Fully Equipped mailbag: Will a launch monitor help shave strokes off your handicap?

March 27, 2020
rory mcilroy launch monitor

Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, an interactive GOLF.com series in which our resident dimplehead (a.k.a., GOLF’s managing editor of equipment, Jonathan Wall) fields your hard-hitting gear questions.

Do I need a launch monitor? And if so, why? I’m a 13-14 handicap who wants to get below a 5. — Kyle Beers

Let’s get this out of the way from the get-go: launch monitors aren’t cheap. You don’t need to be a millionaire to own one — although it wouldn’t hurt — but it’s important to note that most of the portable units you see Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and their tour brethren using each week range from $10,000 to $20,000-plus. Take a minute and let those numbers marinate.

If you’re teeing it up every week on the PGA Tour, you can probably afford several units without breaking a sweat. The same can’t be said for the average golfer who likely gets access to a TrackMan, FlightScope or Foresight unit when they visit an instructor.

Having a launch monitor at your disposal is going to make you more aware of what you’re doing after each swing. Is that a good thing? It really depends on whether you know how to use the unit properly — are you savvy enough to point out a misread? — and can self-diagnose potential issues with your swing.

Heck, I know a bunch of tour players who don’t even look at the launch monitor numbers and instead ship them off to their instructor to analyze before figuring out a practice plan. They don’t want the numbers to influence how they’re swinging during a tournament week.

More power to you if you have that kind of knowledge about your swing, but considering you’re a 13 hoping to get to a sub-5, I wouldn’t recommend springing for a unit. At least not yet. Any good golfer will tell you the toughest leap is going from a respectable mid-handicapper to a strong single-digit stick. The little things matter more than ever. And you better have the time to work on your game.

If I were you, I’d focus on finding an instructor who can provide expert analysis every step of the way. That’s the most realistic road to a sub-5 handicap.

Assuming they have a launch monitor, start asking questions about the numbers you’re seeing and get a good handle on your baseline numbers — launch, spin, carry, angle of attack, etc. Understanding your optimal launch angle and spin rate, for example, will make it easier to point out red flags to your instructor when you’re working on your own with a launch monitor.

And if you insist on picking one up now, FlightScope’s Mevo and Rapsodo’s MLM (mobile launch monitor) can be had for $500 and offer highly-accurate numbers. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than dropping five figures on a tour-level unit.

That being said, I’d still save the coin and spend it on lessons.

To hear more gear insights from Jonathan Wall and True Spec’s Tim Briand, subscribe and listen each week to GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast: iTunes | SoundCloud | Spotify | Stitcher