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Review: Arccos and Arccos Driver

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Pros: Provides comprehensive statistical data and analysis of your game, as well as GPS capabilities, all delivered in real time via superbly designed, user friendly apps. In all, a mighty, and enlightening, game improvement tool.

Cons: Sensors are not fool-proof, and inevitable editing will be a challenge during a fast round. Lacks a pedometer and calories burned function; batteries are not rechargeable, and will have to be replaced after about 50 rounds.

Who It’s For: Any tech-savvy golfer willing to trade a potentially altered playing experience for a deep data dive into their game.

The Review

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  • Price: $299.99; Arccos Driver $79.99.
  • Compatible with: iOS, Android; sensors screw into any golf club grip.

Jamming Bluetooth sensors into the end of your clubs is a bit like making a deal with the devil. On the one hand, all the knowledge of your game will be bestowed upon you, as if shined down in divine light. On the other hand, you will have crossed a certain technological Rubicon, and there’s likely no going back. Welcome to the machine, and say adios to your old, blissfully simple golf life.

More and more players have made this bargain in recent years, adopting wearable or mobile technology to track stats in one form or another. As this trend has emerged and accelerated, Arccos Golf (of the Bluetooth sensors) has sought to position itself as the premier app-based, real-time stat tracking, data analytics and GPS platform. After launching on iOS in 2014, the Stamford, Connecticut company (and Callaway partner) recently staked out more territory, expanding to Android as well as releasing a driver-only platform, Arccos Driver. In all iterations, the company has developed a sleek and user-friendly product that delivers on the company’s promises (a tsunami of data), while preserving as much as possible an uninterrupted golf experience.

Make no mistake; this is golf with cellphone as essential companion. Fine. What you gain here outweighs what you lose. And either way you cut it, this brave new world of mobile golf tech is here to stay. “Gone are the days of simply playing golf,” according to Arccos. You can say that again.

How It Works: The Setup

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The initial setup and club pairing process is easy, and only needs to be done once. The Bluetooth sensors screw into the existing hole in the end of your grips. They’re all identical, except for the putter sensor, and you can screw them into your clubs in any order.

The Arccos app is free from the App Store or Google Play. Once launched, you are guided through a painless, 5-minute club pairing process wherein you select your clubs, then pair each one by holding down the button on the end of the sensor for a few seconds. An icon appears in the app showing that that club is paired, on to the next one, fourteen times until you’re done. Re-pairing clubs is also easy. If your setup changes, just de-select the club you’re replacing, select the new one, screw in the sensor and pair as usual.

One of Arccos’ numerous strengths is that after this initial setup process, you do not have to calibrate clubs pre-round, or tap them to a separate device before every shot. Just launch the app, make sure Arccos has detected the right course, select your tee, and go.

Stats, Stats, Stats

Here we go. The bulk of the mountain of stats that Arccos collects about your game are accessible directly through the app, in what Arccos calls its Tour Analytics Platform. And when I say mountain, I do mean mountain. Highlights include fairway and approach dispersions; average distance to the pin on greens hit in regulation and on all approaches; and chipping stats and sand save percentages, including average distances to the pin on those shots. Putting stats include average putts per hole, putts after GIR, and a list of one, two and three putts per round.

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A separate handicap is assigned to five categories: Driving, Approach, Chipping, Sand, and Putting. Those numbers are then roughly averaged to give an overall handicap. For obvious reasons, this is unlikely to match your USGA handicap, but breaking it down into separate categories is great for seeing which part of your game needs the most work. Me: putting. Another nice stat is pace of play, down to the second. My personal 18-hole best: 2:41:19, in a foursome.

Moving into individual clubs, Arccos picks apart each of your sticks by showing average distance, standard deviation, longest shot to date, GIR percentage, misses right, left, long and short with that club, and historical usage. The “Smart Distance” page is designed to illustrate the yardage range for each of your clubs. In general, the club breakdown pages are excellent for getting to know your distances, a semi-dark side of the moon for many players.

In addition to the app, there is a separate web-based dashboard through which players can access expanded displays of their numbers in graph form, including dispersion and Strokes Gained data. The Strokes Gained display is done by color coding each shot on a hole from dark green (excellent) to red (poor) in order to show where you picked up or lost strokes against the average for your handicap. This allows a player to see at a glance which clubs are their strength and which are costing them the most shots. For instance, the color coding instantly revealed the extent to which my 56-degree wedge was saving me when I missed a green. It’s an effective way to display the data, though being able to access it through the app would have been nice.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the data that Arccos mines about your game, but it’s enough to give you an idea. Arccos is like a new car; six months in, you’ll still be finding new buttons to push and extra cupholders.

