Alignment Sticks – 10 Drills for Improvement

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Have you seen other golfers carrying around these 4-foot long, very thin, brightly colored fiberglass sticks? These are alignment sticks, and they are extremely popular with high school, college and tour players, and now also amateur golfers.

Beyond alignment, these sticks can be utilized in dozens of ways to help you improve your swing. Use your imagination and no doubt you could find dozens of uses for this sleek training aid. I can tell you that if you are looking for a versatile training aid that is both inexpensive and effective, the alignment sticks are what you’re looking for. This particular aid is more cost effective than lessons and makes practicing more productive. Depending upon how the sticks are used, they can provide restriction and immediate feedback.

What’s even better is that they can be used on the range, the course or in the backyard.

Drill #1 – Basic Alignment

Without practicing alignment, it’s difficult to execute good alignment. So here is how you practice it.

As pictured at right, line up two parallel sticks on the ground about 2-3 feet apart, much like rail road tracks. Your body should be parallel with the left stick, whereas the outside stick represents the target/ball flight line.

Place a ball in the center of the two sticks and hit a couple of shots. Look closely at the divots because if you’re aligned correctly, but you still miss your target, an outside-in or inside-out golf swing is to blame.

Drill #2 – Backswing Plane

If you are one who has a tendency to be flat or laid off in the backswing, you’ll want to try this drill. There is no doubt it will help you find the correct swing plane.

Place an alignment stick in the ground (insert 6 inches or more) at approximately a 70* angle. The angle of the alignment stick will depend upon the club and the golfer.

First, make some compact practice swings at a controlled pace. The objective is to get the club head just outside or even with your hands at point (1). At the half-way point try to get the shaft in your hands to point towards the ball flight line without interfering with the (swing plane) alignment stick.

When you get to the point to where you hit balls with this drill, you will feel more upright, on plane and notice divots that point towards your target.

Drill #3 – Downswing Plane (inside-out)

Like most slicers, you probably have read countless books and experimented with various training aids, with minimal success. By now you should know the root of your problem is a swing that moves outside-to-in. What you haven’t tried is something that reinforces an inside-out swing path.

For this drill, place a stick in the ground pointing towards your intended target (at a 30*-40*angle). Lay a second stick on the ground for alignment purposes (2 feet or more inside of that). Before you start hitting balls place your club (short iron) below the stick and make a couple of compact and controlled practice swings. Your takeaway should be visibly more inside on an arc and your downswing should feel inside out.

Think of the driving range as being a baseball diamond. Your current downswing is outside-in (out to the left-fielder). This creates a slice with the long clubs and a pull with the short irons. This drill is going to be the complete opposite from your normal tendencies. In an extreme case, this swing (inside-out) should create the opposite effect (hook or draw). The occasional push may occur in your first couple of swings until you develop a rhythm.

Drill #4 – Hip Turn

Do you try to keep your head down and over the ball? If so, it may be robbing you from making an adequate turn. More importantly golfers who try to keep their head down and over the ball have a tendency to slide or sway the hips causing a golfer to look and feel more like a teeter-totter than a carousel. If you’re trying to create a better turn or hit the ball farther, this drill is for

Place two sticks in the ground (vertically) just on the outside of your right and left heel. Initiate the backswing by turning your shoulders and allow your hips to follow. At the top of the swing your right hip should be within the two sticks. Worst case scenario, your hips will snug up against the right alignment stick without pushing the stick outwards.

On your downswing, try to initiate the forward swing with your hips. With a good top of the swing position this will be easier to execute. Coming into impact, your hips should be unwinding (clearly ahead of the shoulders). At your finish position, the majority of your weight should be on your left side (left hip snug with alignment stick) without pushing the alignment stick outwards.

Drill #5 – Golf Club Extender

This drill is not intended to hit balls, but is ideal for those looking to fine tune their swing plane.

Line up one stick on the ground representing the ball flight line. While holding your club, weave an alignment stick between the grip and your hands. The stick should run down the shaft 12 inches. On the flipside, the stick will protrude out of the club and above your left hip just less than three feet. With the alignment stick protruding out make a backswing and try to point the alignment stick in your hands to the stick on the ground (at the halfway point of the backswing). This will give you a good perspective as to whether or not your swing is flat or upright. From there, try to replicate the downswing to the ball and through to the finish.

