Swing Caddie recently announced that its SC300 launch monitor was discontinued and replaced by the SC300i. Since this is one of the most popular personal launch monitors on the market, I was interested in testing out the newer version to see any meaningful changes.
In this review, I’ll go over the updates, testing results, and how the Swing Caddie SC300i fits into the growing market of launch monitors priced under $500.
The personal launch monitor category has exploded over the last few years. I get emails daily from readers who come across my reviews and buying guide. Since there are more options available, golfers get confused by what separates each product from one another. I do my best to steer people in the right direction based on their needs (you can always contact me here).
Swing Caddie is the original innovator in the space. You could say that the Swing Caddie SC100 “kicked off” interest in low-cost launch monitors. Years later, I still find myself recommending their products to most people for two reasons:
Forgive me for the brevity. I value simplicity in all things golf – whether I’m talking about strategy or technology products. And simplicity is why Swing Caddie continues to be one of the leaders in launch monitors.
Many products I’ve tested have apps that can be confusing or require additional hardware like your phone or tablet to record shots. The last thing I want is for golfers to start their practice sessions fidgeting with technology that’s cumbersome to use. The Swing Caddie 300i continues the brand’s “easy and effective” advantage.
The Swing Caddie SC300 was a huge hit. It was accurate, easy to set up, and offered additional features over the Swing Caddie SC200+.
The main thing I like about the SC300 is that it did have an accompanying app, but it was not required for use. You always had the option of quickly turning it on and seeing all of your stats (or having them called out loud). If you wanted to sync your phone or tablet to the app, you had that option too.
The other products at this price level, the Flightscope mevo , and Rapsodo MLM, will not work unless you use an app on your cell phone or tablet. For some, that’s not a big deal. But for many other golfers I have communicated with, it’s a dealbreaker.
The SC300i measures the same parameters as the original SC300:
Perhaps the biggest news is that the accompanying app did get a nice upgrade.
Swing Caddie has cleaned up the user interface quite a bit. There is enhanced data presentation of all of your clubs. Most notably, there is an option of analyzing your swing with video. The good news is that owners of the original SC300 will get this feature as well. Here are some screenshots from the new app:
I prefer to test launch monitors indoors because I can control the variables. Also, since all personal launch monitors are radar-based, it’s a stiffer test to see which units have the better sensor. Almost any radar-based unit will work better outdoors because it has more room to see the ball travel. When I go outside to the range, I do have the tradeoff of using range balls, which won’t give me the most accurate results.
The original Swing Caddie SC300 had very favorable numbers compared to my SkyTrak (a camera-based, more expensive option at $2000) on carry distances and ball speed. But other parameters like launch angle really struggled.
Since the SC300i has newer components, I expected the sensor to be a bit more accurate, and it delivered nicely.
Here are comparisons to SkyTrak on carry distance:
|Club||SkyTrak Carry Yardage||SC300i Carry Yardage|
|Pitch Shot (LW)||58||55.5|
I found these yardages to be slightly more accurate than the previous SC300. Overall, while SkyTrak isn’t perfect (no launch monitor is), the SC300i performed extremely well on the carry distance metric. All of these numbers are in line with yardages I’ve verified on multiple products, including Trackman and the Foresight Sports GCQuad. Additionally, my ball speed was within the same narrow margins.
The largest improvement I saw on the Swing Caddie SC300i is with launch angle. The previous model had numbers that were as much as 15-20% different than SkyTrak. Here are the launch angle measurements I recorded:
|Club||SkyTrak Launch Angle||SC300i Launch Angle|
|Pitch Shot (LW)||29.5||27.5|
I don’t pay too much attention to most of my clubs’ launch angle, except with my driver. It can be a handy tool for optimizing your driver’s distance.
That’s why I was happy to see that the SC300i was giving much more reliable metrics on launch angle; this will allow golfers to experiment with things like ball position, tee height, or even driver loft settings (be careful).
As I mentioned, there are many choices amongst personal launch monitors ($500 and below). Here are my current recommendations versus other devices.
The PRGR and SC200+ are the best options for people at a lower budget level.
At $199, the PRGR is an excellent choice but is more of a “no-frills” offering. There is no remote, you’ll have to adjust clubs manually, and it will only measure distance, ball speed, and swing speed.