The Playing Experience

Right to the big question: How accurate is it? On average, I found the system to be about 90 percent accurate. I have yet to play a round with Arccos where the sensors didn’t miss a shot, record a shot inaccurately, or otherwise do something that required editing during or after the round. Most of the time, those failures of detection were minor: a tap-in putt, for instance. No big deal. But on rare occasions they were major. For example, crediting me with a 360-yard drive onto the green, when in reality I hit a 120-yard shot in between. (I appreciate the encouragement, Arccos.) Here’s the thing: how accurate should you expect a system like this to be? I don’t know, but my guess is that Arccos is as accurate as the current state of the art will allow. I also know that even with its occasional inaccuracies, Arccos will wow you. It will also sometimes annoy you. And if you’re the wrong type of player for this type of thing, it will stress you out.

Take the wow factor: the app is an expertly designed, sexy interface. It is friendly and intuitive to navigate, and never feels clunky or over-engineered. As you play, your shots appear as pro-tracer style arcs over an aerial view of each hole, with the club and distance displayed. Way cool. Swiping back over holes within the round is simple, and every past round is available to view in its entirety, with full stats. It is oddly arresting seeing your game laid bare this way for the first time, like some form of golf exposure therapy. As such, expect to be visited by every emotion from exhilaration and pride to black rage and denial. I know I was. I cried both kinds of tears. Because what Arccos gives you is the cold, hard truth. A lot like Miguel Angel Jimenez’s stretching routine, once you see this you can’t unsee it. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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Now for the annoying part: like it or not, you’re going to have to make edits. To Arccos’ credit, they do their best to make this process as easy as possible. For example, adding or subtracting a putt to your hole score is a breeze. There are prominent plus and minus icons. Worse is if you have to add an entire shot. That process involves selecting a start and end point for the shot, etc., etc. It’s not something you can comfortably do mid round, unless God forbid you’re waiting on the tee. But the need for that type of full shot editing is acceptably rare.

It is around the greens — where the game’s nuances (and often most heinous crimes) present themselves — that you will likely find your patience with Arccos being tested most significantly, and even then, not by a prohibitive amount. Nonetheless, a few items bear mentioning. Approach shots that end up just on the fringe will often get logged as a GIR, and you’ll have to edit that. Putt distances are not displayed on the hole overview, nor are penalty shots, which you must also manually input. Chips with mid-irons sometimes went undetected. Should these blemishes be deal breakers if you’re on the fence about diving in? Absolutely not. These shortcomings seem not so much design flaws as the system and sensors running up against the limits of current technology. Don’t let that turn you away, especially if you feel you’re geared for this type of techy golf experience.

Which raises an important question: are you? You may hunger for all these stats and data, but there is a trade-off here, and it involves an altered golf experience. Sure, you can keep your phone in your pocket for the whole round, leaving any edits for the 19th hole. But you won’t. Like me, you’re going to feel compelled to pull it out periodically and make sure every shot is being recorded properly. Or maybe narcissistic urges will simply dictate that you admire that bomb drive in digital form, perhaps even texting a screenshot to a friend. Point being, those thoughts will sit in your mind throughout the round. And therein lies the conundrum: the very thing delivering your game to you here can at times have the inverse effect of taking you out of your game.

A round of golf has a rhythm, in body and mind, and the introduction of this type of high tech gadgetry alters that rhythm. For some players, this won’t be a problem. But for others it has the potential to become a low level of stress humming along with you as you play. I speak from experience. That’s not a mark against Arccos, but it is something you should consider before going down this road.

The GPS

Arccos’ GPS feature will be love at first sight for most. Fast, intuitive and accurate, it will likely trounce any other phone-based GPS app you’ve used. On the tee, the default screen is a bird’s eye view of the hole. To get distance info, press and hold your finger anywhere on the screen to produce a circle and cross hair. A line from the tee to wherever your finger is touching appears, as well as a line from your finger to the center of the green, along with those corresponding distances. Slide your finger across the screen to anywhere on the hole, and the numbers change instantly to display a distance to that spot, as well as what you’ll have left from there. The interface is ultra smooth — important for not slowing down play — and the distances are accurate. If you’re going to use a phone to get your numbers, you will be hard pressed to find a better platform.

Arccos Driver

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Arccos Driver is the stripped-down, machismo-heavy, driver-only version of Arccos. With World Long Drive Champion Jamie Sadlowski as brand ambassador, this is a product clearly aimed at the bomb-it-and-brag crowd. In the box is a single sensor for the big stick. Like the regular Arccos app, the Driver app is available free in the App Store and Google Play. You’ll have it set up in minutes. One notable difference between Driver and the full version of Arccos is that after the first year, Driver requires a yearly subscription of $40 to continue accessing premium features and games within the app. (This optional subscription does not affect the availability of stats or GPS, but access to historical data will be limited to your two most recent rounds should you decide not to renew the subscription.)

