Stance is an often overlooked problem in the golf swing but it is a crucial element. Your golf stance is essential in providing the rest of the body the stability and balance needed to execute a solid shot.
A golf stance that's too wide or narrow may rob your swing of power and balance, so the first rule is to keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, with the insides of the feet beneath the outsides of the shoulders, when using the driver. For shorter clubs, move the feet slightly closer together.
Set up your stance by placing a golf club across the front of your shoulders, with your hands on the club to match the edges of the shoulders; keep the hands in place and move the club to your feet to ensure they are shoulder-width apart. As you play more you'll be able to determine this by site, without using a club.
The position of the feet during your golf swing influences your range of body movement. When both feet are perpendicular or square to your target line (the imaginary line from ball to target), you won't be able to move your hips as needed. Point or flare both feet slightly outward to free the hips for a full turn back and through the shot.
Now let's talk about balance. When standing over the golf ball, it may feel more natural to let your weight rest on the toes or heels. Either position can cause problems in your swing. Instead, balance your weight on the arches or middle of your feet. Flexing the knees slightly will help you maintain good balance.
For most shots, your weight should be distributed evenly across the feet – 50% on the left, 50% on the right. For shorter irons and around the greens, you will probably find more success with more weight on your left foot for right handed golfers.
In developing your swing, you'll find that certain shots require changing the position of your feet and your balance. For now, concentrate on maintaining a square, athletic, evenly balanced stance that promotes a straight shot.
Beginner Golf Tip – The Basic Stance
Stance is an important part of success in any sport. In baseball, a batter must find just the right stance that will allow him to deliver the bat to the ball before it goes speeding into the catcher's glove. In football, linebackers take an athletic stance that will enable them to move quickly in any direction in order to stop the offense from moving down the field. The story is the same in basketball, and on and on. No matter what sport you happen to play, you will need a good stance that you can repeat time after time.
This is certainly true in golf. The way you stand next to your golf ball prior to hitting a shot is crucially important to your success. Without a good stance, it will be next to impossible to hit a good shot. Some of the basics of a good stance are obvious, yet should never be taken for granted. Things like knee flex and good posture will help put you in the best possible position to swing the club. Golf is already a hard game – you don't want to make it harder by failing to put yourself in a good stance at address.
One of the advantages that you have in golf, as compared to other sports, is that you have all the time you need in order to build your stance. A basketball player attempting to play defense has to build his or her stance on the fly, as the offense is attempting to score. There is no such pressure in golf. You can walk up to your ball, place your feet in a comfortable position, and only start the swing when you feel ready. While this is an advantage, it also places some pressure on you, as there is no excuse to get anything wrong in your stance. With the right amount of thought and preparation, you should be able to find the same stance position time and time again, all day long.
Unfortunately, many golfers lose track of the importance of the stance as they gain experience. You probably worked on your stance when you were just getting started in golf, but you may have moved on to more 'advanced' parts of the game over the years. This is a mistake, and it will likely cost you terms of your on-course performance. Even the best players in the world regularly work on perfecting their stances, and you should too. The stance can easy change over time, as your body changes or you simply fall into some lazy habits. Paying close attention to your stance is something that will make you a better player, and it is something that you should do during every practice session.
While the stance will change slightly from club to club, you can use the same basic body position to hit all of your shots. Once you establish your 'base' stance that you will work from, you can then learn how to make the minor adjustments necessary to create different shots, hit different clubs, deal with various lies, etc. However, it all starts from that basic, athletic position. Learn how to build a quality golf stance every time you stand over the ball, and you will become a better player by default.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
No two golf swings are exactly alike. You certainly have moves in your swing that are unique to you, just as does every other golfer on the course. Even on the professional tours, where you might think all of the players would be using the same fundamentals, there is an incredible variety of swing types that are able to get the job done. Since your swing is unlike anyone else's in the world, your stance is going to be unique as well. However, even though you don't have to stand exactly like everyone else, you will want to follow a set of basic fundamentals that will put your body in a position for success.
When you get a chance to work on your golf stance, make sure the following four fundamentals are in place.
