The Many Uses of Alignment Sticks
Practical Golf asked me to offer some examples of how alignment sticks can be used on improving your golf knowledge and skills. As a PGA Professional with many years of experience, I have taught tens of thousands of lessons. I am not surprised on how many times I have utilized the uses of a simple stick that is only perceived to aid your alignment. I have outlined some of the ways how you can get more out of your game by using alignment sticks.
The first and most obvious use is to highlight the alignment of your body, stance, and club. This is done by placing a stick at your feet line. If aligned correctly, the foot line and club face line should be parallel to each other with the foot line facing slightly left of the target with the clubface line aiming at the intended target. Having correct alignment is essential to sound technique as it can have positive and negative effects on plane, clubface, stance, weight shift, club path and arm path to name a few.
Using alignment sticks to highlight where you are in fact aiming can help improve some of these negative faults and slowly allow you to get better aligned on the golf course. By practicing on getting aligned correctly with alignment sticks you can help promote better swing characteristics and produce better results. I must add that practice should be done with and without alignment sticks so that we don’t get reliant on the teaching aid.
2) MAINTAINING POSTURE
Posture is one of the most important aspects of good technique. It has been labeled as the foundation of the swing by many top teachers and players. By maintaining posture during the swing, you can achieve improved consistency in contact and better body rotation. This will result in consistent swings under any type of pressure and during all conditions. I like to use alignment sticks to help the retention of posture during the swing to highlight shoulder tilt and rotation. Shoulder tilt is something that is overlooked in swing instruction. When your shoulders tilt, they will promote shoulder rotation at the same time. During the swing, I like to see the shoulders almost at a right angle to the spine angle at the top and impact of the swing. This will help the spine angle stay at a consistent level to help avoid the posture going up or down (standing up on the backswing or bending over on the downswing). As you can see in the pictures below this is what I would like to see when using alignment sticks to maintain posture:
Try this drill on the range or in front of a mirror and see how it can help other areas of the swing including the plane of the downswing and in transition. Use the ball or a maker as a reference point to aim at or focus upon if you’re unaware of the position of your spine angle. This drill can also help the debate of “what starts the downswing?” question.
3) WIDTH AND ARM EXTENSION
More width in a golf swing can help increase speed and therefore the distance you could potentially hit the ball. I will use alignment sticks to help create width and extension in the swing. In the diagram below, you can see how the left arm remains straighter during the backswing and by holding the alignment stick in front of you give you an idea of how much rotation you can create from a relatively short swing. This drill can be done when warming up as it requires very little stress on the body and can help stretch the muscles out. During the backswing and downswing, the alignment stick can also highlight correct plane. This will be like the posture drill covered in the previous section.
4) TO CORRECT FAULTS
The “Punisher Drill” is one of the most used drills for me to prevent a student from flipping the hands caused by early release and lack of turn. This can be seen with players who cast during the downswing, or players that don’t continue to turn throughout their swing. This leads to help the ball up in the air with their hands and will also cause contact issues. We have all heard that lagging the club during the downswing will help achieve more rotation, speed, and angle to promote more distance, better contact, and improved consistency. The clear majority of Tour Professionals do this exceptionally well. The punisher drill focusses on two parts during the swing. The first part highlights retention of the angle between the left arm and shaft of the golf club. Whereas the second part allows the player to feel that angle stays in place before, during and past impact by the rotation of the body. It will also force the left side to get out of the way, which is essential for rotation to occur. You can see in the pictures how these areas are exaggerated. The punisher drill is a great slow swing drill, but I wouldn’t always recommend it to use during full shots. It will, however, help identify what is essential for consistent contact and reduce busy hands during the swing.
In the picture you can see how we affix the alignment stick half way up and on the outside of the club. We secure it by gripping the club and stick at the same time. I like using an alignment stick rather than an extender club as it helps highlight the other areas we discuss the use of the drill.
5) SHORT GAME
My final point on different ways to use alignment sticks is around the green. Alignment sticks not only help technique but can also offer great uses on the execution of technique in games and drills. For example, in areas of chipping with green speeds as fast as they have ever been, landing the ball in the right area can be the difference of hitting it close or not. Try using alignment sticks in ladder drills or section drills to help as to where you would need to land the ball. This will really help your landing zones so that you can adjust the speed of the greens during practice.
In previous short game lessons, I have highlighted the LEFT, LEFT, LEFT theory when it comes to chipping setup. Alignment sticks can really extenuate this so that you can see how you’re doing during practice. Another use would be in a bunker where stance and path are different to other areas of golf. Many times, setting up open and swinging along your stance line doesn’t always happen. Reinforcing this with the use of alignment sticks can help replicate what you are trying to do with a better visual.
Try and use your alignment sticks in other areas than just showing you where to aim. Eventually, it can help your whole game get better to the point where you might want to reward your sticks will some style! 😊
Go to your local PGA Professional to get help with your swing
or to schedule a lesson with Nick Banks, PGA
For more information contact the pro shop at (631) 751-0585