Proper aim and body alignment lead to a good swing path.
People often forget, golf is a target game; and like any target game, aiming to the target is an essential first step. Your initial setup can give your mind and body the ability to swing freely in a correct swing path, free from the mechanical distractions and complications brought into the swing by misaligned body positions.
Visualize your target line, then align your body to that line. Here's how...
1. First, stand behind your ball and pick a small intermediate target on your target line
2. Then address the golf ball with your feet, hips, shoulders and eyes parallel to that target line. You'll be surprised what a huge impact this simple fundamental can have on shot performance.
3. Align your body (and club) properly, and let your golf swing flow.
By properly aiming your body along your target line, you increase the likelihood of a mechanically correct and free-flowing swing. When your feet, hips, shoulders, eyes, and club are not aligned with each other (or with the target), they conflict with each other and cause all sorts of problems with your swing and ball flight.
So go out there and AIM... ALIGN... SWING
Getting better at golf usually comes down to the small details. There isn't anything glamorous about working on your body alignment, but it can go a long way toward helping you play your best golf. Getting this fundamental correct requires patience on the driving range to work through the pre-shot process time after time until you have it down perfectly. Don't be tempted to make radical changes to your swing that might not even be necessary in the first place. Work hard on getting your body alignment correct before every shot to see quick and powerful results on the course.
Consistent Golf Starts with Proper Body Alignment before Every Shot
Aiming your golf shots is about more than just pointing the club face at the target. Of course, the club face is an important part of the equation, but the rest of your body needs to also be properly aligned in order to achieve a successful outcome. Poor body alignment can lead to bad golf shots even if the rest of your swing is perfectly executed. Take the time on the practice range to learn how to correctly align your body prior to every shot and you will be rewarded with improved performance on the course.
If you feel like you consistently make good swings throughout your rounds of golf – and yet your results aren't living up to your expectations – there is a good chance that poor body alignment is to blame. Many amateur golfers make mistakes while taking their stance and don't even know it. Misalignment of your feet, hips, or shoulders can all play a role in leading you to hit a bad shot. Don't automatically blame your swing when the ball goes in the wrong direction, as there is a chance the error occurred before the club was ever put into motion.
Learning how to align your body correctly is all about discipline. You need to have the discipline to work through the same set of steps before each and every shot in order to consistently achieve proper alignment. One of the reasons that it is so important to have a pre-shot routine in your game is to encourage correct alignment. If you were to just wander up to your ball and take a stance with no specific plan in place, you would most likely be aligned incorrectly. Golf is hard enough when you do everything right – don't add poor alignment to the list of challenges that you have to overcome.
It can actually be exciting to work on correcting your body alignment because you stand to make instant improvements to your game by fixing any pre-shot mistakes that you are making. Corrections to your swing itself can take weeks or months to actually begin benefiting you on the course. However, with something like body alignment, you can start to hit better shots and lower scores in your very next round. That opportunity alone should be enough to motivate you to get out to the practice range for a session dedicated to body alignment.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play golf left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions in order to apply them correctly to your game.
Your body and the club face need to be working together in order to create correct alignment prior to a shot. However, that does not mean that they should be aligned at the same target. If you have your body and the club pointed in exactly the same direction, you will be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, you should use the image of railroad tracks to create perfect alignment in your address position each and every time.
What do railroad tracks have to do with playing good golf? Railroad tracks run parallel to each other, and never cross. This is exactly how you should be trying to align your body and the club face at address. The line created between the club face and your target, and the line created by your feet when you take your stance, should be parallel to each other. If those lines cross, you are setting your body up in a position that is going to make it difficult to successfully hit the ball at your target. Parallel lines should always be your goal when hitting a standard shot (you might break this rule occasionally to hit a 'specialty' shot like a big hook or slice to get out of trouble).
Make sure you take time to get this image perfectly clear in your head. If you are having trouble picturing the two lines, try the following drill –
- On the practice range, pick out a target that is 100 yards or so away from where you are standing. Take an extra club out of your bag, and place it on the ground so that the end of the grip is just in front of the ball and the shaft of the club is pointing at the target you have selected.
