When addressing the golf ball, your hips should be parallel to the target line.
It seems like a simple matter of aligning your feet properly and letting the hips fall into position, but that's not necessarily the case.
Because the right hand is lower than the left hand on the club (for a right-handed golfer), the right shoulder can be pulled out ever so slightly. In turn, the right hip is nudged forward, creating an open stance. From here, the hips have a head start on the downswing, leaving the arms and club behind and causing pushed or blocked shots.
The easiest way to check your hip alignment is to place a club along the ground and set up with your toes touching it. Address the ball with another club and, once set, pull the club up and across your hips. It should exactly match the club at your feet.
If you find that your hips and feet are out of whack, adjust the hips until they're parallel to the line, then hit your shot. Practice this repeatedly to instill the proper hip positioning.
Proper Hip Alignment
Alignment is a key setup element prior to beginning your golf swing. If you are able to get aligned properly with your target line at address, you will make the job of hitting a quality shot that much easier. Poor alignment can be blamed for a large percentage of the poor shots that amateur golfers hit – and most of them don't even know that it's a problem in the first place. If you feel like you are making good swings only to look up see the ball heading in the wrong direction, there is a good chance that alignment is at the root of the problem. Get your entire body – including your hips – aligned correctly at address, and your golf swing will suddenly produce far better results.
Most of the attention at address goes to the feet and the shoulders. Golfers tend to believe that if they get each of those two components aligned correctly, the rest of the body will fall into place. That isn't exactly true, however. Your position of your hips will have a lot to say about the quality of your golf swing, so you need to make sure they match up with your feet and your shoulders prior to starting your swing. It is possible to have your hips open or closed while your feet are square, and even a slight misalignment can lead to poor results. Considering how important it is to get your hips aligned with the target properly, working on this element of the swing should be a regular part of your practice routine.
Although the main goal of proper alignment is to make it easier to hit the ball on line time after time, getting your hips in the right position can also lead to increased power. Hitting powerful golf shots is all about having your entire body working together toward the same goal, and that can only happen when your alignment is correct. For example, if you were to start your swing with your hips already open to the target line, you would be losing out on potential speed later in the swing. The rotation to the left with your hips is where much of your power comes from, so starting with them open limits how much you will be able to turn. In this example, simply getting your hips squared up to the target line could lead to an additional few yards on your drives – without having to change anything else about your technique. Proper hip alignment can have a powerful effect on your game, so it is certainly a fundamental worth watching closely.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Basics of a Golf Stance
Hip alignment is an important part of your golf stance – but it is only one part. If you wish to have a quality stance from top to bottom, you are going to need to pay attention to all of the various elements that make up your stance. From the position of your feet and shoulders to the angle of your spine, there is certainly a lot to think about. Good golfers understand the importance of the stance, and they work hard to perfect their positions. When you put your body into a good position prior to starting your swing, you make the act of hitting the golf ball much easier.
So what elements should you look for in your stance? Before working on your hip alignment, make sure these other ingredients are in place.
- Feet and shoulders parallel to the target line. This is one of the main keys to any golf stance. Prior to hitting a shot, you should pick out an intended target line for your ball to travel on. This target line may be a direct line between the ball and the hole, or it may be slightly out to the left or right to account for the design of the course in front of you. Never hit any shot without specifically selecting a target line first. With your target line in mind, you can walk up to the ball and place your feet and shoulders on a line that is parallel to the left of the target line you have selected. It is important to realize that your shoulders and feet should not be aiming directly at the target itself, as that would place the aim of your club to the right of the target. Align your feet and shoulders parallel left and you will be starting off in the right direction.
- Feel athletic. It is vital that you feel like you are standing in an athletic position prior to starting your golf swing. Your knees should be flexed, and you should be bent slightly from the hips while maintaining a straight back. The muscles of your lower body should be engaged, but you should feel relaxed overall. Although you are playing golf, think about playing another sport such as basketball or football. Would your stance allow you to move or jump quickly in any direction? If the answer is yes, you have done a good job of creating an athletic position.
- Free-hanging arms. When your hands grab onto the handle of the club, your arms should feel like they are hanging freely in front of you. Many golfers reach out awkwardly to grab the club, which only adds tension in the arms and shoulders before the swing even begins. If you feel like you have to reach out in front of you to make room for the swing, you likely aren't bending enough from the hips. Tilt your upper body out over the ball until you feel your arms hanging down freely and naturally – this is the position you want to use at address. From there, simply grab onto the club and get ready for the swing.
Even without addressing the position of your hips, you can get into a quality golf stance just by meeting the three points above. Take time during your next practice session to work on each of these three items to improve the overall position of your body prior to the swing. Only when you are comfortable with the fundamentals listed above should you move on to improving your hip alignment.
Signs of Trouble
Working on the points above to improve your stance will go a long way toward helping you hit quality shots. However, even after including all of the advice above in your address position, you still might find that you aren't hitting the ball at the target on a regular basis. If that is the case, you will need to start thinking about your hip alignment as a potential cause of the problems. When you feel like you make a quality swing – only to look up and see the ball heading in the wrong direction – you will know that something is amiss.
