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Archive for October, 2014

Ernest Sports ES14

2014 brought Ernest Sports’ latest portable launch monitor, the ES14. As with the prior generation ES12 (launched in ’12), the ES14’s strongest selling point might be it’s ease of setup relative to other high-end options, and, at 8.25″ x 5.5″ x 1.85″ and 3.5 pounds, portability.

To get started, users need to simply bring the ES14 to the range (or to their home golf studio), adjust the integrated kickstand to make sure the device is angled appropriately to capture ball speed information (you’ll need to adjust the kickstand depending on the group of club you are using: driver to 5-iron, 6-iron to gap wedge, and lob and sand wedge), and power up the device. The ES14 operates on a 9V battery (there is a battery well for storing an additional battery within the case), so you don’t even have to worry about toting your power adapter, though that is an option if desired.

Ernest Sports ES14

Click to enlarge

Before starting you’ll want to check the default settings on the device to adjust for altitude and your club loft angles, and, before swinging away, tell the ES14 what club you are using – more on these later. We’ll be quick to note that the ES14 is placed 14″ in front of your ball position (toward the target) and 14″ to the side (away from the player), so if you are prone to the shanks, think twice before purchasing!

The ES14 uses doppler radar to instantly measure club speed and ball speed, and then from this information additionally calculates smash factor, launch angle, spin rates and distance. Information displayed on the LCD on the top of the device, in addition to the club in use, are:
Screen 1: smash factor, club speed, ball speed
Screen 2: spin, carry distance, total distance

Ernest Sports ES14 App

Click to enlarge

To receive additional information, such as launch angle, you’ll need to pair your ES14 via Bluetooth to your mobile device and use the free ES14 app. In addition to allowing you to access launch angle, the app allows you to start a new range session or join a previously saved session, view data from previous sessions, view averages from all clubs, and change settings.

The biggest gripe that players will have is that the ES14 doesn’t directly measure some of the metrics available that high-end devices can (and by high-end we are talking about those in the thousands of dollars). For example, the launch angle, spin, and distance readings are calculated based off of club and ball speed readings on the ES14. So while Ernest Sports looks to move upmarket, this may be one of the limiting factors in competing with the next tier of launch monitors.

Many players, however, will find these calculated results, based on lots of testing by Ernest Sports, more than good enough for their needs. The ES14 offers the basics to the player, and adds some of the data that has been lacking to date in all but the most expensive portable launch monitors. The ES14 is easy to set up, though there is a bit of work to select club information while practicing, along with the risk of breakage from a shanked shot, considerations that you might not need to deal with for other launch monitors.

For those players who are content with only ball and club speed could consider the older ES12 or the Voice Caddie SC100. For those players demanding devices that provide more measured distances, and arguably greater accuracy, get ready to break out your wallet for the next tier of devices such as the FlightScope X2, ForeSight GC2, Zelocity, or the TrackMan.

The ES14 is available in white and charcoal, and carries a 12-month warranty.

Retail price: $549.99 Check price now

Ernest Sports ES12

The ES12 was Ernest Sports’ introduction to the portable launch monitor market, and it remains the entry-level product within their line. The ES12 immediately provides ball speed and calculated shot distance (carry or total) and pairs via Bluetooth with your mobile device to allow for analysis and tracking additional information. As with it’s big brother the ES14, the ES12 uses doppler radar to measure ball speed, and requires the player to select the correct club prior to the shot in order for the device to provide accurate calculation of shot distances.

Relative to the ES14, the ES12 is both smaller and lighter than the ES14, taking up a space 3.9″ x 6.6″ when set up and 1.5 pounds. It is significantly less expensive than the ES14 ($350 less retail), so customers stacking the two side-by-side will need to decide the value of an updated design along with additional data, such as spin and launch angle.

Ernest Sports ES12

Click for images

The free app to accompany the ES12 allows the player to manage range sessions and historical data, along with using the phone’s video camera for via analysis. There is also a ‘Course Caddy’ that suggests clubs to be used based on previous sessions, and a skills challenge to hone in on your distance accuracy.

As with the ES14, the ES13 is placed 14″ in front of the ball position and 14″ to the side, so whatever you do, just don’t shank the ball…

Retail price: $199.99 (down from $249 at introduction) Check price now

SkyGolf SkyTrak

Announced in August 2014 at the Wyndham Championship is the SkyTrak (and hopefully available this Fall) is the first launch monitor from SkyGolf, the makers of the SkyCaddie lineup of golf GPS devices. The pitch is a consumer-friendly portable launch monitor that provides a host of information at a price point that is far below any of the extremely pricey alternatives that are currently available. The SkyTrak is a new consumer product developed through the formation of a new golf launch monitor started by executives at AccuSport (which in turn formed SportTrak LLC), makers of the discontinued Vector X, Vector Pro and Vector launch monitors, which has ceased operations. SkyGolf now becomes one of the four brands under SkyGolf, along with SkyCaddie , SkyGolf 360 (formerly ClubSG, their online portal), and their SkyPro training device.

The SkyGolf has an internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery (with up to 5 hours of continuous use, and micro-USB charging cable included), accelerometer-based internal leveling system with no calibration required, dimensions of 5.75″ L x 6.75″ H x 2.5″ W, and a weight of 1.7 pounds. The SkyTrak connects directly to iPad Wi-Fi, as well as through a router/home network (which then offers internet access).

