Review: Divot Mat

The DivotMat is an excellent practice/training aid.  It identifies your impact characteristics in a unique way for indoor or outdoor use.

The Divot Mat consists of a few key pieces.  1) The Divot Mat Sheets, 2) The Divot Pad (Lie Board), 3) The Divot Mat, a soft mat on which to put the Divot Pad including velcro strips to fasten it securely to the mat, 4) 2 DVDs with instructional information.

The Divot Mat sheets have 9 golf balls printed on them that serve as the focal point for your shot.  When you swing and hit the mat, your club leaves a trail mark on the Divot Mat.  This trail shows where the club first hit the mat, how long the divot is, and the direction of the divot.  These 3 things enable you to see whether you are hitting the ball fat, thin or just right, and whether you have an inside-out swing, outside-in, or straight swing path.

Zen Chili Rating for The Divot Mat

5 Zens out of 5

• Easy to use, provides instant understandable feedback
• Can help someone focus on the divot instead of the ball
• Use anywhere you can swing an iron.
• Good DVD explaining common faults and fixes.

5 Chilis out of 5

•Mat is well constructed.
•Divot Sheets are refillable, durable, and good for about 40 swings each.
• Affordable.
• Nice carrying case.
• Well thought out package and design.

The sheets are very sturdy and definitely stand up to the impact from the club without tearing.  The divots are clear, although it can get harder to see your last impact if the sheet is already pretty marked up.  The company sells refill sheets that come in packs of 36.  They recommend using each sheet 30 to 40 times, which means a refill pack should last about 3 months.

It’s very easy to use, though I recommend putting it on a mat or carpet.  Do not the Divot Pad off hardwood floors or concrete.  The sheets stick to the Divot Board through some double sided tape.  It’s a piece of cake to take a sheet off and put a new one on. Then start swinging your irons and look at the divots.  The feedback is instantaneous and easy to understand.

It’s a great practice tool that can help sharpen up anyone’s game.

Check out DivotMat website for more information.

Review: Thumb Caddy – stop regripping the club

Thumb Caddy_New Single BoxThe Thumb Caddy is a clever golf training aid.  It’s main purpose is to help players stop regripping the golf club.  I know that I have been guilty of this in the past.

I’m not sure what causes the regrip, but I think in my case it was a quest for more distance.  I think that when I regripped, I felt like I could come into the ball faster.  What it created though was uncertainty and inconsistency.  How in the world can you hit the ball consistently if you’re changing your grip midway through the swing?

The thumb caddy is easy enough to slip on to the club.  You open it slightly and get the club into it near the hosel where the shaft is narrow.  You then slide it up toward and onto the grip.

Using it simple. The thumb on your upper hand goes into the Thumb Caddy and stays there nice and secure throughout your swing.  If you’re used to regripping, the sensation of having your thumb stay in the same place will feel a little strange.  Because your hands are your connection to the golf club, regripping mid swing can have major consequences on the flight of the ball and the consistency of your shots.

If regripping is an issue for you, give this device a shot.  They are sold individually and sets so that you can have one on every club.  Obviously you can’t use it during tournament rounds, but for practice, or practice rounds, the Thumb Caddy is an excellent little training aid.

Thumb Caddy Website.

Review: Project X Graphite Driver Shaft

PXgraphiteThe Project X Graphite shaft is designed to provide lower spin, longer carry and a laser guided trajectory.

I got a chance to review this because I won a Project X shaft in a twitter contest that the company had.  Once I won the contest, I needed to pick out which version I wanted sent to me.

I talked to a few friends in golf, asked their opinions, than headed out to the driving range at Sterling Farms Golf Course.  They have a beautiful trackman setup in their Callaway Fitting center.  I would highly recommend going there if you are near Stamford, CT.

I tried the 6.5 shaft in a number of heads and noticed a few things.

The trajectory at which the ball was being launched was perfect.  There was no ballooning, and the picture on the trackman was beautiful to look at.  I feel like I could go after it without worrying about big hooks.  Although it was at a 6.5 frequency, I didn’t feel boardy.  It was smooth, and it is a very stable shaft.  For higher swing speed players this is a great shaft that will kill spin, and result in better rollout and longer distance overall if fitted properly.  The better a swing I put on it, the better the shaft performed.

