It was only a couple of years ago that “affordable” and “best golf launch monitor” really didn’t belong in the same sentence.
See, if you were shopping for one of these things, you were left with a simple decision: Drop some serious coin to get something really good, or go the budget route and just accept the fact that the data you were getting was dubious at best.
That all changed in 2021 when Garmin released the Approach R10. Finally, there was a golf launch monitor for under $1,000 capable of producing really accurate data and that could be used as a simulator.
So, for a couple of years, the decision for anyone going the affordable route was simple: Buy the Garmin Approach R10.
But then things changed again in 2023. Competition arrived. Two products in particular — the Rapsodo MLM2PRO and Swing Caddie SC4 — very quickly challenged Garmin’s stranglehold on the best golf launch monitor under $1,000 title.
Suddenly, we’ve got a new problem: Option overload.
It’s certainly great to have choices. And competition is definitely good for the consumer. But with all three of these launch monitors being favorably reviewed and with so much information out there touting each of them as the best affordable option, there’s a fair amount of confusion.
In the Garmin vs. Rapsodo vs. Swing Caddie debate, which one is the best?
More importantly, which one is right for you?
If you’re shopping for an under-$1,000 golf launch monitor, one of these three products is what you want to get. Of that much, I’m absolutely certain.
But which one is the one?
As with our other comparison reviews, I’ve scored each of these golf launch monitors on a scale from 0 through 5 in 10 different categories based on my hands-on experience with each product indoors and outdoors. Pay closest attention to the categories that apply most to your individual use cases and priorities. If you do that, I’m quite confident that this guide is going to show you the best golf launch monitor for under $1,000 for you personally.
Let the battle begin!
Golf Launch Monitor and Simulator Price
Garmin = 4; Rapsodo = 3; Swing Caddie = 5
Let’s be real: Compared to the rest of the market, each of these products deserves the highest possible rating in this category. If just four years ago I had told you that you could own a golf launch monitor with reliable accuracy and compatibility with top-tier third-party simulator software for less than a grand, you’d think that was a hell of a bargain. And here we are now with three such options!
But the point of this piece is to compare these products to each other. And that’s how we arrive at the scores posted.
The Swing Caddie SC4 launch monitor emerges as the most budget-friendly. First of all, at $549.99, it’s the least expensive out of the box of the three. But then there’s the matter of subscriptions. As we’ll talk about more below, there are none with the Swing Caddie. So if price is your biggest concern and you’re operating on a tight budget, the SC4 is the clear-cut winner.
Hot on its tail is the Garmin Approach R10. At $599.99, it’s only 50 bucks more than the Swing Caddie SC4 and it can do even more. But (and this is the part you’ve always got to consider when shopping for golf launch monitors) there’s the matter of subscriptions. We’ll cover that more in a bit.
Then there’s the Rapsodo MLM2PRO. For $699.99 and for all that it can do, it unquestionably still offers outstanding value. But it’s $150 more than the SC4 and $100 more than the R10. Plus, those damn subscriptions…
First Impressions Upon Unboxing
Garmin = 4; Rapsodo = 5; Swing Caddie = 3
I’m not sure what it says about me that I talk about golf tech using terms like “sex appeal,” but my first impression of the Rapsodo MLM2PRO launch monitor is that it’s just, well, sexy. It looks and feels high quality, classy, and sophisticated right out of the box.
The Garmin Approach R10 is no slouch either. The first thing that jumps out is how tiny the device itself is, literally just the size of a deck of cards. But as we’ll discuss more below, the big, bulky carrying case is a bit of a distraction and just enough to keep the presentation from earning my highest score.
The Swing Caddie SC4 is the most minimalist of the three. You open the box, you’re greeted with the launch monitor front and center, and there’s not much else to it. I actually like and respect the straightforward, down-to-business approach. But there’s something I consider very important that’s nowhere to be found in the box. Keep reading…
Ease of Setup
Garmin = 4; Rapsodo = 4; Swing Caddie = 5
Kind of like with price, you could make a strong argument that all three of these launch monitors with simulation deserve the highest rating. After all, one of the best advancements in golf launch monitor technology is that they are (almost) all super simple to get operational.
