To continue my reintroduction to the game, I revisited one of my old coaches who has worked with LPGA and European tour players. When I arrived at his golf academy it was December, bucketing it down with rain, and blowing an absolute gale. As I approached the pro-shop my only thought was, “I hope this isn’t going to be outside!”
Much to my delight he said we were going into his swing studio, which turned out to be a large log cabin with and indoor putting green and two practice mats and nets. After a few warm up shots, he said we’d put a few on camera and then he produced a little black box that he positioned to the side on the mat. Suddenly a little red laser dot appeared on the mat and he told me to put the ball on the dot. I swung away and then he told me to look at the TV screen behind me, and there was the simulated flight of my shot tracing on screen.
This was my introduction to the Skytrak Golf simulator!
SkyTrak are the company behind the SkyTrak launch monitor, which is a camera based launch monitor that uses Photometric Technology. This means it captures high-speed images of the ball straight after impact, and these images are used to measure parameters that can be translated into rendered images of ball flight, shot shape and carry distance.
Not only that it is customisable too. You can input things like course conditions or whether conditions which means that it can simulate real world golf and provide more accurate shot analysis.
The launch monitor captures, compares and displays your ball flight data including key measurements like, Ball Speed, launch angle, side spin, backspin, swing path (side angle), and clubhead speed.
The system has its own rechargeable battery in addition to its own Wi-Fi hotspot therefore it can operate without any wires, cables or tethering. It connects wirelessly to most devices and generate launch data in seconds.
Modes of Operation
SkyTrak offer three plans or subscriptions if you like. These are listed below, but the basic provides you with the range facility for shot tracking, then there is the Game Improvement which gives you wedge gaping, bag mapping, skills challenges and in addition it also becomes a golf simulator for a PC allowing you to play courses or games indoors.
The play & improve plan offers all the above, but now also simulation liked to the WGT (world golf tour game) and golf simulation for IOS.
I have only used it in range mode, but that allowed me to set up targets and create challenges for myself.
The Benefit During a Lesson
I really liked the fact that in this set up the imagery wasn’t on a projector but on a TV screen behind me. This meant I could really work on feelings without worrying about flight or a shot as the ball was just hitting a net. It also meant that when I turned around I was getting instant feedback.
EG I had a side angle of 4 degrees right (IE an in-to-out swing path) with side spin of 400 rpm to the left (closed clubface), therefore every shot was a draw of some description, mostly missing left.
This feedback allowed me to really feel like I was swinging over the top and holding the clubface off (open) through impact. Even my best though were still 2 degrees of side angle but the main aim was to get the ball side spin down to 100 rpm. The result was a much straighter shot.
The more I was turning through the ball the more I could see an unexpected benefit of increased carry distance, so with 7 iron I started at 160 yards carry distance and by the end of the lesson I was up at 180 yards of carry.
What I found was that having the immediate data feedback, made me more confident and committed to the swing feelings and the instruction I was getting.
Some Additional fun
To conclude the lesson, I needed to stop flipping my wrists at impact so my instructor told me to gab a gap wedge and he set a target at about 75 yards.
He then told me to try to take little 3/4 swings but to keep the ball low and straight. Once again I was working on feelings hitting the ball into the net and then turning around to have a look at the flight but more importantly he’d set the scree so one of the metrics was ball height in yards.
I was trying to keep in under 12 yards height. My best was 7 yards, but what struck me was how competitive I got with the SkyTrak. I must have been at this drill for an hour because it felt like fun rather than drills.
My Overall Opinion.
Firstly this is a great practice device. If you can’t go to the range or practice ground this is a superb way of getting ball flight impact either in a net or outdoors.
It provides as much data as I need to allow me to bag map, and to practice effectively year round. I’m aware that there are far more expensive devices out there such as GC quad, Flightscope and Trackman, but unless you are making a living form the game, IE Tour pro, professional clubfitter or PGA professional with a large lesson clientele I find it hard to rationalize the extra costs involved.
The fact that its compact and completely mobile is also advantageous too, I can use it in my garden net, at the local driving range or on my club practice ground with my smartphone or tablet.
I’m not the proud owner of a SkyTrak Golf Launch Monitor yet, but plan to be before the winter months arrive. At £1900 for a new one and refurbished units available for less than £1500 it is still a committment and equal to a year’s membership fees, however if I look at my annual driving range spend and eliminate that completely I suspect it will payback in two year’s.
Right now the skytrak would be my preference, but I hope to try more devices like the ES14 or the SkyCaddie over coming months and will provide reviews as I go.