Let’s Do Launch

SkyTrak is the first affordable professional-grade launch monitor you can set up anywhere.

Launch monitors have been around since golfers got their first taste of Trackman in 2003. The technology is incredibly impressive. But the systems are also incredibly expensive, and not very portable. It was only a matter of time therefore that some bright spark somewhere managed to put all the technology in something handier and significantly more affordable.

The first generation of reasonably priced personal launch monitors debuted a couple of years ago. Though a welcome addition to the golf nut’s toychest, these had their limitations. The interface was basic to say the least, and rather than actually measuring important stats like launch angle and spin rate, they used an equation to calculate them based on the clubhead speed and ball speed measurements they did take.

So, the gadget would do the math and tell you that if your clubhead speed was W mph and the ball speed X mph, then the spin rate must have been Y rpm and the launch angle Z°. The equation reflected months of testing, yet these monitors didn’t really do it for stats fanatics looking for near 100-percent accuracy.

This month SkyGolf, makers of SkyCaddie GPS units, begins shipping its personal launch monitor—SkyTrak. Though more expensive than those previous products, SkyTrak is a significant upgrade and, as the company says, “the first personal launch monitor of its kind.”

SkyTrak is a photometric/camera-based launch monitor (it captures a series of images as the ball leaves the clubface), as opposed to a doppler radar monitor.

All the data parameters are here – ball speed, launch angle, backspin, sidespin, and side angle. And from these key measurements, SkyTrak deduces clubhead speed, deviation, roll, flight path, angle of descent, carry distance, and total distance. Yes, more equations and algorithms, but these results have been tested against measurements taken with commercial-grade monitors, and are extremely accurate (ball speed +/- 1mph, launch angle +/- 1°, back spin +/- 250rpm, side spin +/- 250 rpm).

Better, still, is the interface. Very similar to that of launch monitors ten times more expensive, SkyTrak gives you a realistic ball flight and the full array of measurements. This sort of immediate feedback is not only fun and entertaining; it makes it easy to assess what part of your swing needs attention.

You can use SkyTrak indoors and out. For indoor use, you’ll need a mat and net obviously, and the makers recommend about a 10ftx10ft space (the suggested height depends on your height and the length of club). SkyTrak requires 3D graphics support and is compatible with the iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2 with retina display, and iPad Mini 3.

Two subscription packages are available. For no additional cost, you get the Basic Practice Range Package which might be all you need if you plan to use it purely for practice and swing stat assessment. The Game Improvement Package costs $99/year and comes with a number of extra features – closest to the pin and long drive challenges, custom range conditions (vary the grass type and weather), more camera views, session history, and progress tracking, and more.

Equipment manufacturers, specifically makers of certain training aids and firms creating hi-tech swing data software, are doing their best to make practice more focused, effective and enjoyable.

With SkyTrak, useful practice – practice that actually has a beneficial impact on your game – just got a lot more fun.
$1,995 (Basic Package). skytrakgolf.com  

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