Another frequently overlooked aspect for many beginner golfers is the ball's position in relation to your stance as a key factor in shot results. There are some basic rules that will definitely benefit your game.
When hitting short irons, such as your wedges, place the ball in line with the center of your stance (equidistant from both feet). These irons are made to impact the ball at a steeper angle to generate a higher flight.
If you take a small chunk of grass (divot) with your shot, that's a good thing; it means you're achieving the proper downward angle of attack. You want to strike the ball before the ground and make a divot the width of the clubhead. Just make sure that the divot is made after contact or else you will hit the ball heavy.
As you work up to the longer clubs, move the ball about a half inch per club farther up in your stance, or towards your lead toe (left toe for right-handed golfers, right toe for lefties). Longer clubs are designed to impact the ball with a shallower angle, forcing a lower flight. For the driver, the ball should be in line with your lead heel, with the toe flared slightly outward, to ensure that you strike the ball on the upswing.
The driver is the only club in the bag that should be hit this way. As a guide, some players like to set up a shaft along the ground between their feet to get a better idea of the ball's specific position in relation to their stance.
The more you play, the less you'll think about ball position when setting up – it will become almost second-nature. However, you should check your ball position any time shots start going awry, because a minor mistake can cause a mishit.
Many of amateur's problems in the golf swing can be cured or aided by proper ball position so keep this in mind as you learn and experiment more with the game.
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Ball Position with Driver, Woods, Hybrids, Irons, Wedges
There are plenty of details that you need to get right in your golf swing in order to hit good shots. Most golfers who are successful on the course are detail-oriented people, as taking a 'lazy' or 'casual' approach to the game is rarely effective. Golf is a game that is all about precision, and you have to nail the details within your game in order to be precise. One of the reasons that golf is so difficult for beginners is the simple fact that there are so many various elements of the swing that you need to learn when first getting started. Between the grip, stance, posture, takeaway, transition, downswing, and more, it is easy to get overwhelmed.
You can add ball position to that previous list. Putting the ball in the correct position time after time is a critical element when it comes to good ball striking, yet most players take this part of the swing for granted. Since you get to establish your ball position before you ever even put the club in motion, there is really no excuse for getting this part wrong. Take your time, put the ball in the perfect spot relative to your feet, and make a great swing. Good ball position won't guarantee that you are going to hit a good shot, but it will at least eliminate one variable from the equation.
Unfortunately, ball position is not something that is consistent from golfer to golfer, so you won't be able to just copy the positioning of another player in order to set up for your own shots. Sure, you can use other players as a general guide, but you will have to do some practice and some fine tuning before you can settle on a position that is going to serve you well throughout the course.
Adding to the difficulty of this seemingly simple part of the game is the fact that you will need to establish a go-to ball position for all of the clubs in your bag. Found the right ball position for your driver? Great – but that position isn't going to work for your iron shots. Likewise, you will need to have a unique position for your fairway woods, hybrid clubs, wedges, etc. Each club in your bag has a unique combination of shaft length, lie, and loft, meaning you will need to customize your setup for every club if you are going to be successful.
The only way to master your ball position with each club is to spend plenty of time on the practice range working on this fundamental part of the game. It probably won't be terribly exciting to stand on the range working on your ball position, but this detail must be worked out before you can become a quality player. Be patient with your practice and commit yourself to learning how to place the ball in the right spot for each and every shot, round after round.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Ball Position with the Driver
Before launching the ball into the air with your driver - the favorite club of most golfers - you will need to get your ball position exactly right. Why is ball position so important with the driver? Since you are making your fastest swing, you can't afford to have any of the details of your setup be off even by a fraction. Small mistakes are magnified when you are hitting drives, so it is essential that you take the time to get everything perfectly in place before beginning your takeaway.
For most golfers, the best ball position for the driver is going to have the ball lined up off the inside of the left foot. That means when you take your stance, you should be able to draw a ling that is perpendicular to the target line and runs from your left heel through the golf ball. This is the most-forward ball position that you will use for any club in your bag. Once you establish a good ball position for your driver, you can begin to gradually move the ball farther and farther back in your stance as the clubs get shorter. This is another reason why driver ball position is so important - it sets the stage for the ball position you are going to use with every other club.
