If you have spent time the last few years looking through GolfWRX photos from PGA Tour events, you likely noticed more Tour pros are using professional launch monitors — such as Trackman and Flightscope — on the range on a regular basis. They’re using them as more than a fitting tool, too. The combined data they provide, which includes key metrics such as ball speed, spin rate and launch angle, present golfers with an accurate picture of how far they hit each of their clubs and what swing changes are giving them the best results.

Professional launch monitors are generally outside of the price range of most golfers. Trackman, the industry leader, ranges from $16,000-$25,000 while an entry-level Flightscope Xi starts at $2,500 and the Flightscope X2 at around $11,000.

But like so many other ways, technology has started to bridge the gap between amateur golfers and the pros, and affordable, personal launch monitors have been making their way into the bags of more golfers dedicated to improving their game.

Ernest Sports and the ES14 Launch Monitor

One of the companies leading the drive to bring professional quality launch monitor data to the masses is Ernest Sports. Based in Atlanta, Ga., Ernest Sports came onto the scene with its ES12 personal launch monitor. This past year, the company took it up a notch with the Doppler-based ES14, a $699 personal launch monitor that measures club head speed and ball speed. It also calculates spin rate, launch angle, carry and total distance. Powered by 9v batteries, it measures roughly 8-by-6 inches, making the ES14 portable enough to carry with you to the range and accurate enough to offer golfers valuable feedback.

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The best products and companies are built by people trying to solve a personal problem in an area they are truly passionate about. For Joe Ernest, the founder and CEO of Ernest Sports, that passion is golf. After spending countless hours on the range and course watching golfers, including himself, pull the wrong club out of the bag, he set out to build a product that would give all golfers the confidence of knowing just how far they hit each of their clubs. He wanted to use Doppler radar technology, which is the same base technology as Trackman and Flightscope, to track both the club and golf ball. And he wanted this product to be affordable enough for almost any golfer to use.

“This is the future. Very soon there won’t be anywhere you go to hit golf balls where you don’t have instant access to your numbers,”
Ernest said.

The company counts long drive, Champions Tour and LPGA players among their list of customers, but they do not pursue formal endorsement deals. For Ernest Sports, the ES14 is aimed squarely at improving the game of every day golfers.

The ES14 has two Dopplers, one that faces forward to capture the ball flight, and one that faces rearward to capture the club head. The measured inputs are club head speed and ball speed, which present an accurate smash factor. The spin rate and launch angle, as well as carry and total distance, are calculations. Even though they are not directly measured with the ES14, they are still quite accurate on solid shots.

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The company assembles each unit at its headquarters, allowing control of every aspect of the assembly and testing process. They walked me through the assembly of the unit I would receive for testing. I like knowing each ES14 is hand-assembled, starting with the electronics, all the way to the final polishing of the unit before packaging and shipping.

Each unit is turned on and tested to ensure everything is working as intended. The testing is completed by Jeremy Schmiedeberg, a scratch golfer who also handles sales and marketing for Ernest Sports. He hits 30-yard wedge shots, which the company has determined to be the best indicator that the unit is working properly, until he is satisfied that the unit is ready to go.

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Jeremy Schmiedeberg testing an ES14 unit at Ernest headquarters.

ES14 Accuracy

A company made up of passionate golfers is not enough if the product doesn’t deliver accurate results. For personal launch monitors, this means accurate club speed, ball speed and carry distance. Ernest Sports has worked hard to ensure that even though the ES14 is $700 and not thousands, it still generates accurate data.

The company provided me with independent third-party testing comparing the ES14 against Trackman. The testing took place outside on grass at the Country Club of the South here in Georgia.

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The results were impressive, considering the extreme difference in price of the two launch monitors, but most importantly, they were consistent.

No launch monitor, even the most expensive ones, will capture every shot and make every calculation perfectly. But when it comes to choosing a launch monitor, you want one that will provide consistent numbers.

Stacked up against a Trackman, the ES14 consistently registered slightly higher club speed and slightly lower ball speed. Carry distance was generally reported higher on the ES14. This is due in part to the difference between the ES14 and Trackman. Trackman captures the entire ball flight, which will be impacted by external forces such as wind. The ES14 on the other hand, captures the ball flight for the first 10 yards to make the final calculations.