If you want to save money but want a more polished product than the PRGR, the Swing Caddie SC200+ is still a great alternative at $289. The SC300i is a bit more accurate than the SC200+, but if you’re willing to sacrifice using an app and the added measurements such as launch angle, the SC200+ is a tremendous value.
You can read my reviews of these two options here:
The comparison between the Rapsodo MLM and the SC300i get’s a bit trickier. The MLM is a fantastic product at a similar price point. But there are some pros and cons of using each.
Based on my testing, the accuracy between the two units is comparable. Rapsodo recently added indoor functionality, and I still think their app is superior (even with the new Swing Caddie update). But there are two main drawbacks:
Overall, my main recommendation is that those who value simplicity in a product should go with the SC300i. If having a robust app is more important to you, then the Rapsodo MLM is a fantastic product as well. These are still the two best choices in the category.
You can read my full Rapsodo MLM review here.
The FlightScope mevo is a direct competitor to the SC300i in terms of pricing and features. However, when most people ask me which one they should get, I tell them all to go with the SC300i.
In my testing, I found the mevo to struggle indoors, and I didn’t love the app’s functionality (which is required to see your data). Overall, I think the SC300i is a more polished product, easier to use, and more accurate.
You can read my full FlightScope mevo review here.
The Swing Caddie SC300i continues as one of the leaders in the personal launch category space. I think the app’s reworking and improved accuracy with newer sensors make it a great value. It remains one of the best overall picks for those who have a larger budget and want more features.
You can purchase it here with a special offer for Practical Golf readers at $449.
If you are looking for ways to practice with a launch monitor, you can check this guide out.
This past weekend a situation occurred that was an important reminder for me about golf, and how games change. It brought up an interesting “tug of war” that still occurs between the game’s past and future, particularly on how to improve and shoot lower scores.
So I penned (well, typed) a little bit of a quick essay to explore these ideas further.
I was teeing off on the 10th hole at my home course, which is a 380-yard par-four. It’s not a particularly hard hole off the tee, so the driver is the correct strategic play, in my view.
One of my playing partners suggested that since the other group member and I can hit our drivers so far (relative to him), there was no reason to use them. He thought it was a mistake and that we should lay back because the hole has an unusual green complex.
Years ago, I probably would have agreed with him. Much of the popular strategic wisdom was not to hit driver where you “don’t have to” and play for safety off the tee as much as you could with a shorter club.
But armed with everything I’ve learned over the last 5+ years, I know that driver gives me the best chance to post the lowest score on the hole over the long run.
I wasn’t interested in arguing with him at the moment since we were enjoying our round; I responded with, “golf is a game of proximity.” I then hit a 290-yard drive down the middle, hit my wedge to about 8-feet, and missed the birdie putt for a routine par.
If we had more time, I would tell him to read these two articles, but it sounded like his mind was made up:
In an alternate reality, I could have bladed the wedge over the green and out of bounds. Or I could have laid back to 150 yards, knocked it close, and made birdie. But none of those scenarios matter. Smart strategic play in golf is not about singular events – it’s more about stacking the odds in your favor in the long run. We have a clearer understanding of how scoring occurs and how to make optimal decisions based on math and not just feelings.
Either way, the exchange brought up an important reminder about golf and how information changes.
I’m sure many of you played some version of the game telephone in school as a kid. The teacher whispered a word or phrase into one student’s ear, and as it made its way around the circle, inevitably, it would change.
Golfers have always been caught in a loop of bad, incomplete, or misleading information. It’s one of the reasons I started this site and recently launched the Sweet Spot Podcast with Adam Young.
I don’t think I have all the answers, but I’m confident a lot of the information I give you on this site will give you a better chance at improving. A lot of what I do is “deprogramming” many of the myths I was told as a junior golfer and that many of you have heard over the years.
Keep your head down, and swinging smoothly doesn’t do the trick!
At the same time, I’ve distributed plenty of advice that I thought was correct, but upon new, better research has been declared incorrect (or perhaps a half-truth). I try not to be stubborn and change my communication when it’s appropriate.
The difficult part about golf is that there is a lot of nostalgia. And there should be; it’s a wonderful game with a rich history. However, when looking at information on improvement, tons of things said in the past aren’t true.
For example, modern ball-flight laws have clarified the proper way to hit a fade or a draw. The way it used to be communicated to players was incorrect. Still, plenty of golfers learned how to hit a draw or a fade with technically wrong advice. But someone like myself struggled for years trying to hit a fade because I had the wrong cue. Now I believe golfers have a much better chance at getting it right because we have a much clearer understanding of what makes the ball curve.