- Next, take your stance as if you were going to hit a shot at the target (don't actually hit the shot). Once you are happy with your stance, take the club you are holding and place it on the ground so that the shaft is touching the toe of both of your shoes.
- Step back and look at the two clubs that you have laid on the ground. If you have taken your stance correctly, these two clubs should be parallel, just like railroad tracks. If the lines created by these clubs would cross out in front of you, something has gone wrong with your address position.
By far, the most common mistake that amateur golfers make is to align their feet toward the target, instead of parallel to the left of the target. When this happens, the body is aligned 'across' the correct line, and over-the-top swing is usually the result. Many players who struggle with a slice could greatly improve their ball flight simply by aligning their body correctly at address.
The concept of railroad tracks in your alignment is one that can lead to great improvement in your game. While it is a simple idea, this mental image will help you place your feet on the proper line so that your body doesn't get in the way of what you are trying to do with the club. While you are practicing your swing on the driving range, try placing a couple of clubs down on the ground parallel to each other for a guide. It shouldn't take long before you get comfortable with the idea of aligning your body parallel to the left of the target line. Even without making a single change to the mechanics of your swing, you can quickly start to hit better shots by using the mental image of railroad tracks to guide your alignment.
Make Sure All Parts of Your Body Are Working Together
Most golfers will check on their body alignment by looking down at their feet prior to starting a swing. While your feet are a good place to start, there are actually other parts of your body that you need to make sure are properly aligned as well. Specifically, it is important to check that your hips and your shoulders are placed along a line that is in concert with the line your feet have created. Ideally, all three of these 'lines' (feet, hips, and shoulders) will be pointing in the same direction – on a line that is parallel left of your target line.
For some golfers, this will come naturally. Some players are simply able to take a stance and have all of these lines match up perfectly at address time after time. Not everyone is so lucky, however. If you have trouble with this important fundamental, you will need to practice taking a square stance on the driving range so that you are able to duplicate that quality stance out on the course. Try using the following process to put your body into a perfect pre-shot position.
- On the driving range, place two clubs down on the ground – one to indicate the target line that you are going to use for the shot, and one that is parallel left of the target line which you can use to align your feet. With those two clubs placed on the ground, take your stance and prepare as if you were going to hit a shot.
- Once in your stance, take the club that you are holding and place it across your waist so that the shaft of the club is parallel with the ground. The idea is to have this club represent the direction that your hips are pointing at address. Hold the club across your waist and look down at the line it has created. Does this line match up with the club that is on the ground to guide your feet? If it does, you will know that your hips are properly positioned. If not, make the necessary adjustment to your stance until your hips are aligned in the same direction as your feet.
- Next, repeat this process for your shoulders. Place the club across the front of your shoulders and make sure that it matches up with the direction of your feet and your hips. Once you have all three of these lines matched up nicely in your stance, go ahead and hit a shot down the range. Hopefully, your improved alignment will lead to more accuracy once the ball is actually struck.
You can use this drill as often as you would like on the driving range – even before every shot that you hit. Make it a habit to work through this process of checking your alignment until you are confident that your feet, hips, and shoulders are all working together nicely in your stance.
For some people, the above drill might not be enough to sort out misalignment issues. If you are still having trouble with correct body alignment after trying the drill, you may need to use video in order to correct your problems. Ask a friend to record a video of your swing so that you can see your body alignment from another perspective. To get the most-useful video, ask your friend to stand several feet behind you on an extension of the target line. When you watch the video, look closely at the points that have been highlighted above – specifically, look for your target line and your foot line to be parallel to one another. Also, make sure that the lines formed by your feet, hips, and shoulders are all matching up nicely. Once you see yourself on video, it should become clear what adjustments need to be made in order to get your body alignment on track.
Everything is based on Your Target Line
You can't get into a good stance if you don't have a clear target for each shot – it is just that simple. Picking a target is one of the most-overlooked fundamentals in golf. Many players simply walk up to the ball and aim at the middle of the fairway or at the flag without really giving it much though. Instead, you should be working hard to pick a very specific target that plays to your strengths and will keep your ball out of trouble. Once you have picked that target, the job of getting your body aligned correctly becomes a whole lot easier.
