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.
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,”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
WRX Spotlight: Uther Supply golf towels
Product: Uther Supply golf towels
Pitch: Via Uther: “Uther cart towels use the highest quality material and construction which have been tested to perform season after season…Uther’s unique blend of moisturize wicking, soft microfiber is 3x more absorbent than cotton and 5x more durable…Waffle pattern to easily remove even the most stubborn dirt in club grooves and golf ball dimples…Uther is the creator of the fashionable golf towel. Features unique sublimated prints and designs that make a fun accessory for both men and women golf bags.”
Our take on Uther Supply golf towels
Most golfers have a “logo” towel hanging on their bag today. Typically you’ll see the name of a course the golfer has visited, or an OEM name. Uther Supply towels, however, are different. Uther (pronounced “other”) Supply Founder Dan Erdman described his inspiration for this unique line of golf towels in an interview with GolfWRX a few years back:
“When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together… I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.”
They have certainly succeeded in creating a new type of towel in the marketplace. We used them over several rounds of golf, in various conditions to put them to the test.
Meant to be shown off, Uther golf towel designs are creative and clever, with some of the most popular being the “Happy Gilmore inspired” Cart Towel and “90s coffee cup” Tour Towel. There of course, are many others to choose from.
Of course, let’s not forget that the primary function of a towel is to clean your golf equipment. That might seem easy but we at WRX have ordered some custom towels from other manufacturers in the past and were disappointed in the performance. Uther’s towels, however, succeed in both form and function. They’re stylish, but they also are an excellent functional towel. You’re like to be impressed at how light they are as well. These aren’t bath towels, but rather high-quality microfiber blends that Uther says are 3x more absorbent than cotton.
As far as cons, if we’re nitpicking, you may need to find a larger carabiner clip for some golf bags if you want to hang your towel in a more prominent place. These are made to show off, after all.
Prices range from $28-$35 USD and are available for purchase at uthersupply.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy in the US and Golf Town in Canada.
WRX Spotlight: Adidas Forgefiber Boa golf shoes
Product: Adidas Forgefiber Boa golf shoes
Pitch: From Adidas: “Designed for protection from the elements, these golf shoes have enhanced cushioning to return energy on every swing. The shoes feature a spikeless outsole that flexes with your foot and has strategically placed lugs for outstanding grip and balance. An innovative closure system is built for micro-adjustments so you get the exact fit you need.”
Our take on Adidas Forgefiber Boa golf shoes
Golf shoes are curious creatures existing in a strange place? No? Finally free of the gravitational pull of traditionalism, shoe styles are finally at a place where form follows function. And while you may pine for the days of saddle shoes aesthetically, your feet (and likely your golf swing) surely do not.
While the shoes are also available in gray/white and black/white colorways, we tested the bolder dark marine variant.
Now, “good” footwear, as we are constantly wont to admit, is highly subjective. As of yet, you can’t test two pairs of kicks on a TrackMan and determine which is superior (rumored featured of TrackMan 5). So leaving aside aesthetics and how you like your shoes to fit, we provide the most valuable information, that is, regarding stability, cushioning, and traction. However, in this case, it’s also worth noting the closure system does allow for a more precise fit (and one that stays in place) than lace-up shoes do.
With respect to comfort, first of all, anything Boost is going to be comfortable, and these shoes are no exception. And whether you refer to the “Forgefiber in the upper features heat-pressed, TPU-coated fibers…stitched in” to the upper (as Adidas does), or merely the sensation that the Forgefiber Boas provide a solid foundation during the swing, the truth is the same: sound, stable here.
A look at the Puremotion outsole showcases some serious spikeless technology that also offers performance on par with the very best in spikeless footwear.
A final word: These shoes are no porous sieve, either, as you might be concerned they could be on first glance. Adidas’ Climastorm technology in the exterior yields a respectable level of water-repellency.
WRX Spotlight: Swag ball markers and divot tool
Product: Swag ball markers and divot tool
Pitch: From Swag: “Swag is the brand that isn’t scared to push the limits in a conservative sport that isn’t evolving to meet changing styles. We like to listen to music on the course, we want to be bold, we love having fun, we love golf, and we’re going to express that both on and off the course. We aren’t going to try to sell you on how great our proprietary materials are and we don’t need to rely on clever marketing to sell more. We’re a no BS company. What matters is that our putters feel good and in turn make you feel good when putting. We have some crazy ideas, we love to tinker, and we experiment on how to perfect everything we do.”
Our take on Swag’s ball markers and divot tool
Swag Golf is creating some of the most sought after products on the market right now, with their funky headcovers and putters all being in high demand. Well, the companies ball markers and divot tool are no different, both of which are easily identifiable as coming from this emerging company who create high-quality products.
The Skull is the companies flagship symbol, and their Stainless Steel Skull Marker their most recognizable marker. The skull marker features black and fluorescent paint, with the bright sunglasses on the marker giving it a vibrant look. 100% CNC milled, the tool contains the companies name engraved on the back of the marker.
A variation on the Skull Marker is the companies Rainbow Skull Marker. Just in case the black and fluorescent paint job on the former wasn’t flashy enough for you, Swag’s Rainbow Skull Marker will make sure to get you noticed, containing the same features as their Skull Marker with a Rainbow PVD finish.
Moving away from their Skull Marker’s, Swag’s St Paddy’s Day Cap Marker is more than worthy of a mention. Identical in size to a bottle cap, the St Paddy’s Day inspired marker features a hand polished golden finish, with the word Swag in green written on the front, while on the back the words “Swag Golf Co.” as well as the company’s philosophy “Don’t give a putt” featured.
The company describe their bottle cap/marker as not being the first bottle cap/marker on the market but “the best one” out there. While I can’t confirm how true that statement is, I can certainly say it is an excellent one.
Swag’s first divot tool is the DTF Divot Tool. Get your head out of the gutter, that stands for “Down To Fix”. The device comes in a black and lime paint job, and an impressive weight of 49 Grams which should ensure that it doesn’t go missing on you.
The divot tool, like their ball markers, is 100% CNC milled and made from 303 Stainless Steel. For a Swag product, the writing and branding on the tool is quite minimalist, and it is as clean and sharp looking a divot tool as I’ve seen from the 2019 releases.
As always with Swag products, the only issue is the limited releases and how quickly the items go, which is no surprise considering the unique products as well as the quality provided. They are, however, continuing to create and release more and more products and their website, as well as their social media sites, are all well worth keeping a close eye on if you’re looking to snag some of the companies top gear in the future.
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