Gone are the days when the only place to get shot stats was from your local pro or a big box shop that had a Trackman or Foresight Sports launch monitor. Small portable affordable (less than $500) golf launch monitors are now widely available to the general public and are great tools for juniors to use.
Hiding from a poor swing is not possible in golf and the game has an uncanny ability to discover and expose weaknesses. However, if you’re dedicated to accomplishing your goals, lowering strokes, and overall improved rounds of golf, then it’s vital to work on your swing in a way that you can improve results through real time accurate feedback.
But how do you achieve this? Well, it involves three magic words: golf launch monitor. Golf launch monitors generally either work off high speed cameras or Doppler radar, with the latter being the most popular in these less expensive launch monitors. In addition to being a great practice aid, they also add a fun element to practice and juniors love playing challenges on them and seeing immediate feedback.
Despite the barrage of options in the market, we’ll delve into the best and most affordable golf launch monitors for 2020 that are reliable and easy to use for juniors.
Top Launch Monitors for Junior Golfers
The Flightscope Mevo is an excellent, cutting edge technology, light-weight, portable Doppler radar launch monitor and very well suited for junior use. Specifically for juniors we like the following:
- Intuitive interface
- Connect easily with smart phones and tablets
- Seamless integration of swing video with data overlay
- Is small enough to fit in a golf bag pocket and sturdy enough to take a few knocks
- It sets up behind the player so there is no risk of a ball hitting it or mud splattering it
- Excellent stats that include carry distance, club head speed, ball speed, smash factor, vertical launch angle, spin, apex height, and flight time
- Can be used indoors or outdoors
From its excellent overall design to the adjustable interface, the FlightScope Mevo launch monitor was built for golfers of different skill levels and ages. Weighing only 8 ounces, it has an adjustable feature that enables users to customize their device's interface to suit personal preferences such as how data is displayed, trajectory graphics, club averages etc.
The Mevo also has functionality to automatically record video from various angles with a customizable data overlay. In our opinion this is a big differentiator to most of the competition and juniors will really like this option (i.e. see their swing video with the data on it).
Swing video and data can be stored in your junior's tablet or smartphone, thereby giving juniors, parents and coaches, excellent feedback and access to real time data that can be used to further develop skills.
It can be used on the range or indoors and even at night. For indoor use you need to use metallic color stickers on the balls.
One final note, for parents with juniors that play baseball, this unit also has a baseball app and can be used for feedback including pitch speed, pitch spin, exit speed, carry distance and launch angle. As with the golf app, it can also be seamlessly paired with pitch and swing videos.
All said, this is our favorite affordable golf launch monitor currently on the market.
Voice Caddie SC 300
The Voice Caddie SC 300 is the slightly upgraded version of the SC 200. Apart from being approx. $200 more expensive (roughly $500 vs $300), the following are the main differences:
- Larger LCD screen than the SC200 at 5.3" vs 4".
- The SC 300 covers a slightly larger distance than the SC 200 (10 to 370 yards vs 30 to 320 yards). The upper range is not very relevant for most juniors but the lower range is nice to have for short pitches and chips.
- The SC 300 has a smart phone app that the SC 200 does not have.
- The SC 300 has a rechargeable lithium battery vs the SC 200 alkaline batteries. The rechargeable batteries are cheaper in the long run but alkaline batteries are certainly more convenient.
- Can be used indoors or outdoors
Similar to the SC 200, the SC 300 does not measure ball spin rate. Otherwise it provides all relevant data needed for juniors to measure and improve performance over time.
Rhapsodo MLM (Mobile Launch Monitor)
The Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor (Rapsodo MLM) is another excellent and reasonably priced Doppler radar personal launch montior ideally suited for junior use. It is easy to set up and intuitive to use. Note that this unit was devleoped and is made by the same manufacturer of the Skytrak system.
The Rapsodo has a Doppler radar base on which an iOS device is set up. This unique combinations provides very accurate shot data as well as syncing with your camera and phone GPS to provide instant video replay, shot tracer and visual depiction of ball flight. Data provided by the unit to your phone includes carry distance, ball speed, club speed, shot shape, smash factor, launch angle and launch direction.
