The space between golfer and ball at address helps determine the distance between golfer and ball after it’s been hit. Stand too close or too far and the ball’s flight may be a short one; and a crooked one at that.
Improper setup can cause a multitude of swing problems; for example, poor balance. Reaching for a ball that’s too far away puts excess weight on the toes, creating pushed, topped and even shanked shots. Stand too close and you’ll be back on your heels, spraying shots off the end of the club and making generally lousy contact.
How you address the ball also affects the club’s path, or plane, which influences ball flight. The swing may become overly flat (horizontal) or upright (vertical). Depending on your miscalculation; hooks, slices and other miscues will ensue.
Likewise, bad ball positioning can wreak havoc on the spine angle, hindering hip and shoulder turn -- draining power and undermining accuracy.
There’s no specific measurement as to how far one should set up from the ball, but obviously, a longer club (driver) creates more distance than a shorter club (wedge). Still, it need not be a guessing game from one club to the next.
Here’s a simple, step-by-step setup guide that works for every golf club
1. Stand up straight with the knees just slightly bent.
2. Grip the club normally and hold it in front of your body, at a right angle to your spine, with the elbows relaxed and close to your sides.
3. Make sure the butt of the club points at or just above your belt buckle.
4. Flex the knees so that you’re balanced on the arches of the feet.
5. Bend at the waist and allow the club to fall down into a comfortable address position. If the club face is not centered behind the ball, then you’re too close or too far. If this is the case, maintain your knee flex, posture and arm position and slide your feet forward or back until the club head comes into place behind the ball. Don’t adjust the club’s position with the arms.
If you’ve done each step correctly, your arms will hang naturally, nearly perpendicular to the ground. The body should turn freely, the club finding its proper path with a minimal effort.There’s an instinctive temptation to stand slightly farther from the ball with driver in hand, and to inch up on the ball when wielding a wedge. However, developing a consistent routine, as explained above, is crucial to getting this neglected fundamental right every time, and with every club.
Learning How to Address the Golf Ball Correctly
There are many different parts to a good golf swing, and you have probably invested plenty of your time working on a variety of them over the years. Golfers love to tinker and tweak their swings, always looking for just the right combination that will allow them to hit the best shots of their lives. This is one of the things that makes golf such an addictive game – the opportunity for improvement never goes away. The promise of lower scores is always just around the next corner with your latest grip change, new club, etc. It is what keeps us coming back for more.
One of the areas of the game that is vitally important to the swing but never gets much attention is addressing the golf ball. Taking a good stance before you even start your swing has a great deal to do with the outcome that you will reach. Addressing the golf ball correctly before every shot is something that all golfers should strive to do. The good news is that, unlike the moving parts of the swing, there is no reason you can get your address position perfectly correct before each and every swing. You might not hit perfect shots all day long, but you can make sure your body is in the right position at address.
There are a number of variables involved with your address position, including golf ball placement in your stance and the distance from golf ball that you stand before the shot. Complicating matters is that golf ball placement for different clubs will vary, so your address position will need to be slightly adjusted for every different club in your bag. The key is to invest practice time in your address position just like you do for the other parts of your swing. It might not be as fun or exciting to work on, but practicing your distance from golf ball at address and other pre-shot fundamentals is crucial to your success.
Golf is all about removing variables prior to making a swing. You want to get everything in just the right spot to give your swing the best chance at success. If you are taking a different address position prior to every swing, you will stand very little chance of finding consistency with your ball flight throughout the round. Taking a quality, repeatable address position allows you to check one item off of your swing to-do list. Even if you change nothing else about your swing, simply improving your address position can go a long way.
The instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. Left handed golfers simply need to reverse the directions in order to apply them properly. Let’s take a look at some of the important elements of your address position, and how you can get yours just right.
The Three Key Elements
It is true that a good address position can take on a variety of forms, and each golfer will have a position that looks slightly different from anyone else. However, there are some key elements that you need to pay specific attention to as you build your stance. Without getting these three elements just right, it will be difficult to find a good address position swing after swing.
- Distance from golf ball. Standing the right distance from golf ball is one of the key elements that you have to get right. Stand too far away and you will have to hunch over the waist in order to reach the ball. Stand too close and you won’t have enough room between your body and the ball to swing the club aggressively through impact. To get the right distance away from the ball, let your arms hand down naturally from your shoulders when you are in a golfing stance. Then, put the club in your hands and set the club head down on the ground. Wherever it happens to fall it where the ball should be. Don’t try to measure the distance or calculate it using some formula – it should be based on your ‘feel’ and finding the spot that is comfortable for you to reach. Practice taking your stance over and over without even hitting a shot to get used to finding a good distance from the ball for your address position.
- Golf ball placement. The golf ball placement in your stance refers to how far forward or back the ball is when you are at address. For example, a middle ball position would be exactly halfway between your left foot and right foot – which is about right for a short iron shot. Again, depending on your specific swing mechanics and other factors, the right ball position for you will be somewhat different from other players. It will take some experimentation on the range to locate your own ideal golf ball placement for each of the clubs in your bag.
- Width of stance. This is an element of the address position that is most frequently overlooked – how far apart to place your feet from one another. If you stand with your feet too narrow, it will be hard to keep your balance and make an aggressive swing through impact. With a stance that is too wide, you can find yourself struggling to make a full turn in both the backswing and follow-through. For most players, starting with a stance around shoulder width apart is a good guideline – but you might need to adjust from there to find the right width for you. Depending on your body type, flexibility, and swing mechanics, a stance that is slightly wider or narrower than average might be called for.
As you can see from those previous points, there is quite a bit of individualism within the address position. It is important that you are able to nail down the perfect position for you so you can take it time after time – but your stance isn’t likely to look like anyone else’s. This is exactly why it is so important to practice your address position over and over again on the driving range. Since it is an individual thing, you can’t just copy it out of a book and be ready to play. You need to take the time required to establish your own personal address position and ingrain it so it becomes consistent and reliable.
Building a Pre-Shot Routine
With so many different parts needing to come together to create a good address position, it is important that you have a ‘system’ in place to make it happen. That system is commonly known as a pre-shot routine. You won’t find a professional golfer anywhere who doesn’t use a form of a pre-shot routine, and you should be following their lead. It doesn’t particularly matter what you do during your routine, as long as it is consistent and doesn’t take too long.
For most golfers, the pre-shot routine begins when they are standing a few feet behind the ball surveying the shot they are about to hit. At this point, there will be a couple of specific movements and thoughts that they will go through before walking up to the shot. This part of the routine is totally up to you, and it is important that you practice it just like the rest of your game. However, it is the part of the routine that takes place when you arrive at the ball that we are specifically interested in here.
When you walk up to your ball, every movement you make will in some way influence the address position to end up in. Therefore, it is important to plan this part of your process carefully and rehearse it consistently. While you are welcome to add in your own changes and variations to make this process comfortable for you, following is a recommended step-by-step system that you can use to form your own address position over the ball.
- Set the club down first. As you walk up to the ball from behind to prepare for your shot, the first thing you should do is set the club head down behind the ball. You want to build your stance around the position of the club, not the other way around. Try to set the club down flat on its sole so that the lie angle is correct. At this point, only hold on to the club with your right hand, and do so lightly. You will take your actual grip in just a moment, so for now only hold onto the club with a couple fingers (just make sure you don’t drop it!).
- Set your left foot. As we covered above, it is important to get the golf ball placement right in your stance before each shot. Therefore, you need to pay particular attention to your feet when taking your stance. After the club is placed behind the ball, place your left foot in the proper position relative to the ball for the ball position you are looking for. When hitting a driver, you might want to have your left foot lined up almost even with the ball – while a short iron shot calls for your left foot to be closer to the target than the ball.
- Complete the stance. With your left foot in place and the club still behind the ball, bring your right foot into position to complete the stance. This should be easy because your left foot is already in position, so your right foot only needs to be placed where it is comfortable.
- Grip the club. Now that your feet are properly positioned, go ahead and take your actual grip with both hands on the club.
- Feel athletic. The last step before you make your swing is to make sure you are in an athletic position addressing the golf ball. Flex your knees, make sure your head and chin are up (and not pushed down into your chest), and keep your back relatively straight. You should feel like you could jump up in the air to catch a ball if one was thrown to you – the athletic stance used in golf isn’t much different than the stance needed in many other sports.
After reading this list, you might have the feeling that is going to take you ten minutes to build your stance before the shot. While it does look a little intimidating at first, you can actually get to a point where this whole process is second nature and you don’t even have to think about it. This is again why it is so important to practice your address position on the driving range. Go through your whole pre-shot routine prior to hitting most of your practice balls on the range, and the process will quickly become natural to you on the course.
How to Adjust Ball Placement
Golf would be a lot simpler if you could just use the same ball position for every club in your bag – but sadly it doesn’t work that way. Instead, you will need to vary your golf ball placement for different clubs in order to optimize their performance on an individual basis. If you are going to get the most from each club in your bag, each one needs special attention when it comes to picking just the right ball position.
The good news is that there is a rule of thumb you can use to get you close to the right position. Once you understand the basic framework of golf ball placement for different clubs, you can then tweak your own personal setup based on the results you get.
To start, you should be lining up your driver with the inside of your left foot. If you are used to playing tee shots from the middle of your stance, this might look and feel a little strange at first. Playing the ball toward the front of your stance with a driver is important for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to ‘sweep’ the ball off the tee instead of hitting down on it like you would with an iron shot. Also, it gives you more room to turn behind the ball and build up speed before impact. You want to make your driver swing nice and long so the club can accelerate completely and you can max out your distance.
On the other end of the spectrum, you want to play your short iron shots from right in the middle of your stance. Unless you are hitting some kind of specialty shot (like a punch shot), you don’t want to let the ball get farther back than the middle of your stance. Placing the ball dead center with your short irons will help you get the downward strike that you are looking for, without the swing getting too steep (which could happen if you moved the ball back any farther). Keep the ball in the middle of your stance and make a simple, rotational swing to hit solid short iron shots.
So, if you have your driver at the front of your stance, and your short irons in the middle, where does that leave you for the rest of the clubs? Everything else will be on a sliding scale between those two positions. As a general rule of thumb, you should move the ball back about one ball-width for every club that you move down in your set. Therefore, a three wood is played from just slightly behind where your driver would be. The ball keeps moving back as the clubs get shorter, until you land at the middle of your stance for the wedges.
It is important to stress again that there is plenty of room for individualism when it comes to ball position with your various clubs. You might find that you play your short irons better when they are moved up a little more in your stance, or that you hit great drives with the ball position adjusted back a few inches. Start out during your practice sessions using the framework provided, but then make any changes that you need in order to dial in your ball flight just right. It may be helpful to make notes as you practice so you can remember which ball positions were working best with which clubs.
Golf is an Athletic Game
We touched on a point quickly earlier that deserves more time and attention. Too many people have the misconception that golf is not an athletic game, or that the golf swing is not an athletic motion. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While you don’t have to run sprints or jump high to be a good golfer, you certainly have to act like an athlete when it comes to the golf swing. Without engaging your muscles and using all of your hand-eye coordination during the swing, you will have very little hope of being a good player.
Think about your favorite sport to watch other than golf. Chances are there are many players within that sport demonstrating the same kind of stance that you should be using at address. In football, the linebackers stand with their knees flexed and their head up, ready to react to the offense and chase down the ball as quickly as possible. In baseball, the shortstop prepares for the pitch by bending at the knees and keeping his back straight – ready to dart right or left to retrieve the ball. The point guard in basketball plays defense by taking the same stance so he can react to the moves of the player he is guarding. It goes on an on – in any sport, an athletic stance looks almost the same.
So why should it be any different in golf? It shouldn’t. Golf requires great athleticism for the couple of seconds during which the club is moving through the swing. You have to use most of the muscles in your body, stay balanced, turn aggressively, and accurately apply the club face to the back of the ball. Hitting a golf ball solidly is actually one of the greater challenges in all of sports, even if you aren’t going to be tackled or blocked while doing it. Being athletic during your golf swing gives you a great advantage, and it all starts with your address position.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can just walk up next to the golf ball, stand there with your legs straight and your back hunched over the ball, and make a good swing. That just isn’t how it works. Golf is a sport that requires athletic movements just like any other. If you talk to any experienced golf teacher they will likely tell you something that many amateur golfers are surprised to learn – they don’t even have to watch you swing the club to figure out how good you are. Just by watching a golfer take their address position, most teachers or professionals can tell approximately how good that person is on the course. That should tell you how important a proper address position is. Even by only watching a player take their stance, a golf teacher can have you pegged as to whether or not you know how to play the game.
There are a few different parts to getting the address position right, including distance from golf ball at address and the golf ball placement for different clubs. At first, you might be a little overwhelmed by all of the details that have to come together in order to build your perfect stance. However, once you start working on your address position as part of your regular practice routine, it should become rather simple for you to master. Don’t forget the importance of the pre-shot routine, either, as it can help you stick with your address position no matter what else is going on during the course of a round. Sharpen up the way you address the golf ball and your scores are likely to improve as well.