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Editors' Choice

Best Training Aids For Golf

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September 07, 2022
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Golf is easy. For those who’ve never tried it! Even the greatest players in the game lose their form on occasion. Which is why so many training aids exist in an array of sizes, shapes and configurations. The best ones are well-conceived, smartly designed products that enable golfers to see, and feel, specific faults. Numerous devices can improve the full swing, short game or putting stroke. Others assist pre-shot, post-shot, during the season, and even in the offseason. You get the idea. We’ve whittled down the current crop to a few of our favorites, which comprise the 2022 Editors’ Choice Award winners.
Related: Best Swing & Game Analyzers

How to find the best training aid for your game

There’s a famous “Tin Cup” scene with Kevin Costner, the washed up ex-pro, is covered in training aids head-to-toe, the portrait of a frustrated golfer doing everything he can to get back into the game. Matt Trenton, general manager of the 20,000 square-foot retail store Golfdom, thinks about that image every time he works with clients searching for the best training aids.

“We’re starting from a point where they’re already frustrated, they’re irritated,” Trenton said. Keeping this in mind, he says the best training aids are intuitive and pragmatic. “The game’s hard enough.”

Whether you’re having a Costner moment yourself, or just curious about what’s on the market, we’ve broken down frequently asked questions when it comes to buying training aids, including how to pick the best aid for your swing, how much money to spend on a gadget, and whether it’s better to go high- or low-tech.

And if you’re feeling really lost, check out our Editors’ Choice selections for 2022 to kickstart your research and help you narrow down options.

What is a training aid?

In its traditional sense, a training aid is any device that helps a golfer or instructor isolate and practice motions or techniques. This can range from quick, household fixes like a towel, water bottle, or cardboard box, to more advanced solutions like a Doppler Radar, technology that was originally designed for missiles. The range is incredibly vast and includes everything from launch monitors to face tape to hitting nets. Trenton even knows someone who uses a powdery Dr. Scholl’s foot spray on driver faces, a kind of impromptu DIY solution.

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How do I pick the right training aid for my swing?

“That question will be answered better by reflecting on your mis-hits,” Trenton said. First, you have to “diagnose” the problem. He usually asks clients to begin by describing a good hit to him, followed by a bad hit. With just this anecdotal evidence, he can tell a lot about what a golfer needs to work on, even without a proper fitting. From there, he’s able to recommend the best gadget to proceed with.

But once you know what aspect of your game or swing you need to work on, you’ll still have to consider which training aid is right for you, a personal decision that comes down to price, feel, practicality and style, as we break down in the following section.

What should I look for in a training aid?

Different instructors and shop attendants have personal relationships to different aids and might be more likely to suggest one brand over another based on their own preferences. When choosing for yourself, and filtering advice from experts, there are a few points to consider.

First, a training aid is only as useful as the frequency in which it'll actually be used. Trenton said that clients come in asking for training aids because they’re already frustrated and unhappy with their games. Accordingly, he usually opts for low-tech, even analog, solutions that don’t require a whole lot of setup or steps. He cited the classic problem of high-tech training aids that are so annoying to pair with a phone, clients simply give up.

Think, too, about whether a portable option is a better fit for you. Do you want an aid that specifically fits in your golf bag? Or does a larger aid that requires less intense setup make sense?

Most aids are simple tools dressed up for golf. Where years ago a water bottle might have done the trick, today there are multiple devices on the market that serve the same purpose, just marketed differently.

“We fall back on our personal experience,” Trenton said. “They’re kind of all gadget-y in a way. It depends on what the golfer’s trying to do.”

And how advanced or expensive an aid is really says nothing about the devotion of the player. As Trenton noted, you’ll see putting mirrors—affordable, easy-to-use solutions for putting aids—all over the tours. And even the most sought-after instructors still fall back on the classics: sticks, towels and cardboard boxes.

“The best instructors in the world aren’t necessarily using the best technology,” Trenton said.

The key is finding an aid you can actually feel. That’s what’s going to stick with you and prove the most rewarding. While some players do well with data and numbers, most benefit from more physical, visceral feedback.

How much money should I spend on my training aid?

“Golfers are famous for taking things that are super cheap and making them super expensive,” Trenton said. Take the alignment stick, for example. They’re really just glorified driveway sticks, used to mark where a snow plow is supposed to go. You can find these for under $15 at a hardware store, or you can opt for a name brand version and spend double that. According to industry research, most golfers look for solutions below $100.

Tour Aim with Alignment Sticks
Tour Aim with Alignment Sticks

  

$222 $90 (for three) | Tour Aim Golf

But if you have the resources, are tech savvy, and enjoy data, spending $40,000 on a device that documents the swing and even helps diagnose problems might be a right fit for you.

The short answer? “As much as it takes is my answer to how much money you should spend on anything,” Trenton said.

What should I look for in a putting aid?

Go for an aid that encourages repetition and practice. Trenton recommended a tool like the PuttOut Pressure Putt Trainer, an affordable contraption you could even place in your office and play around with throughout the day. Aside from that, all the previous advice for training aids still holds true when it comes to putting.

PuttOut Pressure Putt Trainer
PuttOut Pressure Putt Trainer
$30 | Dick's Sporting Goods

Is it better to use a tech or non-tech aid?

In Trenton’s opinion, he opts for high-tech devices to diagnose swing problems, but recommends clients to lower tech options they can feel and understand. But this comes to personal preference. Analog solutions are tried-and-true. While techy aids can lead to more detailed data, at the end of the day you need to be able to feel the difference to influence your swing.

In a nutshell, training aids are really all about having a little nudge to “keep you honest and make you practice.” And help you out of those Costner moments, of course.