Golf isn’t lacking for things you can spend money on. Spending well is another story, especially if the objective is to actually play better. Hence the challenge we put before Golf Digest editors: identify the best way golfers could invest in their game this season—at price points ranging from bargain basement to top-of-the-line. Whatever your budget, you’re likely to find a worthwhile option.
Hank Haney once told us that just by making 100 swings each day in your living room or office, you’d improve your game. We’re all for that, but we also know it’s a lot more fun to actually hit something when you’re swinging. That’s where these practice balls come in. Even if it’s tough to get the course or range every day, a backyard (or open space near you house) is perfect for hitting these practice balls around. They don’t fly far and are far less likely to break a window.
The spikes on golf shoes provide traction on the golf course, but not if they’re totally worn down. And if you’re not paying attention, you could be playing on nubs that are far from what you originally purchased. This affects how connected you are to the ground during your swing, which can cause problems with balance and stability. It’s tough to put a number on how many rounds you should play before changing your spikes, but swapping them out each new season is a good place to start. Most sets of new spikes cost around $15, and you can buy the wrench to take out your old spikes and put in the new ones for $5.
You’ve probably seen rain gloves in a pro shop and thought, Are these things really worth it? The answer is yes. If you’re playing in the rain with a normal leather golf glove, you risk losing control of your club or gripping it too tightly, which could also mess with your swing. Rain gloves, however, are made of a quick-drying knit material that provide a better grip in wet conditions, including extreme humidity. Buy a pair and keep them in your bag so the next time dark clouds roll over your round.
One-on-one lessons with a teacher can be intimidating and potentially pricier than you’re looking for, which is why group-lesson offerings are often a welcome alternative. One low-pressure place to find beginner group lessons is at Topgolf. The groups are up to six people and the lessons last one hour. But Topgolf is hardly the only place that has group lessons – ask your local course what they offer.
This training aid will make you better at those must-make three to five footers. If you hit your putt squarely online, the ball will roll up the arc and back down the same distance it would’ve rolled out past the hole. The more squarely it rolls back to you, the better roll you’re putt on the ball. An added challenge is to pop out the piece behind the ball-sized hole in the middle of the ramp. Try to get your ball to roll up and and stay in the hole. It’ll make you a better putter because it makes it easy to practice more, and the repetition will help build your confidence.
You’re not going to really see results from practicing until you implement focused practice. And a chipping net can help. It forces you to hone in on a target instead of just aimlessly hitting balls; it also gives you the opportunity to practice in your yard. Practicing with a specific target and goal in mind will help simulate what it’s like to hit chips on the course, making it easier to convert those shots when you’re out playing.
What sets Golf Digest All Access apart from standard video instruction is depth and detail. This isn’t a depository of tips. These are full game-improvement programs created by the best instructors in the world— step-by-step lessons that you can access whenever and wherever you want. Plus you can stream live lessons, and get a detailed analysis of your swing from PGA pros all year long. All of this for less than you’d spend on an hour lesson.
For whatever reason, be it time, cost, skepticism or all of the above, many golfers put off getting fit for their clubs. That’s an epic mistake for anyone that wants to play their best. Yes, you’re putting out a decent amount of money (between $100 to $300_ depending on the extent, but it’s money wisely spent. Those wanting to dip their toe in the water might opt for a driver or putter fitting. With the driver it should involve a launch monitor that will look at things such as launch angle, spin rate, clubhead speed, ball speed and sidespin and could bring you up to 20 extra yards. With a putter fitting, technologies such as SAM Putt Lab can get you into the proper length, lie angle, alignment aid and toe hang (or lack thereof)—all of which are critical elements of good putting. More intense is an iron fitting. Irons are your precision clubs and there are more variables, including length, lie angle and sole for turf interaction. And for those who want to be confident in all their clubs, a top-of-the-line, multi-hour full-bag fitting is one of the most thorough (yet efficient) ways to take your game to the next level. Such a fitting drills down to specifics of every aspect of your equipment, including the ball that you should be playing, and will utilize technologies (launch monitors, video analysis) relied on by tour professionals. Of course, the likely recommendation is going to include some new sticks, so be prepared for the cost of that. The good news is most fitters will deduct the cost of the fitting from the purchase. You can find a fitter near you using Golf Digest’s Directory of America’s Best Clubfitters.