Most of the stats available in Arccos Driver — including fairway dispersion, smart distances, and smart range — are tracked in the full version of Arccos, which makes Driver’s main selling point its emphasis on social media, games and competition. There is a live leaderboard to check your standings in “Arccos Yards” (aka. total driving yards per round) and one-touch posting ability to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The centerpiece of the subscription version of Driver is a game called Crowns, in which you are handsomely awarded a greater numbers of “crowns” for longer and more accurate drives. This general pivot away from hard and heavy game improvement and toward competition and bragging rights will no doubt make Driver more attractive to some than the regular version. The design is just as sleek and is obviously simpler, since you’re tracking only a single club. Indeed, with Driver you can focus all of your energy on seeing which of your buddies has the longest…drives. Ladies, you’re invited too.

The Takeaway

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Arcoss’ design borders on superb, with minor room for improvement. It is an extremely impressive product generally hampered only by the confines of current technology. But the fact remains that this type of golf gadget can be a double-edged sword.

Depending on what kind of golfer you are — or what kind of person, for that matter — the world that Arccos masterfully opens up can feel either like an enlightening revelation or an invasive technology straight jacket. For the vast majority of golfers, Arccos will likely be the former. In which case, all of this bleeding edge technology can, and probably will, improve your game on a noticeable scale, and is worth the money. There just might be a part of you, perhaps heavy with the psychic weight of all this digital tracking, that misses the old days out there, when it was just you.

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James Caldwell is a so-so golf writer and holder of a standard day job. Notable golf accomplishments include a five-putt, three lost balls on one hole, and leaving a banana in his golf bag for an entire month. Hates water chestnuts. New York City.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Chris

    Dec 16, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    I’m usually pretty critical of gadgets but this is one that I’d buy 5x over. The value of easily having stats available is crazy. I’m making better decisions on the course without letting my head get out of the flow of the game.

  2. Bob W

    Oct 11, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Have been using Arccos since it came out for Android. I love it and have not had the problems others have reported. The sensors don’t fall off a lot, only one in 2 months. Yes, you have to quickly review your shots each hole but adding or subtracting a putt is one click and done. Rarely you need to add a shot (Maybe once per round) and it is 1 click to enter edit mode, 1 click to add the position of a shot and 1 click to identify the club. But now after discussing these minor issues, you get a boatload of data about your game. Forget the wishful thinking, you know exactly how far you hit each club, longest, average and a smart range. Percentage missed left, right, long, and short. GIR for each club. Then there is a ton of historical data and reports. If you want to analyze your game this is the tool for it. I look forward to new enhancements.

  3. BC

    Oct 10, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Yeah, but like me you will have a more accurate indication of what level of “rubbish” you are!!!

  4. JCC

    Sep 19, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Started using arccos last week with iphone 5 (work phone), having played 5 partial rounds in last few days. The system has performed well, giving me quick accurate shot data. It has missed one full shot and few putts, but nothing that isn’t easily fixed between holes. The GPS is good but I still prefer laser rangefinder for tournament accuracy. If you’re data curious then arrcos is an easy to use system to supplement your habit. I liked it enough that I picked up another set to use with my personal OP3 android phone. I don’t expect the android experience to be as trouble free as IOS.

  5. Kurt Blasser

    Jun 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Makes the club feel a little clacky when I hit a shot. Anyone else feel that?

  6. Chris n

    Jun 19, 2016 at 11:22 am

    1. I have an Apple Watch and this system integrated really well. As soon as I get to the green, it shows in my wrist how many shots it has recorded, so I know if I will need to edit.
    2. The biggest miss for me is failing to detect soft pitches and chips. I can expect to manually enter any shot within 10 yards of the green.
    3. My biggest complaint is the sensors falling off. The work their way out while I walk. Not only is it frustrating to have to dump my bag 3-4 times/round, but if I don’t realize it has happened, the battery on the sensor sitting in the bottom of the bag is often dead when I find it next round. I’ve tried different grips, thread tape, runner cement. No matter what, I will pull my 5 iron on the 13th and no sensor.
    4. I put up with the frustration because the data is excellent, the Apple Watch integration seamless and the gps for identifying hazards and carry distance is the best I’ve used.

  7. Ian

    Jun 18, 2016 at 12:52 am

    Why is the driver sensor nearly 4 times more expensive than the others?

