Nowadays most golfers will have experienced the joys of using a launch monitor like Trackman or Flightscope when getting custom fitted for your clubs or on TV when they project the flight of the ball on the screen.
Many of the top players in the world have one of their own to help measure their practice sessions for swing changes and also to create practice challenges to keep their games sharp.
At up to £20,000 per unit though, this is out of the reach of most golfers and that is where the Swing Caddie SC100 portable launch monitor comes in. At around £200 the standalone device does not need an app and uses batteries to provide you with data on your ball striking at impact.
In the box comes the Swing Caddie, four AAA batteries, a pouch and a small remote control for adjusting the settings on the range. It is light at just over 200 grams and about the size of a phablet at 15cm tall by 7.5cm wide and 2.5cm deep.
All you have to do is pop up the built in stand and place the device about a metre behind the ball, select the club you are using and swing away.
The Swing Caddie then uses a Doppler radar sensor to measure clubhead speed, ball speed and smash factor (which is the energy transfer from club to ball) in order to make a projection for carry distance. I say projection becuse the Swing Caddie uses pre-determined parameters for the loft of the club to enter into the calculation with the clubhead and ball speed to give you the carry distance. You can see this by the fact the distance is shown on the 4 inch LCD screen before the ball has landed.
Unlike the more spohisticated devices the Swing Caddie does not measure ball spin or angle of the club path and other such information, which is not suprising given the size and cost of the device.
What that does mean though is that this is really only useful for measuring swing speed and ball speed and then using the carry distance as a guide. A few times the carry distance was a long way out, so occassionally it does get it wrong.
If you have done a lot of driver fittings then you will probably know the numbers you should be achieving on this and therefore I found the Swing Caddie to be useful in comparing different drivers and shafts to see which one gave me a higher clubhead and ball speed as this is key for drivers.
Whilst the Swing Caddie helped me pick the best driver from my collection for clubhead speed it did not factor in spin, so the results were just a very good guide.
With some of the shorter clubs the comparison was less valid as it is about accuracy with these clubs too, and the clubhead speed and ball speed rates meant less as I was less familiar with them.
What I did like was the remote which was simple and easy to undesstand as you just pointed it at the device and clicked the button of the club you were going to use and it changed straight away. No need to calibrate or go through menus as is the case with a lot of bluetooth and app based swing tracking devices.
Where the Swing Caddie has more value is as a practice tool. You can use the Target Mode to set a target distance and you have 10 attempts to see how many times you can reach your target for your chosen club. This can give you a structure for your practise session and give you some feedback as you change your swing to reach your target.
The Random Mode goes a step further and gives you a random distances to hit for 10 shots and you have to choose the right club and swing to hit the distance shown on the screen. This is more fun and closer to real life on the golf course.
Apart from the odd bit of club fitting, it is the two Target and Random practice modes that provide the most long term value from this product. Unfortunately it does not store the data from one session to the next after you turn it off, so if you want to track your performance over time you will need something else to record that on.
I do like the compact nature of the device and it is easy to use and understand. Whether it is of any actual value I am not so sure as some of the app/sensor options like the SkyPro offer more information on the swing itself for around the same amount of money.
Some of you make like the fact you can put something on the ground behind you as you practice to look a little more like you know what you are doing, but it's a bit like "all the gear..." - you know what I mean.
However, take it for what it is and that is an entry level, basic launch monitor that is a fraction of the cost of a full blown system. If that is what you are after, then the Swing Caddie is worth trying out.