Fans marvel at Fred Couples’ syrupy smooth swing and the apparent ease with which he pounds powerful drives. The 1992 Masters winner’s tempo and flexibility are certainly extraordinary, but pure talent – which he has in abundance -- isn’t the only thing that makes Couples unusual.
While most professional golfers are meticulous when it comes to aligning their feet, hips and shoulders, Couples’ setup isn’t anyone’s idea of square.
Unconventional move: Couples aligns his body well left of his target in what’s called an open stance.
When viewed from behind Couples, looking down the target line, you can see that his feet, hips and shoulders are aimed well to the left. This would normally indicate the player intends to play a fade (left-to-right shot) – not Couples. His shots often start right of the target and draw (turn right-to-left), a pretty amazing feat given where his body’s pointed.
Why it’s a problem for amateurs: For the average player – or even a very good one – such a leftward alignment leads to several potential problems. The most prevalent is a slice, caused when the clubface is open in relation to the swing path. In fact, many players will subconsciously compensate for the mis-alignment by leaving the clubface open in order to guide the ball back on line. There’s also the danger of hitting the ball exactly where you’re aimed.
How Couples gets away with it: Couples starts the downswing with a pronounced movement of the left hip. This begins a sequence which drops the club “inside” the line, so the clubhead traces a path that forms an X when crossing his body alignment. In other words, the clubhead doesn’t follow the line of his feet, hips and shoulders.
The cure: If you have a tendency to line up left and slice or pull the ball, your best bet is to correct your alignment flaw before making any swing changes. On the range, simply place one club pointing directly at your target, and another parallel to it. Place the ball just outside the first club, and align your feet alongside the second club. When you address the ball it may feel as though you’re aligned too far right. Try to ignore that sensation as you hit balls; your eyes will slowly adjust to sense the correct, on-target line.