- Square feet. This is the starting point for your stance, as you have to get your feet set before you can get the rest of your body in position. Setting up with square feet will make the swing as simple as possible, and simple is a good thing in golf. What does it mean to be square? In order to get your feet square, you need to have your toes on a line that is parallel to your selected target line. One of the many reasons why it is important to pick a target line for every shot is that it provides you with a frame of reference that can be used to take your stance. Visualize your target line, then visualize a parallel line where you will place your feet, and put them into position. This might sound a bit complicated but it actually becomes very simple with just a little practice.
- Flexed knees. Another point that is probably not a surprise to you. It is nearly impossible to hit good golf shots without getting down into your stance, so you should always flex your knees at least slightly at address. This is, however, one of the points in the stance that is open to personal preference and comfort. Some players make their best swings from a deep stance with a lot of knee flex, while others prefer to have them bent only slightly. Experiment with different degrees of flex until you find a position that allows you to feel comfortable, relaxed, and athletic prior to starting the swing.
- Good posture. In this context, posture refers mostly to the position of your back and head in the stance. Once your knees are flexed and your feet are in position, you want to make sure that your back is straight and your upper body is tilted out over the ball. Hunching the upper body is a common problem among amateur players when taking the stance, so you will need to work hard to avoid this fault. One good way to get your back into a nice position is to feel like you are sticking your backside out a little bit at address. If you push your backside out behind you, the lower part of your back will flatten and you should be in good shape to make a swing. When it comes to your head, you want to keep your chin up but your eyes down on the ball. Many golfers bury their chin into their chest, which makes it hard to complete a full backswing turn.
- Relaxed arms. Your arms need to swing freely throughout the swing, and that starts with putting them in a relaxed position at address. They should be hanging down loosely from your shoulders, in a position that makes it easy to grab onto the grip of the club with both hands. If your arms are pushed out away from your body, or if they are pulled in close, you will have to make some sort of adjustment during the swing to get into the right position for impact. Start with your arms hanging down comfortably from your shoulders and the rest of your swing will become easier to complete successfully.
It might take you some time, especially if you are a complete beginner, to work all four of those fundamental points into your golf swing. Take them one by one, and work your way through the list until you are confident that each of these four elements can be found in your stance. At the end of that process, you will have a great stance that will serve you well in a variety of situations around the course. Now that the basic stance has been conquered, you can move on to the subtle adjustments that will be required in order to get the best possible results from your game.
Adjusting to the Club
The first kind of adjustment you will need to make to your stance is based on the club which you are hitting for a particular shot. Not counting the putter, a full set includes 13 'full swing' clubs, meaning you could have as many as 13 different stances. Fortunately, the difference between many of these stances is subtle at the most. For example, you might technically be standing a little bit differently over your nine iron than you would over your pitching wedge, but you will hardly be able to feel the difference. Once you understand the process for taking your stance prior to hitting a shot, you will be able to make these adjustments automatically to the point where you don't even have to think about them at all.
There is a specific 'order of operations' that you should use when building your stance. By doing things in the right order, you can make your adjustments naturally, rather than having to think through them every time you pull a new club from the bag. Mainly, the adjustment that you have to make to your stance based on the club you are swinging is how far you stand from the ball. Each club in your bag is a different length, and each has a different lie angle, meaning you will stand a different distance from the ball for all of your clubs. So how do you know exactly how far away to stand? Do you take a tape measure onto the course with you? Of course not – and that would break the rules anyway. Instead, you simply let the club tell you where to stand.
To get started learning this method of building a stance, head to the driving range with all of your clubs and a bucket of balls. You can hit balls while working on your stance, or you can simply build new stances over and over again without hitting any shots – the choice is yours. A good compromise may be to go in and out of your stance two or three times with the same club prior to hitting one shot. This way, you get plenty of repetitions to practice building your stance, and you also get to hit some balls to work on your full swing technique.
For the first stance you are going to build, take your seven iron out of the bag and place a ball down in front of you. As you walk up to the ball, your first action should be to place the head of the seven iron down behind the ball in a position that allows the sole of the club to sit flat on the ground. At this point, you should not have your feet in their final position. Once the club is set behind the ball, you are going to use its position to guide the positioning of your feet (and the rest of your body). Place your hands on the grip of the club, while allowing your arms to hand freely. Now that you have taken your grip and the club is in the right place, you should be able to finish off the stance by setting your feet and bending your knees. It should be easy to set your feet in a good spot because you already have the club exactly where it needs to be.
