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Golf MTRx: Editor Review

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Legendary golf instructor Harvey Penick compared the sequence of a golf swing to that of lopping off the heads of dandelions with a weed cutter to convey the right sensation to his students.

Many of us still rely on conjuring up mental images of swinging buckets of water or clipping weeds to train our bodies to produce the best golf swings of which we are physically capable. But whether or not we flush it every time, or have those rounds where we’re just flushing it away, it’s important to know what we’re doing correctly or incorrectly in order to play our best golf more often.

The Golf MTRx application for iPhone, by Zeroline Golf, is a portable and sophisticated tool that records your swing and translates the kinematic sequence of your pelvis into data you can use to better understand how your body functions when it swings a club.

Overview

The Golf MTRx app is the first mobile technology that measures the efficiency of a golfer’s pelvis to generate a powerful and repeatable swing. Your individual kinematic signature is compared to pro tour averages and produces a score (a maximum of 100) based on four components: acceleration, deceleration, peak time and speed.

As described on Zeroline Golf’s website, the four factors that promote an efficient use of  the pelvis are:

  1. Acceleration: A golfer must have proper acceleration to achieve the necessary deceleration as the upper body begins to fire. Acceleration should ideally be about 2.0 kd/s/s (thousand degrees per second per second) and will show on the Golf MTRx chart as a good steady steep slope going from zero to peak speed.
  2. Deceleration: Happens when the torso, arms and club start to engage on the downswing. The upper body puts pressure on the lower body and the pelvis will stabilize as the upper body fires. The pelvis should decelerate at the same rate or greater than the acceleration. Deceleration is necessary to achieve good peak time.
  3. Peak Time: The place in time that the pelvis reaches peak speed on the downswing. Peak time needs proper acceleration and deceleration. The “ideal” peak time is about 60 percent through the down swing to impact — that’s measured in time, not degrees of rotation. Golfers need good peak time for the segments above to rip it.
  4. Speed: Measured in degrees per second. Speed is an important component, but it can often be a side effect of the categories listed above. Speed matters most early in the kinetic chain.

In layman’s terms, the Golf MTRx app decodes the conditions necessary for your body to produce good shots, and give golfers a tool they can use to correct their physical mistakes on bad shots. It’s what Zeroline Golf Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Steve Blake calls “measuring a feel,” or giving golfers specific information about what they did or didn’t do during a swing.

“From my software experience, I knew the iPhone had motion sensors, a microphone and great graphics,” said Blake. “We concluded that having an app that could measure hip movement would be possible, and that we could develop it into a great training aid for coaches and golfers … We also thought it would be helpful for a golfer to be able to save information from that ideal swing to serve as a baseline from which to compare and improve.”

The Technology

The Golf MTRx app underwent rigorous field testing with golfers of various levels and abilities prior to its December 2012 launch. It was also introduced to coaches from a wide variety of philosophies and backgrounds.

“The beta testing included the participation of coaches, and we think this has impacted the positive reaction from the coaching community — even from instructors who are resistant to the use of technology in golf,” Blake said.

In terms of the data itself, Blake built a wooden swing testing device that allowed him set exact turn angles and impact positions, which aided him in validating the consistency of the reported readings. The swing recognition algorithm was tested against thousands of swings to eliminate false positives. Independent tests were performed against K-VEST and AMM (Advanced Motion Measurement Golf Swing Analysis Training System) with very good results.

The ideal numbers that all users of Golf MTRx ultimately compared themselves to came from research and conversations Zeroline Golf had with experts at Titlelist Performance Institute and K-VEST. The tour pro averages for acceleration, deceleration and speed are modeled after a male swinging a 5-iron.

golf-mtrx-chart1

The Golf MTRx app can be used with any club in the bag, but users will notice differences in their score and variations for acceleration, deceleration and speed. My own experience with the app reveled that my acceleration and speed increased as I went from wedges to woods.

Ideally, peak time should stay the same indicating that the golfer is stabilizing properly for all of his or her clubs. In my case, the peak time varied from club to club, which helped me realize that my swing isn’t as consistent as I would like it to be throughout the bag. Chances are, a lot of golfers will find distinguishable quirks in their swings. The Golf MTRx app isn’t designed to necessarily fix issues in your swing, but it can go a long way in helping to identify areas to improve upon.

Pros

First and foremost, the Golf MTRx app is easy to use. A profile takes seconds to create and the app allows you to create multiple profiles — useful if you and a friend want to take turns recording your swings and compare results.

