There’s a pretty intense battle raging right now in the sub-$1,000 golf launch monitor category. And the Swing Caddie SC4, while flying under some radars, is uniquely positioned as a legitimate contender for the best affordable launch monitor and simulator for many golfers.
Garmin established the market for accurate golf launch monitors that didn’t cost a fortune a couple of years ago with the release of the $599.99 Approach R10. It was revolutionary. So much so, that copycat products began to emerge.
Recently, one such device — the Rapsodo MLM2PRO at $699.99 and featuring a dual-camera system plus Doppler radar technology — started grabbing a lot of headlines as a candidate for best golf launch monitor under $1,000. Like the R10, it’s an incredible product the likes of which didn’t even exist just a few years ago.
But there’s another device that’s vying for the accurate-but-affordable throne. And after putting the $549.99 Swing Caddie SC4 to the test, there are two things that I think make it the best fit for the right kind of golfer: Simplicity and price.
I spent a couple of weeks using the SC4 almost daily. I brought it to the range, to the indoor studio, and out on the golf course. I used it as a launch monitor and simulator. And I uncovered a lot of things that I really like. And a few that I really don’t.
So, are you the type of golfer that should consider the Swing Caddie SC4? Read on as I share my thoughts.
First Impressions of the Swing Caddie SC4: Very Solid Packaging and Build Quality, but Where’s the Carrying Case?!
I’d describe the packaging of the Swing Caddie SC4 as totally functional but not luxurious. And to me, that’s perfect. I really just want to get to the good stuff — the device itself. I don’t need to be overwhelmed with extra fluff that doesn’t really serve the purpose of owning a golf launch monitor. And I think Swing Caddie hits the mark.
The product comes in a very sturdy box with a slipcase cover. Upon opening, the SC4 is front and center, and there’s nothing else competing for that first impression. It’s as if the unboxing subconsciously announces the intention of the product. It’s about getting shot data quickly and simply. No gimmicks. No frills.
But there is one thing missing. And, to me, it’s pretty significant. And that is a carrying case.
Frankly, I was a bit miffed that this wasn’t included. I think that one of the main selling points of devices like the SC4, the Garmin Approach R10, and the Rapsodo MLM2PRO is portability. It goes hand-in-hand with affordability. Golfers in the market for this class of product typically want something that they can take back and forth to the driving range. But without a carrying case, that becomes more of a chore than it should be.
One of the best things about the SC4 is its large, prominent display. We’ll talk more in a minute about how this aids in the simplicity of getting shot data immediately. But the last thing you’d want to do is scratch that display. And so not having a carrying case becomes an issue. I ended up using a microfiber towel to wrap the SC4 in before putting it in my golf bag. But that’s certainly not a very elegant solution.
Swing Caddie does sell a protective case made specifically for the SC4. But it’s $49.99. I don’t have hands-on experience with the case, but it does look very nice. Still, should the case cost almost 10 percent of the price of the device itself? Seems quite steep to me.
The Garmin Approach R10 comes with a carrying case.
Same with the Rapsodo MLM2PRO.
Come on, Swing Caddie. Throw us a bone and include a simple, functional (and affordable) carrying case with the purchase so that we can use this beautiful golf launch monitor without damaging it.
And, by the way, this is in fact a beautiful golf launch monitor. And it feels like a product that should cost more than $549.99. It’s got a bit of heft that gives the impression of quality. There’s nothing that suggests cheap or flimsy.
The fold-out kickstand is sturdy, as are the minimalist buttons on the unit. There’s even a very slick little hiding spot behind the kickstand to store the remote control via a magnetic connection. Yes, the Swing Caddie SC4 comes with a remote control! How cool is that? More about it below.
Numbers at the Ready: How the Swing Caddie SC4 Golf Launch Monitor Spits Out Data Simpler Than Any of Its Competitors
Here’s where things get really good when it comes to the SC4. It’s all about that big, beautiful display we touched on earlier. In fact, it’s the only one of its kind in the golf launch monitors under $1,000 category.
With both the Garmin and Rapsodo devices, you need to interface with an app to get data. That’s not the case with the Swing Caddie.
Instead, you can pull it out of its case (if you have one!), line it up with your target, set it down 5 feet behind your golf ball, and start hitting shots. Right on the device itself, you get your numbers in a very nice looking white-on-black display. No phone, tablet, or computer required. Just golf shots and data. It’s a golf minimalist’s dream.
Personally, I’m not always in the mood to futz with my phone or computer and an app when I’m out on the range. And I know a lot of golfers who feel the same way. Many of us often want to get our yardages, spin rates, and general ball flight as quickly and easily as possible. And for that, the Swing Caddie SC4 can’t be beat.