  8. BD57

    Jun 18, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Bought game Golf – used it of a while & then stopped because the whole “tap the club” thing was a huge distraction from routine (for me).

    Looks like Arccos doesn’t require any ‘in round” adjustments to how you go about playing – If I can play & then deal with edits etc after the fact, that’d be great.

  9. Steve

    Jun 17, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I really like this product and find that it’s overall handicap for me is very close to my actual index. I do find in-game editing distracting so I still keep a scorecard and go back to edit after my round. It’s nice to know what yardages I’m getting which tend to be less that what I think I’m getting so I find myself grabbing a longer club more often.

    Overall, I’m very impressed and look forward to updates.

  10. myron miller

    Jun 17, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    For those of us that use gadgets to help picking up the ball (example, a nickel putter), this won’t work for the putter at all. Plus reviewing and editing during the round is technically against USGA rules so the round shouldn’t be posted to GHIN.

    • Kevin Bostwick

      Jun 17, 2016 at 8:01 pm

      What on earth does your first sentence even mean? Wont work with the putter? Huh? Also, they have a USGA legal app if you want to use the rounds towards GHIN.

  11. Tdubs

    Jun 16, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Spot on look at the pros and cons of Arccos and the performance/shot tracking device category as a whole. Start of this season, I switched from Game Golf. Arccos is night and day better when it comes to performance. Have shared almost 2 stokes from the HCP by digging into the data and working with my pro. I totally geek out on the dashboard. Wish it was available in app and not just through the website. Haven’t had any issues with sensors breaking or falling off. They don’t, however, work with counterbalanced grips. That was an issue for my buddy, but the same applies to any screw-in tracking sensor. Battery drain is similar to running pretty much any bluetooth app running 4 hours+. My iPhone 6+ at 100% charge will be down to about 40% at the end of a round. Love the in-app GPS. It’s very precise. Have ditched my rangefinder via eBay. Recording putts is good, but not 100% accurate. There’s a simple toggle for any missed putts or adding gimmes. Takes less than a second each time. For tee to green, very little shot editing is required. Just can’t toss your clubs next to the green or do something else to fool the system into thinking you’ve taken a shot. Only aspect I miss from Game Golf is the social platform, which is certainly better built.

    • Kevin Bostwick

      Jun 16, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      Pretty spot on and I agree, I wish Arccos had the social aspect that game golf does. Weekly competitions and such.

  12. Mark

    Jun 16, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve been using Arccos since it came out. There are 4 big issues

    1. Too much editing. You literally need to check it every hole to make sure it picked up every shot
    2. Missed putts. The awkward how long do I need to stand still before putting is annoying.
    3. Battery drain. The GPS will drain an iPhone in one round
    4. Sensors are not very secure. They easily fall off when taking clubs in and out of your bag.

    • Kevin Bostwick

      Jun 16, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      1. Strange, the first few times I used it I did have to do a few edits. Now, I don’t even know the last time I really had to edit something other than a provisional with a different club. Are you on the newest software and firmware for the sensors?

      2. I dont have to wait there very long, havent had a missed putt either.

      3. Make sure you are on the newest software and firmware for sensors. The latest firmware update made battery life much better. I can easily go a round and not lose more then 40/50% of my battery on an iPhone 6S.

      4. You can try adding a small piece of electrical or sports tape around the sensor. I only started to have this issue after switching to PURE grips which are tapeless. Support said because there is no tape with these grips, the thread has very little to catch onto under the grip and the sensors can come loose. After using a little tape I have ZERO movement. Its nice.

  13. ca1879

    Jun 16, 2016 at 9:37 am

    My experience wasn’t terrific. The amount of editing that had to be done to fix missed shots was very distracting when I was using an IPhone, and when the Android software finally released I tried it on my phone running the latest version (Marshmallow), and it had the same consistency issue and also randomly ran the battery down. Arccos is blaming the phone. I think the automatic recording idea is great, and I really wanted it to work, but I’ve switched to one of the systems that requires you to tag the club before swinging as that routine seems a reasonable trade off for having very few missed shots and no hardware or sensor battery concerns. Just my experience, YMMV of course.

  14. Adam

    Jun 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

    I’ve been using Arccos since the start of 2015 and it has changed my game in a way that nothing else could have. Having the data available post round to analyze has given me a real way to focus my practice time and make meaningful improvements.
    I have a good enough memory that I can edit a round afterwards in about 5 minutes and remember and plot any missed shots (usually 1-2 full shots and a handful of tap in putts or penalties needed to be logged).
    I wouldn’t want to give up this tool under any circumstances.

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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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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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