The scene from “Tin Cup” where Kevin Costner has about 10 training devices wrapped around a body part or dangling from his head was a humorous sight. But the not-so-funny thing is that it represented only a teeny fraction of the devices made available to golfers over the years. Some work, some don’t. Some are expensive, some are pocket change. Some are silly, some are serious business.
We’re always looking for an edge on the course beyond equipment, which is where training aids come in, and since we live in a device-crazy time, using something that reportedly will give us more power, better timing or more accuracy sounds good. But before you resort to any of the bells and whistles out there, check out what some of the region’s top teaching pros think might work best for you.
BUILD SOME SPEED
Great ball strikers and long hitters sequence the club properly from the top of the swing. Their efficient transition allows their lower body to start the downswing, followed by their thorax, lead arm and club. This allows them to get to their front foot and deliver their hands in front of the ball with maximum clubhead speed. Poor ball strikers cast the club from the top of the swing because they start the hitting action too early. The Momentus Speed Whoosh teaches players how to transition smoothly, hold the angle on the way down and accelerate the club through the ball with a powerful and well-timed release.
KEEP YOUR BALANCE
Maintaining good balance when you swing a club is necessary to produce a solid hit. During lessons I often see students lose their balance toward their toes on the backswing, which causes fat shots because the ball hits the heel of the clubface. My favorite training aid to help my students feel proper balance from setup to the top of the backswing are Balance Discs. The discs are filled with air so when you stand on them with a golf club in your hand you have to properly distribute your weight at setup and maintain it into your backswing. You’ll fall off if you lean toward your toes or if you lift the club without turning your torso properly.
LIFT SOME WEIGHT
For me, it’s difficult to pick one training aid because students bring different issues to the range. A few I suggest are a full-length mirror so a student can see their swing; a Power Swing Fan so they get a feel for the swing; and a Swing Speed Radar which registers swing speed and tempo. I also use an EyeLine Putting Mirror, extended club shaft for chipping and a mop. But my all-time favorite is the Weighted Club. This keeps muscles strong and in shape and is great for golfers of all skill levels. Plus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Byron Nelson and Peter Beames all endorse the value of swinging a weighted golf club!
My favorite training aid is using two clubs for alignment purposes. Most golfers set up and aim their body lines (feet, knees, hips and shoulders) at the target or right of it. This results in an inconsistent shot pattern as the golfer usually has to swing over the top to get the club in front of them and down the target line at impact. To be fundamentally sound you should aim your body lines left of your target (for righties) about 10 percent of the shot’s total distance. The two clubs should be put on the ground with the one farthest from you aimed at the target and the other parallel to it. Put your feet behind the closest club, aim your body lines parallel to it and use the top club as a reference for your clubface (perpendicular) and swing path (down the line).
MAKING A BEE LINE
The best training aids are not the ones that promise to perfect the swing. The training aids that work give the player the most feedback, which helps with self-diagnosis. My favorite aid is the Bee Line Putting String. The aid is typically less than $15 but what it does for you is priceless. Its main purpose is to help players read greens by visually showing you if the ball is starting on the correct line. A golfer won’t be able to elevate their skills until they understand the outcome. The next time you’re debating on what training aid to add to your collection, choose one that will give you relevant information.
The Alignment Stick can help you get more comfortable with your target line and clubface in addition to aligning your feet parallel to the target line. One fun way to use it is to put it through your belt loops and check your hip alignment and rotation during the swing. Another great drill is to stick it in the ground in front of you on your target line so you can see if you started the ball on the line or to the left or right. What’s different about this training aid is you also can use it on the practice green. I use it in many of the same ways as I do with the full swing. One great drill is to use two to create a track to start your stroke and have the ball roll through it. This will help your setup and alignment feel more comfortable.
MAKING AN IMPACT
My favorite training aid is the Impact Ball. I encourage my students to use an Impact Ball because it allows players to practice their swing without focusing on mechanics. Golfers can use it for every aspect of their game, including full swing, chipping, bunker shots and putting. A repeatable golf swing requires feel, and using the Impact Ball allows a player to ingrain proper positions by taking focus away from trying to hit at the golf ball and placing it squarely on the body and club working together through the golf ball. The Impact Ball also helps simplify swinging the golf club by creating a relationship between the body, the hands and wrists, and the club through the impact area.
STRING IT OUT
My favorite training aid is a string suspended over the ball when putting. Dave Pelz has one called the Aim Line. Find a straight putt and put one stake in the ground 18 inches behind the hole and the other about 15 feet in front of it. Attach the string and place your ball under the line about 12 feet from the hole. Position your eyes over the string so it looks to be cutting the ball in half. If you have a line built into your putter that is centered with the sweet spot then the string should look like it is filling in the line on the putter. If you have no line on the putter then the top edge of the face should be at a 90-degree angle to the string. You now have your putter square to the hole and your eyes over the ball.
WHIP INTO SHAPE
Over my years of watching training aids come and go I’ve only seen a handful stand the test of time. Since the best training aid is a golf club that gives precise feedback from ball flight (maybe a 6- or 7-iron), the best aid would give us the necessary feedback on the motion of a correct swing as opposed to one that has us thinking about positions. A popular tool among pros and amateurs is the Orange Whip that teaches a balanced and synchronized motion. Since the whip has an easy-to-see ball at the end of a flexible medium shaft, you get correct feedback on swing path, rhythm, balance and timing as well as a good warm-up tool and overall body workout.
FINDING THE SWEET SPOT
One training aid that will improve your ball striking and help you shoot lower scores is called The Little One. It is the fastest way to find the sweet spot on the clubface. When you use this club, which is half the size of a normal iron, it is going to get you more focused on being efficient. It can teach you to hit the golf ball pure, right in front of the center of gravity. This will create golf shots that are going to have the most amount of back spin and accuracy. The Little One provides instant feedback, which will allow you to learn at a higher rate and speed, as well as help you improve at the only place in the golf swing that really matters: impact.