SKLZ Ball-First Trainer Review

SKLZ Ball First Trainer


How much do you hate hitting off golf mats?

I knew most people had some hatred towards them, but when I saw this thread started by Golfspy Dave, I found out just how much.  Unfortunately, mats are unavoidable for most people, particularly for those of us who need to go to indoor facilities during the winter months.  So, if you’re someone who is forced to use a mat, would you be interested in a training aid that made mat-based practice a bit more useful?  I’m glad, because I’ve got one for you: SKLZ Ball-First Trainer.  Read on to see if this is the cure to your winter time, “I can’t tell if I’m hitting it chunky” blues.

SKLZ Ball First Trainer

Ease of Use/Set Up

If you can’t figure out how to use this, you’ve got problems.  Throw it down, put the ball at the appropriate spot, and hit the ball without hitting the mat.  The only part of this that requires a bit of experience in knowing which set of arrows to put the ball between, but that will take you about two swings to figure out.

Score: 10/10

SKLZ Ball First Trainer


As with many of the best training aids (The Putting Fork and Tour Striker come quickly to mind), the SKLZ Ball-First Trainer is designed to do one thing and it does it very effectively and in a straightforward way.  If you put a ball in the channel and take a swing at it, the mat will either go flying away or it will stay put.  Staying put = good.  Flying away = bad.

In addition to making sure that you are hitting the ball before you hit the ground, the Ball-First Trainer also ensures that you have a reasonable club path.  If your swing goes wildly to left or right field, the mat will go flying in that direction, too.

I would expect that some of you are shaking your heads right now and thinking, “Who doesn’t know when they chunk a shot on the mats?”  Answer: A LOT OF PEOPLE.  Based on teaching hundreds of lessons indoors, I can attest to the fact that even good players don’t necessarily feel the difference between a really pure strike and one that’s a groove or two heavy.

The SKLZ Ball-First Trainer works on grass as well as on mats, but I expect that most people know when they hit dirt before the ball, if only because they can see the beaver pelt flying after (and maybe over) their ball.

While it’s not the most exciting training aid on the market, the Ball-First Trainer makes one simple claim and it delivers on that very well.

Score: 30/30

SKLZ Ball First Trainer


How often you will use this will likely be determined by how often you hit off mats.  I could see someone using this for the winter, hanging it up for the summer, then bringing it back out when the snow flies.  Alternately, if you hit off mats all year, you might use this all year.

It’s not the most fun training aid, but it removes the #1 problem with mat-based practice, so having it and not using it…well…that’s stupid.

Score: 16/20

SKLZ Ball First Trainer

Value – 20 points

At only $20, the SKLZ Ball-First Trainer is a great value.  It’s easy to use, provides good feedback, and makes your practice sessions more valuable.

Before you say it, I know that there are countless ways to simulate this feedback without the Ball-First Trainer.  I’ve used towels, pillows, coins, business cards…virtually anything you can think of can be placed behind the ball to encourage a ball-first strike.  The problem with all these things?  How far back do you put them?  How tall should they be?  The Ball-First Trainer eliminates the guessing and uncertainty which makes it more likely that you will use it.  That alone is worth the $20 in my opinion.

Score: 20/20

SKLZ Ball First Trainer

The Peanut Gallery – 20 points

As I already said, the SKLZ Ball-First Trainer is not a “Wow!” training aid, but The Peanut Gallery definitely understood the value of it.  Many Peanut Gallery members do most of their practice indoors, and they said they could appreciate the added feedback that this would give them.  While there was a little bit of, “$20 for this?!?!” reaction, most of them didn’t find the price unreasonable.

Score: 18/20

Final Thoughts

The conclusion here is pretty simple: if you do most of your practice off of a mat (or if you just need to work on not chunking it) the SKLZ Ball-First Trainer is $20 well spent.  It gives straightforward feedback on whether or not you hit the ball before the ground, and it provides some feedback on your club path.

Score: 94/100