But again, we’re comparing these three products to each other. And when we do that, the Swing Caddie SC4 is a cut above. And that’s for the simple reason that, if you want to, you don’t even need to pair it to an app. It’s the one less-than-$1,000 golf launch monitor that you can take out to the range, turn it on, set it down, and start getting numbers. It really can’t get any simpler than that. Now, you can pair the SC4 to an app, and doing so opens up more opportunities to get even more out of your practice session. But just having that super-simple no-app option earns the SC4 the win in this category.
As for the Garmin Approach R10 and Rapsodo MLM2PRO launch monitors, they also are incredibly easy to use and set up. In the case of both devices, it’s as straightforward as charging the launch monitor, downloading the app, creating an account, and pairing the app to the device. It’s amazing how good we have it with ease of setup across the board in launch monitors. The only reason the R10 and MLM2PRO don’t also earn the highest mark here is because there’s no option to operate them without the app.
Garmin = 3; Rapsodo = 4; Swing Caddie = 2
The Rapsodo MLM2PRO includes, with the purchase of the launch monitor, an awesome, sleek, perfectly designed carrying case. Along with the FlightScope Mevo+ case, it’s my favorite case of any golf launch monitor. Everything fits just right and the case itself fits easily into pretty much any golf bag. The only reason I didn’t give the Rapsodo a 5 here is because once you pull it out of the case, it’s a bit tall, bulky, and slightly awkward.
As mentioned before, the Garmin Approach R10 is tiny. That is, until you put it into its also-included-with-purchase carrying case. It’s amazing to me that Garmin designed a case that’s like 10 times bigger than the launch monitor it’s protecting. It just feels like overkill, and it makes transporting this thing much more difficult than it should be.
And then we’ve got the Swing Caddie SC4. Beautiful launch monitor. Just right in size. Should be very portable, right?
Well, it would be if there were a carrying case included! But there’s not. And I find it super frustrating. You can buy the Swing Caddie case, which is quite nice, but it’s $49.99. At that price, if you bought the SC4 and the case, you’d be up to the price of a Garmin Approach R10. Which, by the way, includes a freaking carrying case!
Golf Launch Monitor Data
Garmin = 4; Rapsodo = 5; Swing Caddie = 3
When it comes to data delivery, you’re not going to find better than the Rapsodo MLM2PRO for under $1,000. Using two cameras and Doppler radar technology, the Rapsodo delivers:
- Carry distance
- Total distance
- Side carry
- Club speed
- Smash factor
- Launch direction
- Launch angle
- Spin rate
- Descent angle
- Spin axis
- Shot type
For this price class, that’s an incredible amount of information. Of course, all that data only really matters if it’s accurate. And in my testing, the MLM2PRO was extremely accurate. It stood up quite well even in comparison to the mighty Foresight Sports GC3. I’m not saying it’s as good a launch monitor as that or the Bushnell Launch Pro, but for its price, accuracy with the Rapsodo is impressive.
The Garmin Approach R10 offers pretty much the same impressive range of data and accuracy. However, whereas the Rapsodo’s cameras and radar combination allow it to directly read seven data metrics, the Approach R10 is only directly measuring ball speed, club speed, launch angle, and launch direction. The rest is calculated based on an algorithm.
With the Swing Caddie SC4, you only get:
That missing clubface data along with slightly more questionable accuracy is what keeps the SC4 below the MLM2PRO and R10 in this category.
Outdoor Golf Launch Monitor Use
Garmin = 5; Rapsodo = 5; Swing Caddie = 4
All three of these launch monitors perform exceptionally well outdoors at the driving range. In the case of each, hitting off of both natural turf and mats is an option, which I think is critical for using a golf launch monitor outdoors. It’s one of my biggest concerns with the SkyTrak+, which limits you to only hitting off of mats.
