We take a look at the different types of golf training aids on the market and discuss which are helpful and which aren’t so good.
I love Golf Channel, but occasionally I get a little bit frustrated by the promises some of the commercials you will find there make. All too often I see training aids insisting that they will be able to add thirty yards to your swing, make your drives arrow straight, and help you sink every putt, all in thirty minutes or less.
Of course, if any of these too good to be true promises held any weight, the pro tours would be packed to the gills with infomercial enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, there aren’t really any quick fixes in golf, and when a product comes along that claims to have one, you can more or less assume that it isn’t worth your time at all.
That is not to say, however, that all training aids are worthless. A good training aid is going to give you feedback on your swing and help you to develop good habits even when you don’t have the benefit of being under the tutelage of a professional.
Today we are going to go over some of the different types of golf training aids and highlight how each one can benefit your game, so you don’t waste money on extra gear that you don’t need.
Best golf training aids
Let’s start with a simple piece of equipment. The alignment stick is a very basic swing aid that every player has room for in their bag.
You can get alignment sticks at just about any golf or sporting goods store, including online at Amazon, and they are in fact exactly what their name suggests they will be: a set of very thin sticks designed to help you with your alignment.
If you are under the impression that alignment should be as simple as stepping up to the ball, well, you aren’t completely wrong. A lot of players do exactly that without experiencing any significant problems, but that doesn’t mean that most of us couldn’t benefit from a little bit of help.
Keep in mind that good alignment in golf means more than just where the club face is pointed. You also want to make sure that your feet are parallel left of the target line (or of course, vice versa in the case of the left-handed golfer).
Good alignment will not only make sure you’re hitting your ball towards on target, it will keep your swing on line as well.
Alignment is about as fundamental an aspect of the game as you will ever find but it is also one of the most important, so alignment sticks are an important training aid to include in your bag, and they are easy to incorporate into your range sessions.
To use these, simply place one stick on the target line near your ball, and another stick parallel to it on your toe line. And that’s it! Simple but effective.
If you don’t want to drop money on what are essentially sticks, you can always replicate them with your clubs.
The putter is the club that is going to save you the most strokes throughout the course of your rounds, so you want to make sure you’re in good form on the greens.
There are a wide variety of putting aids on the market and while some of them are a little gimmicky, many actually can work.
Personally, I wouldn’t trust a putting aid that influences the motion of your stroke too much. There are a lot of products on the market designed with promoting a nice pendulum stroke, and while that certainly is a nice, reliable way to putt, it isn’t the only way.
What you really want is a consistent motion that you are going to be able to replicate time after time, and chances are that motion is already built into your stroke. If it isn’t, and you are doing something really wrong you’re going to want the advice of a pro, not a training tool.
The best putting aids will focus more on making consistent contact than they will on changing your backstroke.
David Pelz (noted short-game guru) has a putting aid on the market designed to keep the face of your club square at impact that I have always found to be a nice, simple tool for consistent results. This tool has you hit putts off a small mirrored surface that can easily be stored in any golf bag.
The purpose of this device is to help you keep the face of the putter square as make contact with, and then excel through the ball. It uses two sets of marbles, one forming a gate on either end of the ball, the other forming a gate about six inches away, to accomplish this. Ideally, your club face will be square through both the first and second gate. You can check it out on Amazon here.
Most good putting practice aides are designed in a similar fashion, though there are a lot of other devices you can play around with if you so choose.
If you would like to try replicating the Pelz device on the cheap, you can do so using two pairs of tees on any practice green. Simply mount the tees gently into the green to form the gates represented by marbles in the previous example.
Make sure that gates are directly across from one another, in line with your ultimate intended target (generally, the hole) and wide enough apart to allow for the clubhead to pass through them comfortably.
Golf grip trainers
Golf grip trainers are relatively simple devices that do exactly as their name suggests. They are mock grips (meaning you cannot legally use them in tournament play) designed to force you into gripping the club the proper way.
Personally, I think that the grip is a relatively simple fundamental to master without the use of an aid, but if for whatever reason it is something that you struggle with there is definitely no harm in picking one of these up, and they are available at an affordable price.
Most will attach naturally to the grips you already have so you can hit shots on the range with them on before your round. Of course, if you are playing in any sort of competitive capacity you will want to be sure to remove them before you tee off.
GPS / rangefinders
This next practice aid certainly utilizes more technology than a couple of tees and some sticks. The golf GPS has really taken off over the last few years, and at least in my opinion, it is for a good reason.
The GPS does exactly what its name suggests it would. As you play your rounds you can use your golf GPS to determine exactly how far away from the hole you are. Most will also include data like how far you are from the back of the green, the front of the green, the nearest water hazard, the nearest bunker.
It essentially gives you all the information a caddy would provide their tour player. Of course, as amateurs, we really don’t have access to caddies (especially since very few public courses utilize their services anymore). With the GPS we get the next best thing. GPS to determine exactly how far away from the hole you are. Most will also include data like how far you are from the back of the green, the front of the green, the nearest water hazard, the nearest bunker.
Some, but not all will also help you to track your shots so you can determine what areas you are struggling at in your game. At the end of your round, you can go through your loop, shot for shot, and determine where you are losing strokes. Spoiler alert, it’s almost always around the greens.
GPS devices range pretty significantly in price, and some of them require subscription fees as well, but you can definitely pick up pretty decent models for under one hundred dollars that don’t require any additional fees to enjoy.
Personally, I use a free app for my rounds. It doesn’t give me any of the extra bells and whistles, but I always now far away I am from the hole, which helps when I’m playing from the fairway of another hole.
How you budget for your GPS is of course up to you but I would recommend trying one if you can swing it. If you have a smartphone, you should at the very least mess around with one of the free apps that are available.
The benefits of this technology are fairly obvious. Throughout the course of your rounds you may save a few strokes by making smarter club selections, and afterward they can help you figure out which aspects of your game you need to focus more on.
Laser rangefinders also help you measure distances on the course but as the name suggests they use laser technology rather than GPS. The major advantage of laser rangefinders is they are much more accurate than GPS devices.
This accuracy comes at a cost though; they’re much slower to use as you have to manually aim your rangefinder at your target rather than instantaneously having distance information to hand. In addition, they obviously only work for targets you can actually see and point the device at.
With this next practice aid we are taking a fairly significant technological leap. Granted, most products are going to be a little more high tech than a couple of sticks, but this…well. It’s cool.
Swing analyzers use a combination of sensors and video to track your swing stats and compare your results to those of other players. Some even feature online communities in which you can get quick, cost effective advice from participating pros. For all the fancy tech involved, it is actually one of the more cost-effective methods of getting swing advice.
When looking at Swing Analyzer technology you are going to want to do your research because not all products do the same thing, nor are they all available for the same price point.
Some will rely mostly on sensors that get fastened to the butt of your club’s grips (don’t worry, they won’t damage them) while others will feature sensors that are in some way or another attached to your clothes or body.
The sensors will communicate via blue tooth with an app on your phone to collect information on your yardages, swing speeds, and other general information.
Can all this tech substitute a lesson? Personally, I don’t think so. Unless you are extremely knowledgeable about the golf swing (and even most highly skilled players can’t necessarily make that claim) you probably aren’t going to know how to make the most out of the data you are given.
The swing analyzer will help, but certainly not as much as it will help to have a professional examining your swing as well.
Personally, I try not to overcomplicate my golf practice routine, so, swing analyzer technology really isn’t for me but, of course, to each their own. If you do decide to go this route just be sure to do your research and remember that even the best software analyzer is no substitute for the watchful eye of a pro.