Most other launch monitors on the market, including those you would hit indoors at golf stores around the country, also base their distance calculations on a brief snapshot of data and not the full flight.

My Testing of the ES14

With the Trackman comparison testing completed, I focused my testing on the driving range and hit shots to specific pins measured with a laser rangefinder as well as my own GPS app designed for use on the driving range.  I also set up the ES14 in my home hitting area to test how much space the ES14 would need to capture accurate data indoors.

Getting started with the ES14 was easy. While the free smartphone app for iOS (Android is also available) could use a design refresh, it was simple to use and provided at-a-glance access to the key data. You can take part in a skills challenge where you are scored on your ability to hit shots to specific distances, which is something that makes practice a lot more interesting.

Included in the box is an alignment aide to help set the unit up to capture accurate data. Because I was on the range hitting irons, I had to be aware that moving the ball too far outside a “circle” would influence the numbers. The image below shows the ideal position of the ball relative to the launch monitor. Anywhere inside this circle should produce accurate results, but positioning it directly where the alignment aide suggests will be best.

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As I created divots, I needed to adjust the monitor. This is not a factor when hitting off a mat or a tee, but something to keep in mind when hitting on grass. Also, with the launch monitor in front and to the side of you, there is a slight bit of nervousness in the beginning that you’re one hosel rocket away from smashing it, but I never actually came close.

On the range, I went through the entire bag, but it was more difficult to accurately laser the exact landing area with longer clubs. I spent more of my time hitting to a green with a pin at 155 yards, which is a stock 8 iron for me. I was impressed with the accuracy of the ES14 and the ability to pick up each shot. I was seeing slightly longer carry distances of around 2-to-4 yards reported, but that is the kind of accuracy I would expect and want to have in a launch monitor at this price. I did notice that offline shots had a wider variance, which is expected. If I played a very large draw or fade, the numbers reported would be somewhat less accurate than a traditional shot with a smaller amount of curve.

Indoors with the ES14

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The ES14 is a great companion for the driving range, where you can see the full ball flight and landing area. The results matched my expectations and previous knowledge about how far I hit different clubs. However, I also see it as an valuable tool to round out an indoor hitting bay. Instead of hitting into a net and relying only on feel and impact tape to recognize solid shots, the ES14 can provide actual data.

I set it up in my home hitting area with 8 feet of distance between the unit and my net. Once again, I hit shots with an 8 iron (as well as other clubs) and was happy to see the numbers were almost identical to those on the range. You do need to hit an actual golf ball for the ES14 to provide accurate data, and you need 8-to-10 feet of ball flight. Combined with other technology, such as a swing analyzer like Swingbyte, and slow motion video from your mobile phone, you can now have a pretty powerful indoor practice area and have the confidence you’re grooving a good swing.

Final Thoughts

The personal launch monitor space is heating up fast and Ernest Sports is just getting started. It has made great strides from the ES12 to the ES14 by including two Dopplers instead of one and delivering a wider set of accurate metrics. I believe the innovations they have on the horizon will continue to empower every day golfers.

While the ES14 will never replace or directly compete with all the advanced features of the more expensive launch monitors, the measured club head and ball speed data it captures paints an accurate picture of your true distance and will help you ultimately make better decisions on the course.

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36 COMMENTS

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  1. I’ve had my es14 for about 2 months now. I’ve been using it 4x a week. I find that you need to hit a good shot for the data to be accurate. On the driving range the calculated and measured distances are pretty close…couple yards on medium irons. That makes me believe that the ball speed parameter is very accurate. The club speed will have an error of about +/- 4%. So the smash factor varies accordingly. This is an invaluable tool for maximizing your driver. I take 10 shots with the driver. After the 10 are taken the average club shot seems highly accurate. The errors in the club speed will cancel and average to a true club speed. So smash factor become more accurate also. This method allows me to make driver adjustments. Such as loft settings, test different shafts, I had 4 drivers to test also. Use clubface tape to hone strike location and best tee heights. After tweaking the best results for my driver I was able to increase driving distance 20yds. On 4 holes at the club i had a day last week where i had 4 of my longest drives during the round. The device allows to hone your swing for best results.

