There is a lot of cool gear in the golf equipment world that doesn’t always fit neatly into Most Wanted Tests or Buyer’s Guides. You still want to know how it performs. In our We Tried It series, we put gear to the test and let you know if it works as advertised.
What We Tried
- $500 user-friendly, mobile launch monitor accurate to within two percent of TrackMan or FlightScope
- Value-add of Coach Connect App for teachers and students
- Multi-function, multi-purpose MLM
Rapsodo is a Whoop Strap or FitBit for Your Golf Game
No, it’s not a wearable. It doesn’t track your heart rate on three-footers and they disguise it to look like a mobile launch monitor (MLM). But after a test session, I’m convinced this product is a complete health tracker for your swing.
More feature-rich than the competitors in the $500 price range, Rapsodo evaluates shots from a practice session using a suite of accuracy data that’s within one or two percentage points of TrackMan and FlightScope.
And it accomplishes that at a fraction of their price tag.
Once an outdoor product only, it now can be used indoors with the required dimensions (six feet between golf ball and the unit and eight feet of flight required).
An Android version continues to inch closer to completion.
Real-Time Data Tag Teams with Real-Time Visuals
Where Rapsodo leads in the affordable MLM category is the visuals.
Pairing up the camera of an Apple device with Rapsodo’s Doppler radar is a formidable combination.
The unit can record and save up to 100 shots (or you can upgrade with a subscription to save thousands of swings to the Cloud) in real time, offering standard MLM numbers for distance, ball speed, clubhead speed, smash factor, launch angle and launch direction.
The only missing data point is spin rate. The R&D team is continuing to work on that. And, yes, it would definitely complete the metrics package.
Either way, the visuals are what give Rapsodo its edge in the affordable MLM category.
Start with the directional shot tracer function. Similar to what you typically see on PGA TOUR coverage, it displays ball flight and shot shape in well-defined detail.
Combining the active tracer with a video playback of each swing using the iPhone camera and Rapsodo app is what separates it from the likes of FlightScope Mevo, Swing Caddie SC300 and ES14.
Easy to overlook is the Smart Club Recognition feature. Just a simple wave in front of the camera to change clubs is all you need. No manual input necessary.
“We like to say with Rapsodo you see the full cause and effect,” said Art Chou, General Manager of the sports analytics company based in St. Louis, Mo. “You see your swing, you get to see the shot shape and the data is all about helping you improve. We make it all about player performance.”
Rock the Cradle
Out of the box, there isn’t a lot to a Rapsodo.
Basically, it’s a cradle not much bigger than an iPhone. It has a flip-up back to hold an IOS device (multiple generations of iPhone and iPad are accounted for) at a required angle.
Charging the unit, downloading the app and going through a bit of a tedious process to sync up the two devices is something I was told to execute at home, not on the range.
Smart advice since there is some time and patience required.
With Bluetooth active, make sure you position the unit properly at the range. Not like I did. Rapsodo has to be at the same level as the golf ball to function correctly. I got eight feet behind spot on but, once I looked from the side, it was clear the unit was a couple of inches too low.
Easy fix but it’s something to be mindful of.
Also required is line of sight. Optical tracking of the first 50 to 60 feet of ball flight requires Rapsodo to have an unencumbered path.
Get those right, see a green light and you’re set.
Wedges Lead Off
With any new MLM the inclination is to pull the headcover off a driver and begin a rapid-fire session.
Great fun but not overly insightful if you’re trying to find out what an MLM is capable of.
That’s why I like to test these types of products with a heavier emphasis on shots from 100 yards and in.
Frankly, the difference between 236 and 244 yards off the tee isn’t that important to me. Way more consequential is short-game performance since I like to carry four wedges (call it a weakness).
Knowing my launch monitor numbers pretty well, the swings I use (half, three-quarter and full swing) to achieve specific wedge distances tend to be good benchmarks for launch monitor or MLM testing.
Starting there and working my way up through the bag provided good feedback on the Rapsodo data.