As you approach any golf shot, the first thing you should do is look for potential trouble that lies ahead. This trouble could be a bunker or some deep rough, or it could be something more serious like a water hazard or out of bounds markers. Naturally, your goal should be to keep your ball out of trouble and in good position throughout the round. Even if you don't hit the ball right next to the hole, staying away from the trouble will give you a chance to shoot a good score at the end of the day. Before you pick a club or even get your yardage, take a moment to select a specific target for the shot at hand.
After that target has been chosen, you can then move on to your other preparations such as finding a yardage and picking the right club. However, while you are getting ready to hit the shot, never lose track of the target you are going to use. Golf is a target-based game, so the targets that you chose during a round are going to go a long way toward determining your success or failure.
With all other pre-shot work completed, you will step up to the ball and prepare to swing. This is when body alignment comes into play. Before setting your body into position, your first move should always be to place the club behind the ball. Set the club head down behind the ball and aim the face of the club perfectly at your target before doing anything else. Only when you are satisfied that the club face is aimed correctly should you move on to getting your body in position.
Start by getting your feet set on a line that is parallel to your target line (don't forget about the railroad tracks). After your feet are settled, make a quick check of your hips and shoulders to be sure that they are in the right position as well. With your body correctly positioned, you can take one last look up at the target prior to starting your swing.
After reading through all of those steps that are required to get set for a shot, you might feel like you are going to have to spend five minutes just getting your body ready to swing. That is not the case. Pace of play is important in golf, so it is critical that you learn how to work through the process above in just a few quick seconds. The key is practice. You should put yourself through plenty of repetitions of this process on the driving range so that you are able to repeat it automatically when you are playing on the course. Don't just mindlessly hit balls on the range and hope to get better – instead, go through your routine before hitting each shot so you can actually see a benefit from your practice. Rehearse your pre-shot routine and body positioning prior to all of your driving range shots and you will hardly have to think about the process once you get to the course.
Troubleshooting Your Body Alignment
Hopefully, the instruction above will allow you to quickly correct any body alignment issues that you have in your game. However, even if you are able to correct them for the time being, there is always a chance that new problems will come up later on down the line. Golf is a difficult game, and your mind is required to think of many different things all the same time. Despite your best efforts, you may find that your body alignment gets off track at some point in the future. If that should happen, use the following troubleshooting guide to fix your mistakes.
The tips below are based on the ball flights that are giving you trouble. Find the ball flight that is currently causing problems in your game and make the appropriate correction as soon as possible.
- Pulled shots. If you are pulling the ball to the left on a consistent basis, there is a chance that your body is aimed to the right of the correct line. This is a common mistake for amateur golfers to make. When you line the club face up correctly, but your feet are aimed too far right, you will most likely have an over the top move in the transition from backswing to downswing. That mistake, along with active hands through the hitting area, can lead to a shot that is pulled to the left immediately off the club face.
- Pushed shots. The opposite mistake, pushing the ball to the right, is caused by the opposite problem. Allowing your feet to be aligned too far left at address will promote an outside takeaway – leading to an inside-out downswing. Doing this while keeping your hands quiet through the hitting area is a common way to create a pushed shot.
- Hooked shots. Hooking the ball quickly to the left is a difficult ball flight to play with on the course, and it can actually have the same cause as hitting a pushed shot. An open stance that is aligned too far left will put you in danger of hitting a hook – especially if you are a player who uses aggressive hands through impact.
- Sliced shots. As you might suspect, hitting a slice can be a common result when the body is aligned too far to the right. Just like when you hit a pull, the club comes from the outside-in and swipes across the ball. If you don't roll your hands over to square the club face on this path, the shot will have plenty of slice spin.
If you are hitting any of these four ball flights on a consistent basis, it is important that you first look to correct your body alignment before taking any other steps. It would be a terrible mistake to try rebuilding your entire swing from scratch when the only problem was a minor issue with your alignment. In golf, you always want to try the easiest fixes first, and only move on to bigger corrections when the basic changes don't solve the problem. Work on your alignment on the driving range and see if getting your body in the right position is able to bring your ball flight back to the center of the course. If correcting your body alignment doesn't solve the issue, you can then move on knowing that there is another problem in your swing which needs to be fixed.