The golf simulator is truly one of the coolest pieces of tech really, ever. If you have ever purchased a set of clubs from a golf retail store you have most likely encountered them before. Golf simulators typically consist of a mat and net that are rigged with sensors that communicate directly with a corresponding computer set up nearby.
Often times, the computer will then be hooked up to a television set. As you hit your shots the sensors will collect data on your swing speed, as well as the velocity and spin of the ball to determine how far and how straight your shot would have gone on the course. The television set will then render a simulation of that shots flight pattern so you can see for yourself how it turned out.
When you go to the golf store these simulators are usually just going to be set to look like a driving range as you hit your shots. The screen will often even depict targets in a fashion similar to that of a real range so you have something to aim for.
If you purchase one of these simulators for your own home, however (most will set you back about the price of a low-end car, but you can do it) you will often have the option to play simulations of famous courses. It’s a fun way to practice, and even more fun way to mess around with your friends.
Besides having the benefit of regular range sessions from the comfort of your home, you are also going to collect a lot of data on your swing with the golf simulator. Like the swing analyzer, however, a lot of that data is probably going to be above your head. Unless you are very well versed in golf you will probably need the help of a professional to interpret the data and help you respond appropriately to it.
Nowadays you will also occasionally find these at sports bars, though of course in that setting, practice isn’t necessarily the agenda. If you get the chance I would definitely recommend messing around with one, but if you decide you want to get really serious about this as a practice aid, be warned that it is going to cost you a lot of money and space.
Swing training aids
There are literally endless swing aids on the market that make a wide variety of promises. Most of them are devices that are at best useless, and at worst, harmful to your swing, but there is the occasional product that can offer a quick fix on the range, whether your problem is hooking the ball, slicing, or whatever.
For today’s purposes, we will highlight a few options.
The hinged club
The first company that I am aware of to market the hinged club was Medicus, but now you can find a wide variety of knockoff brands that offer more or less the same thing.
The hinged club features a hinge halfway through your shaft that will fold if you make a mistake in your backswing. That’s the idea at least. What it really does is help you establish a good tempo. When you take the club back low and slow, you will find that your shaft does not hinge, and your shots will take off nicely because of it.
The hinged club is one of the only swing aids that I actually use, and I have to this point found it worthwhile. I have found that when I warm up with mine prior to a round, the practice session transfers over nicely to my course tempo.
The idea of the weighted club is to help increase your clubhead speed by strengthening your golf muscles. A lot of people swear by them, but I think that it is a concept with a couple of fatal flaws.
For one thing, practicing with a club that weighs significantly more than your gamers may end up confusing your tempo. When you practice you want to simulate what you will do on the course, which is not an option with the weighted club.
I’m also of the opinion that they do not really work. There is no documental data in existence to suggest that they do, at least. If you really want to get a little more distance the best way to go about it is to work on your fundamentals. A good grip, solid foundation, and smooth takeaway will add more yardage than any swing aid.
There are a lot of them, and every single one is a really bad idea. The golf harness is a strap designed to keep a particular part of your body in proper form during your swing. You will find harnesses designed to help you keep your wrist cocked, or your left arm straight. There are even some designed to keep your feet the appropriate distance apart.
Like I said, I don’t like them. I think they make the swing a little too unnatural, and more often than not they aren’t going to yield any sort of improvements. You’re much better off with a lesson.
There are more products out there, endless options in fact, and like the three I have highlighted here, you should be very cautious as you consider them. Remember, when a promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
As you can see, there are certainly a lot of products out there. Golfers tend to enjoy tinkering and there is no shame in that, but remember that no device will be as beneficial practice or a lesson.
At the end of the day you will have to make your own decision as to what golf training aids are right for your game, but for whatever my opinion is worth, I would suggest you approach this avenue cautiously. You don’t want your so-called swing aids instilling bad habits.
Whatever you choose just remember, there is no substitution for hard-work and practice. If you really want to get good at golf, you are going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: on the golf course.