Training Aid Review – SKLZ Ball-First Trainer

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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




Review Summary



{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Johnny March 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm

This may sound stupid but I bought his two days ago. I am assuming that the longer the club, the more forward you have to place the ball?


GolfSpy Matt April 1, 2013 at 7:30 am

Not a stupid question at all. Due to the fact that your angle of attack varies from club to club, you will probably want to have different ball positions (relative to the trainer) for each club.




Johnny April 1, 2013 at 9:18 am

Thanks Matt! i was wondering why I couldn’t hit flush when I used 4 – 8 irons while placing the ball between the two larger arrows.


Marc February 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

I bought one last weekend and have been using it inside on the carpeting. If I hit one fat, the thing will go flying forward. The problem is that sometimes the mat slides a bit to the right or left of the target line. I’m not sure what this means and exactly where my swing path is going when it does this.

I’ve been hitting a practice ball product called FlatBall with this (which is supposed to help avoid thin shots), so hopefully the combination of these two aids will benefit me some.


Marc December 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

From the pictures it looks like you could still hit this very fat and not make contact with the back of the trainer. Is that the case, or do the ball placement marks work well for the angle that the club comes into the ball?


GolfSpy Matt December 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Good question. The arrows are only a starting point: some people may put the ball further forward, some may put it further back. For my AoA, which is slightly shallower than the Tour averages, the suggested spot works just fine. If you’re a bit steeper, you may want to move it back a bit.




DJ December 1, 2012 at 3:26 am

Speaking of the Putting Fork, does it still exist? The website seems to be no longer and I cannot find for sale anywhere…


Ed Teer November 24, 2012 at 6:30 am

Seems like a great product. Why only off mats? Most people don’t know they are hitting fat off any surface! This seems like it would be great anywhere. Do-it-yourself devices also work but few of them can be stuffed in a bag. I’m going to order a few for my academy next week. Regards.


Steve November 21, 2012 at 9:38 am

Great idea I will order today and give it at try on the mates next week.


Brian November 20, 2012 at 7:29 am

You got me also. I ordered one yesterday. I am one of those people who have no idea if I hit it fat on a mat. I was born with these stone hands.


Alex November 20, 2012 at 7:22 am

I normally lay a towel down on the matt when I’m at the range, but was really interested to see this review as I wasn’t aware this product existed. Order on Amazon yesterday and its on the truck for delivery today – I’m going to give it a go at the range tonight.

Looking forward to trying this out and appreciate the information about it in the review.


Pete November 19, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Great for those with no feel when they hit the ball and can’t feel the ground or mat first.


RP Jacobs II November 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

There are more people like this than we realize. I watched a guy hitting and his buddy came by and asked him how he was hitting, and he said, “pretty good, I’m makin good contact.” He was serious, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that probably 2/3 of the balls that I’d watched him hit(about 7-8) would’ve been topped or bladed on the couse. He was off, though not enough on a mat to make him adjust.

Unfortunately, guys like him are the ones who will never have/use this. Pity :-p

Fairways & Greens 4ever


Mike M November 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I submitted this idea to Sklz back in 08′; at the time they said it wasn’t something they were interested in doing…surprised to see they are coming out this golf trainer. I posted images on your facebook page.

Check out your facebook page for images I uploaded…


wdgolf November 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Great review. I never knew this existed, but my main fear is losing it on the range since it’s not really ok to run out there to get it back.


John H November 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I saw this a few years ago on a Martin Hall teaching video on YouTube. He made his from plywood so it wouldn’t go flying down the range from a mis-hit. I made up a DIY version from a small thin car mat because the sound of hitting the plywood was pretty obnoxious and rubber seems a better choice for club and wrist longevity. I added a couple of holes at the back end that allowed for a couple of tent pegs to keep it from flying forward on the outdoor range. Indoors I replaced the tent pegs with a couple of bolts and washers and pressed them into the turf material. Works great, real cheap and easily replaced.


kygolfer1980 November 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Good review! Adding this to my Christmas list.


manbearpig November 19, 2012 at 11:53 am

This is brilliant and I thinks I wants


RP Jacobs II November 19, 2012 at 10:12 am

Excellent review Matt. The Ball First is an excellent aid, and I use it when I’m on the matts. Because of it’s simplicity & price, it’s a great gift idea too. I got it for my bro & a buddy for their b-days, and both use it & my buddy loves it for matt days. I got a few to give out at Christmas.

Again, thanx for a nice write-up

Fairways & Greens 4ever


hckymeyer November 19, 2012 at 8:50 am

Nice find Matt! I’ve never been a big practice guy over the winter months, but I think this year I’d love to hit the indoor range a few times. And I’ve been known to take a beaver pelt or two on the course, so this could be right up my alley.

My concern is how far it flies? If I do happen to be a bit chunky or OTT on a swing, does it just hit and stay there, or maybe jump up a little bit? Or is this going to fly out into the range? i don’t want to have to ask the guys hitting next to me to stop just to go get the thing on a bad swing.


Golfspy Matt November 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

Excellent question. It totally depends on how much of the Trainer you hit and at what angle. If you make a very shallow pass and get a ton of Trainer, this thing will fly down range. If you just barely clip it or come in more steeply, it might move a few inches or a foot.

It will probably also depend a bit on the kind of mats/hitting surface. Obviously, a stickier surface or one with more traction means it won’t go as far.




Golfspy Dave November 19, 2012 at 8:29 am

Nice review Matt. Will it survive a “Hulk Smash” level fat strike? I built at DIY OTT swing tool from PVC at one point and celebrated its completion by atomizing it on the range.


Golfspy Matt November 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

Yeah, this is a tough little bugger. You can hit it lots of times and it’s fine…not that I’d know anything about that…except I hit it as a test…yeah, that’s right, for testing…I never chunk one…right.


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