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PING’s New Bag Lineup for 2012

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A few months ago, after much anticipation, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the folks involved with PING’s soft goods development, including their much acclaimed series of bags. Like everyone we met in Phoenix, he was an awesome guy and extremely personable. And like everyone else at PING, he’s passionate about what he does.

Click here if you want to see more photos and chatter

For this year’s update, PING overhauled their entire line, making changes based upon TONS of feedback they receive from customers, employee input, and tons of research. PING examines complaints, product returns, and from what I’ve gathered, board-based feedback to effect changes to make their product even better. It was obvious that they were as proud of these new bags as their other teams were with the G20 line of clubs and the iPing app for the iPhone.

More importantly, at least for me, is that yours truly, along with a couple other mods had the opportunity to demo these new bags for the last month. And the best part about testing bags is that aside from the initial searches for where you placed tees, bandaids, and extra gloves…there’s no learning curve. ūüėÜ

Anyway, this part of the post is an overview of the new lineup, followed by individual writeups. Hope y’all enjoy. :hi:


OVERVIEW

In re-engineering their bag lineup, PING focused on 1) durability, 2) function, and 3) comfort. While doing this, they also incorporated a new “wing” design to their bags that is subtle enough to be classic (unlike the “ribs” and neon highlights on previous iterations!), and distinctive enough to be recognized as a PING bag across the lines. Color options were made to provide customers with choices between dark and light, solids or patterns, and classic offerings balanced with modern styles.


DURABILITY:

To address durability, PING started off by greatly improving the quality of the materials used. Throughout the series, they utilized a high denier nylon fabric that is relatively bullet proof. It’s got a heavier texture that is reminiscent of the Hoofer 3, and while it’s not quite as thick and heavy it’s a higher quality of a more modern construct, and therefore stronger. The 4 Series and Mascot (custom/team option) also incorporates a higher quality polyester fabric along with the nylon. There are also stitching and webbing reinforcements throughout the bags for added strength. And the tops, bottoms, and brackets of the bag have been beefed up with thicker, more rigid polypropylene (plastic, for those of us not in the biz ;)).

All of these features make for a heavier bag (by ounces), but given the tradeoff, and that you load your bag with roughly thirty pounds of steel and rubber, PING felt the benefits warranted the beefing-up of their products. One caveat to the bag weights is that unlike most other companies, PING provides the weight of the entire unit, not omitting parts like the carry straps, rain hood, and others.


FUNCTION:

In their assessment of bag function, PING made three significant changes; an addition, a subtraction, and a reallocation. To address the feedback regarding leg droop in the stand bags, PING engineered a new Leg Retention System Basically, it’s a strap that engages a leg retention strap when you lift your bag with the straps, pulling the legs up when the bag comes off the ground. From what I can tell, it doesn’t exert too much force on the stand mechanism, otherwise it would probably fail in time. However, it is enough to prevent leg droop.

Now, regardless on which side of the fence you fall, the most notable absence is the retractable strap. While lots of people love it, more people didn’t–myself included. Additionally, when trying the bag out in the store (empty), the strap doesn’t function as designed so many would-be customers would simply move on. Also, my guess is that the retractable strap could somehow interfere, overcomplicate, or otherwise compromise the utility of the system. Maybe. Either way, it’s gone.

The reallocation comes in the morphing of the top piece to provide more space in the default wood section as more golfers have come to incorporate more hybrids. Whether this comes by taking away from the middle or lower sections or an elongation, I’m not sure. The result is that clubs don’t feel cluttered or crammed as they might have felt in the past.

One omission that bears mentioning is the lack of 14-way divider in their stand bags lineup. PING is aware of the demand for this type of bag and considered this inclusion for the Latitude. However, this is still being evaluated for now. My guess is that more testing is needed to come up with something uniquely “PING.”


COMFORT:

To increase the comfort of the bag for the golfer, PING focused primarily on the strap system in their stand bags. They utilized what they coined as “Enhanced Ergonomics.” This basically boils down to a strap system that is about the same as their tried-and-true setup, but also has more of a back-pack functionality. This is accomplished primarily through their strap slider, which can be removed if you prefer the dual strap system. I actually intended to do this immediately, but I was surprised at how well it worked.

Another improvement that GREATLY affects comfort for the golfer are the strap pads. PING utilizes some kind of high-density, low-weight, somewhat breathable foam…or something. It’s nowhere near as plush as what they used to use on the old school hoofers, but it’s comfy enough to give me pause and is MUCH better when carrying on particularly hot days!

