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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.