When golfers want to improve their golf game, they often look for tips to increase distance and improve accuracy. If you can hit longer with more accuracy, then you will definitely improve your score. But how do you accomplish these goals, especially without a personal golf coach?
The best place to start is with the basics: grip, stance, swing, and contact. This article doesn’t speak to proper grip or contact, but if you need a tool to help with those, then check out this Golf Grip Trainer and Golf Impact Bag. If you need help with your stance or swing, then read on about the benefits of Golf Alignment Sticks.
Do I have an alignment issue?
Most golfers that suffer from poor shot-making tend to slice or hook the ball. These shots result from the clubhead being “open” or “closed” at impact relative to the path of the swing. Flight paths of these shots appear to severely curve either to the right or to the left. Other times you may notice a ball flight that doesn’t curve, but rather flies straight to the right or to the left.
If your goal is to hit a straight shot at your target without curve, then having proper alignment is critical. Most amateur golfers can spend hours at the driving range working on their technique and not even think about whether they are lined up properly. After awhile once you learn good alignment, it will become second-nature and you may not need to spend much time thinking about it.
Don’t think that this is a “set it and forget it” skill though. You will often see a set of golf alignment sticks in a pro’s golf bag. Even the best can use some correction now and then and going back to the basics is the best place to start.
What is Golf Alignment?
Golf alignment refers to the relationship between the aim of your clubhead and your feet at setup. For a straight shot, your clubhead and toes will be aligned in a parallel line towards the target. If either of your toes are off the line or your clubhead is facing a different line, then you will often hit a shot that either curves or pushes to the right or left of the target.
You should note that the desired target line for a particular shot may not necessarily refer to the middle of the fairway or pin. Those pesky trees, bunkers, and water hazards along with wind can have an impact on where you want to aim and what your ball flight should look like.
Although it may seem easy to line yourself up with your target, it is often more difficult than you may think. Standing over the golf ball and having to look sideways at your target makes it challenging to achieve perfect alignment. So how can we ensure we are lined up with our target if we can’t stand on that desired target line? The answer is Golf Alignment Sticks.
What are Golf Alignment Sticks?
With a better understanding of what golf alignment is and how it can impact your shot, then we want to focus our attention on a tool that can help ensure we line up properly. Golf alignment sticks, also known as alignment rods, are one of the most basic and essential swing training aids you can get. These long, slender sticks can be used in a variety of ways to not only improve your alignment, but also help with your swing plane and other areas.
Most golf alignment sticks are made from a durable fiberglass or plastic. They typically have pointed ends that are often covered with a plastic cap to prevent injury or damage to your clubs. The pointed end allows for easy insertion into the ground. Some sets include a connection device that allows the sticks to be arrange in a “T” shape. You can find golf alignment sticks in a variety of colors. Most golfers prefer a bright or contrasting color to the ground to help provide a stronger visual cue. Now that we know what they look like, let’s discuss some of the ways they can be used (spoiler: not just for golf alignment 😉).
How do I Use Golf Alignment Sticks?
On the Tee Box or Fairway
The most common way golf alignment sticks are used is by placing them on the ground in front of you in a parallel arrangement. This layout will give you a visual aid on how to align your feet and the clubhead at setup. One alignment stick will be placed along the target line just beyond the golf ball. The other stick will be placed in front of your toes along the target line and parallel to the first stick. If you’ve been lining up incorrectly for a long period of time, then this may feel a bit strange at first.
On the Putting Green
Not only can proper alignment benefit you on the tee box, but if you struggle with shorts putts, then they can help you there too. The best way to use them on the green is to create a parallel “chute” along the target putting line with the ball in between. The sticks should be placed just wide enough to fit your putter in between with about ½ inch gaps from the toe and heel of your club. Practice keeping the putter head between the sticks without crossing over the track. This drill will help keep your putting stroke along the target line for those short putts.
Golf alignment sticks are also a great way to practice proper ball placement relative to your feet at setup. Since ball location can have a significant impact on the height of your shots, it is imperative that the ball is positioned in the ideal location for your respective club and shot. Although you may think the ball is lined up perfectly between your feet, that may not be reality. By connecting your alignment sticks in a perpendicular “T” shape and placing one side along the target line and the other along the desired ball location line (relative to your feet), then you can be assured of proper ball placement at setup.
Chip and Pitch Shots
Another great drill to practice is by taking an alignment stick and holding it with your club so that it “extends” the club at the handle. This drill helps promote proper hand positioning at impact on short pitch and chip shots to avoid “breaking your wrists” during contact. If done correctly, your lead wrist will remain flat and the alignment stick will stay away from your body during the follow through. If done incorrectly and your lead wrist bends, then the stick will make contact with the side of your rib-cage at impact.
Have you been told that your swing plane it too steep or too flat? If so, then here is another way golf alignment sticks can help. Again, we hold one stick together with the handle of our club so that it extends out away from the clubhead. The other stick will be placed about a foot or two behind the golf ball along the target line. As we begin our backswing, the alignment stick we are holding should start pointing towards the alignment stick on the ground which faces the target line. A swing plane that is too steep will cause the alignment stick to point down in front of the other alignment stick into the ground. A swing plane that is too flat will point way beyond the other alignment stick, almost hovering in the air.
One of our favorite golf training aids to further develop proper swing plane (and other benefits) is the Golf Tempo Trainer. Learn more about this swing trainer in this article.
If you struggle with an outside-to-in swing path (common to golfers that slice), then the golf alignment sticks can help you develop a more inside swing path. Practice this drill by placing one stick in the ground at about a 15 degree angle. The end of the stick should be off the ground about the length of a club grip, directly over the golf ball. With an outside-to-in swing path, you will strike the raised stick during your swing. The goal is to swing along a more inside-to-out path such that you swing under the tip and avoid the raised stick. The other stick can be placed in front of your toes along the target line and parallel to the raised stick. This will also help keep you from cheating your body at angle that avoids the raised stick no matter how you swing.
As you can see this inexpensive training aid is a must-have for golfers of all skill levels. Of course, these are prohibited on the golf course, but are perfect for those grinding sessions at the driving range. Over time, you will train your eyes, hands and body to achieve correct swing alignment.
Need a pair of alignment sticks? Click here to pick up a set!
If you are new to the game and would like more info on golf equipment for beginners, then be sure to check our our Beginning Golf Equipment article.