Once your profile has been setup, click the record and analyze button, followed by the “Start Recording” button at the bottom of the application screen. At this point you’re ready to secure your iPhone to your hip. Zeroline Golf recommends that you fasten it under your belt with the iPhone top down. As far as accurate measurement goes, I found the app performed best when my iPhone was held snug against my hip or behind me near the base of my spine.

You can make practice swings in record mode. The Golf MTRx app will only record your swing when pronounced contact is made with either turf or ball. If you have the volume turned up (highly recommended), the app will emit a “ping” when your swing has been successfully recorded. Double tap the “stop” button and you’re ready to review your kinematic swing sequence and your Golf MTRx score.

The swing analysis screen will provides charts, animations and recommended drills to help you make sense of all the data. The score tab will provide you with a quick snapshot of your performance for all four components of your MTRx score: acceleration, deceleration, peak time and speed. The current version of the app is limited to comparing your values to those of a tour pro. A planned update to the app will allow a user to not only set their baseline swing, but to adjust the values up or down for acceleration, deceleration and speed — essentially allowing yourself to set your own bar for peak performance.

golf-mtrx-chart2

Undoubtedly, gear heads will find plenty of useful metrics to dive into within the MTRx and Chart tabs of the application. The MTRx tab allows you to play an animation of your swing sequence so that you can see how your pelvis is storing and releasing energy through impact. The Chart complements the MTRx tab by plotting your sequence as a bar chart. Both tabs tell you how much your hips are rotating during the backswing, impact and follow through.

Zeroline Golf has placed a lot of attention upon the four pivotal components that make up a golfer’s MTRx score, but a lot less has been said about hip rotation and tempo. Apparently, I wasn’t the only user of the app who found the information about hip rotation confusing. The latest version of the app (v. 1.5) has added an assessment feature that compares your hip rotation in the backswing to the recommended range which is -25 to -45 degrees. The recommended range for impact is said to be 15 to 40 degrees.

“Too little rotation indicates poor separation of hips and shoulders and results in loss of power,” says Blake. “Too much rotation at impact is hard to quantify; it is up to the individual’s capability. Rory McIlroy has his hips at 62 degrees at impact. I’m lucky to get to 40 degrees.”

The best way to get a better understanding of the role hip rotation plays in your own kinematic sequence is to record multiple swings and experiment with the intended result. Likewise, tempo also plays a role in bio-mechanic efficiency, but there isn’t enough data on the subject to declare an ideal measurement.

“Studies like Tour Tempo measure the club tempo, not that of the hips,” says Blake. “As a result, we do not place a great emphasis on tempo. The app will report the numbers regardless of the tempo. This is another data point that varies depending on a golfer’s physical capabilities and limitations. In my own experiments, I find a slower tempo works better for me, but I’m 62. We have seen lots of young golfers with quick tempos who crush the ball.”

The most underrated feature of all is that the Golf MTRx app is swing agnostic. It doesn’t care if you are a practitioner of Stack and Tilt or a more traditional approach; whether your swing tempo is reminiscent of Rickie Fowler or Ai Miyazato.

Cons

If you are an owner of an Android-powered phone, consider yourself out of luck. The Golf MTRx app is available for iPhone only and the differences in hardware among Android devices ensure that porting the app will remain a less than straightforward process. An Android-specific version remains high on Zeroline Golf’s to do list, but as of right now there is no timetable for releasing one.

Another major complaint heard among some users is about the price. Golf MTRx retails for $29.99 in the App Store — comparatively more expensive than most iPhone applications. If you’re on the fence about the price, Zeroline Golf will be releasing a light version of the app called Golf MTRx LT that will retail for $9.99. The LT edition has many of the same features but will only allow a golfer to create a single profile and record up to 18 swings at a time. It is designed with the novice to intermediate golfer in mind.

Serious golfers who are obsessed about their training and their gear aren’t going to be put off by the price for the full app, which delivers a wealth of data at a fraction of the cost of professional swing analyzers. Kudos to the Zeroline Golf team for bringing high performance and accurate motion analysis data to the masses in a handy mobile application. Still, fans of the app shouldn’t lead themselves to believe they are using a tool on par with K-VEST which uses sensors on the pelvis, upper body and lead wrist to capture 2D video and 3D motion. Golf MTRx is limited to a single sensor and cannot relay any information about the upper body or club head.

