News & Opinion

Pocket-size launch monitor packs big data

THE EQUIPMENT INSIDER

One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.

By Gary Van Sickle 

The hottest new trend in golf is data, all kinds of data. But most importantly, the kind of swing data that you couldn’t get before unless you were a PGA Tour pro or filthy rich, which might be redundant.

You used to have to cough up anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 or more for a tour-quality launch monitor, about what I usually pay for a used Toyota Camry. Thanks to advances in technology, you can get something almost as good for … $500.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF FLIGHTSCOPE
FlightScope’s Mevo fits in a pocket and likely many golfers’ budgets.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLIGHTSCOPE
FlightScope’s Mevo fits in a pocket and likely many golfers’ budgets.

Meet FlightScope’s Mevo, a sports radar that is half the height of an iPhone but boxy like an old disposable camera (if you can remember those Neanderthal days). It does most of what launch monitors do and does it nearly as well but is completely portable. If you’re a golf addict, it’s the techno gizmo you’ve been awaiting. It retails for $499, according to www.FlightScope.com.

Mevo can be used on the practice range or, well, anywhere you want. PGA Tour player Bryson DeChambeau, perhaps the techiest geek on Tour, took Mevo out on the course for a practice round last summer at Erin Hills before the U.S. Open.

FlightScope application specialist Alex Trujillo tagged along and wielded Mevo. 

“It was cool to take something that small and portable on the course and track every shot Bryson hit that day,” Trujillo said. “I could give him instant feedback on every shot. The caddie would say, ‘I’ve got the flag at 150 yards.’ He’d hit the shot and I’d say, ‘It flew 155,’ and we got up there and his ball was five yards past the hole. It was kind of neat.”

The data collected during that practice round were automatically saved in conjunction with a phone app.

“Bryson just wanted to see how the ball was flying there,” Trujillo said. “I run all the data for him and send him a report.”

FlightScope started in 1989 in South Africa and was created by Henri Johnson, the company’s chief executive officer. He came from the world of missile tracking and brought that technology to sports although, Trujillo says, “We still provide more than 30 countries with missile-tracking capabilities.”

That’s something to think about in case you’re considering filing a customer complaint.

FlightScope is used for multiple sports, including cricket, baseball and tennis. In fact, it provides scoring systems for umpires in 256 tennis tournaments a year and has spread over three continents, with headquarters in Orlando, Fla., production facilities in South Africa and software development in Poland.

Mevo is the company’s first consumer product for the average golfer. Its Doppler radar technology tracks the ball and the club independently. You use your mobile device to capture the swing on video, then Mevo sends its launch data and ball-flight data to the phone and overlays the data on the video.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF FLIGHTSCOPE
With a mobile-phone app, swing data from FlightScope’s Mevo can be saved for analysis.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLIGHTSCOPE
With a mobile-phone app, swing data from FlightScope’s Mevo can be saved for analysis.

Mevo provides ball speed, clubhead spead, smash factor, launch angle, spin rate, trajectory height and carry distance. For more accurate spin-rate data, FlightScope recommends attaching small metal-dot stickers (which are included) on the golf ball. That’s a minor nuisance, but hey, you just bought a mobile Doppler radar unit for about 500 bucks. It’s a good tradeoff. 

One nice perk is that the Mevo works well with the user’s phone. It’s easy to pair them. Once in sync, an automated program takes over so the user doesn’t have to click the “record” button off and on before each swing. Mevo’s app does that automatically, so the session is mostly hands-free.

Mevo also can be used for chipping and putting. As its promotional video touts, it can be used anywhere “from 5 feet to the longest drive.” I didn’t test Mevo on my short game, but I’ll take the company’s word for it.

“The product is mainly for the golf nut,” Trujillo said. “It’s not a unit designed for teaching or fitting. Those are our higher-end models that run from $5,000 to $15,000. Those are geared toward teaching and have angle of attack and all that stuff. The Mevo is more for the guy at the range who wants some data. How far am I hitting it? What’s my spin rate? What’s my launch angle? He wants it to help him practice or use on the golf course.”

So, when I get my data back, I asked Trujillo, is that when Mevo tells me why I suck at golf? He laughed. “If you want to put it that way,” he said, pausing for effect, “yes.”

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email: gvansick@aol.com; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle