6 Best Portable Golf Launch Monitors – 2021 Reviews & Buying Guide

A launch monitor is one of the most valuable assets that any data-driven golfer can have.

It’s the core of most golf simulators, and it allows you to measure ball flight data and track your shots so that you can understand where your game is and where it needs to go.

Not everyone can afford professional launch monitors, some of which have costs that reach into the five figures. Fortunately, as launch monitor technology has advanced, many inexpensive solutions have appeared on the market that measure key parameters and cost less than $700.

These portable launch monitors are usually pocket-sized and can be easily carried to the range, the golf course, or used at home.

There are many things that make a great portable launch monitor: the amount of data points, accuracy, technology and size are among them.

In this article, we’ll review and compare our picks for the best portable golf launch monitors across a wide range of different budgets.

We have tested these launch monitors. Some have less capability than others, but they all give excellent results for the cost.


Our Top Picks For Portable Launch Monitors

Based on our own testing, research, and experience, the following are our top picks for portable launch monitors:

  1. Garmin Approach R10 Launch Monitor
  2. FlightScope Mevo Launch Monitor
  3. Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
  4. Swing Caddie SC200 PLUS Launch Monitor
  5. Ernest Sports ES12 Player Launch Monitor
  6. Swing Caddie SC300i Launch Monitor

1. Garmin Approach R10 Launch Monitor

Garmin Approach R10 Launch Monitor

The Approach R10 by Garmin, the company behind many of the best golf GPS units on the market, is a total champ.

It has already made big waves in the industry, and many people consider it to have revolutionized golf tech like the SkyTrak did back in 2014. It’s very portable and can easily be moved from the home to the driving range or wherever else you want to set up.

Where do we start? The R10 is the first launch monitor to measure detailed club path parameters that you could previously only get in $1800+ units. It’s also the first launch monitor under $1000 to have golf simulation capabilities.

And people are raving about the R10. It has gotten top marks from critics across the board, who are just blown away that something this compact and affordable can do so much.

Features

The R10 can do three main things. First, it directly measures seven data parameters using radar technology and derives many other parameters including spin and face angle. The directly measured metrics are:

  • ball speed
  • club head speed
  • launch angle
  • launch direction
  • club path
  • angle of attack
  • backswing & downswing times

Second, the Approach R10 supports golf simulation. Through the updated Garmin Golf app, you can either practice and analyze your sessions on a virtual driving range or play courses around the world on Home Tee Hero, which requires a subscription. You can also play the world-renowned E6 CONNECT software.

Third, you can capture video of your shots by setting up your phone’s camera behind the hitting area. Your stats including ball speed, carry distance and total distance, as well as the club you hit with, are overlaid on top of each clip.

The Garmin Golf app, which is required to use the R10, has been around for a while; it enjoys a high average rating that is rare for these kinds of apps. Through the app, you can also view club performance data, participate in weekly tournaments, share your results, and more.

The R10 rests on a magnetic tripod mount and is placed 6-8 feet behind the ball. It does a really impressive job competing with launch monitors at the $2000 level and above.

What’s more, Garmin is going to be updating, improving, and building on the R10 for years to come. So unless you can’t afford it or you want active shot tracing, grabbing one is really a no-brainer.


2. FlightScope Mevo Launch Monitor

FlightScope Mevo Portable Launch Monitor

The FlightScope Mevo is lauded both by critics and consumers, and has some of the highest ratings for a portable launch monitor we’ve seen. It has also been used by high-profile Tour players like Bryson DeChambeau.

It can be used anywhere: on the range, on the course, or at home, but you’ll need a smartphone or tablet to display the data. To practice at home with real balls, you’ll need to set up a hitting net or screen.

The Mevo provides real-time performance data, and it also has a video capture feature that you can use to spot flaws in your swing. It’s small enough that it can fit in the palm of your hand.

How It Works

The Mevo uses 3D Doppler radar technology to measure eight data parameters: ball and club head speed, carry distance, spin rate, vertical launch angle, smash factor, flight time and apex height.

To effectively use the Mevo, you’ll need to download the Mevo app on your mobile device. Once everything is set up, you can view data in real time for every club, track your progress over time, and record and view video with data overlay.

Notable Features

One cool feature included with the Mevo app is automatic video clipping: once your device records your swing, it clips and saves it automatically and then repeats the process for the next shot. This means that you can set up the launch monitor once and then practice without interruption.

To help you achieve an easy, hands-free recording experience with the Mevo, you can use the SelfieGOLF clip holder to stabilize your smartphone from any position or surface.

We suggest attaching the SelfieGOLF holder to an alignment stick, which can then be attached to your golf bag or even anchored into the ground.

Additional Info

The Mevo allows you to save, upload and share practice sessions to social sites like Vimeo, Instagram and Facebook.

If you want to use the Mevo indoors, you’ll need to allow at least 8 feet of ball flight and 4 feet of space behind the impact zone.

In this price range, this is one of the most accurate launch monitors and provides the most detailed ball flight parameters you can find on the market.


3. Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor

Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor

The Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM) is a new unique launch monitor that is run through your mobile device. It’s the first launch monitor on the market to take advantage of your phone’s camera.

Rapsodo was the creator of the SkyTrak, arguably the most successful launch monitor ever created, but they wanted the MLM to be their own branded launch monitor solution.

Notes: MLM is currently only available for iOS, but the Android version is in the works. In addition, it recently got updated with a new feature that allows it to be used with a net.

This launch monitor analyzes your shot and provides data on ball speed, clubhead speed, distance, launch angle, smash factor, and launch direction. It also records your shot for playback and provides an active tracer so you can see your exact ball flight.

What differentiates this launch monitor are things like an active tracer, GPS maps that show your shot dispersion, interactive games, a smart club recognition feature that can automatically detect which club you’re using, and a virtual coaching platform.

Moreover, Rapsodo takes really good care of the MLM: they are continually coming out with new updates and features to keep it on the cutting edge.

How It Works

Setting up the MLM is fairly simple. Just charge the device, install the Rapsodo Golf app on your phone, calibrate it to the device, choose a mode, and start hitting.

Not only can you view your shot data and shot trace, but using GPS, you can see exactly where your shots land. You can also view trends and shot averages by club, which will help you understand what club to hit in different situations.

Finally, you can store your video clips in a web-based library and easily post them to social media. With a Premium subscription ($99), you can store up to 10,000 shots on the cloud!

See the Rapsodo MLM in action here:

The Premium Subscription will also allow you to access a new feature called Coach Connect. Coach Connect allows MLM users to receive virtual (paid) lessons from coaches that have signed up to the platform.

Coaches can take advantage of the playback and tracer features and view your shot data to inform their critiques of your swing.

This launch monitor has very high ratings. People love the mobility and usefulness of it, they love how you can easily change clubs in the middle of a session, and they love how you can look at video of your swing without having to back out of a session.


4. Swing Caddie SC200 PLUS Launch Monitor

Voice Caddie SC200 PLUS Launch Monitor - Angled View

The Swing Caddie SC200 Plus by Voice Caddie is a truly portable launch monitor that has the shape and size of a smartphone and weighs less than one pound. You can easily put it in your pocket or store it in your bag and take it wherever you want: to the range, to the golf course, or indoors with a hitting net.

It has received extremely good ratings. Compared to the regular SC200, the PLUS version adds an additional Swing Speed Mode that allows you to measure your swing speed without actually hitting a ball.

One of the things we like most about the SC200 PLUS is the fact that you don’t need an app to display the information or get extra features — everything is on the device itself.

How It Works

The Swing Caddie SC200 PLUS launch monitor uses Doppler Radar technology, along with a barometric pressure sensor that automatically calibrates itself to provide exceptionally accurate readings.

Parameters include carry distance, swing speed, ball speed, smash factor, and loft angle. An included remote allows you to conveniently change the mode, club, or target distance. Features include:

  • Voice Distance Output – automatically tells you your distances after each shot.
  • Practice Mode – display key ball parameters after each shot.
  • Target Mode – set a target distance and test your distance control.
  • Approach Mode – set random targets and test your accuracy.
  • Practice Swing Mode (new for the PLUS version) – swing your club without a ball and obtain swing speed measurements.

The SC200 PLUS is packed with great features. Watch this video to get an overview:

Customers are impressed with the quality and accuracy of this launch monitor relative to much more expensive units.


5. Ernest Sports ES12 Player Launch Monitor

Ernest Sports ES12 Player Launch Monitor

Do you want a launch monitor that is reliable and well-made, but yet is super affordable and only measures the most essential ball parameters?

If you’re content with only seeing your distance and ball speed numbers, then the ES12 Player by Ernest Sports is an excellent model to consider. It’s a favourite launch monitor of world-famous golf coach Butch Harmon.

The ES12 is extremely easy to set up, and at roughly the size of a smartphone, it can fit into pockets and easily fit into your golf bag. It has a durable rubber casing with a stand, and a clear LCD screen.

Features

The ES12 Player Launch Monitor uses Doppler radar to display ball speed and distance measurements after each shot.

The ES12 can be paired via Bluetooth with the free ES12 companion app, compatible with Android and iOS devices, to unlock additional benefits and features. These include (but are not limited to):

  • a personal caddie that gives you club recommendations for shots based on past logged data
  • the ability to track and analyze your practice sessions
  • the ability to analyze shot data for each club
  • side-by-side video analysis
  • skills challenges

Users of the ES12 generally love the affordability (very inexpensive) and how easy it is to use. Some people have had problems with setting up the app, but we didn’t have problems during our testing. Make sure you follow all of the included instructions.


6. Swing Caddie SC300i Launch Monitor

Voice Caddie SC300i Launch Monitor

If you like Voice Caddie products and want to move a step up from the SC200 PLUS, you can check out the SC300i.

The Swing Caddie SC300i is Voice Caddie’s best (and newest) launch monitor offering. It’s an upgraded model to the SC300, which was quite successful in its own right.