So, the best way to get started working on your ball position with the driver is simply to head to the driving range to hit some shots. Take your driver from the bag and hit five drives with the ball lined up off of your left heel. With each shot, carefully watch the ball flight and feel the way the ball is coming off the club. After five shots, make any adjustments that you feel are necessary and hit a few more balls. It shouldn't take long for you to fine tune the ball position you are using until you settle on an ideal location that you can rely on to help you produce beautiful drives.
To help you get through this process as quickly as possible, please view the tips below for determining if the ball is too far forward or too far back in your stance.
- Ball too far forward. When the ball is too far forward while hitting the driver, you will have trouble 'reaching' the ball at impact - meaning you will hit the ball low on the face most of the time. If you feel that impact is taking place low on the face, try moving the ball back in your stance an inch or two. Also, putting the ball too far forward will cause the club to move from outside to inside at impact, meaning you may be creating more left to right curve than you would like to see.
- Ball too far back. With the ball too far back in your stance, your swing plane will be too steep as you approach impact with the driver. That means you will be prone to hitting the ball high on the face, and your ball flight will likely be too high as your backspin rate will be out of control. If you are seeing your drives 'balloon' up into the air, only to fall down short of your usual driver distance, consider moving your ball position up slightly.
You probably aren't going to get a great thrill from working on your driver ball position, but this is a fundamental that is crucial to your success on the course. By dedicating yourself to spending some time on this point during each practice session, you will be investing in your future as a golfer. Once you have nailed down the precise ball position that you are going to use with the driver, feel free to move on and work on finding the right ball position for the rest of your clubs.
Ball Position with Fairway Woods
Many golfers make the mistake of thinking that they can use the same ball position for their fairway woods that they use with the driver. While that would be a simple way to approach these shots, you would be making a mistake that will make it more difficult to produce quality shots. Your fairway woods are shorter and more upright than your driver, meaning you need to adjust your ball position slightly to get into a good spot.
For the average fairway wood shot from a good lie, moving the ball back two inches should put it in a nice spot. The biggest reason for moving the ball back is that you don't want to catch your fairway woods on the upswing as you do with the driver. While hitting up on your driver is preferred for optimal trajectory, you should be trying to strike your fairway woods with a 'flat' impact angle. That means the club head should not be moving up or down at impact - it should be traveling parallel with the ground. The ball position that will make it easiest to keep your club head moving flat along the ground through impact is one where the ball is around three inches back from your left heel.
The story changes slightly when you draw a less-than-perfect lie, however. If you find your ball in some short rough, or even in a fairway divot, you will need to move the ball back in your stance to counteract that poor lie. Place the ball just slightly forward from the middle of your stance so that you can hit down aggressively on the shot. Hitting down through the ball is the best way to deal with a bad lie, and that really won't be possible if you keep the ball forward in your stance at address.
Just as with the driver, you will want to experiment with various ball positions while using your fairway woods until you have picked out the best spot to play from with each of these clubs. Since your three wood is slightly different than your five wood or any other fairway wood you happen to use, each individual club is going to need to have a specific ball position of its own. Again, as mentioned above, this is a rather mundane detail of the game which will have a major impact on your ability to produce consistent, quality shots.
Ball Position with Hybrid Clubs
As you might suspect, the ball position that you use for your hybrid clubs is going to be a bit farther back in your stance from your fairway woods. Since hybrid clubs are exactly like their name sounds – hybrids between woods and irons – you are going to want to place the ball somewhere between the ball position that you would use for a fairway wood and the position you would use for a long iron. You should be striving for a similar impact pattern to that of your fairway woods, meaning you want to sweep the ball off the ground with no downward or upward movement at impact.
Experimenting with ball position for your hybrid clubs takes on much the same process as you have gone through for both your driver and your fairway woods. Test out a number of different positions on the range until you find a spot that encourages quality contact and a consistent, repeatable ball flight time after time. Hopefully, this ball position will be slightly to the right of your fairway wood position, but it is okay if you end up playing both of these types of clubs from the same spot. In the end, the important thing is that you are comfortable with your ball position prior to each swing, and you are able to produce a ball flight that is useful out on the course.