Truth be told, a lot of golfers are better off with less information at their fingertips. Even with some obvious limitations, the Golf MTRx app might be too overwhelming for some users. What does it really mean to the average golfer if their peak time falls short of the gold standard? Are certain numbers more important to hit than others?

Credit Zeroline Golf for thinking strategically ahead about those of us who may go plummeting down the rabbit hole of misinformation and confusion. Its website now features a directory with a growing list of coaches including GolfWRX frequent contributors, Monte Sheinblum and Dan Carraher. Instructors like Carraher who have openly endorsed the app view it for what it is – a training aid that complements their teaching approach.

“Because the app like any tool, similar to a mirror or camera, is useless without the proper knowledge,” Carraher said. “Students tend to see the same success rate regardless of using it or not. Success is usually based on the work ethic and aptitude for repetitive practice more so than any tool. But I also feel as long as the student knows what to look for more information isn’t a bad thing. It’s not knowing what is relevant and trying to play connect the dots that deters progress.”

The Bottom Line

The Golf MTRx application earns high marks for innovation, ease of use and value. Whether or not golfers can stand to benefit from charting their swings comes down to a personal choice. We have all known golfers, including some at the very highest professional level, who have fallen in love with statistics and are fixated on improving their swings to the detriment of all other components that make up the game of golf.

“If you try to swing to a picture on camera or swing to make the numbers [look] good you are losing sight of what is important — the actual causes and hitting the golf ball at a target,” Carraher said. “Playing golf is more than just a pretty swing or good numbers on a screen, be it TrackMan or Golf MTRx. Golf is played in ever- changing imperfect conditions on an imperfect surface by human beings. It’s more about learning your tendencies and planning around them, than trying to eliminate every bad tendency and hit perfect shots.”

Perhaps it goes without saying, but just like those of us who prefer not to dissect themselves on video, there’s a segment of golfers who are best left to using their imagination and creativity to fuel their swings and fix any ailments. Golf MTRx would probably feel right at home for detail-oriented strategists like Nick Faldo and Stacy Lewis, but not so much for shot-making savants like Bubba Watson or the late Seve Ballesteros.

Most of us fall in line somewhere in between these opposite extremes and take on multiple, sometimes incompatible approaches to get better. I don’t find it all odd to fixate my mind on an image of a swinging bucket if I know it helps me groove a smoother takeaway, while I rely on an app to monitor my hip rotation and peak time. Golf MTRx doesn’t negate the respected teachings of a Harvey Penick; if anything, it supports his theories with science.

“We were concerned that some coaches would see the emergence of this technology as a threat to their livelihood, but the instructors who have used Golf MTRx have reported that it has supplemented their instruction and is another effective tool they can use with students,” Blake said. “Some have said that the app has allowed them to convince students of points they have been making for months, since there is concrete data that the coach can show them. We also hope that Golf MTRx will serve as an enabler of biomechanics by putting low cost technology in the reach of many golfers. If ‘Joe Golfer’ is able to ‘measure a feel’ and understand what his body is doing when he hits that great shot, we believe that Golf MTRx will have served its purpose.”

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Rusty Cage is a contributing writer for GolfWRX, one of the leading publications online for news, information and resources for the connected golfer. His articles have covered a broad spectrum of topics - equipment and apparel reviews, interviews with industry leaders, analysis of the pro game, and everything in between. Rusty's path into golf has been an unusual one. He took up the game in his late thirties, as suggested by his wife, who thought it might be a good way for her husband to grow closer to her father. The plan worked out a little too well. As his attraction to the game grew, so did his desire to take up writing again after what amounted to 15-year hiatus from sports journalism dating back to college. In spite of spending over a dozen years working in the technology sector as a backend programmer in New York City, Rusty saw an opportunity with GolfWRX and ran with it. A graduate from Boston University with a Bachelor's in journalism, Rusty's long term aspirations are to become one of the game's leading writers, rising to the standard set by modern-day legends like George Peper, Mark Frost and Dan Jenkins. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: August 2014 Fairway Executive Podcast Interview http://golfindustrytrainingassociation.com/17-rusty-cage-golf-writer (During this interview I discuss how golf industry professionals can leverage emerging technologies to connect with their audience.)

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. 8thehardway

    Jul 7, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    “… play an animation of your swing sequence so that you can see how your pelvis is storing and releasing energy through impact.”

    In case my wife takes up golf, are there any plans for player-specific animations for comparison purposes like, uh, maybe Natalie Gulbis?

