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Gadgets: Spy X18 The Beacon Bluetooth Speaker

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Playing music on the golf course has become both acceptable and convenient at many golf courses and driving ranges, and as a result more and more golf-specific gadgets have become available.

You might already have a bluetooth speaker at home, but some models are better for golf than others. Take Spy’s X18 Bluetooth Speaker, for example. It’s designed to fit in a cup holder, which means it won’t fall out of your golf cart when you punch the gas.

If you’re not riding, you can hang it from your golf bag with a handy carabiner. And although we can’t endorse the behavior, there’s also a mic and speakerphone should you need to take a call on the golf course.

Here’s what else you need to know about Spy’s X18 Bluetooth Speaker. 

the beacon speaker

It’s durable

  • It has a molded outer silicone shell skin for durability.
  • It’s water resistant, good if you spill drinks or it rains.
  • It’s IPX6 water-resistant, and drop-proof from up to 1.2 meters (that’s about the length of your driver, folks).

golf speaker

Good battery life

  • Boasts 15-hour battery life of full max volume playback, good enough for about three rounds of golf.
  • Built-in 2200 mAh class A high capacity rechargeable lithium battery

Sound-quality is “up to par”

  • The Spy X18 is equipped with dual 400mm speaker drivers and dual passive radiator, made for enhanced bass and consistent sound quality.
  • It’s rated power 6W with 360-degree surround stereo sound

Here is a sound bite from the voice on The Beacon bluetooth speaker:

IMG_1563

Where to buy

  • Spy’s The Beacon speaker is available for $99.95 at spyoptic.com in both orange and black shells. 
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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.

44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. DMT

    Nov 9, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I have considered bringing my speaker to the course. I have seen a number of people use them. The key word is SEEN. Unless I’m right next to their cart or bag, I can’t hear it, let alone be distracted by it.

    How is that more distracting than the walker in your group with clubs banging together as he walks? Or the other twosome in their cart driving around looking for their balls in the rough while you hit? Not to mention the guys NOT in your group in the next fairway, on the next tee, last green etc, who bang the gas and drive off during your crucial putt or tee shot?

    Or, God forbid, someone talking on the course?!? And the PLANES IN THE SKY!!! How dare they fly while I’m hitting?

    If anything, a little background music will drown a lot of that out, not be more distracting.

  2. Clark

    Oct 23, 2015 at 8:25 am

    I see a lot of anti music posts on here. I don’t see a problem with low level music in your group as long as you are respectful to others around you. We play a GAME.

    If you are willing to spend the time and money to play. It is your descretion on enjoyment. If you play strictly by the rules, fine, don’t listen to music. If your rules are loose, then wear your loudmouth attire, drink that pint, improve your lie, and enjoy the experience. Neither is wrong.

    I’ve been a playing professional for over a decade now. Be respectful of others and enjoy the time with friends. Leave the Tour attitude on TV (or at least save it for a tourney) and out of your foursome. Just go out there and have fun.

    • Pro

      Oct 23, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      Professional? What is your name and what are your stats?

  3. Bob

    Oct 22, 2015 at 1:49 am

    Why are you promoting this? Everyone likes their own music and no one wants to hear someone else’s from the adjacent fairway.

  4. Rule the World

    Oct 18, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    It’s simple:
    Play by the USGA/ R&A rules, idiots!

    Simples!

  5. Joe

    Oct 18, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    It looks like one more thing to leave on your cart when your finished playing. IF, I used such a device it would have to hang on my bag so it would not be left behind.

    Also, I don’t need any outside noise to distract me or others. I you are playing alone, use headphones. If playing with others forgo any music.

  6. Mark

    Oct 17, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Music has no place on the course. I go to the course to enjoy the peace and quiet and nature. Our club has enough issues with Juniors trying to snapchat every shot. If you play in headphones you are ignorant and anti social. Find another game.

  7. McCleod

    Oct 17, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I am 70, but I see nothing wrong with a little low-volume music in the background when my friends and I are playing. What with the customary slow play issues – it is often relaxing. Those that are aggravated with the “hacks” among us had better be happy that we play at all. The “players” could not support their hobby if all 5% of then had to fund golf in America. And, we are all “hacks” at something. I can soundly beat every good golfer I know in tennis. Just saying . . .

