For your game: Alignment sticks
Monday, December 21, 2009
They’re popping up all over the golf world. They’re 4 feet long, very thin, brightly colored and made of fiberglass. They extend out of the bags of almost all pros and college golfers.
They’re alignment sticks, and much more. Swing guides, plane indicators and targets. Serious golfers keep finding new uses for these simple tools.
Instructor Shawn Humphries lays them on the ground for alignment and direction, sticks the sharp end into the turf so they serve as guides for swing plane or clubhead path, attaches them to the clothing of golfers (mostly through belt loops) to help indicate level or square address positions, and even uses them for chipping and putting drills.
“I probably use them 15 different ways,” said Humphries, based at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. “I use up to four at a time. One of the simplest things I do is set them up almost like a goal post, to help somebody start the ball toward the target. I put two of them in the ground, about 12 inches apart and about 20 feet in front of the student.
“They clearly indicate the intended line, and they are great for learning how to shape the ball. I never want a student to forget about where the target is.”
Humphries said he has been using the sticks for about 10 years, initially buying them at hardware stores. In reality, they were driveway markers, and slowly they made their way into golf.
Shane Carlisle, a 38-year-old Australian accountant who came to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a touring professional, began noticing the driveway markers in the bags of American golfers.
So Carlisle started a company, Tour Sticks, early in 2009. In less than a year, Tour Sticks, headquartered in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, has grown into a primary manufacturer and supplier of alignment sticks.
“I kept seeing these yellow and orange sticks,” Carlisle said, “so I started hunting for them in golf shops. After about 15 golf shops with no success, somebody told me to try a hardware store.”
That’s how Tour Sticks was born, and it grew rapidly. Today, golfers can buy them in a variety of retail shops and stores. The price usually is $14.95 for two sticks, and they are offered in five colors.
Each set of two Tour Sticks comes in a tube with an instruction sheet.
Carlisle quickly capitalized on the demand for the alignment sticks. He offers the sticks with custom logos, and his first big sale was to the HP Byron Nelson Championship as a tee gift for pro-am players. Edwin Watts Golf became the first major retail chain to stock Tour Sticks and soon was followed by PGA Tour Superstores.
“We have gone through a large quantity in a short period of time,” said Lee Wilson, hard-goods manager for the PGA Tour Superstore in Kennesaw, Ga. “All the feedback is positive. We’re always looking for products that will connect with our customers, and these have done it.”
At Wilson’s PGA Tour Superstore, the Tour Sticks are located on the main aisle, in front of the simulators that are used for fitting and teaching. Each bay also has a supply of Tour Sticks to be used by instructors.
Many touring professionals use alignment sticks, including Phil Mickelson, who is featured in a video on Tour Sticks’ Web site (www.toursticks.com).
“What in the world is this stick?” asks Mickelson, who then explains its use. “I always travel with this. It also makes a great little headcover holder when I’m teeing off.”
At the busy Stadium Golf Center in San Diego, PGA professional Monty Leong called Tour Sticks his “best-selling teaching aid” and praised it as “simple, convenient and easy to use.”
At Cowboys Golf Club, Humphries often uses the sticks to focus on swing plane.
“You need a reference point as to where your plane is at impact,” Humphries said.
“I insert a stick in the ground just left of the golf ball. When you return the golf club, it should be at that same angle. Most people are too steep coming into impact. The handle gets high, the toe drags and this opens the face. So we use the sticks all the time to focus on the correct plane.”