Additionally, phrases like “drive for show and putt for dough” have been updated with far more nuance and accuracy. But that doesn’t stop people from thinking the reason Jordan Spieth had his dominant stretch in 2015-2016 was all because his putter was so hot (he was arguably the best iron player in the world and seldom got himself into trouble with his driver).
But because the respect for the past is so strong in golf, I still see a lot of resistance to newer, updated ideas. I even hear it every weekend on golf broadcasts when former players still cling to many of the things they were told when they first took up the game decades ago.
Many people frown upon a green-reading system like Aimpoint when they first hear about the concept (I did too). I still hear it referred to as if it’s voodoo magic. But if they took the time to learn it, they would know it’s straightforward to understand and based on logical science. That’s not to say using a modern method like Aimpoint to read the greens is the only way to do it now; it’s just another tool that can help players.
To be clear, I’m not declaring that all old information is bad. I still think Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, golf books ever written. There are certain fundamentals about the game that will never change. What I do think holds many players back is that they will stubbornly cling to older ideas just because “that’s the way I learned it.”
To me, golf is a bit of a beautiful mystery. I love learning more about the game and how to get better. But at the same time, I don’t want to overload myself with too many ideas, or worse, distribute them to all of you. So I try to filter things when appropriate and keep it as simple as I can.
So when I tell players to play the back yardage and aim at the center of the green on most holes, that advice is rooted in me pouring over tons of data from multiple sources. But it’s hard to convince people not to aim at pins and try to make birdies because that’s always how people assumed they would lower their handicap.
I guess my overall plea in this article/essay is not to cling too hard to the past, especially when there is clear evidence that there is a newer, better way to do something in this game. That’s how progress works.
At the same time, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are still tons of valuable lessons to be passed down generationally in golf. I guess the hard part is discerning between the two.
My goal is always to keep digging out there for all of you and do my best to steer you all in the right direction.
I’m excited to announce the first Practical Golf Masters Pool! This is your chance to draft a team of six golfers and compete against fellow readers for a chance to win thousands of dollars in prizes. Did I mention that it was free to enter??
Please read all of the rules and instructions carefully before clicking the link below to register.
I’ve got a ton of great prizes from trusted products that I use and recommend to readers. Here is the list:
1st Place – Brand New Callaway Epic Customs Driver (your choice of configuration – $599 value)
2nd Place – Swing Caddie SC300i Launch Monitor ($499 Value)
3rd Place – Rapsodo MLM Launch Monitor ($499 Value)
4th Place – Shot Scope V3 GPS Watch & Performance Tracking System ($219 Value)
5th Place – PRGR Launch Monitor ($199 Value)
6th Place – Shot Scope PRO L1 Rangefinder ($199 Value)
7th Place – Perfect Practice Putting Mat ($169 Value)
8th Place – Perfect Practice Putting Mat ($169 Value)
9th Place – Divot Board Practice Aid ($119 Value)
10th Place – Practical Golf Leather Headcover Set – Driver, Fairway Wood, Hybrid
11th Place – Practical Golf Leather Putter Cover
12th Place – Practical Golf Leather Scorecard Holder
13th Place – Practical Golf T-Shirt & Caddie Towel
We are partnering with Run Your Pool, which gives an enhanced experience with live scoring for your picks.
Each pro golfer will have a salary assigned to them. Participants will be assigned a fixed salary cap of $50,000 they must stay under to create their 6-player roster. The pool winner will be determined by the lowest stroke total of your six picks combined. The winning score total is the first tiebreaker, and the total money earned is the second tiebreaker (if necessary).
No purchase necessary, limit one team entry per person – we will delete extra entries to make the pool fair to all participants. Winners will be notified by email, so please use a valid email address.
You will be able to log in once the tournament starts to see where you stand versus your fellow competitors. All picks must be made by midnight on Wednesday, April 7th.
Good luck to everyone!
Shot Scope made their name with GPS and shot-tracking. As you can see from our Shot Scope V3 review, they provide top-performing products in that space. However, this year, Shot Scope has branched out with the release of their PRO L1 laser rangefinder. This might seem like an odd choice given the crowded market in this space. There are established players like Garmin and Bushnell on the top end and many Amazon sellers on the low. So does Shot Scope have a unique position to offer with their rangefinder?