Juniors will love the ability to view the video replay of shots and at the same time seeing the stats and shot flight. The only downsides of this unit (e.g. as compared to the Voice Caddie SC300) is that it cannot be used indoors, and it relies on the use of an iOS device (is not compatible with android devices). Some users have commented that it draws heavily on the iPhone battery and for longer range sessions a charged might be needed.
Ernest Sports ESB1
The ESB1 provides all the accuracy and data that the previous version ES14 (see below) provided, inclduing ball speed, club speed, smash factor, spin rate (not lateral), launch angle and carry distance.
The big positive of this unit over the ES14 is that it is now positioned behind the player and therefore not in danger of getting struck by a hosel shot, sprayed with grass/dirt and it not dsitracting being the line of site of the player. Another great feature is being able to automatically compare your shots with PGA or LPGA tour averages on the linked ESB1 app. The ESB1 also has audio feedback after each shot which is really convenient for quick feedback.
Ernest Sports ES14
What we like about the ES14 is that is provides a wide range of accurate statistical shot information including the standard ones such as ball speed and carry distance and also some additional data such as club speed, launch angle, smash factor and spin rate. With the free ES14 App, juniors can do even deeper shot analysis including club averages and skills challenges. For advanced juniors the spin rate is great to have and generally not available in other launch monitors in this price range.
Unlike most other golf launch monitors in this price range, the ES14 is positioned off the front and side of the of the golf ball as opposed to behind it. While this helps in providing some additional data, the downside is that an errant "hosel" shot is in danger of hitting the unit. While we have not hit our unit in the year of using it, it is possible and others have reported this happening. This forward position can also result in grass or sand hitting the unit, especially in soggy winter conditions. We generally use this unit on a hitting mat or dry grass conditions. For these reasons we recommend this launch monitor for better players as opposed to beginners.
Ernest Sports ES12
Weighing only 1.5 lbs, setting up the Ernest Sports E12 is a breeze. It functions on regular 9V batteries or rechargable batteries. Similar to the ES14, this unit uses doppler radar to measure ball speed. It then computes carry distance based on the loft of your clubs (can be adjusted).
The ES12 is very user-friendly for juniors, with only 2 buttons; one to switch it on and the other to alternate between your golf clubs to enable accurate shot measurement.
It has two kickstands that are selected based on the loft of the club. The 60-degree kickstand can be utilized for most shots through the bag. The second 45-degree kickstand allows the unit to face more vertical and measure high trajectory shots such as with a 9 iron through lob wedges.
The ES12 can be paired with either Android or IOS devices via Bluetooth. The app is easy to locate and install on your devices with intuitive on-screen prompts. The apps allows juniors to save and store range sessions, share information with parents or coaches and also to participate in skills challenges.
The unit is positioned approximately 12-14 inches diagonally in front and to the side (downrange) of the ball. This allows the doppler radar to accurately measure ball speed. The downside of this positioning is that a heel shot (aka shank) could hit the unit. It is also best used off a hitting mat or hitting balls off a tee (e.g. driver, 3 wood etc.) since, if hitting off grass and taking a divot you may have to reposition the unit every few shots. In addition, if the grass is soft or soggy you can easily spray the unit with turf or mud.
While the ES12 does not provide as much data as some of the other more modern units (e.g. no launch angle, spin data or club head speed), it is a great tool for understanding club gapping - i.e. how far each of your junior's clubs carry.
Voice Caddie SC200
Created with state-of-the-art technology, the Doppler radar Voice Caddie SC 200 is very portable and provides thorough and in-depth swing analysis including carry distance, smash factor, swing speed and ball speed. The SC 200 does not measure ball spin.
The Voice Caddie SC 200 has 3 modes that enhance its functionality. The 1st mode is Target, which allows you to set a target distance of the golf club you wish to use and where you plan on hitting. The 2nd mode is Practice, which computes your shot distance, the swing speed, and the Smash factor. The 3rd mode is Random, whereby the goal is to enhance accuracy during your playing sessions.
Similar to the Mevo, we like that this flight scope sits behind the player, keeping it out of harms way. Since the unit calculates distance you may need to adjust the loft settings in the unit for the actual loft of your clubs. In our opinion this is the biggest positive compared to the previous SC 100 version reviewed later in this article. The unit also adjusts for altitude (barometric pressure) and temperature.