Review: Dura Launcher Practice System

DL1Hitting golf ball at your local range can be a frustrating experience.  Most ranges do not have adjustable height tees, and the ones that do offer it, may have other issues with the tees.  Typically in order to switch from hitting driver to you have to manually remove the tee, go find a smaller one and install it.  The driver tee may be at a different height than you are used to, and the fairway tee may be too high as well.  In short, you can’t hit balls off the tee at the height that you do on the course.

The Dura Launcher Practice System addresses this problem.  It consists of 2 pieces, a rubber base and a special tee.   The rubber base is designed to go into any golf mat as it is a standard size.  I have tested it on the Country Club Elite Mat as well as the Birdie Turf Mat.  It provides an adjustable height tee.

Adjusting the height of the tee is as simple as pulling up on it, or pushing down on it.  What could be simpler?

In practice it works very well.  I was able to easily adjust the tee height.  I could tee the driver high, or tee it low.  I could even tee it up a little bit for iron shots too.  The neat thing is that the way it’s designed, the tee won’t fly out of the base.  It is a very well thought out system.  Your level of adjustability though, depends on the thickness of the mat.  The CCE mat is a thick mat and so it allows the tee height tee be good for an iron, up to about a medium driver.  On the thinner Birdie Turf Mat it doesn’t work so well for irons or fairway woods, but it does allow for a low driver tee, up to a very high driver tee.

DL2The only concern I have about this tee is the durability.   I have seen a range that uses them and the tees themselves got very beat up but I’m not sure that they are designed for commercial use.  A strike with driver or irons tends to push the tee and after a few strikes, you may need to adjust the base unit.  Not a big issue for individuals who bring it with them and practice, but I can see how this could become an issue on the driving range.  Overall though, I think it is a good product for the targeted user.  If your driving range mats has replaceable tees and you are unhappy with how they function, this is a good solution for you.

Review: Trackman: The Game

On tour, PGA Tour players get to test equipment and practice with a trackman setup that gives them their launch conditions like club head speed, angle of attack, ballspeed etc.  Imagine being able to practice like a tour pro at your local range.  That and more is the promise of Trackman: The Game.

I feel that calling it Trackman: The Game, is a bit of a misnomer.  It is simply a great practice tool, although one of its best applications is the multiplayer games.  Above you can see my actual stats, ball flight and score for one short session of Trackman: The Game.  Click on each thumbnail to open a larger image.

How it works

The way it works is that you sign up for an account, typically at the driving range that has it.  In my case I went to the Tappan Golf Center in Tappan, NY.  You pay for a certain number of credits and that gives you an amount of time on the unit itself.  A touch screen at the driving range bay allows you to log in and start your session.  This screen provides all the vital information that you need as you begin using it and practicing.

The driving range has a number of trackman targets set up.  These are physical targets out on the range.  They were numbered 1-5 and were setup at various distances, typically in between club distances.  Target 1 was setup at 66 yards, target 2 at 94, target 3 at 115 etc.  This allows you to practice in a similar way to being on the golf course.  After all if you hit your 9 iron 135, how often will you have a shot that is exactly 135?  Probably not all that often. Partial irons are where you can really lower your scores.

Focused Practice

The best thing about that Trackman: The Game is focused practice at actual targets where you get actual distances to the pin.  Because you are hitting at actual targets and there is something on the line, even if it’s just your pride against a buddy, it gets you to focus in a similar way to being on the course.  Practicing this way I think can really lead to serious improvement.

Zen Chili Rating for Trackman: The Game

5 Zens out of 5

• Most effective driving range practice
• Provides an on course like atmosphere on the range
• Makes you feel like a tour pro

5 Chilis out of 5

• Easy to use user interface
• Fantastic online stat tracking
• Tracks virtually all statistics trackman is known for
• Easy to use and effective

To learn more about the rating system click here.

Games

You have a number of games that you can play.

18/18 – 18 holes in 18 minutes is the main game. Players hit 3 shots to each of the 5 TrackMan approach targets and finish up with 3 drives between the driving poles – now that’s a time efficient game of golf, not to mention a real test of skill!