As many of you know, the low-end market for rangefinders has exploded. It’s tempting to purchase one for as little as $80. But many golfers find themselves frustrated with products that are slow, take multiple attempts to lock on to the pin, and break. So while you don’t have to spend upwards of $400 for a rangefinder anymore, you have to be careful spending too little on an unknown brand.
The Shot Scope PRO L1 bridges the gap nicely. At $199.99 (for a limited time, you can get it for $159.99 here), you’ll get everything you want from a trusted company. In this review, I’ll explore its key features and how it fits in with the marketplace.
At $199.99 MSRP, the Pro L1 is squarely in the middle-tier of laser rangefinders. For that, Shot Scope promises an “affordable, quick-firing laser packed with features making it quick and easy to get your distance.” You’ll also have your choice between a blue or grey model.
The features include 6x lens magnification, an 875-yard range, adaptive slope technology, vibration target lock, and red/black dual optics. Of those, the slope reading and dual optics are of particular note as many lower-end rangefinders don’t have them.
With adaptive slope technology, the PRO L1 will tell you the playing distance of a shot given the elevation change between you and the target. This is a handy tool for casual golfers. While you can’t use slope readings in tournament play, it can easily be turned off to stay compliant.
Another useful feature of the Shot Scope PRO L1 is the red & black dual optics. Having two display color options makes the rangefinder useful in a variety of conditions. Switching the display to red in low light conditions, for example, will help you easily see the reading.
The Shot Scope Pro L1 lightweight at just 160 grams and can be clipped to a golf bag with the included hard case. The rangefinder uses a replaceable battery and promises over 150 rounds of normal use before the battery has to be changed.
I have never been a rangefinder person. As a young golfer, I always prided myself on my ability to eyeball and step off distances on the golf course. I probably wasn’t that good at it in retrospect, but at the time, I thought I didn’t need any help with distances. I started using golf GPS apps as soon as they became widely available and have continued to do so ever since. These days, I have my GPS app on my smartwatch. It’s hard to beat the convenience of distances right on my wrist.
Besides the convenience, the cost has always been a factor in my decision not to use a rangefinder. I couldn’t justify spending $400+ to get an accurate device when I knew I’d only use it a handful of times per round. This made the Shot Scope Pro L1 interesting to me for a few key reasons:
After using the Shot Scope Pro L1 for several rounds, I can confidently say the device met these points and more.
As expected, I didn’t find myself reaching for it every shot. When I did, however, I found it to be fast and accurate. Even as a novice rangefinder user, I never had an issue locking on to a target. Both the distance number and slope adjustments seemed true as well. These facts alone made it a worthy addition to my bag.
Beyond that, though, I’m also starting to see some additional use cases for the rangefinder. Most importantly, I’m starting to use it as a practice tool. While GPS is accurate on my course, it can’t give me distances in the practice area. This is especially useful for working on 50-100 yard shots. The ability to laser the target gives me more confidence that I’m hitting the shot I want to practice.
For golfers who want a reliable rangefinder with slope capabilities, the Shot Scope PRO L1 is almost a no-brainer.
As I mentioned earlier, golfers are tempted to go on Amazon and purchase tons of rangefinders that cost less than $100. With that low cost comes inferior manufacturing practices.
Practical Golf has tested many of these “extreme budget” options, and the user experience is frustrating. Two important distinctions are that these models are much slower and often will not lock onto the pin. Often, they give you yardages to other objects in view (trees in the background, for example). The last thing you want to do is spend another 30+ seconds before your shot fighting against your distance-measuring device.
On the other end of the spectrum, big brand names like Bushnell still command upwards of $400 for their products. While it might have been worth it 5-10 years ago to pay that much for a rangefinder – at this point, you are paying more for the brand name and not necessarily performance.
Another “budget-friendly” company that Practical Golf loves is Precision Pro. They have built a great brand name over recent years by offering rangefinders that won’t break the bank but are reliable and work well. Currently, the Shot Scope PRO L1 matches up nicely against the Precision Pro NX7.
Both retail for $199.99. I don’t think you can go wrong with either model. But as we mentioned earlier, we can offer Practical Golf readers a deal on the Shot Scope PRO L1 for $159.99 (while supplies last).
I believe the Shot Scope Pro L1 is the ideal rangefinder for a golfer like me. Additionally, the price point makes it an accessible tool to golfers on a budget who still want a strong brand behind their product.
