Correct alignment of the golf club is very important. If the clubhead is in the correct position at address, it will ensure the clubface is in line with the shots intended target line. Otherwise, you'll be prone to offline shots.
A clubhead that's misaligned by just a few degrees can send the ball many yards off-target. Additionally, your minds eye will influence you to swing off plane, causing shots to stray even farther.
Heres how to align a golf club for accurate shots:
- Putters: Most golfers find putters easiest to aim, as most have built-in alignment aids. To line up properly, stand behind the ball, pick out your target line, then address the ball aiming your putters alignment feature along this line.
- Drivers, hybrids and fairway woods: Some woods and hybrids have a marking on the crown of the clubhead. Depending on the shape and levelness of this marking, it can be used when setting up the club to point down your target line. (A marking that is a straight line and level to the ground is the most helpful and accurate, while a mark or line on a curved surface can be misleading.) Just like the putter, with these clubs you should first stand behind the ball and pick out your target line. Its very helpful to find an intermediate target near the ball and in line with the target. Then, using the sighting aid on the crown of the clubhead, you can accurately aim the club head at the intermediate target. Without such an aid, you'll have to trust your eyes to align the face properly.
- Irons: Irons can be the most difficult to aim. Since the toe is higher than the heel, the top edge (and clubs shape) will appear to be angled many degrees in the open position. This has a significant effect on your mind and adds extra difficulty when using irons. Like all the other club types, a straight-line indicator that is level to the ground is the most helpful for accurately lining up to your target line. (Thomas Golf brand makes the only irons available with this patented feature.) Follow the same procedure as with your woods or hybrids; pick an intermediate target near the ball and aim the clubface at this spot.
The Overlooked Skill of Aiming in Golf
At its very core, golf is a target-based game. You might not think of golf in the same way that you would, say, archery, but the ideas are actually very similar. You pick out a specific target, then attempt to get an object as close to that target as possible. If you are able to get close to the target on a consistent basis, you will be successful. Despite the similarities, most people would pay far more attention to getting their bow and arrow lined up perfectly with the bulls-eye on an archery target than they would to making sure their golf club is aimed precisely at the target. Instead, most golfers simply place the club behind the ball, take one or two quick looks at the hole, and then swing away.
Obviously, this is a mistake. Aiming your club – and the rest of your body – properly is one of the most important skills you can have on the golf course. It doesn't do you any good to hit straight shots if your club isn't aimed at the target in the first place. In that case, all you would end up with is a shot that flies in a straight line to a destination that you didn't want to reach. Only when you can combine quality ball striking with proper aim will you be able to hit good shots hole after hole.
If you are a golfer who is serious about improving your game, aim is something that you should put high on your priority list. Just like any other part of your swing, aiming correctly at the target takes practice and a consistent routine. Work on your aiming ability on the driving range prior to every shot that you hit and your ability to aim accurately on the course should improve dramatically.
The good news is that aiming your club directly at the target is actually one of the easier parts of playing good golf – as long as you have a plan and know what you are trying to do. In addition to helping you get the ball close to the hole, aiming properly can give you a boost of confidence as well. When you are sure that your club is aimed perfectly at the target that you have selected, you can relax your mind and focus on the task of making a good swing. Without that confidence, you might find that your mind never really focuses in on the swing mechanics because it is still worried about the accuracy of your aim. Get the aim right, quiet your mind, and great swings can follow.
All of the instructions contained below are written for a right handed golfer. If you are a left handed player, simply reverse the directions as needed to make sure they apply properly to your game.
The Difference between the Target Line and the Target
There is an important piece of the puzzle that many amateur golfers get wrong, so it is important to clear it up before we get too far into the discussion of improving your aim. The difference between target line and target in golf is subtle, but crucial in learning how to aim a golf shot properly. Getting your aim right depends entirely on understanding what each of these terms mean, and how they apply to your shots.
- Target. This is where you want your ball to end up when all is said and done. As you get ready to hit a shot, you should be evaluating all of the factors that are going to affect that shot – distance, elevation change, wind, hazards, etc. – prior to selecting a final target. It is important to note that your target does not have to be the hole itself. For example, if you are playing an approach shot into a green that is guarded by a water hazard, and the hole is cut close to that water, you may choose to pick a target that is safely on the other side of the green. This shot might not get close to the hole, but it should avoid the pond and save you a penalty shot. Each and every single shot that you hit on the golf course should have a target.