    This is just a great tool for those who are serious about your game

  2. Yesterday I took my ES 14 and my book, golf sciense, to the driving range.
    This book contains all information about club speed, ball speed, ballspin, launch angle and carry and total distance. I wanted to find out what was the best loft on my driver to get less spin, correct launch angle. Normaly I use 10.5 degrees on my driver, and my club speed is about 90 mph.
    Since the table in the book said, no higher lounch angle then 13,8 degrees and spin rate lower then 2021 rpm. The results was amasing, on 10.5 loft degrees the spin was much to high and distance to short. After a bucket of shots I came down 8.5 degrees loft and launch angle was 13.80 deegres, spin 2389 rpm and distance increased with 22 yds. Furthermore I exprimented how to attack the ball in different ways and as a result of this I learned how to increase club speed by 5 mph.
    So, never by a driver without get fitted.

  3. The problem with these devices is that it gives us average golfers too much information that is not necessary. We don’t have great swings like the pros. If you look at our numbers on a trackman or device like this, it’s only going to discourage you to see that your shaft lean is flipped, have an outside to in swingpath, etc. etc…. And if you are smart enough to understand it all, then you are tasked with trying to fix it, which is a monumental task in and of itself. Kick it old school and go out there on the range with a few clubs and a bucket of balls. You can see pretty easily whether or not you are hitting the ball well.

  4. Bottom line is that those numbers are just not accurate enough to be of any use. If I want to mess around with a new driver or shaft but it is giving me numbers that are up to 10 yards off than its not going to justify a $70 price tag let alone $700. I appreciate the fact that this company is trying to make a reasonably priced launch monitor but its just not there yet.

  5. Strange, there was a review of the SkyTrak, ES14, ES12 and VoiceCaddie SC100 the other week on a different website (MGS) and they came to a completely different result for the ES14 and 12. Basically that they can’t recommend them.

      • Hey Alex – Just to clarify, the numbers were provided by Ernest Sports. However, the testing was actually completed by an independent 3rd party directly against their own TM. One of the things I checked out in the data was variation and spread. Some of the numbers frankly do not paint the best picture when stacked directly against TM, which is a good indication the numbers as a whole were undoctored. But it is another reason I wanted to actually test the unit against lasered and GPS-tracked landing areas for myself to help provide a more complete picture.

  6. I guess I’m just old school but I don’t see the value in a launch monitor when hitting outside. I can clearly see my ball flight and tell if I’m getting the results I want. On the other hand when weather or time of day doesn’t allow for hitting balls outside I think they are great. If I ever win the lottery I’m gonna have one installed in my man cave.

  7. So, if the ES14 only measures ball and club speed, and calculates everything else, why buy it over the ES12?

    Seems like it looks really cool, more like the Flightscope, but doesn’t really provide a ton more than what you’d get with the smaller, less expensive ES12.

    Until a unit can measure spin and launch and offer a more comprehensive look at impact, I don’t really see much benefit over a basic unit like a swing speed radar of the ES12.

    • I think the ES12 only has one camera, and only measures the ball speed, and calculates the rest. ES 14 has 2 cameras ( one for the ball, one for the clubhead), giving ball speed and clubhead speed. That’s the reason for the cost difference I think.

      • Ah, okay.

        But still. $700 for two numbers and some calculations seems like a bad deal, to me.

        I’m glad we’re going towards an affordable range option, but I want to see what else comes in the next few years.

      • That is correct, Greg. The ES14 has 2 Dopplers, front facing and rear facing, to capture the clubhead and ball separately. The ES12 simply has one. The additional calculated data is another reason for the price difference between the two units.

  8. Love the way screenshots comparing ES14 and trackman numbers were thrown in there….the numbers are way off from trackman. If 2 degrees of launch difference? Thats huge. Almost 1000 rpm of spin with the 6 iron? Also huge. 10 yards of carry with the driver? All this screenshots did was DISprove the ES14.

  9. I am surprised it took so long to see a review of this device. Hasn’t it been out for more then a year? I am often wrong (my wife would agree). It was good to see numbers side by side with trackman. I would have liked to have seen how the numbers changed specifically with the offline shots. If they were out a lot and only straight shots were accurate then anyone who hits a fade or draw as a stock shot could ignore this thing.