  2. richard parker

    Jul 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Good review. This is the most utilized app on my iphone! Can’t beat the instant feedback and recommended drills that the app provides.

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Accessory Reviews

Choose Your Tartan: Enter now to win a Sunfish Tartan headcover

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Sunfish, well known for its stylish headcover designs, is offering up free Tartan-style headcovers to five GolfWRX Members. All you have to do to apply is become a GolfWRX member, if you’re not already, and then reply in the forum thread with your favorite the Tartan pattern.

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The five winners will receive a free headcover in the pattern that they select. Winners will be selected on Friday, so don’t wait.

Click here to enter into the giveaway and pick your favorite style.

Reminder: Commenting on this post WILL NOT enter you into the giveaway.

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Accessory Reviews

Review: Golf Simulator Software for SkyTrak

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SkyTrak is a personal launch monitor packed with impressive features and accuracy. It sells for $1995, and is aimed at golfers looking for a high-quality, personal launch monitor and golf simulator. I’ve recently hit more than 1,000 golf balls on SkyTrak and tested it head-to-head against Trackman to find out if it truly is as good as it sounds.

Spoiler alert: It is. You can read the full review here.

In writing my SkyTrak review, I felt that I could better serve the GolfWRX Community and the greater golf world with an additional SkyTrak review that focused specifically on SkyTrak’s golf simulation partners. This… is that review.

Golf Simulation Partners

Out of the box, SkyTrak comes with an impressive driving range app, which golfers looking to hone and refine their swing will really appreciate. But one of the ways SkyTrak differentiates itself from other launch monitors, especially lower-priced ones, is by integrating with five leading golf simulation software packages.

This is where SkyTrak starts to widen its appeal. Serious golfers will enjoy playing a full round, but you can also get casual golfers involved. My wife and kids will enjoy playing a round of golf, and I won’t have to worry about holding up the group behind me. As my kids get older, having a simulator at home will be invaluable, allowing them practice at any time… assuming they want to play golf, of course.

SkyTrak Simulation Partners

Data Provided to Each Software

SkyTrak provides each simulation partner with the exact same, five directly measured data points which include: ball speed, launch angle, backspin, side spin and side angle. Each software applies their own ball flight model. For that reason, I did see differences in the ball flight and data displayed.

WGT (World Golf Tour)

Almost every golfer with a mobile phone or a Facebook profile has played or heard of WGT (World Golf Tour). The same game that has been played on mobile phones for years can now be played with SkyTrak. The most obvious difference is the visuals. Their patented, photo-realistic imagery and terrain mapping has created some of the most realistic course simulation available. What’s more interesting is that WGT is included at no additional cost when you purchase the $199.95 per year SkyTrak plan. This is great news for people interested in playing full courses, but not yet ready to commit to another simulator package.

There are 10 full courses that can be played. They include St. Andrews, Chambers Bay, Bandon Dunes and others. Closest-to-the-pin challenges can be played on 18 total courses.

Ball Flight and Data

The ball flight model is very accurate and similar to what I see in the SkyTrak app. It also calculates my wedge shots correctly, which is typically a slight fade that I cannot seem to fix. Total distance is a bit strong, with some clubs flying an average of five yards farther than normal.

Course Accuracy and Visuals

It is hard to beat the photo-realistic visuals of WGT. It took me a minute to get used to them after playing rounds on the other simulators, but the courses look amazing, especially on a large projector screen. With the combination of the photos and terrain mapping, these courses are spot-on representations of their real-life counterparts.

WGT SkyTrak Partner

Depth of Included Courses and Quality of Gameplay

I wish there were more courses, but WGT is continuing to add to its roster and I value the realism of the courses it has. I would rather higher quality courses over quantity. They also have some “Best Of” bundles, like playing the Best of Bandon Par 3s, which is a lot of fun.

The gameplay is solid, although the options are limited. You don’t have a lot of fancy camera angles or the ability to view a replay of your shot. In fact, some of the starting camera angles aren’t even from the player’s point of view, which is a little weird and hard to get used to. The SkyTrak data presented has everything you would want, except carry distance. The interface is clean and easy to use.

Reliability of the Software

Although the specs say an iPad is required (and preferred if you’re not using a projector), I didn’t experience any issues connecting to either my iPad or my iPhone 6s.