My experience with the Pro L1 has also helped me come around to the concept of rangefinders in general. Even if I don’t always need it to help me out on the course, it can help me practice. The goal of any golf device is to help you play better. For that, a rangefinder like the Shot Scope PRO L1 can be a very worthy investment. You can purchase the PRO L1 here with our special offer.
Cory Olson is an avid golfer and writer for Practical Golf, a website dedicated to being an honest resource for the everyday golfer who is looking to enjoy the game more, as well as improve. He is passionate about all parts of the game, from equipment to training, and especially the mental aspects of performing your best on the course.
One of the most common questions I get from readers is what golf net I can recommend for home practice. At this point, it’s almost impossible to keep track of because there are so many low-cost practice nets available. But what I’ve found is that almost all of them are hard to recommend because there are inevitably major tradeoffs in performance and durability for the lower price. So it’s definitely a buyer-beware situation. However, over the past couple of years, the Spornia SPG-7 kept popping up on my radar. I kept seeing positive reviews, and it wasn’t that much more money than the competition.
I finally got my hands on the Spornia SPG-7 (they were sold out all of last year). After testing it, I can definitely recommend it as one of the products that have made it into the Practical Golf “circle of trust.”
In this review, I’ll go over all of the features that set this pop-up net apart and why it may be worth a little extra investment versus its competition.
Although Spornia has been around for more than a decade, 2020 seemed to be a big leap forward for them. Like many other golf companies last year, their sales exploded, and securing inventory became a problem. I wanted to try the net back then because I kept coming across such positive feedback (they have an unheard-of average 5-star review on Amazon), but unfortunately, it kept selling out.
I think it’s safe to say that the SPG-7 has transitioned from being a “cult classic” to a mainstream success. The secret is out!
I got a chance to speak with the company’s owner last year, KC Cho, and learned a little bit more about his story. As with many conversations I’ve had with inventors and entrepreneurs in the golf industry, it was refreshing.
KC, along with his son Edward, run Spornia together. It became obvious in our talk that he takes great pride in his products and making sure every last detail is accounted for in the manufacturing process. Anyone else who is in a family business can probably relate.
Many of the golf nets you see on Amazon or private-labeled by OEMs are mostly focused on getting the lowest cost possible. In my testing, I’ve seen how all these sacrifices in materials and functionality result in products that are frustrating to set up, use, and don’t last very long.
Spornia has decided not to play the ultra-budget game and instead separate themselves by using superior materials and making sure they have enough control over the manufacturing process to make design features that actually perform.
But the good news for the consumer is that all of these extra features don’t cost that much more. Golfers can purchase a budget net anywhere between $50 to $150. The Spornia SPG-7 costs $239.99, and their newly-released compact edition is $179.99. So they aren’t that much more money. But as you’ll see, I believe the extra benefits are quite clear.
The first thing I noticed about the Spornia SPG-7 when I unpacked it was its weight. It’s heavier than anything else I’ve tested in this price range.
When you’ve tried as many of the budget golf nets (to be clear, Spornia is not a budget net) as I have, you notice a common theme – all of them are quite light out of the box. That’s because the net, along with the accompanying materials, is of lower quality. You do what get what you pay for in this category. I’ve noticed a similar trend in golf mats, too. Heavier, stronger materials cost more.
I can immediately tell that the net’s quality, support rods, and just about everything else with the SPG-7 are above and beyond.
The SPG-7 isn’t small but not massive either. The dimensions are 7′ x 7′ x 7′ (the roof net on top adds another 1.5 feet). So it can easily accommodate a smaller space in your house or backyard.
If you’re looking for something smaller, their new compact edition comes in at 5.5 feet.
Additionally, the setup was much easier than practice nets that usually require some intensive process of threading multiple rods through various holes. I’ve usually found other products to be incredibly frustrating. I am really bad at anything that involves building and spatial relations (ask my wife).
If you had a video of me setting up or taking down other golf nets, it would likely look like this.
Thankfully, the Spornia SPG-7 lived up to its promises of being a hassle-free setup. I watched their videos several times, but I got the net up and running within 5 minutes. It truly is a pop-up net, whereas some other companies make that claim, but the process isn’t nearly as seamless. After popping it in place, the only requirement is to attach two rods in place and secure the target screen.