    • Nope, you can tell your wife you’re right this time! The ES14 was released last year.

      I hit a draw (not a large one) as a stock shot and found the numbers quite accurate when measured with laser and GPS on the range, not stacked against Trackman. Where I saw a wider gap between reported distances and actual distances were when those draws became hooks and fades became slices. Severe curve or obvious mishits didn’t register as accurate.

  10. Hey M – Thats a good point and the main reason I wanted to spend time hitting to lasered landing areas. What I saw using a laser and GPS app designed for the range, was that on average the ES14 was reporting carry distances within a 2-4 yard radius of the lasered landing point. There is some variance since I wasn’t able to literally walk out and measure point to point. But that 2-4 was consistent. Hope that helps.

    • I have no issues if the ES14 is off from the trackman as long as it is consistent – as I can use a laser finder to dial in my exact yardages for one or two clubs on the course and then extrapolate the readings from the ES14 and calculate my expected yardages to a pretty exact yardage. In fact, not incorporating the wind is an advantage for the ES14 to me as the wind is irrelevant to me knowing my yardages club by club. However, I am concerned about that piece of card stock required to use the ES14 – I would be lucky to use it at all during a season with dew in the morning and lots of rain. Do they have a plastic version available? Are they planing to have another version that does not require such a delicate setup for accurate readings in the future?

      • I agree with you, Philip. It is nice to see yardages under calm conditions and then make your calculations to adjust on the course for any wind.

        The card stock has a coating and is somewhat thick. But you’re right, repeated use on wet turf would eventually start to wear down the alignment aide. That said, I found that once I set up the monitor, I simply stuck a tee in the ground to mark the ideal spot and removed the card. That removed the distraction of the card and also kept it off the ground. I don’t have any knowledge of plans to release a plastic version.

        • Are you kidding? It is not getting yardages under calm conditions, it is simply getting the limited 10 yd calculation that it is capable of. Is wind cutting up a golf ball from impact to 10 yards? Maybe if you’re hitting some type of wedge. More importantly, if you are outside and hitting directly into a 10 mph wind, it WILL knock your ball down and it IS important to know how that wind effects each club. Where do you & Philip live that has 0 wind? Philip hits a ball that the ES 14 tells him went 140 yards. He lasers his ball on the range, and gets 130 yards. As a player he could use this information to determine exactly how far each of his clubs travels or how much it curves under the current conditions. He could do this down wind, in a left to right wind, or in a right to left wind, and actually improve! Or, he may be able to learn how to take spin off his ball or use spin to fight against the wind which would mean he had more control of his golf ball. Knowing what your golf ball is going to do in any situation is the definition of playing better golf, is it not? If you cannot track the entire flight of the ball from start to finish, you are getting an innacurate #’s, period. Would you want a driver that was carrying 280 or 284 yards? What if you had to carry a hazard at 280, are you trusting your monitor now? How about spinning at 2600 or 3000 rpm’s? If cheap means less accurate then the product is simply not good. If a differential of 3-4 yards or 400-500 rpm’s of spin is acceptable, you probably shouldn’t have a launch monitor to begin with.

          • No Launch Monitor Tracks the golf ball all the way to the ground, not even Trackman. I believe there is a lot of misconception in the market at what a launch monitor does. Both camera and radar based units rely on a lot of calculations.

          • @prime21, I do not understand your long post. Do you want a device that has some kind of a built in kestrel meter that acually flights beside the golfball in the air to correctly calculate the carry so that you get exact numbers that match any condition. Or are you happy with the way the es14 gives you numbers that reflect calm conditions?
            Am I being silly?
            I got one of those es14s. As long as I hit them pure, ballspeed and ss are spot on so smashfactor and the carry numbers would be easy to calculate correctly. ????

          • @prime21, I do not understand your long post. Do you want a device that has some kind of a built in kestrel meter that acually flights beside the golfball in the air to correctly calculate the carry so that you get exact numbers that match any condition. Or are you happy with the way the es14 gives you numbers that reflect calm conditions?
            Am I being silly?
            I got one of those es14s. As long as I hit them pure, ballspeed and ss are spot on so smashfactor and the carry numbers would be easy to calculate correctly. ????

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