Finally, many thanks to PING for the opportunity to chat them up as well as for providing these bags to review. It is always great to see great companies working to interact with their customers–ESPECIALLY when said companies respond to feedback. If anybody has any questions or comments, have at it. :hi:


Ping 4 Series Bag Review by bjackson

Pros: The 4 Series is a great lightweight, fully functional carry bag that has been engineered to address the shortcomings of Ping bags from previous generations. It is a high performance bag that doesn’t rely on frills, but rather high performance standards that are sure to be appreciated by the experienced golfer.

Cons: Due to a market shift towards lightweight bags, thus lighter materials, I feelthat the 4 Series isn’t as sturdy as older models. The plastic handle, while incredibly useful, seems cheap. There isn’t a pen slot on the spine of the bag, which was a greatfeature I’m sad to see go. Also colors are somewhat limited.

Overall: A great bag that anyone who prefers walking to riding should consider. Though there are a few small things I wish were different, the pros outweigh, by far, the cons. There is a reason Ping bags are most popular amongst top-level amateurs and the 4 Series reaffirms why. It does its job very well.

Look: At first glance the 4 Series seems to be a fairly simple carry bag ‚Äď but don’t be fooled – what it does best is hide from view all the genius engineered features that make it phenomenal. Weighing in at about 4 pounds, the 4 Series is composed of both Nylon and Polyester. It has a 4 way top, 5 zippered pockets, and a water bottle pouch. It is available in 6 different colorways, navy/charcoal, black/inferno red, black/white, white/inferno red, white/royal, and black.

Performance/Playability: There are several points of interest when it comes to the performance of the 4 Series. Foremost is that due to a new design and construction of the dividers,there is less tangling of the clubs at the bottom of the bag. Then there are the leg stops, which help keep the bag from sliding out on slick surfaces, suchas concrete. Also with their introduction of Enhanced Ergonomics (E2) Ping was able to stop the notorious leg-droop people have complained about by means of a strap that connects the legs to the shoulder straps. The addition of a handle to the top of the bag is a nice touch as well for taking the bag in and out ofa car trunk.

Feel: Ping shied away from the retractable shoulder straps they have used in the pastand have gone to a more typical backpack style. Though at first they didn’t fit me great, a quick adjustment of the straps put them in a position that I foundto be comfortable. There is plenty of back support and cushioning. I have used the bag just about daily for the month or so that I’ve had it and have no complaints.

Bottom Line: Ping’s 4 Under is a winner all the way around. It’s a solid, no-nonsense type of carry bag that gives me exactly what I want in a bag. It’s lightweight, has enough pockets, is stable on non-level surfaces, is comfortable to carry, and looks good. The features have been integrated in such a way that while I know they are there, useful and all, it doesn’t scream out look at me. That is what I try to demand out of all my equipment ‚Äď something that allows the performance to speak for itself. If you are in the market for a bag, do yourself a favor and keep the 4 Series in mind when shopping around.


Hoofer Bag Review by beruo

The Nutshell:

Pros: Refined looks and beefier construction make this one of best bags available. PING has addressed most golfers’ concerns in this latest iteration, adding features that increase utility without being gimicky.

Cons: The internal dividers on this bag are more “middle of the pack” than what I hoped would be industry leading. It’s no worse than previous generations, which, for me, is the problem. Also, while not an issue for most, the lack of a lefty option leaves me wanting.

Bottom Line: Fans of the old Hoofers should find themselves happy with the new bag, and newcomers who’ve stayed away will find more reasons to swtich. The Hoofer is probably not the perfect bag for every golfer, but it remains the golden standard for stand bags.

Full Review:
A few years ago, I discovered that I loves me my ClicGear push cart. It allows me to carry everything I could possibly need for 18 holes in the sun. However, for a quick nine after work or for hitting the range or par 3 course with the daughter, it was overkill. My latest stand bag has been the SunMountain 3.5, and this will be the basis for my generalizations regarding other stand bags.

Looks: As noted in the Overview, ping has embraced the concept of a “Unified Design Language” to create a distinctive look across their lines. While the 4 Series went with a 3 dark/3 light theme to appeal to younger players, the Hoofer series sees 4 solid and 2 multicolored options that splits between classic offerings (black, blue, and green), and flashier stylings (white, white/red, black/charcoal/red). Other additions that enhance the look are the textured ballistic nylon and the raining PING graphics on the legs. Also, the redesigned top to allow for more space at the top makes for a much less cluttered look while on the course or at the range. And a less cluttered appearance makes it far easier to find and replace clubs.

One thing that was less awesome, at least on this specific bag, is that the material surrounding and inside the pencil opening is white. While it’s relatively easy to clean, ESPECIALLY if you apply Scotch Guard before, it is noticeable if you don’t look when replacing your pencil on the move.