While I don’t think I would want to set up and take apart the SPG-7 every time I used it, disassembling it is not that hard.
Here are a couple of videos showing how to do both:
Out of the gate, I was very impressed by the value. The Spornia package includes a carrying case, the net, poles, ground stakes, and a chipping basket.
When I’m evaluating a practice net, there are a few things I’m looking for:
The SPG-7 passed all of these tests with flying colors. Finally, a net that doesn’t cost more than $500 that actually works well!!!
Many golfer nets have a target screen to absorb the ball’s impact and prolong the life of the net. They are usually made out of thin material that is loud, breaks easily, and doesn’t have a secure attachment.
The Spornia SPG-7 target screen is much thicker than what I’ve seen before. Additionally, there are several heavy-duty velcro attachments that you can adjust. I found them to hold the screen in place very securely. On other nets I’ve tested, it’s usually a cheaper string that you have to tie. I’ve had some that have ripped after just two driver swings.
Most importantly, I didn’t find the noise to be all that loud. So whether you use the Spornia net indoors or outside, I don’t think you’re going to hurt your ears or anyone else who is in close vicinity.
If the target sheet does wear out, you can replace it for $39.99, which is not a huge cost. I do like this feature because it will prolong the total life of the net since the material behind the screen won’t have to bear the brunt of the golf ball (though the net seems plenty strong enough to handle that).
Depending on how many golf balls you have at your disposal, it can get annoying to march back and forth to your hitting mat when practicing with a net. Similarly, having your ball return to you is another feature that many other nets promise but fall short of delivering upon in real life.
Rather than let the ball bounce on the ground (which can cause damage indoors), Spornia has added a separate mesh net on the bottom. It’s sloped at an angle so that it is gently returned to a collection area that’s not too far away after the ball hits the target area. This is perhaps one of the net’s best features, and it’s nice to see someone took the time to add this design element.
Watch this video I took to see it in action:
The Spornia SPG-7 is very well built and quite stable overall. I live near the water, and it’s almost always windy, so using the four stakes that were included is a must.
I did most of my testing in light wind. Although the net did move slightly, it wasn’t enough to bother me or materially change the target area. Also, there are adjustable straps on both sides to help create a more stable setup.
I think you can plan on leaving the net set up outside in most weather conditions. But if you are expecting a more severe storm with wind or excessive precipitation, it’s probably a better idea to take the net apart and put it back in its bag.
The SPG-7 does come with a roof attachment, which should come in handy for a lot of golfers.
Since almost every shot I hit is on a lower trajectory than most, I was never in danger of even remotely coming close to hitting the extra net on top. However, if you are someone who can hit a “pop fly” with your wedges, or even your driver from time to time, I think it’s a great feature – especially if you are using it indoors.
Along with the carrying case, you also get a chipping target which is a nice add-on for short game practice in the yard.
The SPG-7 does come with built-in side barriers. But depending on how far away you are hitting and how errant your shots can be, there are additional side nets available for $39.99.
If you do plan on using it indoors and want to protect your walls against those dreaded sh*nks, this might be a good option. But for outdoor use, I don’t think they will be necessary for most.
Most golf practice nets are junk. You might save money upfront, but I can tell you from a lot of experience, you will get what you pay for.
I can confidently tell you that the Spornia SPG-7 is much better than any of the budget nets out there. If you are willing to invest the extra money, it is completely worth it. In my opinion, the SPG-7 is the best overall mix of value and performance in the market right now at $239.99. Also, their compact net at $179.99 is an even more attractive deal, and if you are OK with the smaller size, I can see this becoming another popular option.
The only other premium net out there that I would tell you to consider is from The Net Return. For the past four years, I have had their Mini-Pro V2 net and use it with my SkyTrak for indoor simulation. I absolutely love it.
The Net Return is the best product out there, but I’ve been hesitant to recommend it to most golfers because of the price. The Mini Pro costs $649, the Home Series is $695, and the Pro Series is $795.
I think the Net Return makes sense for golfers who want a more permanent setup. The frame is made of metal and is heavier and more sturdy. Both the Spornia and the Net Return do an excellent job of returning the ball back to you, but I’d give the slight edge overall to the Net Return. The question is, are you willing to spend a minimum $450 extra? For most golfers, I’d say no.
So if someone comes to me now asking me which golf net I am going to recommend, I’m going to tell them it’s the Spornia SPG-7. You can purchase the SPG-7 here or the compact edition here. Since we love the product so much, we have created a special bundle for Practical Golf readers.