When you use this process for a short club like a wedge, you will be standing rather close to the ball – which is perfect. If you repeat the process using your driver, you are going to be standing much farther from the ball – which is also ideal. Instead of remembering how far away to stand from the ball with every club in your bag, set the club down first and allow it to tell you where your feet should be. This approach to taking a stance is simple, yet highly effective.
Dealing with Uneven Lies
One of the more frustrating parts of the game for beginners is trying to hit the ball solidly from an uneven lie. Just when you think you have your swing under control on the driving range – which is all flat lies – you head out onto the course and find all sorts of uneven terrain. Whether the ball is above your feet or below your feet, or you are on an upslope or downslope, adjustments need to be made to your stance in order to compensate properly. Only when you make the right adjustments prior to starting your swing will you be able to deal with this challenge successfully.
Following is a short list of lies that you may run into on the course, along with some instruction on how to alter your stance in order to hit a quality shot.
- Ball above your feet. When the ball is above the level of your feet, the first thing you should do is reduce the amount of flex that you have in your knees at address. You still need to have your knees slightly bent, but standing taller over the ball will help 'flatten' out the lie a little bit. Also, before starting your swing, choke down an inch or two on the grip of your club to make it easier to find solid contact at the bottom.
- Ball below your feet. Not surprisingly, you want to take the opposite action when the ball is below your feet. Instead of using less knee flex, you are going to use more in order to get your body down closer to the level of the ball. Also, make sure your hands are all the way up at the top of the grip so you can use every last inch of club in order to reach the ball at impact. You won't be able to make as big of a turn when you have a deep bend in your knees, so consider taking an extra club in order to compensate for your shorter swing.
- Upslope toward the target. If the ground is sloped up toward the target, you will want to keep your stance the same but move the ball back in your stance slightly. It is likely that you will get 'stuck' on your back foot somewhat as you swing through the ball, so moving your ball position back will make it easier to strike clean shots. Work on staying balanced as much as possible during the swing, and don't try to hit the ball too hard. In fact, any time you are on uneven ground, it is a good idea to shorten up your swing and only use around 75% of your maximum power.
- Downslope toward the target. To counter this difficult lie, try moving the ball forward in your stance so that you can catch it cleanly on the way down the slope. Again, focus on balance in this situation and maintain the flex in your knees all the way through the swing. If you stand up out of the shot at all, you will hit the ball thin and a poor shot will be the result.
A big part of learning how to deal with uneven lies is simple trial and error, but the tips above can help you to get on the right track. Since most driving range facilities don't offer uneven lies, you will need to get out onto the course as often as possible in order to learn how to manage the challenge that comes with sloped terrain.
Draw Confidence from Your Stance
Believe it or not, a big part of the work that is involved in hitting a good shot is completed once you build your stance successfully. If you get into a good position before you start the swing, there is a great chance that you will be able to hit a good shot. On the other hand, if you build a poor stance, it will take a minor miracle for you to wind up hitting the ball close to your target. While it might not be the most exciting part of the game of golf, building a good stance is something that you should practice regularly simply because of the profound impact it has on your performance.
Confidence is a hard thing to find on the golf course, especially when you are a beginner and you don't have very many positive experiences to draw upon. Everyone knows that confidence is a big help when trying to hit shots under pressure, but very few players know exactly how to find that confidence. If you are struggling to feel good about yourself and your game on the course, look to your stance as a way to boost your optimism about the upcoming swing. Knowing that you have built a great stance, you can start your swing feeling great about yourself. Think back to the time you have spend on the practice range mastering your stance and suddenly your brain will be filled with positive emotions.
You don't need confidence during the good times on the golf course, such as after making a par or birdie. You will feel great about yourself due to the result on the hole that you just finished, so confidence will be naturally high. It is when you are struggling that you really need to dig deep in order to find some self-belief. When you play a few bad holes in a row, focus on the basics of your game – like the stance – in order to quickly get back on track. The confidence that you can find in focusing on the fundamentals is invaluable when it comes to saving your score.
Golf is all about the basics. If you can execute the simple parts of the game properly time after time, the rest will largely take care of itself. Once you feel confidence in your stance, work on some of the other basics such as grip, aim, and balance. We tend to make golf more complicated than it needs to be – stick to the basics and work toward steady improvement day after day, and round after round.