Written By: Dave Wolfe
Seeing is Believing
There is a pretty good chance that you are a visual learner. The last time I did some research into educational methodology, students who learned best through visual input made up about 65% of the standard classroom, with the auditory and kinesthetic learners combining to make up the other 35%.
Those who thrive on visual content definitely have an advantage too since 90% of the information that enters our brain is visual, with 40% of all nerve fibers connected to the brain coming from the retina. We are definitely visual beings. Perhaps that explains our seemingly universal fear of the dark. That anxiety seems justified after getting cut off from our main sensory source. Plus, we know that the dark hides monsters...
Congratulations to Our Winner
You just won the Laser Putt
We rely upon our eyes to help us process the world around us, with our binocular, facing-front eyes really helping us to align ourselves in our three dimensional world, additionally assisting us with perception of depth. That is, until we decide to take up golf.
I don't think that it is a novel declaration when I say that alignment is important in golf. We can even ignore ones physical posture alignment issues, and focus upon how miss-aligning to the target creates issues in targeting and even swing mechanics. This is true for the full swing as well as the putting stroke. As an eyes front creature, our perception of the world gets a bit distorted when we turn 90° from the target.
Let's focus on the putting green. We all have a pretty solid gauge of distance and line when we face the target, but when we turn sideways and address the ball we lose some of that orientation. Many of us have tried to use the line on the ball to aim our putts at the target, only to feel that our aiming must have been wrong once we turn and address the ball. It's natural to feel this way and it speaks to the frequent contradictions (hit down to make the ball go up) found in our golf mechanics. Basically, our eyes are set in such a way that we are better suited for beer pong than putting.
So what do we do to be sure that we are processing visual information accurately on the course?
The simple answer is visual aids. The line on the ball is one visual aid, as are the various alignment aids on your putter. We look for visual clues on the putter that will help us be confident that we are correctly aligned to target. Think about the hoopla about Cleveland's new Square-ball putter. In my interpretation, their design is all about how squares are more conducive to correct alignment than balls. For some golfers, I bet squares will be. Different alignment and design components on a putter impact aiming differently for different people. I am sure if you had a chat with putter maker David Edel he could talk at length about visual clues and aligning your putter.
Can We Train our Eyes To See Better?
We have all been there, standing over a putt, questioning our alignment. What if there was a way to be sure that where you think you are aiming and where you are actually aiming are the same thing? You could drop a chalk line, or run an elevated string, but both of those techniques alter the putting environment and create visual crutches that do not directly reflect the dynamics of our swinging club. The line and the string end up being a just another part of the topography.
What we really need is a way to have a "chalk line" or "string line" visual aiming and alignment aid correlate with the position of our swinging club. At the same time, we need the line or string not to physically interact with the club or the ball. What we need is a laser.
What we need is Laser Putt.
Laser Putt represents a different take on the new category of high tech putting trainers. Most of those trainers have a sensor that attaches to your club, and then the data is recored on your smart phone, necessitating a lag between the stroke and the feedback about the stroke.
Laser Putt gives you immediate visual feedback; before, during, and after the stroke. Check out this overview video, showing what Laser Putt is all about:
I was very impressed when I saw that intro video. But hey, I'm a sucker for lasers in general. I dove a little deeper into the Laser Putt site and watched the longer instructional videos as well. The Laser Putt really seemed to be a training aid that could help golfers with their putting alignment issues, as well as one that could provide immediate feedback about stroke mechanics. The Laser Putt definitely warranted further exploration.
Ease of Use
The Laser Putt is a high tech training aid. Remember, it has lasers. However, it is not complicated to use. The lightweight unit easily attaches under the putter grip with a simple clamp and tension knob closure. One of the potential issues with any alignment aid is how easy is it to actually align it with the putter. Unlike the iPing cradle and some of the other mount-to-club sensors, the Laser Putt can be easily adjusted after mounting to be sure that it is correctly aligned. Above the clamp, the laser unit is attached by a ball and socket type joint. This allows you to change to orientation of the laser by moving the head of the unit while keeping the clamp attached. Laser Putt is easy to get aligned correctly.
