You've probably heard the phrase "feel is not real" before when it comes to the golf swing. Maybe that's what makes this game so difficult. You feel like you're doing the right thing in your golf swing, yet you struggle. And sure enough, for most amateur golfers, when professional instructors videos their swings, they often looks completely different than what the student thought he or she was doing.
In order to correct those movements, instructors often exaggerate motions to create new feels. The process can often be enhanced by training aids, and there have been hundreds of them on the market in the last few decades. Some, obviously, have been more successful than others. Many instructors still use the tried-and-true Impact Bag, for example, to get their students to feel what it's like to not flip the club at impact. But training aids can be tricky, especially if you don't have expert guidance.
"They have to match the fault you're trying to correct," said Mike McGetrick, a top 100 PGA Master Professional who heads up the Mike McGetrick Golf Academy at the Golf Club of Houston. "They can certainly be beneficial, as long as they're geared for the right individual."
Training aids can cover just about all aspects of the swing, from path and positioning to speed, short game and, of course, putting. Ideally, if you're looking to improve, you should take a lesson, and then get a training aid or two your instructor recommends. Of course, we know most golfers won't do that. And if you're like me, you have a tendency to fall back to the same bad habits you have had for years, so some of this could be a little obvious. With all that said, here's a guide to some of the latest aids and some old standards that you might want to consider for your practice sessions:
Invented by one of England's top golf coaches, Dan Frost, the Sure-Set swing trainer is designed to help golfers feel the proper turn, position of the hands and arms and forearm rotation of the takeaway. It also helps golfers feel the proper sequence of the swing, including the downswing, without hitting balls.
The training aid is essentially a hinged, adjustable golf shaft with a ball on the end of it. When the aid is set at the proper angle, the golfer takes a golf stance with the goal of cocking the wrists so that the ball on the end of the shaft fits in the area between the left shoulder (for right-handers) and pectoral muscle on the chest. This basically forms a triangle with the arms, body and club, which is maintained throughout the backswing. It also helps you train the proper forearm rotation in your swing.
Frost advises you to make several swings with the training aid, then hit a golf ball with a real club and repeat these sequences – a lot. It's an aid you can use to check yourself no matter how good you get.
It's simple and portable, but it is important to watch the instructional videos. (Check out this video of Frost and the Golf Channel's Martin Hall demonstrating the Sure-Set here.) It certainly won't cure every fundamental in the golf swing (it does have a grip trainer on it as well, by the way), but it definitely addresses an area with which most golfers struggle – the takeaway. And that might is certainly an important battle area. Because if you can get the club in the slot, as they say, the rest of the swing becomes much easier.
You can get the Sure-Set here from Revolution Golf for $97 or for $87 if you're a Revolution Golf Plus member.
You've probably heard more than once that the quickest way to lower your scores is by improving your short game and putting. While that's true, let's not kid ourselves; almost everyone wants to hit it farther. And chances are if you can figure out how to develop more clubhead speed, you're probably developing better mechanics, too, which leads to greater accuracy, which makes those putts seem a bit more meaningful.
One of the more recent training systems to help you achieve more clubhead speed is SuperSpeed Golf, which adapts the idea of overspeed training from other sports, like baseball and track, to golf. In fact, the company is close to releasing a set of trainers that will help tennis players as well.
Here's how it works: The systems consists of three training clubs ($199). The first one is 20 percent lighter than a normal driver; the second one is 10 percent lighter, and the third is 5 percent heavier than a driver. Using these clubs you go through a variety of swing exercises, including both left and right handed. The idea is that your body learns how to swing faster from the lighter clubs (this would explain why swinging your club by holding it near the clubhead helps you feel the proper "whip" of the club) and as you build up to the heavier clubs, you get stronger and quicker.