18/18 Quick-Play allows players to randomly choose their shot sequence and targets. Players hit 18 shots at any of the five approach targets or any combination thereof – not including the driving zone. The game concludes once 18 shots have been played.

The 9 Shot Challenges focus players on a specific TrackMan target. Players hit 9 shots to a chosen target and their shot results are scored based on performance.

The 9 Drives Challenge is based on an imaginary fairway between the two white TrackMan driving poles. While the objective here is straight and long drives, being straight is rewarded more than being long!


Shot analysis and club comparison

In Single player mode you have the shot analysis and compare clubs options.  You can use this to get your launch statistics in order to get your distances with each club, figure out your gaps, and optimize your launch conditions.  I would imagine taking a demo driver and hitting it in comparison with my current driver to see the differences.  Although should not replace a true fitting session, it can provide a basis for comparison.

Online

Once you have completed your session you can go anywhere you have an internet connection and log into mytrackman.com.  There you can see the results of the games, club comparison and shot analysis, and take a detailed look at each and every shot.  This makes tracking your statistics a cinch.  The online component is phenomenal and for anyone who really wants to take a close look at their game, it is invaluable.  Your online account saves all of your sessions, so that you can see your improvement over time, or the effect that new clubs are having.

Conclusion

Trackman: The Game is the future of practice.  It makes the time spent at the driving range more focused and productive.  If you really want to improve your golf game, go and check it out.

Website: MyTrackman.com

Review: Aaron Baddeley: Putting from seeitgolf

Aaron Baddeley putting

Aaron Baddeley:Putting from seeitgolf is unlike any putting video you have seen. It is designed to replace the images of doubt and failure and replace them with success and confidence.

This video is intended to be used both in a 30 day training program as well as before rounds of golf. The idea is that by watching perfectly executed putts free of distractions you build in your mind solid images of success and visualization you can call upon on the golf course. It is intended to be viewed on a portable video player like an iPod, iPod touch, an iPhone or any other portable video player.

The putts are beautifully shot using 4 RED cameras. These cameras record at a very high resolution and are known for fantastic images.

Zen Chili Rating for Aaron Baddeley:  Putting

5 Zens out of 5

• Effective at helping the mind visualize and remove fear
• Unique way of filming removes all distractions

5 Chilis out of 5

• Beautiful production with Red Cameras
• Great musical score
• High production values
• Effectively enables the body to react to what the mind sees

To learn more about the rating system click here.

Along with pristine footage of the putts is a musical score that is designed to help ingrain the images and tempo into your brain and memory. The music is beautiful and easy to listen to.

All in all it is an impressive package. Although it is not your typical training aid for your physical technique, it is an excellent training aid for your mind. With repeated viewings I felt my putting visualization significantly improve.

When you listen to the best mental game coaches they emphasize visualization. The objective is to visualize so well and so congruently that your body reacts to what your mind sees. Instead of thinking about your technique, your stroke, you can use the mind to drive the body.

Using this product I did feel my powers of visualization improve. I could more clearly see the line that I wanted the putt to start on and I was able to do that more consistently.

The more you use it, the easier it is to visualize success. Now obviously this does not mean that you will make every putt, nor does the product promise that. I did make more putts, but more importantly I could see the lines better and imagine much more vividly the putts rolling into the cup.

This is an excellent product. If you have an iPod or iPhone definitely get the mobile version so that you can have wherever you go. If you don’t yet have a portable video player or would also like to experience this on your TV (very nice on a large flat panel display), then get the DVD version, which also includes the mobile versions.

The product is endorsed by renowned sports psychologist Dr. David Cook and short game/putting guru Stan Utley.

seeitgolf Website

Review: Launcher and Launcher II Tees

LauncherTees

Having used the Zero Friction Tees for many rounds last season I became a fan of the synthetic tee.  My problem with the Zero Friction Tees was that although they can last a while, in some respects they are flimsy.  An iron can easily decapitate one of them.  They are also hard to stick into hard ground.

I was excited to try the Launcher Tees. There are 4 models.  The original Launcher tee is designed for the driver, the Launcher II is also for the driver and provides repeatable ball height, the P3 is for iron and fairway wood tee shots, and the G4 is supposed to help hit the 4th groove on iron shots.

The main difference between the Launch and Laucher II and the P3 and G4 tees is the ability to have a repeatable ball height with them.  The Launcher Tees are built from a soft composite.  I found them to be very sturdy, easy to stick in the ground and stable.  The smaller surface area of the top f the tee can make it just a bit more difficult to get the ball on there and may cause issues in a strong wind.

Overall these are excellent tees and have become my new favorite.  It is difficult to verify their claim of increased distance.  Using these tees I have hit some very long drives, fairway woods and even irons, but whether it is the tee or not, is difficult to determine.  Bu it does feel as if the ball comes off hotter.  The tees should last a very long time and don’t seem to bend and get out of shape the same way that the Zero Friction tees do.

Overall these tees are an excellent value, and a pleasure to use.  The repeatable height and durability are excellent features.  If you do like to vary tee height on your drives then you should opt for the original launcher tees.

Launcher tee website.

Review: BirdieTurf

BirdieTurfIf you have been looking for a portable, quality golf mat solution the BirdieTurf could be your answer.  The system consists of two mats, a stand mat with a rubber surface and a grass mat.  Recently they changed the product so that you received two mats with the grass surface.  This review is about the first version, but the important thing is the quality of the hitting surface.

Range Mat Comparison

So how does this mat compare to range mats.  There are few different types of range mats depending on the type of range.  Some ranges have very thin hard mats.  Those are the harshest on the body.  Most public driving ranges that I have been to have a thicker harder mat with little give, but are a step above the thin mats.  With those two types of mats, they are often so hard they provide little realistic feedback.  A shot hit fat could easily appear to be a quality shot because of the way the club bounces of the mat and into the ball.  Those mats don’t allow you to hit down and through the ball and if you have a digger type swing that normally takes a divot, those mats can end up causing you pain in your wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

The nicest range mats have a softer grass surface that feels more natural and allows you to hit down and through the ball.  Those mats are pretty rare at commercial driving ranges.  I have seen these only at a prestigious private golf club.  The mats there really do feel like hitting of a lush fairway, they allow you to hit down and through the ball, they give you realistic feedback, and you can put a tee anywhere you want.

The BirdieTurf feel is somewhere between the nicer range mat, and the private club mat described above.  Although it does not really let you hit down and through the ball it does feel soft on the wrists, elbows and shoulders.  It is a higher quality mat than you will find at most commercial driving ranges.

The BirdieTurf is very portable and solidly built.  Each half of the two piece system measures 32” by 22” and weighs 19 lbs.  It will not slide during swings.  Each mat also has a heavy duty carrying handle, making them ideal for a backyard driving range, or even taking to your local park with a sleeve of birdie balls.

Zen Chili Rating for  BirdieTurf

3 Zens out of 5

• Soft mat means less for fear of injury
• Practice anywhere, especially with BirdieBalls
• Easy on the wallet

5 Chilis out of 5

• Solid Construction
• Good feel and feedback
•Soft grass surface
• Will not slide
• Great for full swing, and chipping

To learn more about the rating system click here.

The mats come with a heavy duty universal tee that holds any type of normal tee.  I would suggest using a plastic tee like a zero friction tee if you are going to hit drives off this mat as the tee holder has a solid bottom and a wooden tee could break, leaving the wooden part embedded in the holder with no chance of getting it out.  Plastic tees are less likely to break like that.  The tee that comes with the mat is removable and you can replace it with your own rubber tees or even something like the DuraTee.

High Quality Mat, excellent value

Overall this is an excellent mat system for the price.  It has a soft feeling surface that won’t injure you the way most commercial range mats do.  It is portable, so you can take it anywhere and work on your game.  You could even take it to your local range to hit off a better surface if you don’t like the mats they have.  While it doesn’t have quite the feel of the mats that allow you to hit down and through, it is surprisingly close.  Even when I went after it with a steep swing, the mat felt softer and had more give than your traditional range mat.

BirdieTurf product description at the BirdieBall website.

Review: Taly Mind Set

TalyWhitesmall

Update: A new DVD is available with the Taly Mindset.  Read more about that here.