Cost

Included with SkyTrak’s Play & Improve Package

Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf

I want to love Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf, and I almost do. The main game includes really nice, quality courses, and you can purchase add-ons such as Muirfield Village or PGA National for $5.95. Additionally, its Course Forge Software, which is the same software used by Jack Nicklaus Golf course designers, can be used by anyone to create an unlimited number of courses that you can download and play.

You can adjust almost any setting you can imagine, from camera angles that allow you to walk freely around the golf course to video and audio settings that adjust everything from the sky effects to the way the grass looks. This is critical to helping dial in the settings to maximize gameplay for your specific PC setup.

Ball Flight and Data

The ball flight was similar to what I saw on the SkyTrak range, but the distances were consistently a bit shorter. There is a good chance I could mess around with the various settings and get the numbers to match up, but out of the box, I felt like the distances were slightly shorter across the board.

Course Accuracy and Visuals

I really like the quality of the courses. There is an almost unlimited combination of settings you can use to dial in the visuals to create a very realistic experience. The real courses I downloaded look, appear and play very accurately. The textures of the tee boxes and greens are very realistic.

Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf SkyTrak Partner

Depth of Included Courses and Quality of Gameplay

The included courses are a mix of fictional, user-created courses, and real courses with fake names. For example, you can play Florida Glades, which is actually modeled after TPC Sawgrass. I played Muirfield Village while watching coverage of the Memorial last weekend, which was fun.

With the exception of the occasionally shorter distances, the gameplay is excellent. Shots on the fairways and into the greens follow the real-life contours of the course. Just check out the video above to see what I mean.

The game really shines with the smooth camera movements and replay options. I love being able to watch each shot from the player point of view, but also angles like the spectator view. It feels just like TV and is a lot of fun to see my shots from different angles.

Reliability of the Software

This is where Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf falls short, at least for me. During testing, I was never able to get through an entire round without the simulator connection crashing, which meant that SkyTrak was no longer connected to the simulator software. This is an issue with Perfect Golf reported by others, too. As of June 1st, the company provided an update that has solved this issue for me, and I can now get through a full round, but it is something to keep in mind.

Cost

Multiple packages starting at $99.95 per year for the driving range package. It’s $199.95 per year for the simulation package, and $249.95 per year for everything including the ability to play user-created courses or compete in online tournaments.

TruGolf E6

TruGolf E6 feels and plays like the most solid of all the simulator options. Each of the 87 total courses are mapped using precise terrain and course data, and you can tell they spent a lot of time making each course feel as realistic and accurate as possible.

The app has numerous settings to control time of day, wind, lighting, camera angles and more. Course elevation is accurate, and factored into the ball flight. The base software includes a driving range with target practice, chipping area, and a putting area.

Ball Flight and Data

The ball flight, carry and total distance are almost identical to what I see in the SkyTrak app.

Course Accuracy and Visuals

The quality of each course is impressive. Fairways and greens are responsive and variable, mimicking the actual terrain of the course. The textures, shadows, and lighting are realistic. And the camera movements to follow the ball or during replays are natural. The overall graphics are not quite as good as Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf or The Golf Club, but still very solid.

TruGolf E6 SkyTrak Partner

Depth of Included Courses and Quality of Gameplay

The main package includes 15 championship courses, including Pinehurst  No. 2, Bay Hill, Gleneagles and others. You can also buy seven other packs of courses, each for a one-time fee.

The actual gameplay is very realistic. The standard camera angles feel like I am watching a shot from my actual point of view, but I can also watch the replay from various other camera angles. Putting is realistic, even if I haven’t yet mastered putting on SkyTrak. And if you’re looking to practice a specific hole on a course, you can choose to play only that hole.

Reliability of the Software

Rock solid. Throughout my entire testing, I never had any software issues.

Cost

$299 per year in addition to the SkyTrak Game Improvement Package. Additional course packs can be purchased for $240-500 each.

The Golf Club Game

There is so much to like about The Golf Club.  The graphics are quite possibly the best of any of the simulators (up to 4K Ultra HD) and allow you to move around the course in real-time. There are 100,000+ high definition courses, you can create your own courses, and TGC has live tournaments. There is even an announcer who gives you the play-by-play.

Ball Flight and Data

Just like TruGolf E6, the ball flight model and key data points are very similar to what I see on the SkyTrak range. I have noticed some deviation, more total distance for example, but for the most part, the results are very similar and accurate.