Literally within seconds of arriving at the driving range, or wherever you’re going to hit shots, you can get the following metrics right on the device itself:
- Carry/Total distance
- Swing speed
- Ball speed
- Smash factor
- Apex (maximum height)
- Launch angle
- Launch direction
- Spin rate
You can also turn up the volume to get your data read back to you audibly. That can be a little odd if you’re on a crowded range, but it’s nice to have the option.
And, as mentioned, the SC4 comes with a small, lightweight remote control that you can use to tell the unit what golf club you’re hitting and in what mode you want to operate. This is a fantastic feature that’s not included with any other golf launch monitors at or near this price point. It’s so cool to be able to make changes without having to bend over or mess around with your phone or computer. And because the remote is so lightweight, I found that it fit in my pocket without me even noticing it was there.
Now, just because you don’t have to use an app, doesn’t mean that you can’t. Interfacing with Swing Caddie’s app is simple and allows you to store and review your data and play simulated rounds. You can even record video of your swing using your phone and store it in the app.
The video functionality isn’t as convenient as with the Rapsodo MLM2PRO, which includes two built-in cameras, but if you have a stand for your phone, it is nice to be able to capture video footage from behind or face on.
I’d rate the overall app experience as better with both the Rapsodo and Garmin devices than with the Swing Caddie. Swing Caddie’s app is much more basic. There isn’t as much data insight or sorting options. But as a simple place to record and store your numbers, it works great.
The Swing Caddie SC4: Finally, a Golf Launch Monitor Without a Subscription Requirement
Raise your hand if you’re tired of keeping track of subscriptions with seemingly every piece of technology in your life.
Yeah, me too.
Well, that’s another big win for the Swing Caddie SC4. Unlike with its competitors, you can use the SC4 without any subscription whatsoever. You can technically use both the Garmin Approach R10 and Rapsodo MLM2PRO without paying for an annual subscription. But almost everything that makes those devices worth owning is going to require you to pay an annual fee, which makes the overall cost of ownership deceiving. With the SC4, you get everything without having to pay a subscription. Everything, that is, except a carrying case. As mentioned, for that, you’re going to have to pay an additional $49.99. Ugh!
I’ll discuss the SC4’s simulator functionality below. But for now, just understand that you can play simulator golf right out of the box with the SC4. But you’re going to be limited to just one golf course. For more, you will need to pay for a third-party subscription.
But Is the Swing Caddie SC4 Accurate?
I think you’re starting to see how the SC4 legitimately may be the best budget golf launch monitor for golfers who appreciate simplicity and want to save money.
But is it accurate?
Well, yes… Mostly.
What I found in testing this unit both outdoors and indoors is that from pitching wedge up through the mid-irons, accuracy was remarkable and consistent.
I measured distance results outdoors using a laser rangefinder. And indoors, I compared all of the data to the confirmed-as-accurate Foresight Sports GC3.
Shot after shot with pitching wedge through 6 iron, the numbers were dead-on accurate. Most of the time, carry distance, swing speed, ball speed, and smash factor were nearly identical to the GC3’s output.
Spin rates weren’t quite as perfect as with units like the Rapsodo MLM2PRO or SkyTrak+. With those devices, spin rates were typically within 100 to 200 RPMs of the GC3. With the Swing Caddie SC4, the spin rates often varied by 600 or 700 RPMs. Not terrible, but not as close to perfect.
Unfortunately, the overall spot-on accuracy of the SC4 started to wane the further up the bag I moved. And by the time I got to the driver, some of the numbers were entirely useless.
Whereas distances and speeds were almost identical between the SC4 and GC3 with shorter clubs, with the driver, they were sometimes off by 20 yards or more. That’s a pretty significant difference. And it seemed like the further off line I hit a shot, the more those numbers varied.
But what was really problematic was the spin rate data with the driver. Consistently, the SC4 was showing me spin rates of like 7,700, while the GC3 was reporting a much more believable 3,300. Both spin rates are higher than ideal for the driver (something I need to work on, clearly), but the SC4 numbers are completely unbelievable to the point of not even having any value.
I will say that it’s very cool that you can get spin rates with the SC4 without having to use a special ball, like you do with other golf launch monitors. However, if the data is unreliable, what good is it?
Also, with wedges below pitching wedge (56 degree and 52 degree, in my case), the SC4 seemed to consistently under-report the distances. And the SC4 can not read spin rates for those high-launching wedge shots.
So, to call it like it is, I have to say that the unreliability of the spin rates with longer clubs disqualifies the SC4 as a best golf launch monitor candidate for serious players or teaching professionals.
