Orange Whip recently introduced to its new wedge training aid that was created in collaboration with noted short game instructor Stan Utley
Orange Whip recently introduced to its new wedge training aid that was created in collaboration with noted short game instructor Stan Utley. [Photo: Orange Whip Golf]
Golf gadgets typically have a short shelf life.
We’ve all fallen in love with the latest, breakthrough training aid, with its flashy ads, infomercials and believable golfer testimonials.
And by now, you know how the give-and-take of courtship and heartbreak unfolds. Initially, there’s the honeymoon stage when you discover the latest contraption — seemingly all aglow — in the golf shop or retail store that is going to solve your slice forever and have you shooting red numbers in no time.
Amid stares on the driving range and “do you hunt rhinoceros with that thing?” questions from your golf buddies (muffled laughter included), you courageously decide to soldier on. You give it two weeks before retiring the thing to the dark recesses of your closet, along with the putters you were going to make everything with, the driver so technologically advanced that you would never replace it and the irons you were absolutely flushing into a net at a big box store before hurrying to the counter.
There are exceptions, of course, and if survival is the test of a swing aid’s value, there’s one that might just be worth your time and attention called the Orange Whip Swing Trainer. It’s worked for high-level tour players and a wide dispersion of amateurs.
Developed by PGA professional Jim Hackenberg and unveiled more than 10 years ago, one of its aims is to enhance golfers’ rhythm, tempo and timing for more consistent ball-striking. The balance-inducing trainer, complete with a weighted orange ball at one end, a flexible shaft in the middle and patented counterweight, is intended to promote proper sequencing, including a lower body lead to initiate the downswing. The device’s weight encourages a complete backswing and a slight pause at the top, as well as promoting a feeling of starting the downswing correctly — minus the jerking motion of players who hurry to the ball.
“The Orange Whip is great at getting amateur golfers or any golfer who aren’t even in the arena of a good golf swing rhythm-wise — their backswing and downswing ratio is off — it gets them back in the arena, back in the ballpark,” says Birk Nelson, a former mini-tour player turned PGA professional who is now director of international sales for Orange Whip Golf, based in Easley, S.C.
Used correctly, the Orange Whip’s design is also intended to help coordination, develop big muscle activity and act as a wake-up call for underused golf muscles. An improper motion with the swing trainer provides immediate feedback, as well, often resulting in an off-balance (and head-shaking) action. It also counteracts a stalling out feeling after impact, an error that many average and seasoned golfers fight. Product designers wanted to ensure golfers’ momentum — and that elusive woosh sound we’re all looking for —occurs at and after impact.
“The Orange Whip is a bunch of mass on the end of a flexible shaft,” Nelson said. “When you swing it, you can feel what the proper sequence is to ‘sling’ that mass at the target.”
Count recreational golfer Jim Higginbottom as a believer. He has dropped his Handicap Index by almost three strokes — from 5.8 to 2.9 — and credits the device with facilitating his progress.
“The Orange Whip has helped me improve transition mechanics due to the weight of the ball and shaft flexibility,” said Higginbottom, a resident of Fenton, Mo., just outside of St. Louis area. “In order to swing the whip properly, you have to include a pause at the top of the backswing which eliminates what [Jack] Nicklaus called ‘flash speed’ when transitioning from the top to the downswing.”
Since the introduction of the original Orange Whip, the company has expanded its offerings to include a junior version, along with the Orange Whip wedge and putter. [Photo: Orange Whip Golf]
If the training aid’s balance sheet is an indication of stability in the golf marketplace, then the Orange Whip can easily be deemed a success. In 2018, the company enjoyed its best year ever; combined the product and others in its ever-widening umbrella sold a company-record 62,000 units. It’s been rated the No. 1 training aid based on originality, being intuitive and overall performance. The device has also earned plaudits from Golf Digest, PGA Magazine, the Golf Range Association of America and others.
Additionally, more than a dozen PGA Tour players have it in their bags, including the likes of tour winners Daniel Berger, Austin Cook, Charles Howell III and William McGirt. That said, the device is meant to appeal to the every-player, company officials note.
“Our market essentially encompasses everybody, whether it’s male or female, old or young, a good golfer or a 30-handicapper,” said Nelson, who notes that the company takes pride in the fact that the training aid is manufactured in the United States, with all components being from U.S., as well. “What’s sustained our success is that the Orange Whip feels good when you swing well and feels bad when you swing it bad. It works for everybody. We have a wide market and that’s what has really sustained us.”
In evaluating the Orange Whip’s usefulness, it’s a little bit like the dentist reminding you to floss your teeth; you have to use the product consistently — as in every day — to realize its full benefit.
The good thing, company officials note, is that golfers don’t need to be at a practice range to use it. Individuals can work with the trainer inside their home or their backyard not only on full swings, but to engage their golf muscles through exercise work.
“The whip is good for stretching, adding power, as well as improving overall balance and timing if you swing it several times daily. It can become an excellent workout tool,” Higginbottom said.
The company continues to introduce other swing aid devices, many of which trace their genesis to the trainer. One of the latest roll-outs has been the Orange Whip wedge, which short game expert Stan Utley has put his name behind. Its design demands golfers use the bounce of a wedge effectively, while honing tempo and rhythm, as well as ingraining the correct release of the clubhead on shorter shots.
Andrew Blair is a writer from Glen Allen, Va.