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The Best Golf Rangefinders of 2013

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Golfers are always looking for new technology to help them play their best. While rangefinders don’t have the cool factor of a new driver or set of irons, they’re one of the easiest way for golfers to gain confidence and precision on the course.

Unlike golf GPS units, which offer golfers approximate yardages to different areas on the course, rangefinders give golfers precise distances to targets that are accurate within a few yards. That’s why everyone from Average Joe’s to PGA Tour pros can benefit from using a rangefinder.

There’s a lot of different models on the market, which makes it hard to know which one might be the best for your game. That’s why we’ve taken the guesswork out of the selection process with our list below, which includes the best rangefinders we’ve tested so far in 2013.

1. Bushnell Pro 1m: $499.95  (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

bushnell pro 1m

[three_fourth last=”no”]We’re not sure anyone needs a rangefinder with a range of 550 yards, but that’s the capability of Bushnell’s premium Pro 1M model.

The Pro 1M is larger and heavier (it’s 12 ounces) than most rangefinders on the market, but we can’t deny the technology Bushnell packed into the unit: Vivid Display Technology (VDT) to brighten even the darkest playing conditions, 7X magnification and readings that are accurate to plus-or-minus 1 yard. The Pro 1M is also available in Bushnell’s “Slope Edition” for $100 more, which provides compensated distances uphill and downhill shots.

The 3-volt battery costs approx $10 to replace, but don’t expect to need a new battery for a long time thanks to Bushnell’s PowerBoost technology.

Best for: Golfers who want the ultimate in point-and-shoot performance, and don’t mind a high-priced, larger-sized rangefinder.[/three_fourth][one_fourth last=”yes”]

[/one_fourth]

2. Bushnell Tour V3: $299  (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

bushnell tour v3

[three_fourth last=”no”]

Is $499 a little more than your rangefinder budget? For price-conscious golfers, Bushnell created the Tour V3 rangefinder, which is $200 cheaper as well as smaller and lighter (it’s 6.6 ounces) than the Pro 1M.

Like the Pro 1M, it’s has a VDT display and runs on a 3-volt battery. But it has something the Pro 1M doesn’t have: Bushnell’s Jolt technology, which causes the unit to vibrate when a golfer locks in on a flag. It doesn’t quite have the range of the Pro 1M (300 yards instead of 550 yards) or the zoom (5X instead of 7X), but its smaller size, cheaper price and plentiful 300-yard range makes it the best rangefinder for the money on the list.

For the most detail-oriented golfers, it also comes in a Slope version for $100 more (note: if you’re interested in a rangefinder with slope capabilities, remember that they’re not legal for tournament play like standard models.

Best for: Golfers looking for the most bang for their buck. Its Jolt technology is great for showing off as well. [/three_fourth][one_fourth last=”yes”]

[/one_fourth]

3. Leupold GX-4i Digital: $499  (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

Leupold GX 4i

[three_fourth last=”no”]Leupold’s GX-4i has a 450-yard range that measures distances to one-tenth of a yard (or meter), making it the most exacting model on the market. It is also designed with a 6X zoom and the company’s TGR Slope functionality, which can be added by attaching the company’s yellow Smart Key to the chrome face plate (Note: neither face plate makes the rangefinder legal for tournament play). And we’re just getting started with its unrivaled amount of features.

The GX-4i’s Prism Lock technology beeps and freezes the display when it locks onto the highly reflective prisms already incorporated into many course’s flag sticks, which is a nice touch. It also has a fog mode, which cuts through “first targets” like fog to help golfers get the yardage they want in poor weather conditions, as well as a club selector, which allows golfers to program the GX-4i to recommend clubs for certain yardages. At 7.1 ounces, the GX-4i is also about 5 ounces lighter than Bushnell’s Pro 1M and significantly more compact.

Call us old fashioned, but we’re not sure that golfers really need the added complexity of club selector, or the rangefinders “fog” and “scan” modes. And the added options don’t make up for the fact that we found it more difficult to lock onto targets with the GX-4i than any of Bushnell’s models.