And it’s extremely good. Close or equal to top-of-pyramid TrackMan and FlightScope.
Integrated GPS mapping helps golfers learn their distances easily and efficiently. What I really liked was the shot tracing to optimize ball flight with specific clubs.
(Spoiler: Knockdown shots and low stingers are a lot of fun.)
There’s also an option to listen to your shot data through the voice function instead of reading it each time. Nothing new here but it’s a more productive way to utilize the device’s feedback on the range.
“Data is fantastic as long as it’s simple to use. Not only does it have to be as user-friendly as possible but the whole experience has to be seamless,” Chou explained. “Let’s be honest. If we ask consumers to do things too far outside their normal procedure they won’t use it. To take that one step further, we also need to explain it in a way that’s easy to understand.”
From the visual and shot tracer, one thing I detected was poor transitioning at the top of my swing with the longer clubs. It was causing lousy sequencing, a lifetime fault of mine.
Fortunately, there’s help available for that.
Coach Connect Is a Clincher
Where Rapsodo has gone to another level is with Coach Connect.
Launched in full a few weeks ago with a full slate of assets, it offers an all-in-one coaching platform connecting golfers to swing instructors for online lessons.
Virtual interaction is smooth, reliable and pretty simple to coordinate through the app. That includes payment.
A coach has the ability to mark up a swing, provide verbal feedback or drills to correct a problem and integrate Rapsodo’s data and combined visuals into the lesson experience.
Rapsodo has a pretty large group of swing instructors participating.
Aligned with Golf Digest for its Top 100 teachers list, you can choose high-profile instructors like Mike Malaska, Trillium Rose, Mark Blackburn or an instructor in your home state or city.
“Not having constant connection with students makes the learning curve last a lot longer,” said Malaska. “Coach Connect allows you to connect consistently with whoever you are working with from any place at any time.”
Already have a swing coach? An opportunity to invite them to the app through the lesson portal is also provided where he or she can jump on, bypass the marketplace and use it with existing clients without charging them.
“Malaska was our beta-tester,” said Chou. “He was the guy early on who told us what we needed to do. He got his daughter Ashley involved and together they crafted the whole platform. You can select anyone off the list, send a swing to them for a fee and we handle the transaction. Teachers control their pricing and how they market themselves. It’s kind of like Yelp or Uber for golf teachers. We’re getting a ton of great feedback already.”
An Extension to Club Fitting
One troublesome piece of data from my Rapsodo test session was the gap between 4-wood and 3-hybrid. I knew it was there but with something of a lost year in 2020 from COVID, I was unaware it had become so pronounced—22 yards according to the numbers.
That’s way too much.
Put a check mark on equipment optimization as another value-added aspect of practice with Rapsodo.
“People go and get fit but they’re done in an hour or two. When is the next time you look at how those clubs are fitting you?” Chou asked. “You don’t until you go and get fit for another new driver. This way you have a running commentary on your equipment and what’s happening at all times. Rapsodo not only gives you the pulse of your game but it also offers a sense for the correlation between your swing and your clubs.”
Data + Visualization = Improvement
Rapsodo is health and wellness for your golf game. It checks every box in terms of performance function, not with bells and whistles, but with a well-executed platform for improvement.
The company has continued to refine the public-facing app with updates at least once every four to five weeks for several months.
“The more users we get, the more feedback we get. That allows us to fix problems but also add new features. It’s a constant process,” said Chou.
And it’s only going to get better.
Rapsodo has retained leading biomechanics expert Sasho Mackenzie to develop analytics that will break down practice sessions into even greater detail.
Expected launch for that is this summer.
It adds another level of dependability for teaching professionals, industry experts and consumers.
Titleist Performance Institute Co-founder Dave Phillips believes getting where you want to go faster is at the core of Rapsodo’s DNA.
“Golfers who incorporate feedback provided by a tool like the Rapsodo MLM immediately elevate the quality of their practice,” he said. “They can easily identify areas that need to improve.”
For more on heath and wellness for your game, go to Rapsodo.com.