At less than $300 this is a great option for juniors and is a fun way to make practice more interesting.
The Voice Caddie units (SC 100, SC 200 and SC 300) are all excellent quality "pocket size launch monitors" that are easy to use and provide excellent data.
Voice Caddie SC100
As a stand-alone golf launch monitor (i.e. does not have to be paired with a phone or tablet), the SC100 offers great stats for you to tune things up and get dialed in at the range. Using doppler radar, the unit measures and displays ball speed, smash factor, swing speed, and carry distance.
The main differences to the SC 200 are (i) the SC 200 allows a golfer to adjust the loft of clubs in the system (which drives the calculation of carry distance) whereas the SC 100 comes with preset standard lofts (ii) the SC 100 does not have voice output (only on-screen display), (iii) the SC 200 takes into account and adjusts for weather conditions, and (iv) the SC 100 shows carry distance only, while the SC 200 also has total distance including estimated run out.
Similar to the SC 200, the Voice Caddie SC 100 has 3 modes: Target, Practice and Random. Target allows junior golfers to set a target distance for a specific club or shot, Practice computes shot distance, swing speed, and Smash factor, and Random mode that is the same as Target except with varied distances.
The unit works off 4 AAA batteries that last for nearly 24 hours of operation. The device also comes with a remote control that allows you to modify your settings without physically taking a step.
While it may not fall in the budget-friendly category and is not as portable as the others launch monitors in this article, SkyTrak is a golf launch monitor and simulator rolled into one and has a little more functionality than some of the others.
It can be used for fun practice, playing simulated rounds indoors and also to improve your game with accurate data including ball speed, launch angle, side spin, back spin, carry distance, club head speed, descent angle etc. Being an indoor technology it is perfect for long winters, extreme cold and wet weather.
SkyTrak technology is based on high speed cameras and sophisticated algorithms that calculate various ball data. SkyTrak has various packages starting with the basic launch monitor. Optional add-on's in the form of annual software plans include (i) the "game improvement" package for ~$100/year (additional shot data and practice options such as closest to the pin, long drive, session history, skills challenge etc.) and (ii) the "play and improve package" for ~$200/year (everything the game improvement package has plus integration with "World Golf Tour" that allows competition play on various simulated courses).
For more options on golf simulators read top indoor golf simulators
Conclusion: A Worthy Investment
With high end technology like doppler radar and high speed cameras becoming much more affordable, the past few years have seen a number of excellent, affordable golf launch monitors that are suitable for juniors to take to the range or course.
Among the many reasons to buy a personal launch monitor, the following are especially relevant to junior golfers:
- It helps with club gapping. It is imperative for juniors to know how far each club carries. Juniors often go through growth spurts and as a result distances can vary hugely from one month to the next. In addition, their distances often increase significantly with new techniques and instruction.
- It is a fun practice aid. Juniors love seeing the immediate feedback of shots and playing challenge games on the launch monitor. In general, these are really cool tools and anything we can do to make golf more interesting and exciting for juniors is a win.
- A launch monitor can help with basic club and ball testing. Our juniors like to try out different golf drivers and different makes and models of golf balls. Along with the "feel", a launch monitor can provide real feedback on carry distance and the more advanced personal launch monitors can provide additional data such as ball spin rate.
One thing to keep in mind is that many range balls are designed to be limited flight balls - i.e. they do not carry as far as a regular ball. You should bear this in mind when using the device to gap clubs as the distance difference can be 10 yards or even more with longer clubs. In addition, balls will carry further if hit off wet grass as this usually results in a low-spin "flier". If in doubt, ask your local golf pro about the range balls at your course and their flight characteristics. Most will be able to tell you approx. how much shorter their range balls fly.
None of the portable flight scopes above (that are priced at $500 or less - so excluding SkyTrak), measure horizontal movement - i.e. they do not measure draws, fades, hooks or slices. Other data such as club face impact, swing path and dynamic lofts are generally only available on high end launch monitors such as Trackman and Foresight Sports GC2 and Quad.