Best for: Golfers who want every available option in a sleek, modern package.[/three_fourth][one_fourth last=”yes”]

[/one_fourth]

4. Leupold PinCaddie: $249  (4 out of 5 Stars)

PinCaddie
[three_fourth last=”no”]We love Leupold’s PinCaddie rangefinder because of its simplicity. It has everything we liked about the GX-4i: 6X magnification, a high-contrast LCD display and the company’s ultra-accurate PinHunter laser technology. And while it’s maximum flag range is only 250 yards, we feel it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for the unit’s $250 cheaper price.

More important for golfers who play in tournaments is that the PinCaddie lacks slope functionality, making it legal for tournament play. It runs on the same CR-2 lithium battery as the GX-4i, but swaps it aluminum construction for a rugged plastic design and tips the scales at a slightly lighter 6.8 ounces.

Best for: Price-conscious golfers who like the look, feel and performance of a Leupold. [/three_fourth][one_fourth last=”yes”]

[/one_fourth]

5. Bushnell Tour Z6: $399 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Bushnell Tour Z6

[three_fourth last=”no”]Bushnell’s Z6 rangefinder has a 450-yard flag range, and the company’s ESP (Extreme Speed Precision) technology to allow for faster, more accurate reads than Bushnell’s Pro 1M and Tour V3 models. It’s also unbelievably compact (about the size of a deck of cards), with a 6X zoom and an accuracy of plus-or-minus 0.5 yards. From 5-to-125 yards, where golfers needs the most precision, the distances are displayed to one-tenth of a yard.

The Z6 has the same Posi-Thread battery door for its 3-volt lithium battery as the Pro 1M and Tour V3 models, and is legal for tournament play. But golfers can get a 100-yard longer range from the $100-more-expensive Pro 1M, and the company’s Jolt Technology from the $100-cheaper Tour V3. Both those rangefinders are available in slope models as well, if that’s your thing.

But if you’re looking for the smallest, easiest-to-use rangefinder without the frills of Leupold’s GX-4i and more power than the Leupold’s PinCaddie, the Z6 is probably the rangefinder for you.

Best for: Golfers who want the smallest, most powerful rangefinder on the market for tournament play. [/three_fourth][one_fourth last=”yes”]

[/one_fourth]

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

52 Comments

52 Comments

  1. Max Moon

    Oct 25, 2017 at 2:57 am

    It’s really awesome post and I love it. This top 5 best golf rangefinder is really good and it is the best in the market. It’s helped me lots to find the best golf rangefinder. Thanks for your good research.

  2. Dan

    Dec 15, 2016 at 1:20 am

    Pinseeker is such a must. I have shaky hands and can’t make a rangefinder without pinseeker work.

  3. Pingback: golf digest hot list 2013 rangefinders | Hot girl 4 you

  4. Carl Loves Golf

    Oct 23, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Bushnell rangefinders FTW. Otherwise, I just use golf gps apps instead.

  5. TGG_Chris

    Jun 15, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Even in 2016, the V3 is crazy good value for the money compared to what’s out there. The TecTecTec 500 model is also pretty solid for budget. The only reason to pony up >$300 is for the Bushnell X7 because of the 7x zoom – it makes it a lot easier to shoot 200+ yard distances.

  6. iyke20024

    Jan 28, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Bushnell Z6 is now the top lbest golf rangefinder for 2015. Leupold GX-3i or 3i2 is also a very good choice. Would be great of GolfWRX make an updated review for 2015. Waiting for that!

  7. Jaxson

    Apr 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Whatever you’re using learn how to use it and pick up the pace. I play with two guys who slow everybody down trying to figure if it’s 150 or 153. I use a Garmin watch that gives me front middle and back, automatically advances and is always there even at 67 to the middle.

  8. Golf Geek

    Mar 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I like the Leupold Gx-31, but the Bushnell is a better deal.

    See our top list here: GolfGearGeeks.com

  9. longsyne

    Jan 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    what is the best rangefinder out for under $250.00 ?

    • Val B

      Jan 25, 2014 at 6:56 am

      The Bushnell Tour V3 isn’t quite that low, but close enough that I would consider spending the extra to get it. The Callaway X-Hot is a great little unit and well under $250.

