Difference Between A Launch Monitor And Golf Simulator – Explained

The Difference Between A Launch Monitor And Golf Simulator - Banner

If you think a golf simulator and a launch monitor are the same thing, you would be wrong! They share many similarities, but they are essentially two different things that often serve different purposes.

It’s a common misunderstanding, though, and if you are planning to buy either one of them, it would be best to have a clear idea about what both are exactly.

To help you in this cause, we have come up with all the information you need to understand the differences and similarities.

Golf technology is at its peak. It is introducing a lot of new breakthrough products to the market, with launch monitors and golf simulators among them. By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be able to decide which of them is most suitable for you.


The most fundamental difference between a launch monitor and golf simulator is that a launch monitor provides numerical data related to your shots, while a golf simulator is an entire system that not only measures data, but also simulates your ball flight in a virtual software environment.


Let’s look at each one individually:

Launch Monitor

FlightScope Mevo Launch Monitor with balls and a club

A launch monitor is a device that measures various parameters related to the club and ball at impact. Some of the most common measurements include carry distance, spin, ball speed, and club head speed.

At its core, a launch monitor gives you numbers after each shot, although many launch monitors allow software simulation.

Some of the most prominent features of launch monitors are:

1. They are user-friendly and portable.

Launch monitors are often light and portable enough that you can take them anywhere easily. They are very easy to use and can be connected to your mobile device via Bluetooth for extra convenience.

For example, the FlightScope Mevo is one of the best portable launch monitors. There are other good ones on the market, but it will take some research to find the best one for you.

2. They work well with iOS and Android.

FlightScope App Sample 1

Many launch monitors can be controlled through iOS or Android smartphones or tablets. You will only have to download a matching app such as FS Golf, FS Skills, or ES14.

Likewise, companion apps are also more helpful for improving your game because they provide visuals rather than just raw data.

3. They provide accurate measurements.

Launch monitors such as the GC2 provide extremely accurate measurements. You can rely upon their information without question.

Moreover, launch monitors can use different tracking systems including Doppler radar or photometric. Doppler radar uses microwave radiation to track the movement of the ball at impact, while photometric systems track ball movement by taking a series of high-speed images.

4. They are affordable.

This is one key difference between a launch monitor and golf simulator. Because launch monitors perform limited functions — mainly the measurement of various club and ball parameters at impact — they cost much less than full simulator systems.

Many launch monitors can accommodate low to medium budgets of under $1000. With that said, there are many launch monitors that cost much more than this, even going into the five figures.


Golf Simulator

SkyTrak SIG12 Golf Simulator Layout - New

A golf simulator is a system that takes your golf swing and impact with the ball, derives a set of data parameters, and displays your ball flight virtually. A launch monitor is the primary component of most golf simulators because it is what provides the measurements.

In addition to software, golf simulators are also made up of many physical components that can include hitting mats, screens, enclosures, nets, or projectors, making up what is called a studio or hitting bay.

Unlike launch monitors, golf simulators are mostly suited for indoor use, although certain setups can be used outdoors. With advances in technology, software has been able to provide photo-realistic graphics that can come close to feeling like real life.

1. They save you time.

Golf simulators are specifically designed for those who don’t have the time or means to go to their local course.

They allow you to play golf and work on your game day or night, rain or shine, any time of the year. You can play alone or with friends from the comfort of your own home.

2. They work well with a projector.

Optoma EH200ST HD Projector Front

The most unique aspect of golf simulators is that, with a screen and projector, you get the sense that you’re playing golf at an actual course.

It’s more cost-effective to hit into a net and view the simulation on your PC or mobile device, but a screen and projector offers the most realistic experience.

3. They come with software.

Unlike launch monitors that simply display various data points, golf simulators come with software solutions that offer all sorts of features.

Golf simulator software will, at minimum, include a driving range for practice. They may also offer accurate representations of world-famous courses, multiplayer modes, minigames, and skills challenges.

Some of the best simulator software solutions currently on the market are E6 CONNECT, The Golf Club, and QED Refine.

With that said, many (usually more expensive) launch monitors are compatible with simulation software and can therefore, with a little work, be transformed into a full golf simulator.

4. They provide accurate results.

Like launch monitors, golf simulators also provide accurate results.

If a golf simulator doesn’t use a launch monitor, it may use an overhead system (e.g. Uneekor QED) or ground sensors (e.g. TruGolf Vista) to track ball and club behaviour.


Exploring More Differences

Two things you should keep in mind when it comes to launch monitors and golf simulators are:

1. Launch monitors are very portable.

Rapsodo MLM - Featured

A launch monitor usually consists of a single unit that can be carried anywhere: inside the home, around the yard, or to the driving range. The most portable launch monitors, such as the Voice Caddie SC200 PLUS, can even be put in your pocket!

In contrast, while golf simulators are large and powerful, they can be difficult to move around, mainly because they consist of many heavy components. The most portable golf simulators use nets, which can be more easily transported.

2. Golf simulators are expensive.

SkyTrak Budget Golf Simulator Layout

In many cases, golf simulators are orders of magnitude more expensive than launch monitors because they simulate play, but this isn’t a hard rule.

Let’s take a typical case: the Ernest Sports ES14 Pro launch monitor costs just under $500, but a SkyTrak simulator package with a basic studio setup can cost over $4000.

As another example, a SkyTrak simulator package may cost $4500, but the GC2, a top-of-the-line launch monitor by Foresight Sports, costs a minimum of $6500.

As you might imagine, a golf simulator will cost more than a launch monitor most of the time because a golf simulator consists of multiple components. In any case, golf simulators and launch monitors can cost anywhere from $100 to $70,000 or more.


Summary

Let’s sum up what we’ve discussed so far in a nutshell:

  • The main purpose of a launch monitor is to provide numerical shot data, while the main purpose of a golf simulator is to simulate your shots with software.
  • Launch monitors are a great option if you have a tight budget. If you have a budget of a few thousand dollars, consider the SkyTrak, which is both a launch monitor and simulator.
  • Launch monitors are very portable and often pocket-sized.
  • Golf simulators necessarily come with software that provides a virtual driving range and possibly additional features like course play, mini-games, tournaments, and more.
  • Launch monitors are often one component of a golf simulator, along with hitting mats, screens, projectors, enclosures, etcetera.

Launch monitors and golf simulators both have their pros and cons, many of which can be considered subjective. Something that is a great fit for one person may not suit another.

We hope this article gives you a clear idea of the difference between launch monitors and golf simulators. When you’re ready to look at the available offerings, click the buttons below.


Thanks for reading this guide. Is there something you’re still confused about? Leave your questions and feedback down below!

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