We all know that tour players are light years better than recreational golfers at every part of the game. But for a long time, it was hard to quantify the differences in performance when it came to tee shots, approach shots, wedge play and putting. With the advent of strokes gained analysis and plenty of data collected by shot tracking companies at the amateur level, we now have plenty of reference points to make this comparison.
This article will share some data from Shot Scope showing what parts of the game tour players truly separate themselves from weekend warriors. While it’s fun to see this comparison, I also want you to learn more about what it takes to lower your scores and what you can do to track your progress along the way effectively. Also, stay tuned for a special offer.
Before we get into the “Pros vs. Joes” comparison, I quickly want to summarize why traditional golf stats are less prescriptive in telling players where they need to improve their game versus strokes gained analysis. This can be a complex topic, and I plan to go into greater detail in a separate post, but here is a quick summary for those who are not too familiar with the concept.
Tracking your fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts per round, and scrambling percentage has value. But these statistics do not paint the complete picture of your performance. Especially when you are looking at which parts of your game need the most work relative to golfers at the scoring level you are looking to achieve.
Typically, I pick on fairways hit as one of the most misleading statistics (putts per round is up there too).
Let’s take two golfers who average 50% fairways each round. At face value, one could assume they have similar ability off the tee. While that is possible, it is not enough detail to truly know which golfer is performing better. Here is a theoretical circumstance to illustrate how that is possible.
Golfer A averages 230 yards per drive, whereas Golfer B averages 275 yards per drive. Additionally, when player A misses fairways, they typically end up in 3-4 recovery situations (i.e., in the trees) or incur penalty shots per round. Conversely, Golfer B seldom ends up in a penalty area off the tee and only ends up in the trees 1-2 times per round.
Player B is a far superior driver of the golf ball because they hit it farther and avoid trouble off the tee more often than player A. However, fairways hit can’t take into account all of these variables. It is not enough information. We now know that how far you hit the ball combined with where your ball ends up when it does miss the fairway has an incredible amount of influence on a golfer’s ability to score.
This is exactly why Jim Furyk can still be one of the leaders on the PGA Tour in fairway percentage off the tee, but using strokes gained, we know he is not one of the best drivers because he can’t hit it as far as the competition (who are more accurate than we first assumed).
I could go on into putts per round, but let’s leave it there. Overall, traditional stats are a starting point, but the truth is a bit more complicated.
When Mark Broadie first introduced Strokes Gained analysis, it was a revelation about how golfers separate themselves from one another in each part of golf (tee shots, approach shots, wedge play, putting).
The equation itself and explanation of how strokes gained works can confuse people sometimes. But the good news is you don’t really need to be able to calculate it yourself. There are plenty of apps and services that do this for golfers now and give them a top-level view of where they are losing or gaining strokes in each part of the game relative to other golfers. Some examples are Shot Metrics, Arccos, DECADE, and now Shot Scope.
If you do want to take a deeper dive into strokes gained, I recommend reading this article from Shot Scope. Also, Every Shot Counts by Mark Broadie is a wonderful book that I recommend to all golfers to get a fundamental understanding of how golfers really generate their scores.
This quick video from Scott Fawcett from DECADE gives a nice, quick explanation as well:
All in all, strokes gained is the easiest way to track your true performance in each part of golf relative to other golfers.
For example, let’s say you were a 10 handicap looking to get down to a 5 handicap level. Seeing where you are gaining or losing strokes to a 5 hcp in each part of the game will give you a quick explanation of where you need to improve.
You might find that you are gaining strokes off the tee because you hit it relatively farther and keep it in play more often than a typical 5 handicap. Conversely, you could lose strokes on approach shots because you are missing too many greens, and when you do, you are in tough positions on the golf course.
At that point, if you are using a game tracking system like Shot Scope or Arccos, you could take a deeper dive into your approach statistics to find out where the problem lies. It could be you are missing greens because you don’t take enough club. Or perhaps being too aggressive with your target leads you to short-side yourself on one side of the green.
Either way, using strokes gained is a much more efficient process at getting to the truth on where you need to improve. PGA Tour players have benefited for years because Shot Link tracks every shot they hit with precision. Now that game tracking platforms have become more popular, this same advantage is available to recreational golfers. We have enough data on where golfers are hitting shots on the course to serve as reference points for strokes gained calculations.