Of course, you don't do this just once. The idea is to implement a regular program of exercise with these clubs. How important is to get gain clubhead speed? For every 2 mph you add, you can gain an extra five yards or so. Imagine increasing your clubhead speed from 95 mph to 103 mph. That could be the difference between hitting the ball around 240 yards off the tee (depending on roll) to 260 yards or more. I don't know anyone who wouldn't want to improve by 20 yards. And yes, of course, we want accuracy with that, but more clubhead speed is never a bad thing.
More distance help
Of course, Super Speed Golf is hardly the only option when it comes to adding speed to your swing. There are all sorts of aids for that. The Orange Whip (available at RevolutionGolf for $97) has been around for years, but you still see them in people's bags everywhere. They're not only great for training, but they're also a great warm-up tool. McGetrick likes the 43-inch version of it because it's close to the length of a driver, but there are varying sizes depending on your strength and size and preferences.
Another newer training aid for speed is the Speed Stik. The Speed Stik ($99) is a weighted shaft with a training grip and a magnet that has varying resistance to centrifugal force. Swing the club properly with enough force and you can get the device to "click" in the right spot. Twenty swings a day, the company claims, for a period of a few weeks will result in 20 yards or more of additional distance off the tee for most players.
One training aid that really intrigues me is something called Impact Snap. Invented by Hawaii's Kelvin Miyahira and developed by Marty Nowicki of Turning Stone Resort in New York, the Impact Snap device ($99) is a square grip with a weight inside and a guide with a ball on the outside. The device helps you train your wrists and hand position for the proper release. Since it encourages a bowed lead wrist that turns down at impact, it's especially ideal for improving your iron play. It will produce better impact and a more penetrating ball flight all the way around. The "snap," by the way, comes from the sound the weight makes when you do it properly.
And finally, another tried and true aid for improving impact is the Tour Striker training club ($79). This is a specially designed iron (comes in wedge or 7-iron) with the clubface just on the upper portion of the clubhead. If the hands don't lead the clubhead at impact (ideal for irons), the ball won't up in the air with this club. The ball will simply squirt off on the ground. I've owned one of these for years, and anytime I've worked with it a few times, my iron play has improved dramatically. (I'm probably due to spend some range time with it right now).
Don't forget about the short game
While better chipping, pitching and putting might not be as exciting to most as hitting the ball farther, this is an area that most players can improve dramatically in a short period of time.
There are lots of putting aids, but one that's particularly effective and used almost universally by teaching pros is the putting mirror. They help you stay steady and get eyes, shoulders and ball positioned aligned properly, creating consistency of stroke of the putter and more importantly, aim. Eyeline Golf is well known for its putting mirrors, which can be had for around $40. Eyeline Golf's Putting Alignment Mirror has a slot from which you can putt the ball, so you can use it on the putting green to actually stroke putts.
Need a little help with your chipping? Well, the aforementioned Impact Snap can certainly help that, too.
The Tour Striker Educator ($35) is a product that also helps train your hands for great impact, but I like this product more with the short game than I do the full-swing. The Tour Striker Educator (which can be used in training with the Tour Striker) is a guide that actually connects to the butt end of your club, so you can hit actual shots with it. Keep the guide in contact with your left forearm and you can't flip the club. Flipping is no good when it comes to golf, especially with chips and pitch shots. You can find the Tour Striker Educator along with a few other training aids you might want to look into on the training aids page at RevolutionGolf.com.
And finally, if bunker play is your bugaboo, here's something that's pretty innovative. It's called the Pocket Bunker. This cool device, which is sold in packs of three ($25), really illustrates the visual and feel of what it's like to hit a proper greenside bunker shot. They're basically golf balls with legs underneath them that are splayed. Cut the legs off from under the ball, and you have the feel of a proper bunker shots. Thirty years ago, my mentor in golf explained bunker shots to me exactly that way, except I could only imagine the legs. These things have actual legs, so the goal isn't mysterious. You're just looking to chop off legs, which is a lot of fun, especially when it leads to hitting better bunker shots.