But aligning the body slightly right of target has certain advantages. For one thing, it positions your right shoulder and hip (left for left-handers) to make a free, full backswing turn in relation to the target line.
Think of it this way: Golfers are taught to rotate the shoulders to a 90° angle to the target line at the top of the backswing. But many lack the flexibility to reach this mark. By pre-setting the body at a slight angle, say 5°, it's easier to achieve a complete turn.Of course, it's still necessary to aim the clubface where you want the ball to finish, which will be left of your body's alignment. But that's okay, as this will produce a shot that moves right-to-left (draw).
A number of pros, including 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, set up in this manner.
Align Slightly Right for Better Backswing Turn
When you learn how to set up over the golf ball, you are usually taught to get as square as possible to the target line. Which, on the surface, makes sense – after all, if you are going to hit the ball consistently at your target, it is logical that you would line up in a matter that is locked in on that target. However, that isn't a method that is going to work well for all players. While many players will be well served to aim parallel with the target line, some golfers may want to align their bodies out to the right in order to facilitate a better backswing (for a right handed golfer).
Golfers who are going to benefit from aligning out to the right are those who have difficulty getting behind the ball when set up in a normal position. Getting 'behind the ball' in the backswing is an important skill in golf, as is provides you with an opportunity to unload all of your power into the shot. If you fail to get behind the ball nicely at the top of the swing, you will never be able to maximize the distance that you achieve with your shots. There are a number of ways you can go about trying to get behind the ball, so moving your alignment out to the right is only something you should try after other options have failed to yield results.
Unfortunately, using this method to get yourself behind the ball at the top of the swing is going to come along with some complications. Obviously, your aim at address is an important piece of the golf shot puzzle, and you are going to be 'messing with' your aim by turning your body to the right. It is still very much possible to hit accurate shots when playing in this manner, but you have to have a clear plan in place for how you are going to get yourself and the club in a good position at impact. In the end, as long as you reach a good impact position, it doesn't really matter what else has gone on – you should be able to produce quality shots.
If you are going to put this swing adjustment into use in your own game, it is attention to detail that will determine your success or failure. If you are willing to pay close attention to all of the small details involved in this process, you should be able to come out successfully on the other side with an improved game. However, if you just turn your body a bit to the right and start swinging away, the results are not going to meet with your expectations.
All of the instruction 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.
Reasons to Make a Change
As always, you need to have a problem in your golf game before you go looking for a solution. If nothing is wrong, why make changes? With that in mind, you have probably noticed that you are having some trouble with your backswing, which is why you are thinking about adjusting your set up to get your swing back on track. Of course, you have to make sure that the changes you are making are in fact the right changes, otherwise you could just be compounding your problems.
To make sure that moving your alignment to the right is the correct change for your swing, review the list of points below. If these problems sound like issues that are present in your current swing, you could stand to benefit from turning your body slightly to the right at address.
- Shoulder turn short of 90*. Most golf instructors will tell you that you should be trying to turn your shoulders at least 90* when making your backswing. An easy way to gauge your progress on this point is to check on the position of your left shoulder when you stop turning back. Has your left shoulder moved to the right of the ball at the top of your backswing? If so, you have done a good job of making a full turn. If not, you may need to alter your stance to gain a bigger turn. A lack of flexibility can cause a short turn, which will limit your ability to generate power on the way down. While it would be great to add flexibility to your body in order to make a bigger turn, that might not always be possible (and it could take a long time to reach that goal). In the meantime, aligning your body right can give your shoulders a 'head start' on making a great turn going back.
- Consistent slice pattern. The slice is something that is familiar to a large number of amateur golfers. Many golfers are never quite able to get rid of this frustrating shot pattern, watching shot after shot curve quickly to the right. As you probably know, it is very difficult to shoot good scores when you are fighting a slice – and it can even be difficult to have fun playing the game this way. If you would like to get rid of your slice, altering your stance to include alignment that points out to the right may be just what you need. This altered stance will help you finish your turn, meaning you will be able to attack from the inside during the downswing. A slice is created when you come into the ball from an outside path on the way down, so changing that path is essential to your success in eliminating the slice.
- Lack of distance. Distance certainly isn't everything in the game of golf, but it does help to be able to move the ball out there at least far enough to set up reasonable approach shots. If you find that you are unable to get much distance on any of your shots, there is a good chance that a poor shoulder turn is to blame. When you don't get turned back behind the ball properly, it is difficult to create speed on the way down because the downswing will simply be too short. A longer turn back creates room between the club and the ball, and that room can be turned into speed when you use the proper fundamentals.
- Poor tempo. This is a point that you might not think about right away in relation to making a good turn, but your tempo is actually closely tied to the quality of your backswing. If you can make a good rotation going away from the ball, you should be able to maintain a nice rhythm in the swing. Players with short turns, however, usually struggle to get into a rhythm. If you feel like you are always rushing through your swinging motion, try aligning your stance out to the right to see if a better backswing is all you needed to find your natural tempo.
If any of the points on the list above apply to your current game, closing up your stance at address may be a good choice. Of course, there is no way to know for sure if this approach is going to work for you without testing it out on the range – which will be the next step in the process.
Giving It a Try
In many ways, golf is a game of trial and error. When you have problems in your game, you may have to work through a number of potential solutions until you find the one that is going to work for you. Two players could have the same basic swing problem and yet they may require completely different solutions – that's just how the game works. So, if you think that aligning your body to the right of the target could help you make a better backswing, the best thing you can do is get out to the driving range to give it a go.
To start, take one of your short irons from your bag and set yourself up with a nice spot to practice and a bucket of balls. You want to use a short iron early on simply because a short club is going to be the easiest to hit while making a change. Once you get comfortable and start to engrain this new set up into your game, you can gradually work on hitting longer and longer clubs. It doesn't particularly matter which one of your short irons you use – anything from an eight iron on down to one of your wedges will work just fine.