    • bestgolfrangefinder.org

      Feb 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Hi..I would recommend you go for Bushnell tour V3 standard edition. Its around that price. Check out my golf rangefinder comparison table for all the top golf rangefinder.. it includes the price and features.

      I hope it helps

      • sam

        Apr 28, 2014 at 3:58 pm

        Thanks man. Nice and comprehensive table also useful tips and guides

  10. hank rick

    Jan 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    I’m in the process of buying a 4i ..?? dose this unit realy worth the $499 ?

    • best golf rangefinder

      Feb 22, 2014 at 2:53 am

      Leupold GX 4i is still not as rated as the 3i. One issue is the speed. The difference between 3i and 4i is the slope capability. with slope edition you can do much more. However slope capability is not allowed for tournament play. 4i can be converted anyway.. the slope feature can be removed if you wanna use for tournament. so its convertable.

      3i is comparable smaller in size. but one issue now is that the manufacturer no longer produces 3i. Dont know the reason why but I guess its because of 4i. people still look for 3i. So depending if you really need the slope featured and also love leupold..

  11. MTGC7379

    Dec 29, 2013 at 5:59 am

    In perfect condition the Bushnell works perfectly. the reviews are always made under perfect conditions if they were not the ratings would not be published as the company would never sell anything.
    No different than any other review site. You pays your money you takes your chance.

  12. KH

    Dec 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Bushnell customer service says the V2 should work for 10 rounds per battery. That is a $100 a year for me. Really!!! I have friends who replace their battery for the same unit once a year and play more rounds than me. Sounds like a quality control issue Bushnell won’t step up to. Never again.

  13. Boo

    Oct 29, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Wow, Bushnell better up its game in customer service – they just lost my $500 puchase this week. Leopold all the way!!!! Customer service is everything, Bushnell will learn the hard way!!

  14. Jimithy

    Oct 28, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I had a Bushnell Tour Z6 and it worked OK as long as it was in bright sunlight. I live in the UK and so as you can imagine I don’t get to play in bright sunlight very often. In lowish light conditions the Z6 had a red hue across the screen (even with the brightness setting turned down). The red hue made it unusable. Sent it back to Bushnell and they were rubbish and said it worked OK, very poor service from Bushnell. I won’t buy anything from them again.

    • Dave McFeely

      Jul 31, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      Have a Bushnell with slope. Lost cover for Battery and try as I may, could not get any help from Bushnell to get replacement cover. Local agent in Dublin did not want to know, Bushnell Uk again were no help. Don’t bank on them for service.

  15. Will Jackson

    Oct 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I am looking to buy my first range finder for under $300. What are the best options?

  16. chris

    Oct 15, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    which of the leupolds have the slope????

  17. J C

    Oct 2, 2013 at 1:14 am

    I find that the Bushnell display gets washed out in bright sun so I bought the Callaway made by Nikon. I hadnt tried the Leupold previosly. I’ve had the original battery for over 2 years, I take it out in winter, Buffalo, NY, golf May to October ish.

  18. Gil Viera

    Sep 30, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Email regarding the “E12” error on the Bushnell Pro 1m rangefinder:

    This product has been discontinued and any new range finders will be announce in the first quarter of 2014 on our web site http://www.bushnellgolf.com . I hope this is of assistance.

    Please do not reply to this message.
    Bushnell Customer Service
    1-800-423-3537
    cid:image002.png@01CD869E.69E32120
    Thank you.

    • H B

      Oct 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      I just used my wife’s new Leupold gx-3i (to compare it to my old Nikon 800). It works great, fast and easy!
      If the Bushnells are any faster, they must know the yardage before I click…

  19. Alex

    Sep 28, 2013 at 11:35 am

    And, the build quality between the two is night and day, at least when it comes to the entry level option.

  20. Alex

    Sep 28, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I should say, both of these brands.

  21. Alex

    Sep 28, 2013 at 11:33 am

    As someone who sells both of these two units, I have to say there is quite a difference between what customers tell me, and what this article says.

  22. Jonathan

    Sep 27, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I just bought the Bushnell V3 slope edition and I am very concerned about the cost of replacing batteries. Can anyone suggest a rechargeable battery for this unit?

