includes this. Thx
For the flightscope, you don’t need to attach the stickers outside. They are used for indoor hitting.
A few years ago I purchased a Swingsmart launch monitor which was budget but worked fine. However it was dependant on connection to a phone app. After about 2 years the company stopped paying for the App to be on the App Store and it was removed rendering the unit useless junk overnight. I would advise anyone considering purchasing a phone app dependant unit to only do so if they are prepared for the same to happen to them.