This week, Skytrak launched a long-awaited follow-up to their groundbreaking (at the time) original launch monitor. There were tons of us that owned that device and for the time, it was astounding what could be done on a more-modest budget compared with the 5-figure launch monitors that were the only ones availble back then.
Fast forward to today, however, and the launch monitor landscape is much different and changing rapidly. With a far more affordable segment in devices like the Garmin Approach R10, Rapsodo MLM2Pro, and SwingCaddie SC4, devices like the new SkyTrak+, Bushnell Launch Pro and soon-to-arrive Uneekor Eye Mini all have to substantiate the reason for their higher costs. And those pricier devices I just mentioned ($3000 – $4500) are still far more affordable than ceiling mounted units or the vaunted Trackman that comes in at a whopping $25,000.
Why Garmin needs to sit up and take notice
Put plainly, the market is moving fast, and the race – at least for now – seems to be towards the bottom. Golf launch monitors/simulators are still a niche, but devices like the Garmin Approach R10 and the Rapsodo MLM2Pro are making a huge splash mainly due to their more-approachable price points.
And in this sort of market, sitting by and letting your hardware continue to age is a mistake. As we saw with SkyTrak’s grip on the non-pro users during its heyday, that hold could loosen quite quickly with the next affordable device that gets released; giving potential buyers a better option to go for something newer and more affordable. And as we continue to see, affordable launch monitors just keep getting better.
For Garmin, their chief concern lies in competition from the Rapsodo MLM2Pro. This device is only $100 more expensive ($699) and has the advantage of a high-speed camera built right in. That means the MLM2Pro can deliver far more accurate spin numbers and actually calculate spin axis, unlike the radar-only Garmin Approach R10 while also making alignment a snap via that same camera. Those are two of the R10’s biggest pitfalls, so the difference matters a lot.
For now, Garmin is safe since you can use the R10 with loads of software. If Rapsodo moves fast enough, however, and a partnership with GSPro arrives soon, that will put it in prime position to overtake the popular Garmin R10 as the best overall launch monitor under $1000. As it stands right now, the only software add-ons are E6 Connect and Awesome Golf. Though those are solid, GSPro has become an absolute behemoth in the simulator space, and I know I wouldn’t consider buying a launch monitor that doesn’t work with it.
But I have a sneaking suspiscion that we’ll see some sort of official partnership between Rapsodo and GSPro, and when that happens, the Garmin R10 could be in trouble. With a single radar setup, the R10 is fun and useful, but lacks the precision available from optical-based launch monitors. The MLM2Pro addresses this concern and cleans up much of what irks me with the R10’s setup and numbers.
What Garmin needs to do
So, what is Garmin to do? If they want to remain relevant, they need to launch an Approach R10+ (or something similar) that keeps all the good that they already have in the existing R10 while adding in a camera just like we see in the MLM2Pro. This solution would solve the alignment issues most users have with the Garmin and give them the ability to include in the all-important spin axis data point who’s absence makes it very tough to repeatedly hit a draw on the R10.
Will that happen? Who knows at this point. The personal launch monitor market is still quite young when you think about it, so I don’t know that fast-moving manufacturing is really the strength of this segment. I come from a background in Chromebook reporting, so I’ve seen first-hand how long it can take a market segment to get moving once the public interest is actually there. It doesn’t happen fast.
And while I woulnd’t expect a response from Garmin this year, I’d for sure hope they have something to show off at the PGA Show early in 2024. As far as personal launch monitors go, there is no company that had the broad impact that Garmin did with the launch of the R10. And for all its shortcomings, it is still a wildly-fun unit to use. I really hope they don’t get left behind by all the commotion in the market happening right now. Small tweaks and a few additions could keep the Garmin Approach name in high regard if they respond fast enough.