With the Holidays fast approaching many of us will start to shop for gifts for the golfers in our lives. Training aids are great gifts for golfers! The curious might like to know what training aids the best players in the world are using;
Alignment sticks – players used to just lay down their 1 and 2 irons to ensure their feet were aimed at the target and the ball was positioned properly. A third club might be set just outside the ball directing the swing path of a diligent player. No more. No touring professional worth their salt would be caught “laying down a club”, today alignment sticks are required equipment, many have their own “headcovers” and it’s not uncommon to see as many as 5 of these driveway markers being used in a practice session. Let’s be clear, these alignment sticks are just that, sticks, designed to line driveways in the northern parts so plow drivers know where to push snow, but they are as common today as a golf towel.
RypSticks- These have become popular as the quest for clubhead speed has gotten more competitive than the nuclear arms race of the 70’s. These are shafts, with interchangeable weights at the end instead of a clubhead. You’d think it would be pretty simple, swing them as fast as you can, then add weight and repeat. But the company offers a smart, consistent plan to help the golfer safely develop strength and speed. Much better than weight up a club and swing it as fast as you can. There’s some science in how the folks at RypSticks recommend you use their product. I’d suggest you follow it.
Stretching - There is still a decent amount of stretching aids and warm-up tools that can be found on the PGA Tour’s range. Items like self-massagers and rollers are often seen by players preparing to practice and there is still a decent amount of “Orange Whips” being used to stretch out golf muscles and fine tune tempo before a practice ball is struck.
Mirrors – And oddly, these aren’t for vanity. Most of them are designed to align a player’s eyes in their putting stroke. EyeLine Golf and Pelz Golf make two of the most popular. But other mirrors are designed to help players keep their head still, others to see their set up and confirm they are aligned properly. (See Pelz Golf’s Shoulder Mirror.)
Lasers, chalk lines, and gates - all designed to help players check and practice their putting alignment. Pelz Golf offers an aid called the Pelz’s Putting Tutor that combines alignment with a gate to help guarantee the start line of a putt and a company called Perfect Practice offers a set of putting gates that help players practice starting the ball on line and working through a practice routine of reading and hitting breaking putts. Nice gifts for under $50.
60 degree wedges - Not a training aid, but a huge help in scoring. Every player on Tour has figured out how indispensable the high lofted wedge is around the green and in the sand. In the short game practice area it's 80% of what's practiced. Amateurs really haven't figured this out. If your golfer doesn't have a 60 degree wedge, get them one, you'll save them strokes.
It doesn’t take an overly observant person to notice a trend in the uses of the training aids used on Tour. The players are either attempting to build clubhead speed, trying to save strokes around the green, or they are checking their setup alignment.
There’s certainly a lesson here.
There’s an adage in golf about good players who start to play poorly, “95% of the time it’s alignment”. There’s a lesser-known adage about poor players who never seem to improve, “they learned to play poorly aligned”. The poor player starts out trying to hit a golf ball while aligned improperly and then proceeds to develop numerous physical compensations throughout the swing to achieve some form of success. As they continue to develop a golf game, grooving a swing loaded with one compensation after another, a player who developed from poor alignment will notoriously reach a ceiling in their play from which there will be no future improvements.
So, when in doubt check your alignment. Looking for a gift for a golfer in your life? Get them an alignment aid or help them lower their scores. Learning the game? Make sure you learn how to align yourself? In a slump? Check your alignment. Want to stay consistent and avoid slumps? Keep checking your alignment and practice your short game! Want to shoot lower scores? Stay aligned and get better around the greens.
Want other gift ideas for golfers:
- Sunscreen, lots of it!
- Range finder with slope, possibly hottest gift item in golf
- Golf specific sunglasses, NOT polarized
- Rain hat and/or rain gloves
- 72-inch golf umbrella (best thing in the rain ever! Whether playing golf or not.)
- Preferred brand of golf balls (ask what they play, don't guess)
- Golf towel, plain, large. (These wear out and we lose them)
- Extra-long golf tees (a great stocking stuffer)
- Golf gum (another stocking stuffer)
- Band-Aids or "Blysters" second skin
- A nice performance golf shirt. Ask for sizes.
- A small Yeti cooler.
- Tripod for a smart phone or IPad
- Golf socks and peds
- A range card or gift certificate to a driving range
- Permanent markers, multiple colors
- Golf books - Harvey Pennick’s The Little Red Book. Golf in the Kingdom by Micheal Murphy. A Good Walk Spoiled, John Feinstein. The Big Miss, Hank Haney. Essential Henry Longhurst. Jenkins at the Majors: Sixty Years of the World's Best Golf Writing, from Hogan to Tiger, Dan Jenkins.
- A golf trip - to the Monterey Peninsula, Bandon Dunes, Scotland, Ireland, Myrtle Beach, or Pinehurst. (That would make anyone's Holiday)