Category Archives: setup

There’s More to Aim Than You Think There Is

Last week we talked about getting into your setup using two lines, one for the clubface and one for your stance. These lines are shown in the two photos below.

They were taken in the street in front of my house so the aiming points in the background would be easier to see. Though it doesn’t look like it in the photographs, the two sticks are parallel to each other.

Look at the photo on the right (click to enlarge). The alignment stick is pointed at the white chimney. This is the ball’s target, toward which the clubface is aimed.

The alignment stick in the photo on the left is in the place where you would stand to hit the shot (click to enlarge). It is pointing at the edge of the house.

Yes, I know the sticks are only a few feet a part and if you extended them to the house they would still be a few feet a part. What is important here is appearance, not reality.

If you look downrange before you start your swing, you have to look at the right target. That is the one you are aimed at, not the one the clubface is aimed at.

If you look at the ball’s target, you create a conflict in your mind. Your body is a lined up in one direction (the edge of the house), but your mind is looking in a different direction (the chimney).

As a result, there will be a subtle confusion about where to direct your swing. This creates a discomfort which can be interpreted as a swing technique thing, even though that is not where the problem lies.

When you’re in your stance, ready to take the club back, take one more look down the fairway. Look at where your body is aimed, a place to the left of the ball’s target, because that is the direction the swinging motion of your body, standing to the left of the ball, will be directed toward.

If you swing toward that spot, the clubhead, which is displaced to the right of where you are standing, will automatically be swung toward the ball’s target.

Most of all, the the conflict I referred to above never arise. Only a feeling of confidence will be felt. That leads to your best swing coming out, and thus your best shots.

How to Get Into Your Setup

There’s a lot written about how you should set up for a swing. Details about grip, stance, posture, ball position, and aim are all very important.

But the process of getting into that setup deserves mention, too. Here is one way to do it. It is the way I do it and it works well.

1. Set your grip on the club with both hands. Make sure your hands are oriented properly.

2. Stand behind the ball on a straight a line from the target across the ball to your eyes.

3. Take a side-step to the left, still looking straight ahead, but now at a spot to the left of the target.

4. Walk straight toward that spot, looking at it the entire time.

5. When you get next to the ball, and while still looking at the spot, turn your body to face the ball.

6. Now you may turn your head to face the ball, get into your stance, and drop the clubhead behind the ball with good posture.

You are aimed and ready to go.

Note that item 4 has two parts to it. One, you are looking at the spot to the left of the target, not the target itself. Two, you look at that spot the entire time you are approaching the ball and getting into your stance. Do not take your eyes off that spot too soon or you will lose the line.

You might think this method is imprecise. Most books will tell you to aim the clubhead first and then align your body to it. That, actually, is the imprecise way to aim yourself.

We have a keen human sense of aligning ourselves to a distant point that we can take advantage of here. You can learn how to align yourself this way with just a little practice.

Next week I will have another post that extends this method to complete the setup mentally.

Stance and Posture in Golf

These two pre-swing fundamentals are sometime confused and taken to mean the same thing. They refer to different things, and must be done correctly to put your body in the best position to put your best swing on the ball.

Stance is where your feet are both in relation to the ball and your target line. Posture is the shape of your body as you address the ball. The following description is for a full swing.

To get into your stance, take your grip with your right hand. Put the clubface behind the ball, aimed at the target. Step into your stance so your feet are parallel to your target line, and put your left hand on the grip.

Your feet should be about 18 inches apart, but this depends on the club you’re using. With a driver, your feet will be a few inches farther apart, with a 9-iron, a few inches less.

The ball should be in the center of your stance for any shot hit off the ground or irons off a tee. Put the ball two ball-widths forward of that to hit your driver or fairway metal off a tee.

Stand up straight. Now push your hip straight back, keeping your head where it is. This will cause you to bend over at the hip, while not rounding your back or drooping your head. Even though you’re bent, you should still have the feeling of standing tall.

Let your knees bend slightly, too. Your weight should be evenly distributed from the front to back of the soles of your feet.

Look at your elbow as your arm hang downs at your side. Notice there is a slight natural bend in it. This is the full extension of your arm. If you straighten your arm, it’s now over-extended and tense. If there’s more bend than normal in your elbow, your arms are under-extended. Your swing movements will be constricted and weak. Hold the club with this natural bend in the elbows.

With shorter clubs, the arms should hang straight down, relaxed, and at their full natural extension. With longer clubs you will stand straighter, so your arms cannot hang straight down, but there should be no feeling of reaching out for the ball.

The shoulders should slant downward a bit from left to right, and the line across them should be parallel to the line across the hips. Do not let the right shoulder come forward so the shoulder line points to the left of the hip line. This is an easy error to make, and one that will make the direction you hit your shots inconsistent and unpredictable.

Your head will fall slightly from its upright position when you bend over, but do not let that make you hunch your shoulders.

Practice your stance and posture at home by leaving a club in a place you pass by frequently, and whenever you pass by, stop, grab the club, and set up. It only takes a few seconds, so there’s no reason why you can’t do it quite a few times a day. Every time you set up, not just going through the motions, but paying attention to every detail, you’re that much closer to having a good setup become a habit.

You might think if the stance you have now is comfortable, it’s right. Comfortable only means habitual. Practice the right stance until it becomes comfortable.

Check yourself in front of a mirror. A stand-up mirror costs about as much as a round of golf and is an excellent investment in your game.