Do Launch Monitors Work with Range Balls?

February 1, 2023
7 min

Do Launch Monitors Work with Range Balls?

Let’s face it, the golf world was forever changed by companies like Trackman and FlightScope when they launched in the early to mid 2000’s. Today, launch monitors and golf simulators have become much, much more than a standard teaching tool for golf coaches and club fitters worldwide.

With smaller and increasingly economical products entering the marketplace each year—including manufacturers such as FlightScope, Foresight, Rapsodo, Swing Caddie, Garman, and Ernst Sports just to name a few—consumers are enjoying easier access to a wide variety of launch monitors now more than ever before.

With the use of these devices being so widespread now, there are often many questions that consumers have regarding things like accuracy and the general advantages and disadvantages from one launch monitor to the next.

Whether you're using these types of devices in your own homes, or taking advantage of a driving range equipped with TopTracer—you're inevitably going to question the idea of practicing using a top-tier performance golf ball versus a range-level ball.

So finally, do range balls offer the same level of data accuracy and training assistance that high-grade performance golf balls offer?

The short answer is yes. 

But, to answer this question more fully, we first must define the types of launch monitors that exist and describe how they work. 

Doppler Radar vs. Photometric Camera 

There are two basic types of golf launch monitors: Doppler Radar and Photometric Camera aka Camera Vision. Through various apparatuses, both technologies are used to derive a wide variety of  golf data points. Below, you'll find some of the more common shot statistics used to describe an individual golf shot.

Ball Data
Ball Speed The speed of the golf ball immediately after impact.
Launch Angle The vertical angle relative to the horizon of the golf ball’s center of gravity movement immediately after leaving the club face.
Launch Direction The initial direction the ball starts relative to the target line.
Spin Axis The amount of curvature of a golf shot relative to the horizon.
Spin Rate The amount of spin on the golf ball immediately after impact.
Max Height The maximum height (apex) of the golf ball’s trajectory measured relative to the height where the golf ball was launched from (resting point prior to impact).
Carry Distance The distance the ball travels through the air.
Total Distance The distance to the final resting spot of the golf ball; carry distance plus or minus any bounce and roll.
Side The distance from the target line based on where the ball lands.
Side Total The distance from the target line based on where the ball comes to rest plus or minus any bounce and roll.
Land Angle The angle at which the ball hits the ground; highly correlated to height and is a large determinant in the bounce and roll of a golf shot.
Hang Time Elapsed time from impact to Carry Distance.

Club Data
Club Speed The speed of the golf ball immediately after impact.
Club Path The direction the club head is moving (right or left) at impact and is measured relative to the target line.
Smash Factor The amount of energy transferred from the club head to the golf ball; an attempt to describe contact quality.
Attack Angle The up or down movement of the club head at the time of maximum compression. Attack angle is measured relative to the horizon.
Swing Plane The vertical angle between the ground and the circle that the club head travels on during the bottom portion of the swing arc.
Swing Direction A measurement of the path of the club throughout the entire bottom arc of the swing (Club Path only measures one point in time).
Dynamic Loft The amount of loft on the club face at impact and is measured relative to the horizon.
Spin Loft The three-dimensional angle between the direction the club head is moving (both club path and attack angle) and the direction the club face is pointing (both face angle and dynamic loft).
Face Angle The direction the club face is pointed (right or left) at impact and is measured relative to the target line.
Face to Path The difference between the face angle and the club path.

The difference between Radar and Camera is in what data is actually read and what is projected. With Doppler Radar, the ball itself is the object being tracked and measured while club data is being projected—very accurately in most cases—based off of said ball data. With Camera-based monitors, the club is what is being tracked and measured and the ball data is being projected. 

Both systems, after years and years of testing and improving, have proven to be very accurate when used correctly. 

So how does this foundational launch monitor knowledge address the idea of using range balls within the aforementioned systems?

Camera-based monitors—which do not capture data through the ball—really do not rely on the golf ball at all. These types of monitors could even conceivably be used with practice golf balls, such as those made by Almost Golf. 

Radar-based launch monitors can work well with range balls. However, the performance quality (or lack thereof) with some range golf balls could make ball flight data less accurate. 

Range balls are generally built for durability and being hit thousands and thousands of times.

They are manufactured at a grade much different than that of golf balls that most golfers play when they are on the course. Because radar-based monitors rely on the ball itself for data gathering, a harder and more durable ball that does not allow for the same spin characteristics of a consumer-grade, performance golf ball may not present data entirely accurately.

Range balls also have other disadvantages. Because they are hit so often, they tend to get cuts and dings on them that could affect performance and thusly inaccurate data. 

All this being said, we are not necessarily talking about data being inaccurate by a massive margin with radar-based monitors. In many cases, within a consistent set of hardware, standard deviations can be used to adjust range balls to be read as performance golf balls. Many radar-based monitors such as the FlightScope Mevo+ even allow you to input that you are hitting range balls and the system will automatically adjust its data.

While directional flight data of the ball; fade, draw, slice and hook; tends to be fairly accurate, the amount of the side spin accuracy may fluctuate quite a bit.

Radar-based technology tends to experience the most inaccuracy with the following data points:

  • Ball Speed
  • Back Spin
  • Side Spin
  • Carry Distance
  • Total Distance
  • Smash Factor

As mentioned previously, some of the modern-day Doppler Radar monitors will make adjustments based on ball being used—but that will depend on the sophistication of the technology in-use.

Golf launch monitors have become a massive part of the game’s landscape. You can spot them all up and down the range tee at PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events—and increasingly so within the amateur community as well. Entire practice facilities are now being equipped with monitors to not only help golfers gather data about their swings, but also to encourage tech-integration among  current and future generations of players.

Golf has undoubtedly evolved greatly and increased in popularity in-part due to the ever-growing popularity of launch monitors and golf simulators.

The technology that we know today will surely only get better—more accurate, more accessible, and more innovative. To find out more about the product we're engineering here at Graff, please head to our homepage.

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