The unit has a total of two buttons, one for the green laser line, and the other for the red laser pointer. Both of them have auto shutoff features to save battery life, but they do not shut off so frequently that it becomes bothersome.
Laser Putt also includes a vinyl template that is used for some of the drills. One of the cool features of this tool is that it has copies of the drill instructions printed upon it. You don't need to find the manual to remember what you are supposed to do. You roll out the guide, and then look down.
Although the Laser Putt website is not part of the product package, it does contribute to the ease of use category. Laser Putt definitely put some time into the site prior to launching the unit. They give you explanations of the drills, along with very detailed videos about how to use the device. It's obvious that they want you to use the Laser Putt correctly, effectively, and with ease.
There are really two main components to the Laser Putt drills: Alignment and Distance Control
One of the greatest thing about this drill series is that it can be done in the comfort of your own home. You don't even need a practice green, or even a ball. After you attach the Laser Putt and make sure that it is squared to your putter, you just need to swing it over the Alignment and Calibration Guide. If you have watched the video, you have witnessed the general procedure for this drill.
If you didn't watch the video, what you are doing in this series of exercises is using the green laser line to groove your path, making sure that you are square to the target line, and the ball, through the critical hitting zone on the guide. Be yours a straight stroke or arcing stroke, the green laser allows you to track your progress through the process. There are additional drills to be sure that your stroke is balanced overall.
For me, the alignment drill identified a new found tendency to roll the face shut through impact. I was practicing on my green in my garage, missing almost everything with a bend left immediately before the cup. I even got out the level to see if the garage floor sloped that way. Nope on that slope.
A little bit of green laser time and it was obvious manipulating the head and adding draw to the ball. Visually, it was very easy to tell when I made this error, or not. The immediate feedback was very helpful. Moreover, after practicing with the Laser Putt, I could really feel the fixed stroke's presence on the course. While some of the content in Laser Putt's third instructional video on Laser-In-The-Hole-Confidence gets a little sappy for me, the reps with the green laser off the course did pay dividends on the course. Admittedly, I felt more confident putting.
Distance Control Practice
You may remember that back in my article about Vacation Lessons at Kapalua, one of my putting lessons centered upon knowing how distance of backswing equates to distance of putt. We focused on 20" backswings and gauged distance from there. I liked the idea, but my stroke felt awkward when I tried to line it up with the yardstick on the turf. The green and red laser combo for this drill is fantastic.
All you need do is twist the Laser Putt until the red laser is in front of the ball 10", make your backswing, then when the laser hits the back of the ball, swing forward and hit the ball. No numbers. No yard sticks. Instead you have a bright visual cue telling you that you have gone 10" so hit the ball now. I have typically resisted the change the backstroke length to change the putt distance putting methodology. I admit it, I'm one of those putt by feel guys for distance. I think that one reason for this is that before using the Laser Putt, I didn't have a way to really visualize the length of the backswing. Laser Putt makes it easy.
It has been a fun testing process to see just how far a 10" putt swing equates to distance wise once we start varying slope and stimp. This does represent a potential putting mechanics overhaul for me, but I think that I could be successful switching to this kind of distance system by using Laser Putt.
The Issue of Daylight
There is one elephant in the room that must be addressed with the Laser Putt and that is how it performs in full sun. Very simply, it doesn't perform well. The hard fact is that under bright conditions, the lasers of the Laser Putt get washed out by the ambient light. The people at Laser Putt know this, and in no way do they try to hide it. They suggest using it indoors, on overcast days, at dusk, and at other less than full sun times. It's a limitation of the technology and the rules about laser usage. I addressed this concern to Laser Putt and this was the reply:
We installed a 635nm wavelength Red laser, which is more expensive than the standard 650nm red laser used in most other products -- the technical specs are that it has nearly 2-times the brightness efficacy.We have done everything we can, within legal restrictions, to make the Laser Putt as strong and bright as possible.
We can also look at using the Laser Putt this way:
- Morning Time: Excellent Visibility
- Indoors: Excellent Visibility
- Overcast Days: Excellent Visibility
- Twilight/Evening: Excellent Visibility
- Darkness: Truly Amazing Visibility
- Strong Sunlight: No Visibility
The take home lesson on when to use the Laser Putt is anytime that it is not super bright where you are putting. Did you notice that I put darkness as one of the conditions? In general, lasers are never more fun than at night.
I was in my garage practicing on the artificial green and I decided to turn the lights out to see what the lasers looked like. Super bright. So I tried the drills without the ball. The laser totally illuminates the alignment and calibration guide enough so you can see it in the dark. Then I ditched that plan and started putting balls, while still in the dark. All I really focused on was the lasers and the sound of the ball hitting the cup, or not. Again, it was a very powerful visual image. I loved using it in the dark. However, I make no claims for this being bad for your eyes or not. Eye doctor I am not...
I always equate longevity in a couple of ways with things like this. First, will the product last? Although we are dealing with potentially delicate electronics here, I get the feeling that the Laser Putt should hold up to normal usage. Think of it like your cell phone. If you do bad things to it, it will break. If you take care of it though, it will hold up for quite a while.
The Laser Putt designers have definitely put some thought into its design, and I think that too bodes well for it lasting. They specifically used a lighter weight plastic for the housing so that the impact of attaching the unit to the club would be minimized. For all of the coolness of the iPing app and cradle, there is no way that my putter feels the same with a heavy iPhone attached to it. The design of Laser Putt is well thought out, and I would be shocked if durability was not part of the design conversation. They do offer replacement or repair for the first 90 days should anything go wrong other than you being a brute with it.
The other part of longevity is usage. You have one, but will you break it out and use it? I think that the indoor, ball-free usage helps in this area. Soon, many of you will be racking the golf bag for winter. This little unit may be just the thing to keep your golf spirits up through the dark winter months. If all of your putting practice comes in the sunny outdoors on your lunch break, this unit is not going to help you much. However, if you hit the green after work, you could definitely be using this on an every session basis. I see myself using the Laser Putt as a part of my putting practice regiment as a way to fight the blahs of overcast winter days.
Laser Putt currently costs $109 (+shipping). That is a special discounted launch price down from the normal $157 MSRP. It has lasers; it's going to have some cost associated with it. Is it expensive relative to other training aids out there? Not really, especially if you compare it to the traditional putting aid, consisting of a mirror and some tees, some of those low tech options will set you back a c-note. The price gets more competitive when you compare it to the new crop of high-tech sensors and devices out there.
Some of you will be immediately turned off by the price. I get that. You will probably leave a comment below about how its too expensive, and how you could do the same thing with two pencils, a stick of gum, and a dental mirror. Awesome. Bully to you.
In all fairness, I'm a little gun shy about pulling the trigger on any purchase from a new company. Things that give me confidence in Laser Putt as a company though are the quick and open communications about the product, the comprehensive website that was up and working at product launch, and the quality of the associated videos. If you putt with it on a daily basis for a year, it comes down to about a quarter a session. What's the value then? After two years?
You can also take some fiscal solace in the fact that Laser Putt runs on two AAA batteries.
For me, the Laser Putt represents nearly everything that I would want in a training aid for putting. It gives you immediate visual feedback and can be used to address multiple swing issues that are faced by the majority of golfers. I think that it is very possible that after spending some time with the Laser Putt, you will figure out even more putting applications for the device. Can you use it in direct sunlight? Nope, but there are quite a few conditions when it works just fine. The strong visual signal that is associated with the putter, rather than the putting surface makes the Laser Putt unique in the market. Plus it has lasers, and that is just super cool.
Congratulations to Our Winner
You just won the Laser Putt