    • 8thehardway

      Oct 18, 2015 at 1:12 am

      What sort of music do you listen to when playing tennis?

  8. mgholda

    Oct 16, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    i listened to music while I played today for the first time
    Don’t know if it was the Celine Dion and Backstreet Boys or if it was just my day but anyways shot my best score ever (113). Me and my life partner just bought some Mariah Carey songs and can’t wait to listen to them this weekend on the course.

    • Boblocke2

      Oct 21, 2015 at 12:25 am

      Classic. Life partner and Celine Dion while banging a 113.

  9. 8thehardway

    Oct 16, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Wait ’till you meet Playlist Pete who blasts ‘ Ride of the Valkyries’ on the tee box, ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ in the sand trap and ‘Summer Breeze’ on the putting green. Sure, he’ll turn it off after he hits so no problems, right?

  10. ooffa

    Oct 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Golfers come and go. Rock and Roll is here to stay. Tee it up and rock on. It’s time to bring these old geezers back from the brink of their stodgy old ways.

    • Affoo

      Oct 16, 2015 at 11:44 am

      You’ll be gone like Lamar Odom you’re in the same league as him and we’ll laugh

      • Like

        Oct 16, 2015 at 1:30 pm

        I like that.

      • prime21

        Oct 21, 2015 at 8:09 am

        Dropping a quote about someone who is struggling to cope with life is a classless move. Nothing about what you said is funny. It is sad to see that any human finds it ok to “make a joke” about the trials and tribulations of another, especially considering the individual nearly died. If knocking people down is the only way you can lift yourself up, you should take some time to reevaluate what is going on in your life and seek help from a mental health care provider. The staff at GolfWrx should also be ashamed that they allowed your post to go through. Until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you should keep your commentary where it belongs, in your underdeveloped brain. I wish you good luck and hope that you find happiness in your life.

  11. Non

    Oct 15, 2015 at 3:52 am

    “both acceptable and convenient at many golf courses”

    NO, it HAS NOT. Only at mickey mouse low-class backwoods munis. Stop this lying now. It states, clearly in the rules of golf that music is NOT ALLOWED in play on the course at any time.

    If you have any respect for the game, you will stop any music on the course, period.

  12. Joshuaplaysgolf

    Oct 14, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Kyle, totally agree with you, if you aren’t doing it around other groups, who cares? As long as your group is cool with it. The issue is that a lot of people don’t have that awareness and get salty when asked (politely) to turn the music off while your swinging. I’m in my late 20’s, so not a crotchety old guy or preppy country club jerk, I adore hip-hop and listen to music constantly while I practice, which is 4-5 hours every day…but I always have my noise cancelling headphones in so I don’t annoy anyone on the range. It’s not all that different than if someone is talking while your swinging. Just be respectful of other people, as some golfers just want a few hours of quiet, sunshine, and a stroll around a georgeous course. I also agree with you fully that we need as many youth as possible, and the average golfer is really at the core of the golf economy. ‘Serious’ players and low handicappers might make up, what, 5% of golfers? I don’t think anyone wants to scare anyone off, but just want people to be self aware enough to cut the music when they’re around other groups. Everyone is out to have fun, that’s why we play, but that looks a bit different for everyone and when one person’s good time effects someone else’s good time, that is where the conflict comes from.

  13. Brian

    Oct 14, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    100% AGREE

  14. mgholda

    Oct 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    The people who typically play music while on the golf course are either (1) hackers, (2) playing in a couples event, or (3) older guys trying to act younger. Whichever one fits your particular case, it is disrespectful conduct and should not be encouraged. I play serious golf to escape from societal de-evolution, not to be reminded of it. This is where I draw the line. Sorry to be “get off my lawn guy”, but this is indicative of larger problems in today’s world.

    • Non

      Oct 15, 2015 at 3:53 am

      Thumbs up agree

    • Teaj

      Oct 15, 2015 at 8:35 am

      I wouldn’t call myself a hacker or play in couples events, nor do I consider myself to be old at 31. I have played music on the course but am courteous enough to know when to turn it down if approaching a group or within earshot of another group. I guess I am not the so called typical golfer playing music on the course then.

