A few years back I was at the Masters watching the players warm up on the range (if you ever go to a golf tournament, this is a great place to really get to see these guys in action and there is usually a beer stand nearby).
The more I watched, the more I noticed that they all had something laid down on the ground as an alignment aid. Some simply had an alignment stick or dowel rod, and some (read: Vijay Singh) had 38 different items set on and stuck in the ground.
I decided to count.
I watched 20 players hit balls (this was on Tuesday, so it was practice and not warm up and most of them were out there for a while) and 15 of them had some sort of alignment aid. 75% of the best players in the world were using something to help them line up shots.
Players who have hit millions of golf balls in their lives were using something to make sure they were actually aimed at their target. Players who had looked at a target millions of time were using something that made sure their eyes weren’t deceiving them.
You may be thinking “I’m not a tour player…what does this have to do with me?”
If we want to be like the best (and I’m not saying that we all want to be on Tour, rather that we are all striving to be better if you are reading this) we have to practice like the best.
The first question I ask all my student is “what is your target and what are you lined up with?” It is amazing how many times I see people hitting a ball directly where they are lined up, but not where they want it to go.
Their alignment doesn’t match their target so they get bad results. The initial instinct is to attempt to fix something in the swing, something dynamic. But many times the fix is much easier than that, something static we can change before we ever take the club back.
By using alignment aids when we practice not only can we isolate whether we have a swing (dynamic) problem or an alignment (static) problem, we can also set our minds at ease that we don’t have to push or pull the ball online to get it to go at our target.
The other huge benefit of using aids when practicing is that we are always calibrating our eyes to what straight really is. If we get set up a bit right today and hit a bunch of balls with that setup, it’ll start to look correct to us. If we do that a couple of practice sessions in a row we can be aiming 15 degrees right of target in no time flat.
When I am working on something mechanical I always have alignment aids. When I am done thinking golf swing and start thinking about playing golf, I remove the alignment aids and go through my whole pre shot routine to practice the same way I am going to play.
We may not all be able to make it Augusta, but we can practice like it with some $3 sticks from Lowe’s.