The Essential Practice Aid
Whether you call them alignment sticks, alignment rods, driveway markers, or by one of the brand names for the fancy wooden versions, this is the one training aid that literally every golfer on the planet should have in their bag. Why? They’re cheap, they’re versatile, and they’re absolutely necessary to building a great practice station. How do you use them? Let’s count the ways.
Alignment Stick Use #1 – Alignment
The namesake use is the most common and most important way to use alignment rods. You can place sticks in any number of positions to check your aim or alignment. My preferred method is to have one stick outside of the ball and another along my toes. You can also place a stick along your heels, inside the ball, behind the ball, or in front of the ball.
A couple thoughts on setting up the sticks. First, make sure you’re careful about aiming the sticks. Take the time to stand behind them and check that they are pointed where you think they are. Checking your alignment has no value if you’re aimed at the wrong thing.
Also, keep in my that any sticks that aren’t in line with the golf ball should not be pointed at your target – they should be slightly right or left of it. This is a subtle point that many people miss.
Finally, if you are using more than one stick, it’s important to make sure they’re parallel to each other. I like to use a golf club to check that the two ends of the sticks are equidistant from each other, as shown above.
Alignment Stick Use #2 – Ball Position
Consistent ball position is critical to high level ball striking. To check your ball position, you need one alignment stick but two is preferable. With one stick, place the rod between your feet pointed at the ball.
If you have two sticks, place one along your toe line, aimed just left of your target. Place the second stick perpendicular to the first, aimed at the ball. The reason that I strongly prefer using two alignment sticks is that it’s much easier to have consistent ball position with a consistent target line.
Alignment Stick Use #3 – Swing Path
Alignment rods can also be used as a visual cue to change your swing path. As with ball position, you can do this with one stick but two or three is better. Start out by setting a stick along your toe line aimed just left of your target. Then take a second stick, place it a few inches behind the ball or in front of the ball, and aim it along your desired swing path.
Do keep in mind that the alignment sticks will be an exaggeration of your actual swing path. This is not only OK, it’s necessary if you’re making a big change. Moving the sticks 2 degrees from parallel won’t be noticeable, plus you’ll need to exaggerate the feel if you’re trying to change your swing.
Alignment Stick Use #4 – Swing Plane
This is a slightly more advanced usage that A) requires more precision in set up and B) can risk breaking your alignment rods. You may use this for slow motion swings only, at least at first. All that said, it’s a great way to get immediate feedback on where your swing is.
Start by putting one alignment stick down on your toe line. Next, set up to a ball so you know where your club will be. After that, shove an alignment stick into the ground so that you will have to swing over or under it, depending on what movement you’re trying to ingrain. This is where the precision comes in: if the stick is too close, too far, or at the wrong angle, you’ll be ingraining the wrong movement.
Alignment Stick Uses #5-#7 – On the Green
There are numerous ways to use alignment sticks on the green. You can start with setting up square alignment to your target as you did on the range.
Alignment sticks can also form an alley for the putter or the golf ball. If you’re trying to make a straight back, straight through stroke, set a stick on either side of the putter and swing the putter between them. Similarly, you can set up a channel for the ball to see just how pure your start line is. Keep in mind that for this feedback to be accurate, you’ll need a perfectly straight putt.
Finally, an alignment stick can be used as part of a drill to work on your distance control. Place an alignment stick behind the cup perpendicular to your path to the hole and try to keep the ball between the cup and the stick. The closer the stick is to the hole, the more demanding the drill is.
It’s very easy to nudge your alignment sticks out of position, especially if they’re close to your toes or near the ball. To save yourself the hassle of resetting them, use a couple tees to either mark the location of the alignment sticks or lock them into place.
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