      • Bert

        Oct 15, 2015 at 8:16 pm

        I doubt it. Use headphones and keep the noise to yourself.

    • Keith

      Oct 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      I’m scratch and 37yrs old. My cart has a radio and if I play elsewhere I don’t play without my speakers. Regardless of what some people on here think, you can play music in your cart/group without disturbing others. It’s really quite simple to do.

  15. TimJHU

    Oct 14, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I agree…if you are playing music on a golf course make sure you’ve got earbuds in!

  16. Devin Bland

    Oct 14, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    I was given this speaker as a tee prize. It’s pure garbage.

  17. mgholda

    Oct 14, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Using personal headphones is OK, but using a speaker on the golf course subjecting everyone to your taste in music and disturbing their round is NOT OK. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT or anything similar.

    • alan

      Oct 14, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      you sound fun

      • J

        Oct 14, 2015 at 8:10 pm

        Because he doesn’t want to listen to someone else’s idea of ‘good music’? You sound like an idiot.

        The very strong majority of golfers would prefer it quiet when they are hitting a shot. What’s the difference in whispering about your crappy kid and having to listen to ‘NWA’, ‘Kenny Chesney’, or ‘Jimmy Buffet’ while someone tees it up?? It’s just not the time or the place. This is sort of like making a boom box for people who frequent libraries. If you ask your playing partners if they mind before turning it on and turn it off when other groups are around, it’s no big deal. But when your idea of a ‘good time’ starts ruining other people’s, there’s a problem. I’m guessing your the type who gets pissed and rolls his eyes when someone politely asks you to turn your music off while they hit. Try to find a little self awareness and figure it out. Bro.

        • alan

          Oct 15, 2015 at 8:09 pm

          thankfully my playing partners are good golfers not jacka$$ hacks that need it dead quiet so they can hit their slice into the woods. you want peace and quiet go hike the AT or PCT or go lay in the bed with your lame wife

          • uid1

            Mar 29, 2016 at 3:02 am

            You sound like exactly the sort that wouldn’t shut the f##k up with the noise, er, music, when someone else is trying to enjoy some peace & quiet or even take a shot.

            And don’t get me started on how you probably listen to the same tired music you’ve been listening to since you were a teenager (most everyone’s favourite music is from when they were a teenager, and idiot on the course this past weekend was blaring some 30+ year old stuff – boring AND annoying).

        • Bert

          Oct 15, 2015 at 8:19 pm

          +1 It’s always amazes me how some defend their need to disturb others.

      • mgholda

        Oct 14, 2015 at 9:39 pm

        Playing winning golf is fun. Care to play straight up for the deed to your mobile home?

    • TOOL

      Oct 14, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      …and if your bleeding ears are nowhere nearby, who cares what and how loud I play something;)

      • mgholda

        Oct 14, 2015 at 9:40 pm

        Great name! Very fitting!

      • Jack

        Oct 14, 2015 at 10:30 pm

        So you’re that guy who likes to “share” his music with strangers and when they tell you to turn it down you feel like they are intruding on YOUR space?

        • TOOL

          Oct 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

          Your assumption that I’m trying to ‘share’ my music with you or any other stranger is intruding…

    • Kyle

      Oct 14, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      Sure some people may have their music loud and not be courteous to other golfers, but my friends and I play music because it’s relaxing and enjoyable for us. Takes a bit of the seriousness out of golf and let’s us get out and relax. When we come anywhere near other groups that may be able to hear the music we turn it down. All you’re doing is being stubborn/old school/dinosaur and taking the fun out of golf for young people who in the end are important to the sustainability of the game. Give your head a shake. If it doesn’t effect you with 99% of the time it won’t, shut your trap.

      • Non

        Oct 15, 2015 at 3:59 am

        “shut your trap.”

        Right back at you, eejit

      • Joe

        Oct 18, 2015 at 6:11 pm

        Kyle: You think that old people don’t like music, and you have to be young? Music has its place but that usually is not on the golf course where if it disturbs the concentration of other golfers trying to concentrate and enjoy their game.

        When your music interferes with others it should be left for a different time. Common courtesy will take you much further with your game and life in general.

        Have fun golfing. It is not a life contest against the young and old.

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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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