Another limiting factor is that the SC4 does not give you angle of attack. This is important for instructors and club fitters as attack angle is an important metric for determining, for example, the best way to maximize driver distance. It also goes hand-in-hand with identifying the best ball placement and tee height.
Again, the SC4 probably is not appropriate for professionals. But that’s not its target audience.
What the rest of us really need to know is, is the SC4 accurate enough to provide game-improvement value.
I think that, overall, it is. The distance discrepancies with the longer clubs is definitely a problem. But for many of us, driver distance readouts are more of a vanity exercise than anything else. Learning our carry and total distances with our approach shot clubs can be much more valuable in terms of using a golf launch monitor to help you lower your score.
There’s no way around the issue of unreliable spin data with the longer clubs. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. If you need to know your driver spin rates, you’ll need to find a different launch monitor.
Using the Swing Caddie SC4 as a Simulator: A Space-Saver!
When it comes to using a golf launch monitor indoors as a simulator, Doppler radar units often present a problem. That’s because, unlike camera-based systems that are set up to the side of the golf ball, radar devices need to be placed behind the ball in order for them to track the shots.
That means more room depth requirements. Generally speaking, you need at least 8 feet in front of the ball before the impact screen or net in order for a launch monitor to read the shot accurately. So when you consider that most radar launch monitors need to be set up 7 or 8 feet behind the ball, you now have a room depth requirement of at least 15 or 16 feet. Not everybody has that kind of space.
The SC4 only needs to be set up 5 feet behind the ball. While that 2-to-3-foot savings in space may not seem like a lot, for many people it’s the difference between being able to pull off an indoor setup and not having enough room. So, if room depth is tight for you, the SC4 might make your short list of best golf simulator options.
Right out of the box, without the need for any subscription, you get one free simulated golf course (Aviara Golf Club & Resort) via E6 Connect. You also get the E6 simulated driving range.
For comparison sake, with the Rapsodo MLM2PRO, you get five free E6 Connect courses. However, to use the MLM2PRO as a simulator, you need the premium subscription, which costs $199 per year after the free first year.
So, you can use the SC4 as a simulator without paying a subscription, which makes it a more affordable option than its competitors. But you only get one golf course for free. If you want more than that, or if you want to play more famous tracks, you’ll need to pay for a third-party simulator subscription. The SC4 is fully compatible with both the E6 Connect and OptiShot Orion software packages.
In the Approach R10 vs. MLM2PRO vs. SC4 debate, it is worth noting that the Garmin Approach R10 is compatible with E6, Awesome Golf, and The Golf Club 2019. And the Rapsodo MLM2PRO works with both E6 and Awesome Golf. So, for overall simulator software compatibility, I don’t think the Swing Caddie SC4 is quite as good as those two competitors. But again, remember that with the SC4, you can play one simulator course without the need for any subscriptions.
As for simulator performance, the Swing Caddie SC4 works great. Once you’ve established your E6 Connect account and claimed your free course, getting started is fast and easy. And the E6 software works reliably. The graphics are great, and the play is as realistic as any simulator software I’ve tried. One thing that can be mildly frustrating is that the shot distances measured by the SC4 don’t always match what’s reported in the E6 simulator software. So, for example, the SC4 may tell you that you perfectly hit that 200-yard shot to your 200-yard target. But the E6 may show that your ball only went 195 yards and you're still 5 yards short of the green.
Also, the Swing Caddie SC4 cannot read putts. So, as is the case with most launch monitors in this price category, you’ll have to auto set your putting parameters for your simulator rounds.
Who Should Buy the Swing Caddie SC4 Golf Launch Monitor and Simulator?
If you’re the type of golfer who wants simple data fast, you’re not going to get it any faster than with the built-in screen on the Swing Caddie SC4.
And if you’re the type of golfer who wants a solid, high-quality golf launch monitor but doesn’t want the ongoing subscription costs that are typical of these types of products, then the SC4 is definitely for you.
As we’ve talked about, this isn’t the device for pros. It’s also not marketed as that.
It doesn’t have quite as much data metrics as some other products in this class, and its app experience isn’t quite as robust as competitors like Garmin and Rapsodo. The SC4 also isn’t as accurate overall as something like the Rapsodo MLM2PRO.
And, of course, I find it frustrating that a carrying case isn’t included with the purchase.
So, the SC4 certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you’re looking for the best budget golf launch monitor that can be used as a simulator right out of the box, that doesn’t require interfacing with an app when you don’t feel like that additional step, that takes up less space than other radar golf launch monitors, and that includes the convenience of a remote control, there’s no other product that’s going to satisfy you like the Swing Caddie SC4.