A friend of mine told me while we were playing one day, that someone looked into how it is that Justin Thomas, who isn’t a very big guy, drives the ball so far.
One of his keys is that he hits the ball on the center of the clubface. Every time. It might have been on impact tape or something, but the impression after a good number of drives was about the size of a quarter.
How does he do that? I can’t say how his swing makes that happen, because I don’t know. But I can say for sure that one thing which makes it happen is his setup.
I’ll bet dollars to donuts that he sets up the same distance from the ball every time, the ball is in the same place in his stance every time, his posture is the same every time, his hands are in the same place every time, and so on.
I would also bet that if you took a picture from the same spot every time and overlaid all those photos on top of each other, you wouldn’t see much leakage, if any, around the edges, if you know what I mean.
By starting out in the same place every time, in every respect, Thomas gives his swing every chance to return the clubhead to the ball in the same place every time.
Here’s an example taken from the book, The Search For the Perfect Golf Swing. It shows the variation in foot position in a 24-handicapper and a professional golfer. The pro is consistent, and the amateur is all over the place.
Was else I can tell you for sure is that a major cause of inconsistent ball-striking is an inconsistent setup. I would go so far as to say you should practice your setup as much as you practice your swing.
Let’s drill in on this point. Say you hit a tremendous drive. On the next hole, you unknowingly set up with the ball one inch farther away from you than it was on the last hole. If you make the same swing, you will miss the sweet spot on the clubface by an inch.
But you won’t make the same swing, because you’re reaching out a little bit farther than you did last time and that is enough to change everything. Your unconscious mind knows you’re out of position and will try, in vain, to compensate. You won’t hit anywhere near as good a drive and then wonder what happened to your swing.
What happened was that an inconsistent setup forced that good swing out of existence. Simple as that.
My instructor had me buy a four-foot metal ruler to practice my setup. With this, you can ensure your feet are the same distance apart, and the ball is in the same place. Being consistent with these two things alone will by themselves improve your ball-striking.
We practice our swing to make it as much the same as we can every time, but what’s the use of having a repeating swing if your setup is all over the map?
And when you’re trying to develop a repeating swing, you might keep correcting this or that when your swing is just fine and it’s your setup that needs work.
So here are a few things to think about in your setup, all of which make a difference:
Grip alignment (orientation of Vs)
Where on the handle you place your hands *
Clubface alignment (open, square, closed)
Distance from the ball *
Location of the ball in your stance *
Posture of your back
Amount of bend in your neck
Amount of bend in your hips and knees *
Shape of your arms
Distance between your elbows
Height of your stance *
Distribution of weight across the feet (front-back, side-side)
Amount that your toes are turned out
Alignment of feet
Alignment of shoulders
The feeling that you are “in the slot”
* This will vary by the club used, must be the same per club.