If you’re a Practical Golf reader, you know that I don’t think it’s a good idea for weekend warriors to use PGA Tour players as inspiration for their game. But I thought it would be an interesting, fun exercise to see where golfers of various handicap levels lose the most strokes in their game relative to the pros.
In 2021, Shot Scope officially added strokes gained data to their stats portal. The release will have three phases throughout the first six months of this year. Phase 1 will include strokes gained data vs. tour players, which is available now. Phase 2 will take a deeper dive into each statistic. Most importantly, Phase 3 (scheduled for June) will allow golfers to benchmark themselves against different handicap levels.
I asked Shot Scope to run some numbers for me with all this new data and see where golfers at various handicap levels are losing strokes to tour players.
While it won’t come as a surprise that regular golfers can’t outperform tour players at just about anything, I was interested to see where the biggest differences occurred.
Two of the biggest revelations from Every Shot Counts and Mark Broadie’s research were the following:
So how did that hold up in the Shot Scope data? Have a look below:
I’d say it held up pretty well! As you would expect, in aggregate, golfers of all handicap levels are losing strokes to tour players. Of course, singular golfers might gain strokes in one category with exceptional play, but on the whole, there’s a reason why pros make the big bucks.
As you can see, the clearest trend is that approach shots are where golfers lose the most strokes. The gap seems to widen as handicaps get higher as well.
Tee shots take second place. The difference isn’t as extreme as approach shots, but they are still very significant.
Putting does edge out the short game in just about every handicap level.
Overall, when you combine tee shots and approach shots and divide them by the total strokes lost, Broadie’s ratios hold up – even more than the 2/3 he spoke about at certain handicap levels.
One thing to note is that Shot Scope does consider anything outside of 50 yards as an approach shot. Some apps will use the cutoff at 100 yards. Overall, I think this does skew these numbers a little more towards approach shots. But I don’t think it changes the general takeaways I will cover in the next section.
I wanted to show this data to reinforce some of the key concepts I discuss on Practical Golf. And to be honest with you, I got a lot of this wrong and even resisted this information when it first became available to me years ago. But as I discussed in my long driver experiment, I’m not opposed to changing my mind when new information becomes available!
If a golfer is looking to have a breakthrough in their game and shoot their lowest scores – I usually tell them two things:
Yes, that sounds incredibly simple, and it’s not going to be easy. It will likely require more practice time and perhaps swing lessons, but the data is unequivocal on this. Tee shots and approach shots are going to make the biggest difference in your scoring.
The last thing I want to do is make it seem like your wedge play and putting are not important. They’re still very important for scoring!!!
I see these as quick wins, but they have a ceiling.
Generally speaking, if golfers paid more attention to their wedge play and putting, they can experience a faster reduction in their scores. However, that progress will eventually get “tapped out” once an adequate proficiency level is achieved.
So if you are someone who loses a lot of strokes around the greens with chunks, skulls, and three putts, that can be low-hanging fruit for a handicap reduction. If you were tracking your stats using strokes gained, this would become very clear.
And, of course, there is the time element. If you only have a limited amount of time to practice, I often view the short game as a better short-term investment.
One of my greatest “handicaps” as your virtual coach is that I cannot account for each of your situations. You all have varying skill levels, time commitments, and different goals for your golf game. Some of you are looking to break 100, and others are looking to take that final step of becoming a scratch golfer. That’s the beauty of this game!
If you do want to become a better golfer and make the process more efficient, then I believe a concept like strokes gained and stat-tracking, in general, can be invaluable.
Despite what I discussed in this article at a generic level, each of you likely has your own unique set of circumstances. Some of these trends might not hold up for you, but you wouldn’t know unless you tracked and had the right analysis done.
To that end, we are running a pre-season special on Shot Scope’s V3 performance tracking system where you can save $40 (you can read my review here). If you want to take advantage of the new strokes gained feature, you will have to start entering your spring rounds before the rollout is complete this June. I’ve paid attention to this market a lot over the years and still believe they offer the best value since you get a GPS watch, 16 sensors that attach to your grips for on-course tracking, and access to their robust stat-tracking portal at no ongoing cost.
Additionally, some of the other products and apps I’ve mentioned in this article can also show strokes-gained analysis.
Here are some more articles I’ve written using Shot Scope’s data that I think you’ll find interesting: