Alignment - the aim of the body and club in relation to the target - is one of the most violated principles in golf.
Without correct alignment it’s impossible to produce a sound swing path which leads to consistent shots. Many golfers, especially more seasoned players, simply stand next to the ball, have a look at the target and believe that’s job done! Imagine if a marksman said “Well I just aim my gun somewhere near the target”; people would think him a fool because they understand to hit a target 200 yards away, aim is crucial. However, with golf this message gets lost.
When aligning to a target, it is important to understand what the golfer is aiming at.
There are two distinct aim lines - the ball-to-target line (an imaginary line stretching from the ball to target), and the body line (where the shoulders, hips, knees and toes are placed in relation to the ball-to-target line). Alignment will be correct when the leading edge of the club face is at right angles to the ball-to-target line and the body is parallel to the ball-to-target line. The easiest way to picture this is to imagine a dead straight railroad track. The outer rail is the ball-to-target line stretching away into the distance; the inner rail is the body line. When viewed from behind, a right handed golfer will appear aimed slightly left of the target.
It is relatively easy to ensure correct alignment by following this pre-shot routine:
1. Before hitting the shot, approach the ball from behind and trace a line back from the target to the ball (this is the ball-to-target line).
2. After the imaginary line has been traced back from the target, pick out something just in front of the ball on the ball-to-target line, such as an old divot or other mark, it’s much easier to aim at a target nearby than far away.
3. Stand to the side of the ball and set the club face square to the intermediate target to ensure the club face is aimed along the ball-to-target line
4. Then complete your set up routine by taking your posture and squaring your toes, knees, hips and shoulders to the ball-to-target line.
5. Keep in mind the train track alignment image.
It is vital to practice this routine and establish correct alignment because if golfers aim too far right or left of the target, subconsciously the body will alter the swing path to get the ball near the target. One of golf’s most common swing faults, coming ‘over the top’ with an out-to-in swing path, can often be traced back to poor alignment.
After establishing the correct alignment it is possible to swing through the ball with a sound swing path and produce straighter shots.