The Taly Mind (Taly) set surprised me.  When I first opened the package and pulled out the training aid, the pamphlet, advertising post card, and a whiffle ball I was excited to start using it.  However when I read the instructions I found them a bit wordy and overly technical.  I think the average golfer would greatly served with a clearer guide or even a DVD to help them get started using the device.

Taly Williams, the inventor is an engineer and it shows in that document.   I was a bit confused about what it was designed for because there is so much information packed into one page.  So I went to talk to a PGA pro about this device and the way he described it made all the pieces fall into place.

The most obvious use of the device is in helping a golfer to stop flipping the club at or before impact.  This common fault causes golfers to hit weak shots to the right.  When a golfer executes this distance robbing move, what they are actually doing is adding loft to the club, and opening the face.  The end is result is weak hit that flies higher than it should, and slices right.

Zen Chili Rating for The Taly Mind Set

4 Zens out of 5

• Helps instill solid movements and perform them when the device is not being word
• Activates the mind’s eye to lead the body
• Useful in preparation for tournament use as a point of focus, to reduce pressure, and to help a golfer get into the zone.
• Documentation too technical, should come with a DVD

5 Chilis out of 5

• Well constructed, should last for years
• USGA approved to be carried on the bag during tournament play, but can’t be used during such play
• Comes in 3 colors, red, black and white
• Does not constrain the golf swing
• Useful for full swing, sand game, chipping and putting

To learn more about the rating system click here.

How does the Taly Mind Set help?

By slightly extending the red ball the golfer can immediately see a flip occur because the shaft of the golf club will cross the shaft of the Taly.  The bright red ball serves as a very visible reference point.  The more the golfer can prevent the two shafts from crossing, the better the impact position will be.  Once I understood that this was one of the main goals of the Taly, the value of the device became clear.

For the average golfer who flips the club, it is worth getting the Taly to fix this dreaded flaw.  However as I have used the Taly more and more new applications came into focus for me.

One of the interesting things about using the device is that the little red ball really does become ingrained in your mental imagery of the swing.  When you are not wearing the Taly, you can still clearly imagine where the red ball would be.

I use the device to help generate lag and keep my downswing slightly underplane.  Imagine Sergio Garcia’s swing from a down the line view, as if you are standing directly behind him, watching him hit a ball at a target that is in front of you, a few hundred yards away.  The great thing about this device is that no matter what move you are trying to ingrain, if you start to see how the red ball moves, it becomes a move you can duplicate very quickly, as if it has become etched into your mind’s eye.

For me, it’s working on my version of Sergio Garica type lag.  As Sergio takes the club back he reaches the top of his swing.  He then executes his famous move where the club lays off just a bit, and he allows the lag to happen.  This move is the polar opposite of what most amateur golfers do.  Most amateur golfers, especially those who have problems slicing the ball, typically come down over the top, cut across the ball with a flipped club head and wonder why they can’t hit a straight shot or a draw.

This is a move that I’ve been working on for months.  Within minutes using the Taly, it had become a part of my swing, rather than something I was just working on. Watching the Talynt point  (the little red ball) quickly grooved the move.  I took the Taly off and to my amazement I was able to clearly see the little red ball in my mind’s eye and swing after swing, repeat it perfectly.

I used video to record the swings both with the Taly and without it and I was really impressed by how the Taly Mind Set helped me to visualize and execute this move.

No physical restrictions:

TALY_MIND_Sets_-_Impact_Position_200

The Taly helps to accomplish all of this without restricting the player’s movements.  The most restrictive device I have reviewed is the Swing Jacket which obviously restricts the player into making correct moves.  The Taly is different though.  By visualizing the Talynt point it is possible to reproduce those moves that you have been working on.  This is the first training aid I have used that so clearly has an impact when it’s not being worn, because your memory and mind’s eye can easily recall those movements.

I have also found it useful for chipping and putting.  During my putting practice it helped me achieve a really solid feeling putting stroke.  I’m very excited about continued use of the Taly and plan to integrate into my regular practices.

For more go to: Taly Website

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Review: Tour Striker Pro

According to the website for the Tour Striker:

Finally! A simple training club that intuitively promotes the essentials of Tour quality club head to ball impact!