As discussed earlier, the Swing Caddie SC4 is perfect for quick range sessions because you don’t even have to bother fussing with pairing the device to an app. You can just start hitting shots and seeing your data on the built-in display. However, because that range of data isn’t quite as impressive as with the other two launch monitors, I withheld the highest score.
I can’t find much to complain about for outdoor use with the Garmin Approach R10 or Rapsodo MLM2PRO. Yes, the bulkiness of the R10’s case is a bummer, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Bottom line is that both of these launch monitors are so simple to set up, so reliable, and so accurate that they easily win a 5 in this category.
The only real limitation is that to get accurate spin data with either the MLM2PRO or R10, you need to use special golf balls. You’re not going to do that at the driving range where you can’t retrieve the golf balls, so that is something to note.
Garmin = 4; Rapsodo = 4; Swing Caddie = 3
The problem with each of these launch monitors when it comes to indoor use is that they all need to be set up behind the golf ball. That can present some space challenges for many users. That said, the Swing Caddie requires 2 feet less room depth than the Garmin and Rapsodo launch monitor units. So, instead of needing 16 feet of room depth with those two products, with the Swing Caddie, you only need 14 feet. That could make all the difference for the right user.
But it’s the indoor accuracy that gives me pause with the Swing Caddie SC4. More so than outdoors, I was getting some pretty questionable numbers at times during my indoor testing of the SC4. The higher up the bag I went, the more questionable the numbers became. By the time I got to woods and drivers, sometimes the data was downright unbelievable.
I can’t give the Garmin Approach R10 or Rapsodo MLM2PRO the highest indoor score because of the need to use special (and expensive) golf balls to get accurate spin numbers. You do get three of them for free with the purchase of the MLM2PRO, but after that, it costs $70 per dozen to reload for either the Callaway RPT balls for Rapsodo use or the Titleist RCT balls for the Garmin.
Golf Launch Monitor Features
Garmin = 3; Rapsodo = 5; Swing Caddie = 5
I’m in love with the Swing Caddie SC4’s built-in screen. I just think it’s such a cool feature for a golf launch monitor that’s less than $1,000. When you just want to check your numbers quickly before heading out for a round, this is the perfect product. It also includes a lightweight remote control, so that you don’t even have to bend over to tell the device you’re switching clubs. Super cool!
And I’m equally crazy about the built-in cameras on the Rapsodo MLM2PRO. Not just one camera but two! One of them allows you to review your full swing while the other gives you a close-up view of your clubface impacting the golf ball. I think these are such useful tools for game improvement. And, yes, you can pair a phone or tablet camera to the Garmin app and get swing video that way, but it’s a pain to have to set up your camera or tablet to perfectly capture swing video. Having it built in and automatic on the Rapsodo is so awesome.
Unfortunately, the Garmin Approach R10 comes up a bit short in terms of added goodies. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible product and offers exceptional value. But as for features? Well, there’s nothing too earth-shattering. I do really like the included phone mount, which allows you to clip your phone to something like your golf bag so that you can more easily look at your data and ball flight when in session. And I also like the “Ball Impact” screen that the Garmin app includes. It’s nice to be able to see a visual representation of your clubface at impact.
Golf Simulator Use
Garmin = 5; Rapsodo = 4; Swing Caddie = 2
The Garmin Approach R10 is compatible with E6 Connect, Awesome Golf, the Golf Club 2019, and Creative Golf 3D. That’s a tremendously versatile lineup of software compatibility that gives you access to a huge variety of simulated courses, ranges, and other games. Of course, any third-party simulator software is going to require a subscription. But with the purchase of an R10, you do get five free E6 courses, limited to iOS-only use.
The Rapsodo MLM2PRO is compatible with E6 Connect and Awesome Golf, and you likewise get five free E6 courses with the purchase of the launch monitor. However, to play simulator golf with the MLM2PRO, you need to purchase the premium subscription. We’ll talk more about that below.