SkyGolf has announced two packages to date for the SkyTrak:

  • Basic Range Package.
    • 3D practice range with shot tracer.
    • The photometric (aka camera-based) SkyTrak measures: ball speed, launch angle (!), back spin, side spin and side angle (deviation from target line). Also have calculated club head spee and carry distance, offline distance and total distance.
    • 2 Camera views: first person looking down the line, and down range.
    • Shot replay.
  • Advanced Game Improvement and Challenge Package ($99 value)
    • Challenges: Longest drive contest, closest to the pin contest, and target practice.
    • Custom settings: change turf conditions (soft-normal-firm), humidity, and wind.
    • 5 Camera views: add more camera views to the Basic package to include first person, dynamic, downrange, follow-the-ball, or 45 degree overhead view.
    • Session history: stores shot data and graphically render a side and top view of shots, and average distance with each club.
    • Progress tracking, charts and graphs: tracks progress, can store information in their Cloud Storage in a personal data locker accessible via the SkyGolf 360 mobile app. Ability to chart stats by club by shot and see average carry distances, and maximum distance.
SportTrak SkyTrak

Click for views

This data is all shown on your Wi-Fi paired mobile device (the completely wireless SkyTrak lacks any display), along with immediate feedback on where, how, and the distance the ball traveled, displaying as a 3D visualization. What you can see from the images at right is a very professional-looking interface that rivals any of the competition.

We can also see from the images at rights the detail of the modes that are available:

  • Practice Range. This would be the most commonly-used mode by players. Options for views in this mode include:
    • First-person 3D view with calculated total and carry yardages, average carry for the club in use, ball speed, clubhead speed, launch angle, back spin, side spin and side angle. This view also shows an embedded graphic showing the overhead ball path and yards offline. Players have the option to replay the visualization as well as delete the shot (so if you never want to re-live that shank…). Fabulous.
    • Numeric view displaying the same data as the First-person view, above. Clear and easy-to-read.
    • Downrange view with 3D visualization with simplified set of data including calculated total and carry yardage, and average carry for the club in use.
    • Shot history view that displays a detailed summary of shot data.
    • Shot plotting view that highlights side and overhead visualizations.
  • Challenge. This mode allows users to set targets (both target size and distance from target) to focus on their distance control, and also to play against others.

On any of these, wind speed is also shown on the display and will factor into the calculations (indoors or out). We believe the device will come with an internal rechargeable lithium ion battery.

Naysayers will note the lack of doppler radar found in the high-end units, though SkyGolf claims extreme accuracy for the measured data, including:

  • Ball Speed: 0-200mph +/- 1mph
  • Launch Angle: 0-55° +/- 1°
  • Back Spin: 0-12,000rpm +/- 250rpm
  • Side Spin: 0-4,000rpm +/- 250rpm
  • Side Angle: 0-20° +/- 2°

At the retail price in the low thousands, the SkyTrak could take a chunk out of sales of the higher-priced FlightScope Xi and ForeSight GC2. Game on!

Retail price: $1,999 – $2,095, depending on included package (game improvement or package range package)
Available directly from SkyGolf: Check price now

And a few high-level marketing videos to check out the basics (don’t expect anything too technical – that isn’t the focus):

More about SkyTrak, include the basics of setup and use:

A video that talks about the technology behind SkyTrak:

And another that walks through what the SkyTrak numbers mean:

And lastly, if you are tired of if you haven’t had a chance to see it in person:

Swing Caddie SC100

At under $300 and in an extremely portable size, the Voice Caddie Swing Caddie SC100 is going to make a big impact based on price alone. The SC100 provides the basics of what launch monitor purchasers are looking for: ball speed and swing speed via doppler radar, and calculated information such as smash factor and carry distance, all displayed on a large 4″ LCD. And there is no need for a mobile device with this unit – information is displayed on the LCD, and menu navigation is enabled through the included remote control (now whether that is easier than simply using your iPhone is another matter). The device lacks some of the more advanced data available on more expensive launch monitors, such as launch angle, ball spin, roll and total distances, lateral deviation, and so forth. But hey, it’s less than 300 bucks – did we mention that?

Swing Caddie SC100

Click to enlarge

The self-contained SC100 is a mere 5.9″ x 3.2″ x 1.1″ (comes with a carry pouch), weighs under half a pound, and provides up to 20 hours of practice time on a full charge from the 4 AAA batteries. The SC100 is placed 40-60″ directly behind the ball (no special marks on the ball necessary), and from this position can distance from 30 to 300 yards, so ranges enough for all but the biggest hitters.

Regardless of mode in use, the LCD will display the time in use, total shot count, and golf club selected. Different modes available include:
1. Practice Mode. This is the mode most players will think of when using a launch monitor. This mode provides swing speed, and calculated smash factor (ratio of ball speed to swing speed) and shot distance. At the press of a button on the SC100 or the remote the display can toggle to show ball speed instead of smash factor.

Swing Caddie SC100

Click for views

2. Target Mode. Allows you to set a target distance in order to practice your accuracy. Prior to the shot shows the target distance, and post shows the your (calculated) shot distance. This in addition to swing speed, smash factor, and score for the “game”.
A slight variation on Target Mode is a third mode, Random. This mode sets random target distances in order to keep you guessing each shot. With either Target Mode and Random Mode, the Swing Caddie will display calculated shot distance, along with the swing speed, ball speed, smash factor, and a score out of 10 that rate how close you were to the target distance.

In addition to the different modes available, the SC100 retains stats for each club, allowing the player to review average distance, speed and smash factor for the day’s practice, along with overall stats for the last 100 shots.

The SC100 is incredibly small and light, and given it’s attractive price point, most certainly be a portable launch monitor prospective buyers will consider.

Retail price: $269.99 Check price now

As an aside, we have consistently found a number of basic errors on the website. We have also found more egregious such as Voice Caddie posting questions sent to their support team publicly, along with your email address and phone number. Bad Voice Caddie. Bad.

And enjoy this hilarious marketing video: