If you were a naval enthusiast, you’d be hard pressed to categorize the SkyTrak launch monitor. Trackman, Foresight and FlightScope are the aircraft carriers of the fleet. And small driving-range aids such as MEVO, Rapsodo or Voice Caddie are more like frigates or destroyers.
SkyTrak carries way more firepower than a frigate or destroyer and it’s a lot closer to an aircraft carrier than its price would indicate. So where does it belong? Channeling our inner Admiral Chester Nimitz, we’d have to say SkyTrak is a heavy cruiser: armed to the teeth and, after the carrier, the most badass surface combatant on the high seas.
Over the next week or so, we’re going to take a closer look at the two top units from MyGolfSpy’s 2019 Personal Launch Monitor Buyer’s Guide (the 2020 edition comes out this fall). Our goal is to cover the performance and features to help you decide if a personal launch monitor is for you. And, if so, which one?
SKYTRAK LAUNCH MONITOR: BEST IN SHOW
The SkyTrak launch monitor took top honors in last year’s Buyer’s Guide. Specifically, it impressed with its advanced graphics and its feature set. Additionally, its accuracy with ball data matched the big boys RPM for RPM.
“All our parameters on ball speed, launch angle, spin – all are basically right on,” says Sky Caddie National Sales Manager Paul Calabrese. “Say you’re looking at backspin with a 6‑iron. If Trackman shows 5,900 RPM, we might show 5,910 or 5,920.”
SkyTrak is as close as you can get to what we call an aircraft carrier-level launch monitor without actually being an aircraft carrier-level launch monitor. At $1,995, its price tag is more pontoon boat than warship.
“At the high end, you’re going to see more club data,” says Calabrese. “Our ball data is the same but the higher end will give you club head data. What’s your path? What’s your face angle; is it open or shut? The more expensive units [$20,000 and up] will have more advanced features and will tell you what the club head is doing through impact.”
SkyTrak is an off-the-mat/indoor-shade unit (more on that later) so teachers who want their students hitting outdoors and off grass will obviously opt for Trackman, et al. Ditto for fitters opting for outdoors.
“For indoor fittings, they use a mat anyway so that’s right in our wheelhouse,” says Calabrese. “A fitter is going to look at launch angle, spin and ball speed. With ours, you can compare seven clubs at once and everything we do produces a report. So if you’re testing a Callaway versus a TaylorMade versus a PING, you get a report to look at and see which one’s best.”
CRUISER VERSUS FRIGATE
If SkyTrak is akin to a heavy cruiser, then MEVO, Rapsodo and Voice Caddie are different sized frigates (more or less). They do serve a purpose, which we’ll discuss next week, but they simply don’t offer the same feature set.
“If you look at $500 or less launch monitors, those are strictly for the driving range to give you distance,” says Calabrese. “A couple of the new ones are giving you a little more data but mostly it’s club head speed and distance. Launch angle and spin I wouldn’t trust as much because ranges have different balls.”
Again, the biggest difference is outdoor grass use versus indoor/shade-mat use. The SkyTrak launch monitor uses photometric technology. It’s camera-based and captures high-speed images of the ball immediately after impact. The unit itself projects a red dot onto the hitting mat and you place the ball at that spot so the camera can pick up the impact. As a result, sunlight, grass and SkyTrak simply don’t mix.
SkyTrak will connect wirelessly to your phone (IOS and Android) or your PC. And it presents driving range graphics on the screen in real time.
“You’ll be able to actually see what your shot shape is,” says Calabrese. “You’ll be able to get spin, distance and ball speed. And we have lots of tools to make practicing more interesting.”
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE
The whole point of having a personal launch monitor – or anything that collects data about your golf game – is to get better, right? SkyTrak has a ship-load of tools to help you practice with a purpose.
The Randomizer setting transforms practice from a ball-beating session into a bit of a game. The unit will tell you to hit a 78-yard shot, then a 152-yard shot, and so on. That forces you to hit a different club each time. There’s also a new Wedge Matrix to help you work on those 130-yard-and-in shots.
“It takes you through some nice drills hitting three-quarter and full shots,” Calabrese says. “The idea is to figure out how far you hit your lob, sand, gap and pitching wedges. On the course, you can hit a three-quarter gap wedge the same distance as a full sand wedge, and control it better.”
The unit keeps track of everything you do and will spit out a report to show accuracy and dispersion as well as ball speed, carry distance and roll out.
“It’s all about the data,” says Calabrese. “If you’re working on hitting more greens and your dispersion is, like, 25 feet, you can work on that to get it down to 12 to 15 feet.”
There are also fun features like long drive, closest to the pin and a TopGolf-like target challenge you can play with friends and family.
If you have your very own home golf simulator.
You can use the SkyTrak launch monitor outdoors as long as it’s in a shaded area and you’re hitting off a mat and into a net. SkyTrak’s real sweet spot, however, is as the technological hub of a low-cost golf simulator in your garage or basement.
As we saw this past spring, the market for indoor mats and hitting nets went completely nuts. Mat companies are making larger mats with better-grade turf and hitting nets are getting better and bigger, too. And you’re seeing different types of simulator cages, with white screens and framing to accommodate a projector.
What used to cost $30,000 to $40,000 to have installed in your home, you can now do yourself for far less.
“People are selling 12-foot- to 14-foot-wide options with HD screens,” says Calabrese. “People are using them for movies, sporting events and golf. The screens are at a pretty high quality now.”
A high-end simulator cage can run anywhere from $500 to $5,000. A good mat will set you back anywhere from $500 to $1,000. You can score a high-resolution projector for less than $1,000. The SkyTrak launch monitor, at $1,995, ties it all together.
To top it off, SkyTrak offers third-party golf simulation packages so you can play Pebble Beach, St Andrews or Bethpage. As the old song goes, you can take a trip and never leave the barn.
“We partner with six different companies,” says Calabrese. “We’ve integrated with their software and they’re additional purchases through our system, kind of like when you buy games for your Xbox. You run them through an app on your computer.”
If you tried buying a hitting mat or a hitting net last spring, you know how crazy it was. SkyTrak was very much in the same boat and very much still is.
“By the end of March, orders started rolling in,” says Calabrese. “We’ve been on an 11- to-12-week back order ever since. The increase in orders has been tremendous. Sales this year are going to far exceed what we did last year.”
Historically, Calabrese says SkyTrak orders tend to tail off during the summer since people are out playing. That didn’t happen this year and, despite the back-order lead time, customers are hanging in there and waiting rather than canceling.
“A lot of people committed to buying nets and mats so they’re willing to wait,” he says. “We’re not getting many cancellations. I think it’s because people are working from home. You may not have a couple of hours to go to the range but you can turn on your simulator and practice for a half an hour and then go back to work.”
To capitalize on this growing trend, SkyTrak will soon be offering its own simulator-in-a-box kit.
“It’ll have a simulator cage with the white screen, a really good hitting mat and extra turf to go between the mat and the screen so it’ll look nice,” says Calabrese. “All the cables, the projector and the SkyTrak will all be together in one box. We hope to have that up and running by the fourth quarter.”
All you need is space.
IS THE SKYTRAK LAUNCH MONITOR RIGHT FOR YOU?
As always, the answer is, “it depends.”
In this case, it depends on what you want from a personal launch monitor. Do you want a driving-range companion to help you with distance and other basic analytics? If that’s what you’re looking for, SkyTrak is not the answer.
If the idea of an in-home golf practice and simulator studio makes you kind of weak-kneed and giddy, there are options that are both more expensive and less expensive than SkyTrak. But you may be hard pressed to find one that gives you aircraft carrier ‑level analytics and accuracy that won’t cost you an arm, a leg, and the souls of your children.
Pro Tip: If you want one by the holiday season, don’t forget there’s a three-month lead time.
For more information, visit www.skytrakgolf.com.