Course Accuracy and Visuals

I can’t deny having access to 100k+ courses isn’t a strength, but it is also a weakness. You will never get bored if you own this software, but if you like playing realistic golf courses, it can be difficult to navigate. With so many “Augusta National” or “St. Andrews” courses listed, it is hard to find one to play that truly feels realistic. I selected an “Augusta National Sunday Pin Position” course and saw white-capped mountains in the distance teeing off No. 1. There certainly aren’t mountains around Augusta.

The Golf Club SkyTrak Partner

I’ll say it again, the HD visuals are outstanding, especially if your system can max out the settings.

Depth of Included Courses and Quality of Gameplay

You’ve got access to a ton of courses for free, which will be  huge for many people. The gameplay is also excellent, with realistic bounces and rolls on the fairways and greens. The rough and sand are penalizing, and putting and chipping around the green is accurate.

Reliability of the Software

I have had some minor connectivity issues with TGC. But other than that, the rest of the software has worked great.

Cost

$479/year or a one-time fee of $895.

Creative Golf 3D

Creative Golf 3D, the newest integration with SkyTrak, offers some unique twists on the traditional simulators by focusing more on entertainment than pure simulation. Sure, there is a range and you can play up to 100 courses located in Europe, but more importantly, you have access to 20 different entertainment-focused games including island targets, mini-golf, and abandoned factory demolition.

I can see playing mini-golf with my kids even before sticking them on the SkyTrak range. Fun is the real power of Creative Golf 3D, and yet another way that SkyTrak differentiates itself from other launch monitors or simulators on the market.

Ball Flight and Data

The ball flight and data matches up nicely with the SkyTrak ball flight model. I haven’t noticed any issues with distances or other data points not lining up.

Course Accuracy and Visuals

All the courses are based on real elevation and satellite data, which is evident when you play a round. While I’ve never played golf in Europe, I love watching the European Tour partly because they play courses in beautiful parts of the world. Creative Golf 3D captures that beauty by focusing only on courses throughout Europe.

creativegolf_image

The reason I would buy Creative Golf over the others is not for the course play; it’s for the entertainment options. I really enjoy hitting knock down wedges to smash windows of an abandoned building and playing mini-golf in Europe.

Depth of Included Courses and Quality of Gameplay

The base package includes five courses. You can buy add-on packages for $99 per package (one-time fee) and get access to up to 100 courses. I enjoy hitting shots with snow-capped mountains in the background and the standard camera angles and replay are smooth. The visuals are good, don’t get me wrong, but they feel a little more like a computer game than an actual simulation compared to the other software options.

Reliability of the Software

So far, so good. I haven’t experienced any issues with connectivity to this point.

Cost

$199.95 per year or a one-time fee of $499.95. I like that Creative Golf 3D offers a one-time fee. For those of us who plan to have this simulator for many years, it makes a lot of sense. You can also buy additional course packs for $99.95/one time.

Bottom Line

If I had to choose my favorites so far, one would be Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf for the overall high quality of courses and smooth, realistic gameplay. I also will keep Creative Golf 3D on hand for entertainment options like mini-golf to play with my kids and friends.

But the good news is all of SkyTrak’s five simulation software partners offer high-quality gameplay, realistic and accurate 3D ball flight, and the ability to play 18 holes anytime, anywhere, on some of the best courses around the world.

Further Reading: A Review of the SkyTrak Personal Launch Monitor

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Accessory Reviews

Review: SkyTrak Personal Launch Monitor

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Pros: Highly accurate data, portable, easy to use, and integrated with some of the best golf simulation software on the market.

Cons: Slight delay between contact and seeing the ball flight. Only tracks the golf ball, and not your club path.

Bottom line: Impressive features, accuracy and price make SkyTrak attractive to a whole new segment of golfers who aren’t in the market for professional launch monitors, but are looking for a high-quality, personal launch monitor and golf simulator.

Overview

If you’ve watched golf on TV in the past year or so, you’ve probably seen Hank Haney talking about SkyTrak, a personal launch monitor that provides accurate shot data and the ability to play full rounds of golf on some of the world’s best courses. To find out if SkyTrak truly is as good as it sounds, I’ve hit over a thousand golf balls, played rounds of golf on every simulation package, and tested SkyTrak head-to-head with Trackman.