  23. Paul

    Sep 23, 2013 at 1:55 am

    I have the Leupold gx-4 and I love it. I recently tried the GX-4i in the store and it won me over the moment I hit the button. Talk about quick, point click and it gave me the yardage. No waiting, I thought it was a fluke so I tried different yardages and all of them were point click and number that quick.

    • Phill

      Sep 27, 2013 at 10:34 am

      I went with the 4i as well and put the skycaddie on the shelf. It is quick and accurate even without locking on a reflector. Leupold needs to increase it’s marketing budget. By far much better than Bushnell, Nikon and the rest of the lot.

  24. GolfWRX

    Sep 19, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    The Leupold devices won 2 of our top 5 devices. Obviously we felt they were excellent. We placed the Bushnell slightly above them for ease of hitting the target and time it took us to get a confident reading. You will please make note that the Nikon, Zeiss, Laser, Callaway or the Simmons were not given the “Best” award. Only Bushnell and Leupold were awarded the best of the best.

  25. johan melander

    Sep 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    How can you possible rate Bushnell as superior to Leupold?? That completely beats me. I’ve tested most of the rangefinders featured here and I belive the Leupold GX3i is by far the best. No Bushnell is even comparable with the Leupold GX3i in terms of speed.

  26. JoeSchu

    Sep 19, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Leupold GX1 all the way. Good value, lightening fast, simple to use, great battery life. Got mine for Father’s Day in 2012 and haven’t looked back. Fantastic stuff.

  27. Bmac

    Sep 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Leupold only in my bag. There’s a reason their optics are used by military’s across the world.

  28. Henny6

    Sep 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I have the Bushnell V2 and I play every week at least once and sometimes twice. I replace the battery once a year. I have not experienced any problems acquiring distant to the pin or any other object such as sand traps.

  29. Derek

    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I don’t know what Golfwrx is thinking. Haven’t they ever heard of Laser Link Golf. It is by far the easiest to use. All their rangefinders are pistol shape and so much easier to hold steady. They are also, the company that invented the prisms witch help all laser rangefinders. Golfwrx needs to look at the whole category not just the people that advertise with them.

  30. TheLegend

    Sep 18, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Yep my Leupold was way better than any bushnell I ever had.

  31. X

    Sep 18, 2013 at 2:52 am

    Leupold wins. Period.

  32. bj

    Sep 17, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    you should include customer service as part of the review. bushnell would fail that with flying colors.

  33. mb

    Sep 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Yep, I sent mine in to be fixed and they sent me a z6 saying the pro1m is being pulled from the market. I like the size of the pro1m. Easy to hold steady and aim. O well

  34. DB

    Sep 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I thought the Pro 1M had lots of issues and they were phasing it out?

  35. pier

    Sep 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    hum… strange..
    i’m in europe playing france and switzerland, index 7.
    i had the small Leupold for 2 years, gave it to my son and bought the gx4.
    all my friends have bushnell, leupold is not well known here.

    1rst accuracy: imagine hole 3, 230 yards, green down, sunny all hole except part of green in shadow where you have the flag. Both Leupold: point,click, you have the distance! 2 models of bushnell: point, click, click, click and click… and nothing!
    on any hole, Leupold point and click and you have distance. Bushnell point, click and perhaps you have, or perhaps you click one more time!

    2nd battery life: Leupold CR2 2 years for the small madel or the big one. All my friends need 3 batteries per year!

    My experience…
    best

    • GolfWRX

      Sep 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Changing times. As one of the testers for this article I can say the Bushnell Pro 1m in use for a full year over 50 rounds and yet to need a battery. Leupold takes us more time to get the number than our Bushnells we tested.

      • David W

        Sep 18, 2013 at 11:40 am

        I have buddies with Bushnell Tour V2s and they couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was to lock onto pins with my Leupold GX-3i.

      • Arky

        Oct 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        You are very fortunate or you know a trick. I go thru 2 1/2 batteries a year. Always have to have a new one in the bag because you never know when it’s going to fail. Have had the original small Bushnell and now the V2 the last 3 years, Deciding on which way to go and leaning Leopold.

  36. R

    Sep 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    in before the negative comments about rangefinders!

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

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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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