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The Radar is a portable but unreliable launch monitor

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Equipment Editor and Senior Writer
The Radar
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The Radar's performance leaves something to be desired, Kiel Christianson writes. (Courtesy of The Radar)

SAVOY, Ill. - When I received the press release announcing the introduction of The Radar, I was stoked. This little beauty promised the following:

"Incredibly fun and easy to use, The Radar sets up instantly, providing immediate feedback on shots ranging from 10 to 420 yards. Retailing for $299, it records ball velocity, carry and total distance with tremendous accuracy by taking 50,000 measurements from the moment of ball impact."

Okay. $300 is a bit steep, maybe, but not if this compact, portable device delivers consistent, reliable distance and ball velocity information as you're fine-tuning your irons or picking out a new driver.

So when my demo model of The Radar arrived, I literally bolted out to the practice range at the University of Illinois Golf Course to test some drivers for reviews and maybe even figure out what the heck was going on with my balky irons.

After warming up, I turned on The Radar according to the easy-to-follow instructions and proceeded to make a lovely, smooth swing with my 6-iron, producing a perfect mini-draw down the center of the range. When I looked at the read-out on The Radar, I saw ... goose eggs. No reading.

Well, I must have placed it too far away from the ball. The instructions specified 8-12 inches from the ball, and 8-12 inches in front of the ball, and I had it at 10 inches even with the ball. So I moved it two inches closer and 8 inches forward and set up to swing again.

Suddenly, I got nervous. A shank could prove costly. But, blocking out negative thoughts, I swung and ...

Bingo! A reading. According to The Radar, the ball sped off my clubface at 90 mph, with a carry of 138 yards. Huh? Even with a beat-up range ball, that shot went at least 170 yards.

Several more swings produced several non-readings (especially on the good swings), and many inconsistent readings (often on bad swings). I began focusing on The Radar during my swing, distracting me so much I ended up with more and more chunks, thins, and duck hooks. Ugh.

Even though the box says The Radar works with all clubs, I thought maybe a driver would give a truer reading.

Enter the Nike SQ Sumo2 5900, which is, so far, the most consistent and powerful driver I've tested this season.

Viola! Ball speed of 136 mph and a carry distance of ... 211 yards? Again, huh!? Unless somehow the range balls were messing with The Radar, something was terribly wrong. I usually hit my 4-iron 210 yards. Moreover, the card included in The Radar box states that a ball speed of 135 mph equates to clubhead speed of 93.1 mph. Last time I was on a real launch monitor, though, my 5-iron clubhead speed was 92 mph (first swing of the day, actually). So unless I was hitting my driver far easier than I thought, something was not right.

So one more test: I wanted to see what it did when I really let loose with a Daly-esque, hernia-popping lash. I laid into one like a long-drive champ, and, according to The Radar, ball speed was 162 mph and carry was 248 yards.

Ball speed seemed, finally, fairly accurate. In the past, on a real launch monitor, my ball speed maxed at between 160-165 mph. Clubhead speed hovered around 110. The Radar doesn't measure clubhead speed, but a card is included that lists a table equating ball speed and clubhead speed. Unfortunately, that table only goes up to a ball speed of 145.

More perplexing was that carry distance. The pro shop manager at the U of I course told me the measurement to the far green from the hitting area that day was 268 yards. My ball consistently landed around 25 yards past that green. So either the range was mis-measured, or The Radar was underestimating carry distance by 40-50 yards.

Given my previous experience on a real launch monitor, I'd have to guess the former was the case.

Fortunately, The Radar didn't measure the velocity of the curses hurling out of my mouth at any point in the day.

The verdict on The Radar

The Radar is sort of a low-rent launch monitor, but at $300, it's not so low as to make it affordable for most. Although the ball speed seemed fairly accurate (on those swings when it registered a reading), at least with the driver, the carry estimate appeared very unreliable.

Bottom line: If you want to find out how fast and far your ball is going, visit your local golf academy or teaching pro, where the launch monitor will be more accurate.

For more info on The Radar see www.thegolfmat.com.

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • The Radar is a portable but unreliable launch monitor

    Andy Le wrote on: Jan 18, 2009

    Maybe you don't swing as fast as you think you can swing. Just my 2 centsa.


      • RE: The Radar is a portable but unreliable launch monitor

        Joel wrote on: Oct 28, 2010

        Carry depends on elevation you are at. Up at 4000 feet you gain 10-20 yards in distance. Sea level (or below!reduces significantly the drive distance at the same club head speed.