The SC300i is a bit too large to fit in most pockets, but it can easily be carried in a golf bag.

Compared to the older SC300, the SC300i has better Doppler hardware, an extended battery life, and a new app feature that allows you to view video playback of your swing with data overlay.

Features

The SC300i has a black back with a stand, black edging (as opposed to the silver of the SC300), and an LCD display with an orange backlight. It has excellent accuracy and a very high average customer rating.

The SC300i Launch Monitor uses the latest in Doppler radar technology, along with calibrating atmospheric pressure sensors.

The parameters measured are impressive for a launch monitor in this price range, and they include:

  • ball speed
  • carry distance
  • swing speed
  • smash factor
  • apex (max height)
  • launch angle

The SC300i can be paired with the MySwingCaddie app (iOS or Android) for real-time, integrated shot data and statistics for each club.

You don’t need the app to use the SC300i, but we recommend installing it because it provides extra benefits including spin data and a video playback feature. It can be connected to the launch monitor via Bluetooth.

Using the camera of your phone (which has the app installed and is connected to the SC300i unit), you can record each one of your shots, and the app will organize them and overlay the data parameters associated with it. You can draw lines frame-by-frame and loop sections to really get down into the granular.

Keep in mind that users have reported issues with the app not recording certain shots. If you have this problem, try adjusting the trigger duration in the settings or contact support.


Buying Guide

There are many portable launch monitors on the market, some cheaper and some more expensive, and we understand that making a good buying choice can feel difficult.

It turns out that it’s not that difficult to find the best one for you once you consider all the factors that will affect your experience and match it with what your goals are.

In general, you should invest in a launch monitor that’s light, easy to carry, easy to use, and still measures all the data points you’re interested in. Here are the most important factors you need to consider when determining which portable launch monitor will suit you best:

1. Parameters

Club impacting golf ball

What ball flight parameters does the launch monitor track, and what parameters do you want to see?

One of the things you sacrifice with portable, less-expensive launch monitors are the number of parameters that are measured.

Most golfers want key metrics like distance (total, carry) and ball speed, and almost all launch monitors offer this at a minimum. If you’re looking for a more detailed analysis with information like angle of attack and smash factor, your choice of launch monitors will narrow a bit.

Not surprisingly, the more expensive and advanced the launch monitor, the more parameters it will tend to measure. Make sure that the launch monitor you’re buying has all the data points that you’re looking for.

2. Usage Type

SkyTrak Practice Golf Simulator Setup

Do you plan to use your portable launch monitor indoors, outdoors, or both? Some launch monitors, like the Rapsodo MLM reviewed above, work best outdoors (e.g. on the range) where the ball can take its full flight.

If you’re interested in a launch monitor that can be used while hitting into a net, you should verify that it can be used for this purpose and how much free ball flight and clearance it needs to work properly.

You don’t want to find out the bad news later that it can’t accommodate your intended use.

3. Features

When you’re considering a launch monitor, look at the features. How does the launch monitor display your data, and how can you store and organize it?

Some portable launch monitors like the FlightScope Mevo and SC300i come with a matching mobile app, while others, like the SC200 PLUS, don’t. These apps generally allow you flexibility in viewing your data, data trends, and data for each club in the bag.

Other portable launch monitors are compatible with golf simulator software, like the Approach R10.

Launch monitors can come with other unique features that are useful. Consider features that you need, want, and could do without, and factor that into your decision.

4. Size & Weight

Portable launch monitors are so named because of their small size and light weight.

Do you want to be able to carry one in your pocket, or just be able to easily stow it away in your bag? Some of the launch monitors on this page are a bit too big to fit in a regular-sized pocket, but all of them can be quickly and easily stored in a golf bag.

If you want a very small and light launch monitor, your choices will be limited.

5. Accuracy

Bullseye with dart

Portable launch monitors are generally less accurate than more expensive models like the SkyTrak, GC2 and X3. Even within the portable class, accuracy can vary.

For example, if a portable launch monitor measures a lot of parameters, some of them might not be very reliable. At the same time, models like the ES12 that only measure essential parameters can be very accurate.

If you’re looking at a launch monitor that is less than $400 or so, you should look at customer reviews to gauge whether or not the accuracy is acceptable.


Conclusion

It used to be that you had to pay a pretty penny for a golf launch monitor. But over the years, launch monitors have become a lot more accessible and affordable, and this means more golfers than ever before have been able to own one for themselves.

Finding a portable launch monitor that meets your needs is certainly possible with some research.

Each of the portable launch monitor options reviewed above offer excellent value for the cost. We’ve given you the information you need to make a decision; now it’s up to you to go the rest of the way.

If you want to be able to do more than just view your numbers on a screen, check out the best cheap golf simulators here.

We highly recommend reading customer reviews of launch monitors to obtain useful insights as to how they actually perform. This can help you a great deal in the decision-making process.


Thanks for reading this guide. Which portable launch monitor are you considering? Do you have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment down below.

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