Hit it farther. Hit it straighter. Every golfer’s goal.
But how to do that is the question and one solution used by an increasing number of players is the personal launch monitor. Some are seriously expensive (think $15,000 and up) with the added attraction of simulating a round of golf on a famous course such as Pebble Beach or St. Andrews without leaving home.
However, many have found a unit called SkyTrak offered at a much lower price is the answer. The basic unit is a golfer-friendly price of $1,995, driving range only software included, with optional game improvement packages starting at $99 per year. Compatible third-party simulation software varies in price depending on features.
The unit uses a built-in high-speed camera to capture successive images of the ball and a sophisticated computer program interprets them to report critical shot data such as ball speed, spin rates, carry distance, launch angle and distance offline.
For insight into how SkyTrak has positioned itself as a major factor in the launch monitor business, we spoke with Paul Calabrase, National Sales Manager for SkyGolf. Not surprisingly his comments began with the pandemic. “With delivery times being stretched out, the pandemic has kept us very busy,” said Calabrase. In addition to SkyTrakGolf.com, units are available from other authorized online dealers, golf retail shops and golf courses.
Ed Travis: Can you tell us a little of your background in golf and your time with SkyGolf?
Paul Calabrase: Golf has always been a part of my life starting as a kid living on a golf course and hanging around the local executive course in my hometown. I started playing golf tournaments at a young age in the 10 and under division of San Diego Junior Golf. I continued to play throughout high school and played collegiately at The University of California – Irvine. After college I played a few years on the West Coast Professional circuit. Making the PGA Tour did not happen, but I stayed in golf, first teaching and then went to work for Carbite Golf. I spent the next decade working for a few manufacturers and started with SkyGolf in the early days of the company back in 2005. It’s been great working for a company that brought technology to golf, started a new category and now doing we’re helping do the same with SkyTrak.
ET: How was the technology used in SkyTrak developed, both as a practice aid and golf simulator and is it compatible with all computer operating systems?
PC: SportTrak had been in the golf industry for several years prior to the partnership with SkyGolf. The company took their launch monitor technology and applied it to the SkyTrak launch monitor, offering a solution that works at a reasonable cost. It’s a tremendous practice tool for the golf pro to use with their students or the average golfer that wants to improve. Being able to practice when the weather is bad or in the comfort of your own home allows golfers to keep the rust off. SkyTrak allows the golfer to hit balls and receive data on every shot. The great visuals of the driving range make it feel like you are at the course along with several tools to help you improve. The golfer can hit into different green shapes, compare clubs, fine tune their driver settings, use the Wedge Matrix to dial in their scoring clubs, know how far they hit each club, get a great visual of their shot shape and more. Everything you do in the SkyTrak app produces a nice report that can be used by your instructor or yourself at home. The SkyTrak app is compatible with PC’s, iOS devices and select Android devices.
Playing golf is another great option with SkyTrak as we have 5 different golf simulation partners to choose from. Some are only compatible with an iPad while others require the use of a PC. The companies integrate with SkyTrak, we provide the data to power their platform. The accuracy of the SkyTrak helps the experience of playing golf with any of our partners. Since we capture data like launch angle, back spin, side spin and ball speed, the golfer can hit shots just like they are on the golf course. I think that is what separates us from others, having the ability to capture shot shape. With SkyTrak, you can hit a nice high draw or low fade versus all your shots having little movement.
ET: The launch monitor category is very crowded. Which SkyTrak features separate it from the others?
PC: The category is crowded but it is also separated into a couple of price points and feature sets. The units that are $500 or less are used at the driving range and really only provide the golfer with distance and ball speed. The units that are over $15K provide additional information like club head data and are used primarily with golf instructors. So, you can see that there was a huge gap to fill and why SkyTrak has been so popular. We provide all the ball data with a tremendous user experience that has the accuracy of the high-end launch monitor but at a price affordable for the consumer.
ET: How does SkyTrak help regular golfers improve their game?
PC: Let’s start this conversation from beginners to advanced players. Being able to practice in your own home helps new golfers learn the game without the apprehension of others watching them at the golf course. Kids love technology and what a great way to get your entire family into golf. All you need is room to swing the club, hitting net, mat and you’ve got your own driving range. Data is terrific but having the shot tracer gives instant feedback on how you hit the shot. SkyTrak allows you to try different things with your swing to see if it makes a difference with the ball flight. Not being in front of several people at the driving range allows golfers the freedom to try swing changes or different shots without the embarrassment of a mishit. There are several advantages of having your own indoor driving range.
SkyTrak allows you to select each club while you hit balls and produces a report of every shot hit. The golfer can dive into each shot or look at the averages of each club. The main data golfers look at besides distance is: launch angle, back spin, ball speed, side angle and side spin but we also offer max height, flight time, smash factor and descent angle. Let’s say you want to change your driver settings and maximize your distance. SkyTrak allows you to compare shots hit with a variety settings (different shafts, club heads, lofts, etc) which will allow the player the information they need to play their bet golf. Golfers that need help with their wedges can utilize the SkyTrak Wedge Matrix. This feature allows players to hit up to 4 wedges with 4 different swing lengths: ¼, ½, ¾ and full swings with each club. Afterwards, a report is produced to see what shot needs improvement or helps the player come to the realization that hitting a ¾ pitching wedge is more accurate than a full sand wedge. Other great tools to improve include Bag Mapping (so you know how far each club goes), Practice Greens (settings so you can simulate hitting into small or odd shape greens) and the Practice Randomizer so you hit different distances for better practice. There are also some fun activities like closest to the pin, long drive, and target challenge. These options are great for practice or to compete with friends and family.
ET: How do driving ranges and golf instructors use SkyTrak?
PC: SkyTrak can be used in lessons, fittings, or any way the instructor needs it. Being able to show students data helps validate what the instructor is saying. If the student can see results it helps the them believe in the information, which leads to better lessons. SkyTrak can also be used in fittings to help golfers make better club selections, which lead to sales for the club. Some ranges connect SkyTrak to a TV and charge more for golfers who use that stall at the driving range. This gives the golfer data and brings more money to the driving range.
ET: Tell us about the various SkyTrak personal membership packages.
PC: We have a Basic, Game Improvement (GIP) and Play & Improve (PIP) plan. The Basic plan provides access to the driving range only. The GIP gives the golfer all the features in the SkyTrak app. The PIP has everything in the GIP but also gives the golfer course simulation with World Golf Tour (WGT). WGT is iOS specific and features multiple championship course, including prominent major venues.
ET: What do you see for launch monitors and golf simulators in the future?
PC: I see more people finding the space for SkyTrak in their homes. The time commitment and cost to play golf doesn’t seem to be coming down and it’s getting harder for people to get out and play. More people work from home now and with SkyTrak you can hit a quick bucket or play a quick nine without missing a beat. More people are going to invest in their rooms with better hitting mats, HD screens for projection and turn this into the new pool room or mancave.
ET: Can you share with our readers some of the new features being planned for SkyTrak?
PC: We are always innovating and working on new ideas. The launch monitor itself is simply the conduit to a larger SkyTrak experience.
ET: Is there anything else you would like to pass along to our readers?
PC: I hope this information was entertaining and useful. Any golfer can practice and play golf at home without breaking the bank.
By Ed Travis