- Target line. This is the line that you intend to start your shot on. It is not, however, always going to be a straight line right toward your target. Most golfers hit shots with some degree of fade or draw in the air, meaning the target line needs to account for that curve in order to get the ball successfully to the target in the end. So, if you are hitting a 6-iron into the green and have decided to pick the hole itself as your target, you might actually need to aim right or left of the hole to account for your ball flight. Very few, if any, golfers can actually hit the ball in a straight line with any amount of consistency. Therefore, understanding how to adjust your target line to take your ball to the target is really the key skill in aiming your shots.
Knowing how to aim a golf shot properly comes down to understanding the relationship between target and target line. Once you have picked out a target, you will then think about your intended ball flight and decide on an appropriate target line. Countless golfers make the mistake of simply aiming right at their target on every shot, and the results are predictably disappointing.
A Simple Formula for Getting It Right
There are two inherent problems when trying to aim your golf club correctly. The first is that the target can be hundreds of yards away, while the ball is lying at your feet. It is difficult to aim accurately at something that is so far away from where you are standing. The other problem is that you are standing next to your target line at address, not on top of it. Going back to the archery example from earlier, you would be able to look right down the target line while getting ready to take the shot. That is not the case in golf. Therefore, you are going to need to develop a system for aiming your club that takes away these problems and gives you the best chance to aim the club face directly down your target line.
Following is a step-by-step process meant to help you fine tune your ability to aim the club face. If you work on following this routine consistently on the driving range, it should become second nature when you head out onto the course.
That's it. Those five steps should take you from start to finish through the process of getting your club face aimed perfectly down the target line. It might sound like a lot of work right now, but after some practice you will get to a point where you can do all five steps in just a matter of seconds. On the driving range, practice going through this routine while hitting short pitch shots of only 30 or 40 yards. This exercise will help you evaluate how accurately you are aiming, and if you tend to error to the right or left. Over time, you should notice that your aim continues to improve and you will start to hit more shots right at your target.
Setting Your Body Position to Match
Now that you know how to aim your club head, it is important that you know how to aim your body as well. While the club head is the key piece of the puzzle that absolutely must be aimed down the target line, it will make your job far easier if your body is properly aligned as well. The goal is to set your shoulders, knees, and feet parallel with the target line so that everything is pointing in the same direction. Many amateur players struggle with at least one of these elements falling out of place – which means there has to be a compensation somewhere during the swing in order to get back on track.
First, we will focus on the job of getting your feet lined up parallel to the target. This is the best place to start because when your feet are lined up correctly, it becomes pretty easy to get your knees and shoulders to follow along. If you followed the step-by-step directions above for getting your aim right, you should already know that you need to set the club head down behind the ball first before setting your feet. This is critical. Once the club head is down behind the ball and aimed properly, you can then use the position of the club face to guide your stance. Step into place first with your right foot, then with your left. Try to visualize two lines on the ground below you – one that is your target line, and one that is a line running across the toes of both of your feet. Are these lines parallel? If so, you have done a good job taking your stance.
Of course, it might not be easy at first to accurately picture these lines. Therefore, it can be helpful to use a visual aid on the driving range to reinforce these lessons. Before hitting a shot, take two extra clubs out of your bag and lay them down on the ground. One of these clubs should be set along the target line, while the other is set along your toe line. Stand behind them to make sure they are parallel, then step into the shot. Now when you look down, you can use the shafts of these extra clubs to make completely sure that you are lined up properly. Knowing how to aim your body in the golf swing comes down to getting these lines correct.
With your feet sorted out, the rest of your body may already be in a proper position from which to swing. As long as you have a good athletic posture at address, your shoulders and knees are most likely going to fall right into place stacked above your feet. However, you might want to get some video evidence of this just to be sure. Ask a friend to take a quick video of your stance from behind so you can see how everything is lining up. Ideally, the lines formed by your feet, knees, and shoulders should all match, and all be running parallel to the left of the actual target line. Even if you think you are aiming correctly, taking video can provide a nice confirmation that you are on track.
The Strategic Side of Aiming in Golf
All of the golf aiming tips offered to this point have been technical in nature, regarding the physical task of learning how to aim your club head. However, there is a mental side to the equation of aiming as well that might be just as important. Specifically, picking good targets for your shots is a skill that you need to develop as you continue through your journey as a golfer.
Selecting targets properly in golf is a combination of good strategy and plenty of patience. The best players know when to aim right at the hole and when to play it safe to avoid trouble. Consider the following golf aiming tips for the mental side of the game before playing your next round.
Learning how to aim the golf club at address is a skill that every player should work on developing. The best swing in the world isn't going to do you much good if you fail the aim the club accurately at the target you have picked for the shot. Fortunately, good aim is one of the easier parts of the game, so long as you follow a specific process like the one laid out above. Have a plan, work on your routine on the practice range, and start aiming at the target more consistently than ever before.