One percent of golfers strike golf balls correctly. The Tour Striker and Tour Striker Pro training clubs will intuitively help you understand leverage and how to apply the club head to the golf ball in the same manner as the best players in the world. You will gain command of the elusive skills required to compress a golf ball. Best of all, this is not a temporary solution!

Allow the creative golfer inside you to enjoy the game once and for all. You can learn how to have world-class impact conditions and strike golf balls purely, accurately and with great control.

Tour Striker Models

The Tour Striker Pro is the pro version of the Tour Striker, a training aid designed to teach a player to hit the ball with a forward shaft lean and the hands ahead.

Pro Vs Regular Tour Striker
Pro Vs Regular Tour Striker

Here’s the tour striker compared to a regular iron.

Tour Striker vs an iron
Tour Striker vs an iron

Side view of the tour strikers:

Tour Striker Side View
Tour Striker Side View

Photo source: www.tourstriker.com

The only way to get the ball up in the air hitting this club is to have a forward leaning shaft at impact.  If the shaft is straight up and down or leaning away from the target at impact, the ball will fly very low or simply roll on the ground.

Using it on the Right Surface

It is very important that when practicing with the tour striker you are on either very firm closely mown turf or a hard mat.  In fact the best test for your ball striking abilities with the tour striker come when using a lie board.

If you attempt to use the tour striker on fluffy grass or a very soft mat like the Country Club Elite (CCE) mats that allow you to hit down and through the ball you will negate the benefits of the tour striker as the soft grass or mat will allow you dig in to ground and hit a decent shot without the forward lean of the shaft.

I can use Range Mats again (but only for this)

One of the interesting results for me of using the Tour Striker Pro is that using this club actually gives me an incentive to use the hard mats at the range near me.  If you read this blog you know that I am not a fan of range mats.

For normal iron practice I intend to continue to use my CCE mat as that simulates a lush fairway and gives me great feedback on the quality of the strike, but for working on the shaft lean and hands forward at impact I can use the range mats, but only with the Tour Striker.

Once you are on the correct surface the Tour Striker shows its true value.  I consider myself a pretty good ball striker.  Over the past few months as it has gotten colder in the northeast I have not only kept my distances the same in the colder temperatures but have actually increased them as my technique has improved.

Still, the tour striker showed me that I had some work to do with the shaft lean as I hit a number of low worm burners with it.  However, the majority of shots I hit with it were fairly acceptable with a few exceptional ones.

During my practice sessions I alternated using the Tour Striker Pro and my irons and the feedback was great.  My iron playhas improved over the past few months, and I think continued and regular use of the Tour Striker will take it to new levels.

The quality is product is excellent.  It appears to be manufactured to pretty high standards.

I consider the Tour Striker Pro to be a valuable addition to my practice toolset.

Which Tour Striker to Get

“The Regular Tour Striker is targeted for mid-to-high handicap golfers and slower swing speeds (under 90 mph with driver), while the Tour Striker Pro is geared for dedicated practicers with higher swing speeds. We also offer a Tour Striker for women and younger players who wish to improve their game.”

I agree with this description.  If you are mid to high handicapper you will struggle with the Tour Striker Pro.  For the lower handicap players the Pro model adds the right amount of challenge.  The leading edge of the club does look pretty high.  It is a pretty cool and rewarding sensation to see this high leading edge hit a nice high soft shot that carries forever.

On the range I introduced a friend of mine to the Tour Striker and watched him hit a few balls.  It very quickly forced him to make a few adjustments but then he started hitting some great shots.  When he went back to hitting his own irons I could see that the adjustments had carried over and he hit the ball on a better trajectory with a slightly more penetrating ball flight.

If you have a flippy swing where you try and scoop the ball to get it in the air, the Tour Striker will definitely help you to change that.  Be prepared for a bit of frustration as you make the adjustment but the end result will be worth it.

Take a look at the slow motion shot below.  You will see a very nice iron strike.  The shaft is leaning a bit forward, the clubhead hits the ball first, then the ground.  A phrase I was told to remember this was “Hit the little ball (the golf ball), before the big ball (the earth)”.

Website: www.tourstriker.com

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