The first thing you need to do in this process is pick a target. You can't know where your body is aligned unless you have selected a target to work from, so that is going to be your first task. Obviously, you should pick a target that is a realistic distance for the club you have in your hands. Most driving ranges include a number of targets in the range of 100 – 150 yards, so you should have plenty of options to pick from on this point.
With your target selected, you now need to work on aiming the club and taking your stance. Going through this process the right way is going to be crucial if you are going to make this swing change successfully. Follow the steps below to get both your club and your body in the right position.
- As you walk up to the ball, place your club head behind the ball so that the face is aimed perfectly at the target. This first step is crucial, as everything else that you do is going be based on the fact that you have lined up the club face correctly. At this point, the club should be in your right hand only, as your left hand should be simply hanging down by your side. Once you are satisfied that the club face is pointed in the right direction, you can go ahead and move on to the next step.
- Now that the club is in position, the next step is to establish your stance starting with the placement of your feet. This is where you are going to make a point of aligning your body out to the right of the target that you have selected. Of course, you don't want to aim dramatically out to the right – we are only talking about a small adjustment to your body position. As a general rule of thumb, try to align your feet so that they are creating a line which is about 5* to the right of the target. This means that your left foot needs to be closer to the ball than your right, but only by a couple of inches. In order to get your entire body eventually aligned to the right, you have to be careful not to just move your left foot forward and your right foot back – they need to actually turn in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of your stance.
- Don't hurry through the previous step on getting your feet in position. It is critical that your feet are positioned well at address, as the rest of your body is going to follow in line with your feet. Once your feet are locked in, go ahead and add some flex to your knees and grab onto the club with both hands. Make sure your back is in a flat position, and keep your chin up away from your chest. You should feel as if your feet, hips, and shoulders are all running along the same line – which is a line that is pointed slightly to the right of your target for the shot.
While three steps above might sound a bit complicated at first, they are actually quite simple to put into use. Once you get the idea of aiming out to the right across your target line, you should be able to repeat this address position time and again with little trouble. After you have learned how to take your new stance, all you need to do is continue on with the practice session, hitting shot after shot. You shouldn't worry too much about the results at this point. Instead, just try to get comfortable with swinging from this stance. Once you are able to start striking the ball cleanly on a consistent basis, you can move on to learning how to control the shots you are creating.
The Likely Outcome
Playing from a closed stance is almost always going to lead to a draw. That isn't going to be the case for 100% of the players who try this technique – but it will hold true for the vast majority. If you give this method a try in your own game, you should expect to see the ball start turning from right to left almost immediately. A draw is created when you attack the ball from the inside, and that is exactly what you are going to be doing in all likelihood. Unless there is another part of your swing that is going terribly wrong, this closed alignment is going to encourage your ball to travel on a draw flight.
So, knowing that you are going to be playing a draw, you will need to account for the shape of your shot when picking your target line. Remember, your target line is not the same thing as your actual target – this is a line that you want to start the ball on. After the ball leaves your club and gets up into the air, it is going to turn, and hopefully wind up near the actual target itself. For example, if you are expecting to hit a draw, you will want to select a target line that is to the right of your target so that you have room to turn the ball back to the left.
Now that you are playing for a ball flight (likely a draw), you need to stop aiming the club face at your target and start aiming it at the target line. This is a crucial point. If you were to continue aiming the face at the actual target while aligning your body to the right, you would likely miss to the left over and over again. Before each shot, you need to pick out a definitive target line, and then do your best to set the club face on that line. If you can do so successfully, you should see the ball rise up into the air and turn back perfectly toward your target. You are never going to execute your swing correctly 100% of the time, but getting everything set up right before each shot will give you the best chance at success.
It is going to take some time and practice for you to determine just how much draw you are going to get on each of your clubs. Some players will hit a big draw when playing from a closed stance, while others will hit just a slight draw of a few yards. You can play well with a variety of different draw types, as long as you know how to account for your shot shape in advance. In time, you will gain confidence in your ability to dial up the perfect aim for each shot, and you will begin to hit the ball close to the target with regularity.
Does a Closed Stance Apply to the Short Game?
In a word, no. That was a simple answer, but it is going to be the correct answer for most golfers. Simply put, you don't want to try playing your short game shots from a closed stance. In fact, most players would be better off playing these shots from a slightly open stance (except when putting – you should be perfectly square while putting). While your stance isn't as important in the short game as it is in the long game, you would still be wise to avoid a closed position.
If you were to try playing your short game shots from a closed stance, you would likely have trouble getting the ball up into the air softly. The best way to play lofted shots from around the green is to swing slightly from outside-in, so that the club can slide under the ball cleanly. As you can imagine, that task is going to be difficult to accomplish when you stand closed to the target. So, to make it easier to swing from out to in, simply open up your stance and swing the club along the line that is created by your feet. This way, you are able to easily see the target in front of you, and the club will have every opportunity to get under the ball nicely.
Another problem with playing short shots out of a closed stance is the difficulty that you will have in creating backspin. Generating backspin can be extremely helpful when trying to get your ball to stop in the short game, but you aren't going to get much spin playing from a closed stance. Instead, you will reduce the amount of spin on the ball, and you will likely see a long run out as a result. This might be okay for the occasional bump and run shot, but it isn't going to work most of the time.
Playing from a closed stance can be a good option for players who otherwise have trouble getting behind the ball at the top of the swing. If you feel like your backswing is shorter than you would like it to be, use the instruction contained above to align your body to the right of the target – a longer backswing with better tempo should be soon to follow. This adjustment isn't going to solve all of the problems in your swing immediately, but it can take you a step closer to hitting quality shots.