Drill #6 Spine Angle Retention –

Spine angle and spine angle retention are keys to solid repeatable ball striking. Too many golfers think their problem is picking their head up at the point of contact. Well, most of them are wrong. Typically their fault is bobbing up and down during the course of the swing, thus changing the spine plane and posture.

To work on maintaining your posture and spine angle, you’re going to need two sticks. Line up one stick towards a target on the range (for stance) and another stick (vertical and centered) just behind you and touching your tailbone. You should be able to feel the vertical alignment stick throughout the duration of your swing, back and through. If you move away from the stick, you are adjusting your spine angle and may be bobbing up and down resulting in topping the ball. This drill is ideal for all golfers and will no doubt improve your ball striking and turning and coiling actions.

Drill #7 Hitting Down On the Ball/Solid Contact Drill –

Anyone who wants to hit down on the ball will want to experiment with this drill. Align one stick to a target on the range (for stance) and the other perpendicular, 3 inches behind the ball (ball position center for mid and short irons).

First, take some practice swings and try to take a divot just in front of the stick. If you can do so successfully, hit a couple of half shots with a 7-ron. Setup with your hands slightly ahead, cock the wrists and start the downswing with the hips. Your ideal impact position should be hands ahead, hips leading the shoulders and your right foot slightly off the ground.

If the club strikes the stick at a fast pace, neither will be harmed.

Drill #8 Chip It and Nip It –

This drill is for those who scoop, try to lift the ball or blade the ball over the green.

This drill is similar to the same as the club extender 2X drill. If you’re going to hit balls with this drill, it is recommended you chip or pitch within 40 yards or less. Start with 60% of your weight on your left leg and your hands ahead (stick just off left hip for right-handed golfers). Using only your shoulders, turn away from the ball making approximately a half swing. Start the downswing accelerating with the hips and shoulders while trying to keep the hands ahead. This will allow you to hit down on the ball with the hands ahead.

The objective is to hit the shot without the alignment stick hitting your left side or hip. Using the big muscles instead of the small muscles will help create solid contact and improved distance control.

Drill #9 Field Goal Chippping –

If you’re trying to hit the ball straighter or need help starting the ball on the intended target line, the field goal drill will illustrate how close or far off you may be.

Start by placing two sticks in the ground (vertically) ranging 12-24 inches apart and about 10 feet in front of you. Set the sticks in the ground so that your target is in the center of the goals when you setup to the ball. Now try to make a field goal.

Drill # 10 Swing Plane Drill –

The swing plane is often times misunderstood. On the contrary to what
you might have learned, the golf swing is a big circle not straight back and
straight through. Few golfers are precisely on plane. Most players swing outside-in (out to left field) whereas the minority of golfers swing inside-out (out to right field). If you are questioning your swing plane and are struggling
with direction, this drill is for you.

To find your swing plane, place two alignment sticks in the ground 6-8
feet apart on an angle similar to the angle of your shaft at set-up. Before
you swing, place your toes even with the sticks. Make some swings and if
your club touches the rear stick on the backswing, you are flat and or laid-off.
If you hit the left alignment stick on the downswing, you are outside-in
and will likely fight a slice.

If you’re on plane, your club shaft is parallel with the right stick at the
halfway point of the backswing , and also with the left stick at your finish.

Final Thoughts –

The recipe to see results from practicing these drills is 5-10 minutes per drill and 3-4 times a week. It can be as easy as taking these drills to the backyard after work, a short practice session on the driving range or before your next round of golf. Either way, if you practice it, you will perfect it so long as you have the positive feedback. Alignment sticks may be the best training aid on the market and certainly the cheapest. Your losing out if you dont have a pair.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Happy practicing!


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About the author

Chris Burns

I enjoy writing about what I believe is missing from major golf publications as well as common misconceptions in the game of golf.
Although is passion is golf and my profession is teaching the game of golf, I have been tinkering with golf equipment for over twenty years.

My knowledge and experience in golf is diverse, and ranges from teaching, coaching, club fitting, equipment design and golf club repair.

I truly believe anyone can find success in golf and I want to help you get there.

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