Another really cool thing about both the Rapsodo and the Garmin is that each gives you access to video-game-like, animated simulated golf. While that style of sim isn’t nearly as realistic as with the courses and games you get through the third-party software options, you do get access to pretty much every golf course in the world. It’s called Home Tee Hero on the R10 and Rapsodo Courses on the MLM2PRO. Both are really fun to play.
The Swing Caddie SC4 is only compatible with E6 Connect. That’s a great option, for sure, but having just one software package from which to choose makes the SC4 the least flexible of the affordable golf simulator choices. And whereas you get those five free E6 courses with the R10 and MLM2PRO, with the SC4 you only get one.
Garmin = 3; Rapsodo = 2; Swing Caddie = 5
There are no subscription costs with the Swing Caddie SC4! How awesome is that? A golf tech product in 2024 without annual subscriptions is like a unicorn. OK, maybe not that extreme. There are other choices, like the FlightScope Mevo+ and the Foresight Sports GC3, but in the under-$1,000 launch monitor category, the SC4 is the only one that doesn’t bother with subscriptions. For that reason, it easily gets the highest score here.
Technically you can use the Garmin Approach R10 and Rapsodo MLM2PRO without paying subscriptions. But the problem is that all of those products’ coolest features — things like Home Tee Hero and green contour data with the R10 and Impact Vision, simulator use, and Combines practice mode with the MLM2PRO — require a subscription. I think that if you buy either the R10 or MLM2PRO, you’re going to want those extra features, so I would just budget for the subscription cost.
With the R10, the subscription is going to run you $99 a year or $9.99 monthly. With the MLM2PRO, it’s $199 per year. That difference in subscription cost is what accounts for the difference in scores here.
Adding Up the Scores: Which Is the Best Golf Launch Monitor Under $1,000?
At long last, we have a winner. The final tally from our 10 categories:
Rapsodo MLM2PRO: 41
Swing Caddie SC4: 37
I think these scores are a very fair and accurate representation of how these launch monitors compare to each other overall.
To me, the Rapsodo MLM2PRO is the best. Its dual-camera system is one of the best features in this price class. Its data offering is as extensive as some products that cost more. And its accuracy is the best in the affordable launch monitor group. And I love the carrying case and overall presentation. But the MLM2PRO is also the most expensive and has the most burdensome subscription.
The Garmin Approach R10 is very solid across the board. The only category where it scored the fewest points was in Features. It just doesn’t include as many bells and whistles as the others. But it more than makes up for that by having the best offering of third-party simulator compatibility. Plus, it’s got the trusted, tried-and-true brand name of Garmin.
The Swing Caddie SC4 just isn’t quite up to the level of the Rapsodo or Garmin. But that’s not to say it isn’t worth owning. It’s the only one here that has a built-in screen and that doesn’t require you to pair it with an app. That means it’s hands-down the best on-the-go, get-your-numbers-fast option. I don’t trust its accuracy the way I do the MLM2PRO and Approach R10. But the Swing Caddie is also less expensive than those devices. And it doesn’t require any subscriptions.
So there you have it. In my opinion, the best affordable golf launch monitor is the Rapsodo MLM2PRO.
But that doesn’t mean the Garmin Approach R10 or Swing Caddie SC4 isn’t the better choice for you. It all depends on how you’re going to use your launch monitor, what features are most important to you, and how much money you want to spend.
This much is for sure, these are the three best affordable golf launch monitors available today. And for all the reasons I’ve detailed throughout this post, I think you’re going to be much happier having at least one of these than none of them.
About PlayBetter Golf Reviewer Marc Sheforgen
Marc Sheforgen is a golf writer whose passion for the game far exceeds his ability to play it well. Marc covers all things golf, from product reviews and equipment recommendations to event coverage and tournament analysis. When he’s not playing, watching, or writing about golf, he enjoys traveling (often golf-related), youth sports coaching, volunteering, and record collecting.