How to Read the Data from a Golf Launch Monitor

How to Read the Data from a Golf Launch Monitor

Launch monitors have become ubiquitous on the practice range at PGA, LPGA and, yes, LIV Tour events (Netflix's Full Swing documentary felt like a Trackman commercial at times!) The pros are utilizing them to get their distances dialed in, evaluate their swing paths and to unlock insane distance.

And with TrackMans setup throughout the entire course for a PGA tour event, viewers can now see a heap of data from the pros throughout the round. For example, have a look at Rory feasting at Riveria during the 2023 Genesis Open: 

As prices have come down, more amateur players have also made the investment in launch monitors and golf simulators to help improve their game. Not only does it enable players to practice effectively indoors, but it also gives golfers an insane level of feedback on the driving range.

Data Points

But with all that data flying around, it can be overwhelming to know what data to pay attention to. Here are the key stats to monitor while practicing with a launch monitor or golf simulator:

  1. Ball Speed: This is probably the most well-known stat, and it's a good one to start with. Ball speed is a measure of how fast the ball is moving at impact, and it's directly related to distance. In general, the faster your ball speed, the further your shots will go. (One key thing to note here is that there can be a massive difference between a range ball and the ball you are going to hit on the first tee. TrackMan measured this with the result summarized in their blog. So make sure you are factoring this into your distance management approach.)
  2. Clubhead Speed: Similar to ball speed, clubhead speed is a measure of how fast the club is moving at impact. It's important to monitor because it can give you an idea of how much power you're generating and whether you're using your body effectively. The tracking of this stat has led to the speed training revolution in golf. 
  3. Smash Factor: Smash factor is a measure of how efficiently you're transferring energy from the club to the ball. It's calculated by dividing ball speed by clubhead speed, and a higher smash factor generally indicates that you're hitting the ball more solid. We are not huge fans of using smash factor as a critical feedback point similar to the experts at Ping, who agree that key data points should be ball speed, launch angle, spin and dispersion
  4. Launch Angle: This is the angle at which the ball leaves the clubface, and it's important because it affects both the height and distance of your shots. A higher launch angle will result in more carry and a softer landing, while a lower launch angle will lead to less carry and a harder landing. Launch angle is typically correlated to the dynamic loft of the golf club (typically a little less). 
  5. Attack Angle: The attack angle is the angle at which the club approaches the ball at impact. A positive angle of attack means hitting up on the ball while negative means hitting down on the ball. It can have a big impact on your shots and is a key data point we focus on when helping players. The optimal angle of attack varies big time based on swing speeds (see later graph for optimizing this). For example, the PGA Tour driver average is -1.0 degrees while the LPGA Tour driver average is +2.0 degrees. You can change the attack angle by making changes to your ball position, the movement of your swing center and the position of your hands / shaft at impact. The attack angle also should be reviewed in conjunction with the club path data. If a golfer has a downward angle of attack, a golfer’s club path (the direction of the club at impact) will influence the club path in-to-out. Thus, a golfer that hits down on the ball must have an out-to-in swing direction in order to launch the ball straight. A golfer that hits up on the ball must have an in-to-out swing direction to launch the ball straight.
  6. Spin Rate: Spin is the rotational force applied to the ball as it leaves the clubface, and it's measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). Spin rate is important because it affects both the trajectory of your shots and the amount of roll you get after the ball lands. The modern selling slogan for golf club manufacturers is "High launch, low spin." This effect maximizes distance particularly off the tee. However, when you are looking for the ball to stop quickly on the green during an approach shot you need to ensure you add some spin to it. 
  7. Side Spin: Side spin is the spin applied to the ball in a left-to-right or right-to-left direction (for a right-handed player). It's important to monitor because it can cause shots to curve in the air, which can be useful for shaping shots around hazards or hitting tricky shots into greens.
  8. Swing Path: The swing path is the direction in which the clubhead is moving during the swing, and it's important to monitor because it can affect both the direction and shape of your shots. A more out-to-in swing path (where the clubhead is moving from the outside of the target line towards the inside) can cause you to hit shots that curve to the right (for a right-handed player), while an in-to-out swing path can cause shots to curve to the left.
  9. Clubface Angle: The clubface angle is the angle at which the clubface is pointing at impact, and it's important to monitor because it can affect both the direction and spin of your shots. A closed clubface (pointing to the left of the target for a right-handed player) will tend to produce shots that curve to the right, while an open clubface will have the opposite effect. 

How the Raw Data Creates a "Dispersion Pattern"

Once you have hit a number of shot, most launch monitors and simulators will track a player's dispersion pattern for each club. Stat gurus utilize this dispersion pattern to help pros determine the optimal playing strategy to tackle a golf course. And you should do your best to utilize it as well, including building a yardage guide for your bag.

Your dispersion pattern is how far from left-to-right each of your shots span, and how far from back-to-front. Throw out any outliers (like a thin missile or a dead chunk), and you should be left with an oval shape. The more accurate you are, the smaller this oval should be. Understand your dispersion pattern with each club and aim accordingly on the golf course.

Improving Your Own Numbers

Every golfer will produce a wide array of results for all of this data. Same goes for tour players. And that is precisely what makes golf so much fun. 

Here is a chart of the typical tour stats for both the PGA and LPGA Tours from TrackMan. This can helpful in analyzing your own numbers and seeing where you need to improve. 

Want to chase Rory's insane driver numbers? Drill into this chart to optimize your distance based on your ball speed and launch angle (#science): 

Finally, work with a coach to help you analyze your numbers, determine a plan to improve them over time and establish a playing strategy based on your current data points. 

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