Don’t want to purchase new clubs, but still looking for that “new club feel?” Regripping your clubs goes for about $3 per club at a retail store like Golf Galaxy, and new grips from a top company like Golf Pride or Winn go for about $6 per club. In other words, for less than buying one club, you can have a full set of new-feeling clubs to start the year.
What’s the best way to groove the right sequence for your downswing? The Orange Whip Wedge uses a super-flexible shaft and heavy head to ingrain the proper motion, and it even lets you hit balls as you train. Top instructors endorse it, and it’s one of our Golf Digest Editors’ Choice award winners for 2018.
Nowadays, you don’t need thousands of dollars to access tour-level swing data. BlastMotion’s 3-D motion-capture sensor system won’t break the bank and will provide valuable info to improve your game. Sensors for putting and full-swing shots allow users to evaluate data such as swing speed, spin rate and tempo—so you can understand your swing data in real time.
GPS devices and rangefinders continue to offer the latest technology in small packages. But not everybody is looking for the fancy features. The Approach X10 aims to keep golf as the centerpoint of your wrist game. It comes with 41,000 preloaded courses on a slim, barely-know-it’s-there band design in matte black or bolt blue.
Improvement starts with understanding your game, and Arccos can help you determine where you need the most help. The complete, 13-club system includes lightweight sensors that go into the butt end of each grip, and compiles data on every shot you hit. Reviewing your round afterward on the Arccos app makes it obvious where your improvement should be focused. It also might be a hit to your ego to understand that, even though your Handicap Index is an 8, you might be a 20 out of the bunker. The truth hurts.
You get more exercise walking than riding in a golf cart, but your back isn’t up for the long haul of 18 holes. A pushcart like the Blade is perfect solution. It folds flatter than any of Big Max’s previous versions, down to a slim five inches high. This, coupled with the fact that it weighs less than 15 pounds, makes it easier to transport and store.
$375: Three 1-hour Lessons
The cost and benefit of taking lessons with a golf professional can vary drastically by location and person. Three lessons with an instructor that suits your learning style and needs can truly turn your game around. Do your homework and find a teacher that fits your budget, is accessible, and has a good track record. Also, decide if you’re looking for a teacher that is more technical and analytical or one that teaches based on feel and visualization. Of course, it’s going to cost more to work with the top teachers in the game—the average price for an hour lesson with one of Golf Digests’ 50 Best Teachers in America is $285 per hour, while a lesson with Golf Digest Best Young Teacher will run you about $175 an hour.
For those who want the simulator experience but can’t write a check for five figures, there are options. Skytrak delivers the essentials (i.e. launch data and ball flight) you’d want from a simulator. It also lets users play 18 holes on courses like Oakmont and Bethpage Black or participate in various practice modes with the purchase of an additional simulation package. It connects wirelessly to any iPad, PC or TV, and is portable to let you work on your game on the go.
$35,000: GOLFZON Vision simulator
If you got the cash for this bad boy, the best simulator on the luxury end of the spectrum is the GOLFZON Vision. Rather than a standard mat, a user can replicate various course conditions like fairway, rough or sand positions on a moving swing plate. This plate gives the user the ability to contour and undulate, producing the type of terrain that’s encountered on the course. The system’s sensors capture your swing, impact and spin, not only displaying your ball flight but recording key data points, which are stored via the cloud on various electronic devices. Better yet, the Vision’s visual artistry is unmatched, illustrating your trajectory against the backdrop of more than 160 elegant venues like St. Andrews, Pebble Beach, Kiawah Island and Turnberry. The starting package runs around $35,000, but various add-ons can bring it up to $60,000.