|The SKLZ Putting Gate is designed to give you a square putter face at impact. (Courtesy of SKLZ)|
Putting aids always make me a little nervous. They can make a simple stroke too complicated, and when the aid reveals stroke flaws, it can destroy your confidence on the green. You begin thinking too much about your stroke and not enough about just putting the dang ball in the hole.
Practicing your putting stroke often leads to a few steps back to make that leap forward.
I was sent four of SKLZ's six putting aids to test, and after putting with these aids in my living room for a couple weeks, I took a golf trip to the Canadian Rockies to see if my stroke had improved.
The first round right off the plane, my putting, especially my distance control, was atrocious. I think I was a victim of thinking too much. That said, the next few rounds I was dropping putts from all over the yard, practically automatic from 8-10 feet (including some long bombs), and I've got witnesses to prove it.
With my driver a little off all week, my putter saved my scorecard. Here's a look at the four aids I've been testing this summer, listed from favorite to least favorite.
The SKLZ Putting Gate ($24.99) consists of two wood blocks on Velcro you can adjust to size. A straight stroke through the gate is required for your putter not to hit the blocks. The two-ball aid promotes a straight putter face at impact, or they will veer to the left or right, whichever ball was struck first.
Likes: The putting gate's two golf balls give tremendous feedback on how solidly and squarely you hit the putt. And the gate makes you really focus on a straight path through the ball.
Dislikes: It's a little tough to set up the balls perfectly on the gate. I wish I could do it faster. Often I found myself just hitting the attached balls with no gate at all.
The SKLZ Refiner Putter ($39.99) has an adjustable hinge on the putting shaft. The most obvious comparison is that it's like the Medicus training aid but for your putting stroke. With the Refiner, you can set the hinge to be either forgiving or difficult without breaking the hinge.
Likes: The Refiner promotes a steady tempo using as few body parts as possible.
Dislikes: I'm not sure the yellow aiming bar needs to be there. Also, the Refiner is a very different putter compared to my Odyssey Dual Force Rossie II in length, lie and head look. So I wasn't sure how much I was repeating the same swing with my actual putter.
The SKLZ Putting Plane ($29.99) is a board that promotes a perfect putting plane and alignment with your putter head. Set your inside putter edge up to the board and take a stroke with the putter, gently touching it at all times. On the board, there are four slots behind the ball and in front. With these holes, you insert tees based on how long of a stroke you want to take (based on how far of a putt you're going to hit). This can help with distance control. You can use the Putting Plane with a ball or without a ball.
Likes: The Putting Plane is simple and effective in schooling your stroke to putt on a straight path back and through the ball.
Dislikes: I found myself often decelerating through my stroke.
The Putt Pocket ($9.99) has several uses, but the best is teaching you how to read greens properly by showing you that the center of the cup depends on the break of the green. Just take it to a putting green and insert it into the cup and you'll adjust the opening based on where the line leads the ball into the hole.
I didn't use this aid all that much on the greens because I already envision my line into the high side when lining up putts. But the Putt Pocket does serve as a very useful putting target in my office and living room - better than my dog's feet.
For more information, see www.SKLZ.com.
August 10, 2009
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.