One problem that many players have with hybrid clubs is hitting them slightly fat when playing from the fairway, or even from the light rough. If that is an issue that you are running into on the course, try moving the ball up slightly in your stance to flatten out your swing plane. Some golfers swing hybrid clubs too much like regular irons, meaning they head down into the ball on a steep angle of attack. That steep angle is great for short iron shots, but it will ruin your chances at hitting a quality shot with a hybrid club. Hybrids are meant to be swept off the ground, so be sure that you are using a ball position which will promote that kind of action through the hitting area.
There is one last point that needs to be made on hybrid ball position – you may need to change positions slightly between hitting a hybrid from the tee and hitting it from the fairway. When the ball is on the tee, you can get away with moving the ball a little bit farther forward, especially if you are trying to hit a fade. However, when playing off the ground, make sure you can easily reach the ball so you don't wind up topping the shot. The best way to find your perfect ball positions is to experiment, so take your hybrid clubs to the range sometime soon with the mission of locating your ideal ball position for each type of shot.
Ball Position with Irons
Since you probably carry seven or eight irons in your bag, you will need to know exactly how to position the ball in your stance for each of these clubs if you are going to become a consistent ball striker. Unfortunately, you can't just lump all irons together and treat them the same – you have to deal with each on its own in order to be able to position the ball right for all swings. None of your irons is built the same as any other, as all have unique lengths, lofts, and lies. Therefore, it is your job to work through the set and track down the right ball position for everything from a three iron on up through to a pitching wedge.
The best way to narrow in on your ball position with the irons is to establish limits with your three irons and your pitching wedge, and then work into the middle from there. So, first, you are going to figure out exactly where in your stance you want to position the ball while hitting three irons. Most likely, you will get the best possible performance from the three iron while playing it from a similar spot to your hybrid clubs, but you should still test this out on the range as always. Once you know where you are comfortable playing your three iron from, you will have established a good baseline for the front of your stance with the irons.
Next, work on finding a ball position that is comfortable with your pitching wedge. Most players will find that this position is precisely in the middle of the stance, but you might like playing the ball just a bit forward or back from that spot. After a period of practice on the range, decide on exactly where you are going to place the ball when you are hitting your pitching wedge with a full swing. This will set the back of the range for your iron ball positions.
With those two extremes set, you can easily position the ball for all of the remaining irons in your bag. Hitting a four iron? Move the ball just slightly back from your three iron position – about a half-ball width should do the trick. Hitting a nine iron? Move the ball slightly forward from where you would have it with the pitching wedge. Going gradually forward or back depending on if the club is getting longer or shorter is all you need to do in order to dial in the right ball position for each iron in the bag. Eventually, when you get to the six and seven iron, you will find that the ball position you are using is halfway between the three iron and pitching wedge points.
Ball Position with Wedges
If you are hitting a full shot with one of your wedges, the ball should be exactly in the middle of your stance, or just slightly back from that point. You don't want to have the ball forward in your stance when you hit a wedge, because you will likely need to slide in the downswing in order to reach the ball and make solid contact. In order to stay balanced and make an aggressive, downward strike into the ball, a center ball position is ideal.
Unfortunately, many golfers position the ball forward in their stance when they hit wedges because they want to 'help' the ball up into the air. You don't need to help the ball at all – the loft on your wedge is going to do the job of pushing the ball up into the sky. However, if you feel like you have to scoop the ball in order to get elevation, you just might be tempted to move the ball forward and release your hands prior to impact. This will spell disaster for your iron shots, and it is the reason that many amateur golfers are unable to hit a solid shot when making a full wedge swing.
To play good wedge shots on a regular basis, keep the ball in the middle of your stance and trust the loft on your wedge to do its job. By hitting down through impact, you will impart backspin on the ball and the shot will climb nicely into the air in preparation for a soft landing. Practice time on the range is the best way to learn how to trust this action as it happens out on the course. Hit wedge after wedge from a middle ball position until you truly believe that the ball is going to go up in the air when you hit down on it aggressively. Whether you are playing from the middle of the fairway or from the rough, hit down on your wedges from a balanced position and you will love the results more often than not.
Ball position is crucially important to your success on the course, and yet most of your golfing companions will not spend even a single moment of practice time working on this fundamental. If you want to stand out from the crowd and make some progress toward lowering your scores, you will be different. Take time to work on ball position and dedicate yourself to refining all of the 'small' details in your swing. It won't actually take that long to find a good ball position for each of your clubs, and the work that you do will continue to pay off for the rest of your golfing life.