Performance/playability: While this section is geared toward club reviews, it is still very applicable to bags. The engineers at PING have payed attention to the trends and adjusted their bags accordingly. Pocket layout is slightly different so that it can take a bit to find a place for everything, but once you do, everything has its place. Along with the usual suspects, you’ll find a new tee pouch, and an additional valuables pouch designed to hold a gps or range finder, bringing the pocket count to a total of 8.

The pencil holder has been relocated closer to the ball pouch, which initially gave me pause as I was used to one on the spine. However, real world usage proves this to be a more opportune location as it’s more readily available while walking. Upside is: NO MORE PENCIL POKING THROUGH MY POCKET! :good: On the flip side of this, I don’t see the purpose for the pen slot–most golfers don’t use a pen on the course, at least with any regularity to warrant a dedicated spot. If I had my druthers, I’d like to see them enlarge it a bit to accommodate a sharpie instead.

However, this bag is not without it’s drawbacks. The one that stands out from the others is the “full length” dividers. So far, they’ve held, but they seem to be the weak link as there is a lot more give than I’d like–especially given that your pushing down on them with a rubber-tipped shaft. Additionally, here’s a space on each side where the club grips can “leak” into adjacent sections. Club tangle isn’t really a problem (aside from the occasional “leaking” mentioned before), as most people who own Hoofers have learned to lift their bags vertical before replacing a club–a function made MUCH easier with the addition of the top handle.

LASTLY–I would absolutely LOVE to see PING rerelease a lefty Hoofer. Regular stand bags put more weight on the right shoulder, which is the lead shoulder for lefties. By the end of 18 holes, if this wear and tear hasn’t made you reach for an Advil, wait until you hit 30. ūüėČ Also, when you take your bag off and set it down, you have to walk around your bag to get to your ball. These are two of the primary reasons why I started using a push cart. That and the crazy sale they had on ClicGears a while back!

Feel: This is a comfy bag, with comfy straps and a comfy setup. As mentioned in the overview, the strap pads are some kind of lightweight, high-density foam-type stuff that remains somewhat breathable. The strap slider actually works–especially if you’re coming from a SunMountain bag where it operates as more of a catch that holds the straps together rather than allowing for free movement. There’s no pinching and an even distribution of weight when both straps are used. The overall weight is right at 5lbs. which is the happy medium between comparable SunMountain and Ogio bags. And the improvement in the leg retention system makes it so you don’t have legs banging against your legs!

Overall Bottom Line: Not much I can add that I haven’t already said or otherwise implied. If you’re in the market for a bag, you can do much worse than the Hoofer. While there are a couple things that could be improved, the improvements over earlier generations make this PING’s best Hoofer, in my opinion (granted, i don’t have experience with the first generation, but i do with the second and third). Anyone in the market should definitely check this out, even if they opt for something else.

Before my actual testing–I now put my putter in the top section where there’s plenty of room.


Latitude Bag Review by pitbull808

Pros: Super looking bag with all the features one would want in a carry bag. Features that continually help to make Ping one of the top carry/stand bags on the market.

Cons: There seem to be a few shortcuts Ping took that don’t quite match the price point. I’m guessing these may have also been done to keep the weight down but a few inches of fabric in the dividers and a sturdier handle to me don’t seem to equate.

Overall: A great bag that I’m extremely happy to use. The great features of it easily outweigh the minor shortcomings.

BACKGROUND: I rarely walk. If I do it’s just for a quick 9 holes. Bag weight is never a major priority for me because it’s just a relaxing and short two-hour break for me to enjoy a nice twilight round after a long day of work.

Although I don’t walk often there still are a few priorities I enjoy in my carry/stand bags. Pockets, ease of use, comfortable straps and a stand that actually works well are some of my priorities. These all need to be present because even when I have it loaded on a golf cart, I want everything I need to be in the bag and the ability of it to work just as well as a full sized staff bag.

Looks: The looks of the Latitude stand bag immediately stuck out to me. When given the opportunity to test and review a bag from the 2012 collection, as soon as I saw the catalog, I knew I wanted the Latitude and the blue/white colored version. Although I haven‚Äôt followed Ping bags in the past years for me the 2012 Latitudes flashy yet classy looks of it was a great departure from what I‚Äôd usually think of a Ping bag. I actually haven‚Äôt used a Ping bag since my old GolfWRX Black Ping Hoofer I purchased years ago. The Latitude is miles ahead in the looks and function department. Pockets placed everywhere on it. Love it! There are ten pockets on this bag. As I initially examined it and opened the zippers thoughts kept popping in my head.‚ÄĚGPS here‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúwallet & watch‚ÄĚ, ‚Äútee/ball marker bag‚ÄĚ, Everything I usually have in my bag has its own place. Although it can get confusing about where I put everything, it‚Äôs nice to have things separated where I‚Äôm not digging into one large side pocket to find my items.

