SKLZ Accelerator Pro
The SKLZ Accelerator Pro is designed to teach proper acceleration of the putter head through impact. It’s a typical putting mat with graphics marked at certain distances to indicate the appropriate length of the backswing and follow through when putting from those points. The mat has one of the best surfaces among the entry-level putting mats that we tested, and replicates the feel of a putting green.
Unfortunately, the slope of the green at the hole is overly steep, leading us to believe that the Accelerator Pro may actually be teaching golfers to putt too hard.
The Accelerator includes a ball return track that rolls the ball back to you if you sink the putt. The ball return track uses gravity as its impetus, so there’s no need to plug in the device or use batteries.
- Visually drives home the important concept of accelerating the putter head through impact
- Putting mat is made of excellent materials and provides a consistent roll
- Extreme slope near the hole may be teaching you to blow your putts off the green
Retail price: $49.99
Setting up the putting mat itself is effortless – just unroll it. The mat is thick enough that we didn’t encounter any difficulties with creasing or areas that wouldn’t lie flat.
The track for returning the ball consists of three track pieces that must be assembled together with small plastic tabs. It’s a painless process – if you ever connected a Hot Wheels track when you were a kid, you will have no problems with this. Just be careful that you don’t accidentally lose a tab when you’re opening the box.
If you take a moment to watch amateur golfers putt, you will see that a frighteningly large number of them use the same length of backswing regardless of the length of the putt – they utilize the dreaded “decelerating club head speed” to control the distance the ball actually travels. While this can be moderately successful on a good day, those good days will be few and far between. To consistently control the distance of your putts, you need to vary the length of your backswing so you can accelerate the putter through impact.
The SKLZ Accelerator Pro is a putting mat designed to promote an accelerating club head at impact through the use of graphics on the mat’s surface that indicate the appropriate length of backswing and follow-through for putts of 3, 5 and 7 feet. We like the philosophy, and there is no doubt that practicing with the Accelerator Pro will result in greater consistency in the roll of your putts.
The graphic markings are most conducive for golfers who use a “straight back/straight through” putting stroke, but we don’t think that those who use a “swinging gate” stroke will have any problem using the Accelerator Pro. “Swinging gate” putters just have to realize that their putter face should not be perfectly square with the graphics at the extreme ends of the backswing and follow through.
We note that the Accelerator Pro does not account for the fact that people have different tempos for their putting strokes. Taking the putter back 5-1/4 inches (the distance marked on the Accelerator Pro for a 5 foot putt) will result in putts of different lengths depending on whether you have a quick tempo or a slow tempo. For an absolute beginner, this may not be a problem – practicing with the Accelerator Pro will ingrain a particular tempo. Those who are more set in their ways will have to accept that the markings on the mat are more of a general guideline than any kind of a hard and fast rule and remember to make the same relative adjustments at the 3 different lengths. There’s no magic way to account for the difference in tempos, so we aren’t docking any points from the Accelerator Pro for this limitation.
What we ARE docking points for is the fact that the built-in slope of the mat is just too steep. Most putting mats utilize a slight incline near the hole in order to promote putting the ball slightly past the hole (if you don’t putt the ball hard enough to reach the hole, then it never has a chance to go in). But the Accelerator Pro has a wicked slope that will lead to jacking the ball significantly past the hole in real world situations. Our guess is that SKLZ designed it this way because the steepness of the incline is necessary in order to get the ball return feature to work (the Accelerator Pro just uses gravity to feed the ball back to you). But we would rather have the inconvenience of taking a couple of steps to retrieve the ball than the monumental disappointment of grooving a putting stroke that will lead to repeatedly crushing the ball past the hole and off the green.
The idea of the Accelerator Pro is to groove the length of your backswing and follow-through by having you repeat that precise stroke again and again…and again and again…and again and again…There are 3 different distances at which you can practice, so it isn’t completely mind-numbing, but in the end, we’re talking about repetition. We’re talking about…that’s right, practice.
“I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice. Not a game. Not, not … Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game, but we’re talking about practice, man.” And we talking about practice…I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do…But we’re talking about practice man. What are we talking about? Practice. We’re talking about practice, man. [laughter from the media crowd] We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We ain’t talking about the game. [more laughter] We’re talking about practice, man…” – Allen Iverson, basketball superstar, in a press conference diatribe about a dispute with his coach about missing practice.
The fun will have to wait until you’re playing a round and are absolute money at dropping in putts from 3, 5 and 7 feet.
CONSTRUCTION / DURABILITY
The mat of the Accelerator Pro is made of a form of artificial turf with sufficient heft to endure normal wear and tear, and is 9 feet long and 1 foot wide. The construction of the mat is among the best that we’ve seen in entry level putting mats, with enough thickness that it provides a true roll regardless of the surface on which it’s placed. Thin mats will emulate the properties of the surface below – putting a thin mat on a thick carpet will result in a slow roll, while putting a thin mat on a hardwood floor will result in a lightning quick roll. The SKLZ Accelerator Pro keeps a consistent speed across varying surfaces.
The hole area (and the related incline leading up to it), however, is made of relatively thin plastic, which could be susceptible to breakage or cracking.
The ball return track must be dissembled if you are going to store the Accelerator Pro between uses, in which case those small plastic connector tabs are likely to get lost, sucked up by a vacuum cleaner, or eaten by the dog.
COST / VALUE
The SKLZ Accelerator Pro retails for $49.99, which is about the cost of putting mats that don’t provide any teaching benefit. If we weren’t so troubled about the excessive incline around the hole, we would lift the cost/value rating significantly, but it bothers us that the device actually might wind up teaching you a BAD habit.