Back To Basics: 5-Minute Clinic
Plenty of teaching aids will help you groove your swing, but you won't find many that are as cheap—or as easy to find—as alignment sticks. These thin poles can do everything from lining you up to your target to helping you make a better turn. A set of two might cost you $15 at the golf shop. But if you just came out of the snow season—like I did here in Michigan—you probably don't even have to search for the golf-specific kind. The $2 versions from your hardware store were probably lining your driveway all winter to keep the plow from wiping out your lawn. Those work, too. —With Matthew Rudy
1) DRIVER SETUP
Tilt Away From the Ball
Getting lined up so you're square to the target is great, but leaving out one important alignment key will make it hard to launch your tee shots. You want to add some body tilt to your setup—the right hip set slightly lower than the left.
If you hold an alignment stick in line with the buttons on your shirt and tilt away from the target, the stick will point to the ball at an angle—not straight up and down (above). That angle is also the shaft angle you want for a driver at address. The grip will be in line with the ball or leaning back slightly.
2) POWER GENERATOR
Mix a Shift with Your Turn
Do you need to turn your hips? You bet. But it's more than just spinning them back and through. Check out the third and fourth frames here (see below): On the downswing, the stick moves closer to the target first, a lateral shift, then turns with the hips to match the stick on the ground.
You can do anything with these alignment sticks. OK, you can’t hit a 300-yard drive.
3) SWING CHECKPOINTS
See Your Plane Back and Down
Swing plane is a hard thing to see—and practice. Holding a stick against the end of your grip can help. Starting back, feel the guide stick slide down your left thigh (above). This means you aren't pulling the club too far inside. Halfway through the downswing, get that stick pointing at the ball, and you're on the perfect plane (below).
4) LAUNCH ANGLE
Set Up to Hit Up
You want to hit up with the driver, but how do you check? Do it with what I call the Poor Man's TrackMan. Drop your driver on the ground next to the ball, measure a grip length in front and place a barrier like a pool noodle (below) or rolled-up towel. Set your spine angle with a stick as you did in the first drill, and hit drives. Your clubhead should easily clear the obstacle. If it doesn't, play the ball farther forward and tilt back more.
5.) SWING PATH
Go Inside to Inside
Here's one piece of familiar advice you can ditch: Swing down the line. The best swing path comes from just inside the ball on the downswing and goes inside again (and upward) after impact. Set a stick on the ground behind the ball at a slight angle to preview this path (below). If you point the stick straight at the target, you're pre-setting the over-the-top path so many golfers struggle with. For the through-swing, place a second stick at an inside angle and prop it up on a headcover to pre-set an inside-and-up path through the ball.
Jason Guss, one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, is based at Hawk Hollow Golf Course in Bath Township, Mich.