Alignment is a critical part of your setup. No matter how good your swing and compression of the golf ball is, without proper alignment you are unlikely to get the golf ball close to the target. Getting your alignment sorted out will have a positive impact on your ability to make birdies and par scores.
Proper alignment requires both your body and golf club to align to your target line at setup. This may not be exactly aimed at the target if you intend to draw or fade the ball. The clubface must aim directly at the target area where you want to land the ball while your feet will affect the direction that the ball will start. An open stance will result in a fade while a closed stance will result in a draw.
Alignment sticks are versatile training aids that can identify and assist in the rectification of several swing mechanics such as posture, backswing, downswing, and the impact zone.
Straight shots require both feet and clubhead to point in the same direction parallel to each other. The clubhead should point directly at the target while your feet will point slightly to the inside of the target, still parallel to the clubhead.
Posture and rotation
Maintaining your posture throughout your swing is extremely important. Deviation in your posture will severely impact your alignment. Swaying away and toward the target will disrupt your swing and result in an inconsistent swing and strike.
Push the alignment rods into the ground on the outside of each foot. Your trailing hips should touch the rear alignment stick during your backswing without pushing the alignment stick further away from the target. During the downswing, your weight is transferred to the leading leg and your hips rotate towards the back. Your hips should touch the alignment stick without pushing it forward towards the target.
To see whether you are standing up or bending too far over during your swing, place one of the alignment sticks across your shoulders and lay the second one on the expected swing path where the golf ball is positioned. If your swing is too upright or you are standing up, the alignment stick will point outside of the alignment stick on the ground. A Swing that is too steep or you bend too far over, the alignment stick will follow a path where the shoulders point to the inside of the alignment stick on the ground.
Although extremely versatile and has many applications, alignment sticks were originally designed, and named after their primary goal. To assist you in improving your alignment. With practice the alignment process becomes automatic, but it is still beneficial to revisit the process regularly to ensure that you have your alignment correct.
To align correctly you have to identify a target and then lay the alignment sticks on the ground parallel to each other. The positioning can vary between golfers’ preferences, but you must use this to align your feet and clubface towards your target.
To ensure that the alignment sticks point to the target, position yourself behind the sticks when on the ground, and then tweak the direction for a perfect line to the target.
Positioning an alignment on either side of the golf ball provides a clear direction for the path that the club must follow through the impact zone as well.
Some golfers prefer to place one alignment stick at the bottom of their toes and one closer to the ball while others prefer to place an alignment stick behind their heels.
This Michael Breed video will give you some insight into how to use golf alignment sticks.
The alignment drill can assist you further to determine whether you are hitting the center, heel, or toe of the clubface.
When the alignment sticks are positioned parallel to each other pointing towards the target, there should be slightly more space than the clubhead width. By swinging the clubhead between the two alignment sticks you can easily identify where the impact on the clubface is by looking at the divot. If the divot is too close to the alignment stick nearest your body, you are likely to make a toe impact while a divot that is closer to the furthest alignment stick will indicate heel impact.
Narrowing the distance between the alignment sticks will provide quick feedback on your swing. If you strike either of the alignment sticks during your swing it will provide a good indication that you are striking the ball off-center.
Ball contact first
To compress the ball for a pure strike creating additional spin and distance you have to strike the ball first before generating impact with the turf. For this, you require proper weight transfer to move the bottom end of the swing arc a fraction of an inch forward during the downswing.
A good way to monitor whether you strike the golf ball first is by placing an alignment stick perpendicular to the target in line with the ball. Leave sufficient space between the golf ball and the alignment stick to prevent interaction with the club in the impact zone.
If the divot is closer to the target than the alignment stick, you have struck the ball before the turf.
This drill will highlight whether the golf ball launches in the right direction for your required shot shape. Furthermore, it can be used to identify whether you are releasing your club freely or holding back through the release.
Place an alignment stick vertically into the ground, approximately fifteen feet toward the target on the launch line. Take some practice swings to get the feel of the club moving towards the alignment stick. Once satisfied with the feel you can record your club and golf ball trajectory by placing a camera, or an observer, behind you to observe whether the golf ball takes off in the direction you want it to.
More immediate feedback can be obtained by placing an alignment stick approximately three feet ahead of you towards the target at an angle towards the side your body is on. When you release the club too early, it will collide with the alignment stick, your aim is to swing the club on the outside of the alignment stick without any contact.
Putters with little or no toe-hang require a straight-back straight-through putting stroke and alignment sticks are great training aids to ingrain this putting action. The more toe-hang in a putter, the more arced the putting stroke, and less likely that you will benefit from straight alignment aids.
Placing a golf ball in the center of the alignment stick will enable you to push it back parallel to the alignment stick and ensure that the follow-through of the putting strike remains straight and parallel to the alignment stick.
Furthermore, alignment sticks can assist in tweaking your speed control on the green. Place the alignment stick across your putting line requiring the ball to bounce against the rod and then pop over it on its way to the hole. The later impact is made with the stick, the more speed will be lost and thus increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Chipping requires stable wrists to prevent you from flipping through impact thus losing distance and spin. Place the alignment stick straight along your arm covering the back of your wrist. This will prevent you from flipping your wrists and foster a downward impact on the ball.
To improve distance control you can place two alignment sticks perpendicular to your body with approximately ½ yard between them. Try and land every chip between the two sticks from various distances.
Alignment sticks are reasonably affordable and versatile training aids that can assist you with nearly every aspect of your golf game and promote good swing characteristics and solid ball contact.
It is possible to improve your swing, chipping, putting, and distance control using alignment sticks. Having a few stored amongst your practice equipment will generate great benefits once you understand the ways of using them to your advantage. I trust that this article will guide you on your way to enjoying the benefits and tweaking your swing.
Any feedback will be highly appreciated in the comments section below.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.