SkyTrack Personal Launch Monitor

SkyTrak is a photometric launch monitor, which means it uses high speed cameras to capture a series of images of the golf ball for a few feet right after impact. Ball speed, launch angle, backspin, side spin and side angle are directly measured, and other data points such as carry and total distance are estimated. SkyTrak then creates a realistic, 3D ball flight model (more on this later), which I’ve found to be extremely accurate. It only needs a few feet to capture the images, which means you can use SkyTrak anywhere you can swing a golf club, both indoors and outdoors.

At 7-inches tall and less than 2 pounds, SkyTrak is small enough to fit in a golf bag when heading to the range. It connects wirelessly to your PC or iPad without requiring a WiFi network. And if you’re worried about hitting a hosel rocket and smashing your launch monitor, you can get a protective case.

SkyTrak

The SkyTrak app supports iOS and Windows. Sadly, Mac desktop or laptop users are out of luck. The company is currently working to officially release the SkyTrak app for Android, but a release date has not been provided. Check out the full specs here.

SkyTrak starts at $1,995, but you can often find it offered for $300 off. In addition to purchasing the launch monitor, SkyTrak has three yearly plans:

  • Basic: Limited access to the driving range app and is included at no charge. Included with purchase.
  • Game Improvement: Access to all the features of the app as well as integration with the company’s simulation partners. $99.95 per year.
  • Play & Improve: You get everything with the Play & Improve Plan, including full access to World Golf Tour simulator. 199.95 per year.

Setup and Ease of Use

One area where SkyTrak really shines is how simple and intuitive it is to use. Once the launch monitor was charged, it took me about 2 minutes from start to finish to get connected.

SkyTrak on iPad

The entire application is straightforward and simple to use. Nothing in the app seems like an afterthought. Big icons and visuals make it easy to select what you want to do, even outside with the glare of sunlight bouncing off your iPad. The data points are huge, allowing you to quickly scan the screen as you’re practicing.

The designers didn’t attempt to make the SkyTrak range “feel” like a photo-realistic simulation, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. When I’m practicing, I want the application to be responsive and accurately display the ball flight and data. While I like that some of the other simulators have a practice area, I will primarily use the SkyTrak range.

SkyTrak Measured Data

Accuracy of the Data

Before we get too deep into the review, I’m pretty sure many of you are wondering, “Great, but is it accurate?” To answer that question, I tested SkyTrak outside on the range and head-to-head against Trackman.

SkyTrak has completed independent robot testing at Golf Laboratories, but I wanted to do my own testing against Trackman. SkyTrack is photo-based and Trackman is radar-based, so there will be variation in the data, but Trackman is the gold standard and I was curious how they stacked up. I headed to BridgeMill Golf Academy and worked with Tom Losinger, Director of Golf Instruction, who ran the head-to-head test.

Head-to-Head Testing

SkyTrak vs. Trackman Data

Before we got started, I set the wind speed, direction, humidity and temperature to the weather at the time in an attempt to normalize the data in the SkyTrak app as much as possible.

On average, SkyTrak was within about 2 percent of what Trackman reported, which I would say is really good. SkyTrak under-reported every metric except spin rate and launch angle. Spin rate is one metric likely more accurate than Trackman because it is directly captured by camera and analyzed.

SkyTrak vs. Trackman Averages

The largest deviation was total yardage, off by 6 percent, with the driver showing the biggest difference. Unfortunately, this is an area that is hard to match up the range conditions to the conditions in SkyTrak, which will impact this number. Carry distance was within 3 percent, which is more inline with my expectations. I should note that SkyTrak’s robot testing against Trackman showed significantly closer carry and total distance data.

Related: The Hottest Launch Monitors of 2017

Like other photo-based launch monitors, SkyTrak only captures the ball flight. Clubhead speed is an approximation, and I’ve found it to be more inaccurate than accurate, especially with the wedges. If you need club data, you will likely need to invest in a more expensive, commercial-grade launch monitor.

3D Ball Flight Model

In addition to the actual data from Trackman, I also hit a lot of balls on the range focusing on how my real ball flight and distance match up to the 3D ball flight.

While SkyTrak is only a couple years old, the team behind SkyTrak has been refining, testing and improving their 3D ball flight model for over a decade. I can say without hesitation that it’s an impressive model. The video above shows a side-by-side video of an 8-iron on the range compared to the 3D-generated ball flight presented by SkyTrak. I landed my shot just short and right of the target.

SkyTrak Range Testing

There have been a few times during testing, mostly with my wedges, where the ball flight did not perfectly match the real flight. But the vast majority of the time, it was spot on. I even spent time intentionally hitting the dreaded, um, sh**k, which SkyTrak picked up perfectly.

