SkyTrak's golf launch monitor offers many of the same game-analysis amenities as high-end competitors for a fraction of the cost — and in the comfort of your own home
Jon Sherman, a scratch golfer living on Long Island, has been able to help open his home course of St. Georges Golf and Country Club in East Setauket, N.Y., the last few seasons and shoot close to par. How is that possible, considering the father of two has to deal with what can best be described as “golf hibernation” from a typical New York winter?
Sherman would like to joke that he’s just that good, but he knows better, he knows exactly what has kept his game sharp in January and February as the snow showers fly outside and the turf freezes across the Empire State and many other places across the United States.
The 36-year-old has owned SkyTrak for three years now. SkyTrak is a personal indoor launch monitor that delivers instant and real-time 3D shot analysis and ball flight data all in the confines of a space no larger than your average "pop-up" tent.
Sherman shares his "golf practice space" with the kid’s playroom upstairs in his house.
"Living in the Northeast I’m not golfing for 3-4 months out of the year, and the one thing I’ve noticed over the last few years is I’m not losing much during the offseason anymore practicing seven days a week at home," he said. "When I come back in the spring I’m not as rusty. I feel like I don’t miss a beat. Being able to hit balls in the offseason and being able to get that SkyTrak feedback is a great benefit."
SkyTrak, produced by SportTrak LLC in Winston-Salem, N.C., made a soft opening in 2015, but has gained significant traction in recent years as golf technology and data in general have increasingly caught the eyes of more than just avid golfers.
SkyTrak is a realistic, real-time golf practice and play system which connects wirelessly to your mobile device or PC, then accurately captures and displays launch data and ball flight as soon as the ball is hit. The system provides instant feedback as well as the flexibility and freedom to practice and play virtually in different environments.
"We began to see a lot of the data on the PGA Tour TV broadcasts with the tracers — their ball speeds, launch angles, etc. — and technology we had already been a part of in the commercial space, so we recognized a need to give consumers in their homes an accurate and affordable solution to practice their games. That’s the genesis of SkyTrak,” said Andy Allen, SportTrak managing director of golf.
Sherman’s SkyTrak system consists of a launch monitor, a net return and a roll up mat. He uses an iPad and its stand for his data port and not a projector. His system cost around $3,000, but additional features and add-ons can increase the price to as much as $15,000, or anywhere in between.
"In terms of bang for the buck it has been an incredible purchase," Sherman said.
"We’ve been able to create a category where folks in the past had aspired to have a golf simulator and maybe saw it as too costly or maybe too big of a footprint, or both," Allen said. "We have been able to fill that void in the marketplace with SkyTrak."
And while Sherman may check off the two major boxes as far as a
SkyTrak consumer target — living in a cold weather climate and an avid golfer — Allen has begun to see a much different buying trend emerge.
"I was surprised that our sales mirror all participation levels,” Allen said. "There are a good amount of units in places like California and Florida, where you can play year-round and there are a lot of golf courses in those states. A lot of clients in places like Arizona, California, Florida or Texas purchase the systems knowing they don’t want to be outside all the time in the heat of the day.
“And many people across the country are crunched for time and now they can go into their office, basement or garage and get some actionable data. They can work on a specific activity and the results translate to better performances on the golf course. It’s not just an offseason product. Certainly people in cold weather climates use it more in the offseason because they can’t be on the golf course, but from a timing perspective, if you only have 30 minutes there probably isn’t enough time to go to your local driving range or country club and practice anyway, but for 30 minutes you can spend some time on SkyTrak and you’re going to get great information in terms of your distances, your tendencies, all of your data, and it really makes practice a lot of fun."
Sherman has seen a drastic improvement in his wedge game and driving capabilities as he has gotten hooked on crunching the SkyTrak numbers and how they translate to his swing and overall game.
“I’ve really used it to hone in on those 40-80 yard wedge shots, really lock those distances in and feel them very well,” Sherman said. “I’ve also figured out some interesting things with my driver, using launch angle, spin rate and ball speed. I’ve optimized my driver to the point where I am getting as much distance as I possibly can for my swing speed, and that has a lot to do with experimenting with tee height, ball position, even the settings on my driver as far as loft and the type of driver I’m playing. One of the main benefits working with SkyTrak is it has really made me a great driver of the ball, more accurate and I’ve added some distance because I’ve honed in on what works for my swing and now I have the tangible results to see it when I practice with SkyTrak.”
Using the system’s dispersion data, Sherman has been able to calculate his driving "misses" and how far he is off the fairway.
"It has really opened my eyes, seeing how far left to right the shots are going," he said. "I tell people, ‘Hey, I’m a pretty good golfer and my dispersion rate is about 65 yards with my driver.’ So, now I’m making smarter strategic decisions on the course. If I hit 30 7-irons in a row on SkyTrak I can really get a sense of what a reasonable result with my golf game is and use that to not be so hard on myself on the course, and also make smarter strategic decisions, yardage data or picking more conservative targets because I can’t land it where I think I can all the time. These are the types of things I pay attention to when I’m practicing with SkyTrak. I use the data to give me ideas and thoughts to take to the golf course."
A major player in the "golf data" field most golfers are familiar with is TrackMan, but there is a major difference between that system and SkyTrak.
"TrackMan is an outstanding system and you certainly look at them as the benchmark for performance that provides a ton of data, with not only ball data but club data. But in terms of being able to put that in your home, no, you can’t do it,” Allen said. “TrackMan uses a radar-based system so it requires a much bigger footprint and is more costly than SkyTrak. We feel if we can be 98 percent as good as TrackMan for 100 percent of the golfers that would put us in a good position. Data overload can be an issue when it relates to Trackman because they provide a ton of information, and while it’s great information, if you don’t know what to do with that data then it’s not beneficial. They are in our category but we don’t necessarily compete with them.”
SkyTrak isn’t all work and no fun for Sherman. He pays the $200 annual fee to access what is called the World Golf Tour where he can play a simulated round of golf at courses such as Pebble Beach, Pinehurst No. 2 or Kiawah Island.
“When you play these courses on SkyTrak you are going through your bag, so that in itself is great practice because it is causing you to stop and think about your target, your club selection, maybe shot routine,” Sherman said. “It helps you challenge yourself, think through each shot and maybe play games, like seeing how many greens in regulation you can hit.”
It appears the technology is endless on SkyTrak.
“A lot of our focus this year will be on the user experience, and also providing other opportunities for people to engage with one another, whether they are in separate locations or in the same location,” Allen said. “Golfers are competitive, so they want to be the best and beat their friends, or see how they compare to Tour averages. Enhancing our user experience from the practice perspective so that people can find ways to get better is key, and then having that translate to them enjoying the game is even more important because of they enjoy the game more they will play more rounds and then they are going to want to use the system more often.”
Sherman says he hits balls inside on the SkyTrak seven days a week, even if it’s just for 20 or 30 minutes, analyzing the numbers and hopefully taking his knowledge to the golf course when the weather warms up.
“I can’t imagine not having SkyTrak,” Sherman said. “For me, it would be like flying a plane without instruments.”
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