Performance/Playability: The six way top is super. I love the putter well right on top of the bag. It works well walking and when I have the bag in a golf cart. Even if I always have my putter in a cover, the well helps to keep the putter head out of range from getting knocked around by any of my other clubs. I do wish there was a divider that ran down from the well to the bottom of the bag. Either a tube or cloth divider would be nice. I found the when I pulled my driver or fairways out, the putter would end up coming out a few times as well. Not too big of a deal but when the bag is on it’s legs, the putter shaft leans downwards and being shorter then the rest of the clubs it does get caught.

The grab handle on the bag seemed like a short cut Ping took. It‚Äôs just a skinny piece of nylon with some rudimentary padding. Comparing it to a number of other stand bags, it seems pretty cheap. I know you‚Äôll probably be only using it to lift the bag out of your trunk or into a golf cart but it seems like the trend on other stand bags is to attach a much more sturdier handle. I have to admit I felt like I‚Äôd rip it off the bag‚Ķbut then again, I doubt most people would have so many clubs stuffed in their bag when heading to the range like me. ūüėÄ

A neat feature was the small zipper in the side pocket that enabled me to get ‚Äúinside‚ÄĚ the bag and reach in the bottom. A friend who used to be on the Ping Staff told me it‚Äôs not a really new feature but it‚Äôs something I didn‚Äôt know about. I know there‚Äôs been times at the range and course where I‚Äôd inadvertently drop something down the bag and I‚Äôd be turning the whole bag upside down to get it out. The zipper will really help to avoid those messes.

I also love the new leg stop’s they’ve added to the bag. Such a simple bit of engineering that keeps the bag steady on any surface. I tinker a lot with my clubs (surprise! :tongue:) and there have been numerous times that I’ve brought my bag to my club makers shop only to have the legs slide out from under it. It didn’t happen with the Latitude even if I had it stuffed with three drivers, six wedges and three putters!

The material of the bag is also top notch. My old Ping Hoofer is still looking pretty good after all these years. I expect this Latitude to hold up just as well. Compared to some other bags I’ve owned that some people have touted as great bags, I’ve always felt that the material they used was rather cheap and thin. The Latitude material is very sturdy and seems to be of a thicker gauge then other bags I’ve seen and used. I did spray the whole bag down with Scotch Guard to help make it more water and stain resistant though. It’s something I do with all my bags stand bags. Hawaii’s red dirt always seems to stain them. After my rounds, I’ve wiped the Latitude down with a damp cloth and it looks as good as new.

Feel: Shoulder straps fit very well. I can understand why they call it a ‚Äúback pack‚ÄĚ style. I‚Äôm a pretty big guy and most bags seem to fit me like I‚Äôm carrying a ‚Äújunior‚ÄĚ bag no matter how much I let out the straps. The adjustability of the straps and the effortless movement of the strap sliders make this Latitude bag fit me extremely well. One of the shortcomings I found in the straps was that I found the cushioning in to be a bit minimal. It wasn‚Äôt a major problem though as the straps on the whole felt better fitting but when I just carried the bag on one shoulder, I felt there should have been a bit more padding in it.

The one thing I missed that I know many Ping bag users didn‚Äôt like and probably are glad that they‚Äôve gone away from this feature is the retractable strap. I‚Äôm probably in the small group that liked the feature. The old retractable strap always ‚Äúpresented‚ÄĚ itself to me right away when I went to pick up my bag and also helped to stay out of the way when I had the bag strapped up to a golf cart.

Overall Bottom Line: There’s a reason why you see Ping stand bags all over the driving ranges and golf courses. Ping has probably been making them the longest and they’ve got the features golfers want in their bags. If you’re in the market for a new stand bag, definitely check out the Latitude. I think it’s a super fit for those who’d like the function of a full size staff bag yet don’t want to be lugging around such a big bag. The Latitude fits all my needs.

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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.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Rich

    Sep 18, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I know this is an olde rpost, but here http://www.vegasgolfpros.com/Ogio_Stand_Golf_Bags/ is the latest in Ogio golf bags. I think Ogio is going to be the king on the mountain with there new innovations, new looks and subtle designs. Pretty amazing thing to look at, check them out.

  2. 10000golf

    Dec 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    good item.we also have many other terrific models.

  3. blopar

    Dec 5, 2011 at 9:21 am

    so, for those of us who do almost always walk, what do they weigh???

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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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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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