What you can do with the SkyTrak app

Practice Range

I have spent the most time using the SkyTrak practice range, even using it to test eight of this season’s newest golf balls. The range is laid out with big data points and simple controls. You can adjust the target distance, set parameters such as wind, humidity and elevation, switch between the range and data views, and also see your shot history.

Basically, you have everything you need to practice effectively.

SkyTrack Driving Range

You can also choose from a number of different camera angles to view your shots live and in replay. SkyTrak recently added the ability to offset the camera angle, which is a much needed feature for people hitting into projector screens where space is limited and they aren’t able to line up in the center of the screen.

Challenges

Challenges are a lot of fun, especially with other people. You can do a closest-to-the-pin challenge, target practice, and surely a favorite of many people, a long-drive competition.

SkyTrak Target Practice

For each challenge, you have various settings, such as target distance and the number of shots for each person. All the same data points available on the range are available during the challenges.

I like the Target Practice a lot. It simulates some of the real-world pressure you might feel to hit a good shot. Instead of just a distance from the target, you get a score of 0-100, which helps to show how accurate you are with each club.

Skills Assessment

SkyTrak Skills Assessment

The Skills Assessment and Bag Mapping (see below) are two fairly new features that users are really excited about. If you’ve ever run through a Trackman Combine, the Skills Assessment will seem very familiar.

You set up the number of clubs you want to hit and the target distance. I like being able to specify the clubs and distance instead of being forced to hit to a specific yardage. I ran my father-in-law, Tony, through the skills assessment and was able to focus in on the distances specific to his game.

Setting up the assessment only takes a couple minutes. Then you’re guided through each club and all the data is stored. At the end of the assessment, you get a very detailed printout that shows your dispersion, accuracy, shot tendency and handicap for each club as well as an overall SkyTrak Handicap. This data is incredible.

SkyTrak Skills Assessment Tony

On the course, Tony’s miss is left and short. During the assessment, his miss was left and short. Not only that, his SkyTrak Handicap came out to be 22.5. Tony currently plays to a 23.

Bag Mapping

Similar to the Skills Assessment in terms of data and the final report, the Bag Mapping feature walks you through your entire bag to help you understand your carry distance, tendency, shot shape, and gapping between clubs.

This is great for any golfer, even if you think you know what your distances are with each club. But many golfers simply don’t have a good understanding of their carry distances, and this feature will help.

SkyTrak Bag Mapping

I’ve done an entire bag map, but recently ran through it again focusing only on my wedges. Lately, I’ve felt like my gaps aren’t correct and sure enough, they aren’t. Now I have the data I need, and can focus my practice, and possibly make some club changes, using the results.

The Momentary Shot Delay

One of the most frequent, negative comments I’ve read from golfers about SkyTrak is the 2-3 second, shot-to-show delay. You hit a shot and instead of instantly showing up on the screen flying down the fairway, there is a momentary delay while SkyTrak calculates the ball flight.

I’ll admit I was also disappointed at first, too, but I got over that pretty quickly. In fact, I use the brief pause to guess what the shot will do based purely on feel. Will it be short, long, push, pull, fade or draw? This weakness was easily turned into a strength, and I don’t think this reason alone should make anyone overlook SkyTrak.

Simulation Packages

Accurate data and the ability to hone your swing on a practice range in your own home is reason enough to buy a personal launch monitor, but SkyTrak also integrates with five leading simulation software partners, allowing you to play thousands of different courses around the world.

World Golf Tour(WGT), probably the most well-known mobile golf game, is included with the Play & Improve package. You can also choose from The Golf Club Game, Jack Nicklaus Perfect Golf, TruGolf E6, and Creative Golf 3D.

I’ve spent time playing and practicing with each of SkyTrak’s simulation software partners.  You can read my thoughts here.

Bottom Line

I couldn’t be more impressed with this launch monitor. The shortcomings — a momentary delay after impact before the shot registers and the lack of club data — are worthwhile tradeoffs to get access to a launch monitor and simulator for under $2,000.

Personally, I will be using SkyTrak for serious game improvement and practice, as well as for fun. I have no doubt it will have a positive impact on my golf game going forward. The accuracy of the data, simplicity of use, and the depth of simulation partners, make SkyTrak one of the best golf technology products I’ve reviewed.

Further Reading: We Review of the Golf Simulator Software for SkyTrak

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