Assuming the rest of your stance is in position, there are a few common ball flight problems that may indicate an issue with your hip alignment. If you see any of the following signs of trouble in your game, you should think about fixing your hip alignment as soon as possible.
- Pulling the ball left of the target line. This is a classic sign that you are setting up with your hips open to the target line. Open hips at address can lead to an outside takeaway – which will lead to a pull unless you re-route the club during the transition. If you are setting up with your hips open, you are probably also experiencing a low ball flight and deep divots with your irons. If you were to watch your swing on video while making this mistake, you might be left thinking that your takeaway is the real problem. While your takeaway is leading you astray, it is actually the positioning of your hips that is causing the poor takeaway in the first place. Get your hips matched up in a parallel position to the target line and your pulls should quickly disappear.
- Pushing the ball to the right of the target. As you might suspect, this issue is the opposite of the one above. If you have your hips closed to the target line at address, there is a good chance your takeaway will be inside of the line - and you will push the ball to the right. This is far less common than the mistake above, but it does happen from time to time. Not only will having your hips closed make you prone to pushing the ball right, it can also open you up to the possibility of hitting a hook. If you happen to come down into impact with a closed club face, along with the inside path created by your closed hips, a hook is the inevitable result. It is very difficult to play good golf while fighting a hook, so correcting this problem should be at the top of your priority list.
- Hitting the ball fat. Not only do you need to worry about matching your hips to the target line at address, you also need to make sure your hips are relatively level from side to side. If one hip is higher than the other, it will be difficult to come down into impact with an appropriate angle of attack. In this case, if you are hitting the ball fat, you likely have set your left hip higher than your right at address. Doing so will push your weight slightly onto your right foot, and you may have trouble getting off of that foot in the downswing. By leveling out your hips, it will become much easier to achieve a solid strike into the back of the golf ball.
As you can see, poor alignment with your hips at address can lead to plenty of problems in your game. If you are struggling with any of the three issues above, check your hip positioning right away. You don't want to start making changes to the way you swing the golf club if you don't have to, so try to solve your issues by correcting your stance first. Hopefully, an improved stance - with proper hip placement - will allow you to get your game back on track. If not, at least you will know that your stance is solid before moving on to tinker with other aspects of your swing.
Getting Your Hips in Position
As you are looking down from address, it is hard to see the position of your hips. In fact, from your perspective over the ball, it is nearly impossible to tell if your hips are parallel to the target line as they should be. Since that is the case, you need to have a plan for how you are going to take your stance that will allow you to be confident in your hip placement - even if you can't visually confirm that they are in the right spot. You can't have a video camera follow you around the course to check on your body positioning, so you will need to learn how to build your stance perfectly all on your own.
To improve your chances of getting your hips positioned correctly prior to each swing, you will need to add one simple movement to the process of taking your stance. This movement will add only a second or two of time to your pre-shot routine, but it will help tremendously when it comes to getting your whole lower body in position. To learn how to use this move, follow the step by step directions below.
- As you are preparing to hit a shot, go through your normal pre-shot routine. This routine should include getting an accurate yardage for the shot, picking a club, taking one or two quick practice swings, and selecting your target line. When all of that work is completed, you will be ready to walk up to the ball and take your stance.
- Begin your stance by placing your feet into position. Your feet lay the groundwork for the swing, so make sure you get them in the right places before you do anything else. Many golfers feel more comfortable placing their right foot first, followed by their left - but you can do it in whichever order you prefer. The important thing is that you are able to get your feet positioned parallel to the target line time and time again.
- With your feet set, complete the rest of your stance as usual. Establish your grip on the club, and square up your shoulders to match your feet. At this point, you will feel like you are ready to make a swing, but there is one more step that needs to be taken.
- Before starting your swing, squat down into your stance by bending your knees and sticking your backside out behind you. The squatting motion should be the same one that you would make if you were preparing to jump up into the air. As you squat, your hips will naturally square up with the rest of your body as a reaction to the motion. When you are down in the squat, you can be confident that your hips are matched up nicely with your shoulders and your feet.
- As you stand back up, pay careful attention to your hip alignment. Do not let them open or close as you come up, or you will have undone the progress you just made. When you get back up into your normal stance, you should be in an athletic position with your hips perfectly aligned to begin the swing.
Ideally, you can use this routine on the practice range so that you don't have to use it on the course. By going over this routine plenty of times during your practice sessions, you should be able to learn what it feels like to have your hips square. As time goes by, it will become easier and easier to find that position without using the process above, and you will simply be able to walk up to your ball and take a great stance. However, for now, take the time to work through this process and you will be able to get your hips aligned prior to every swing that you make.
Using Your Stance to Adjust Your Ball Flight
Hitting just one ball flight is only going to get you so far in the game of golf. If you have aspirations of taking your game beyond your current level, you will likely need to add new shots to your repertoire. For example, if you are a player who almost always hits a draw, adding a fade to your skill set would help you deal with a wider variety of holes. Golf is a game that requires constant adaptation throughout the round, and the more shots you have at your disposal, the better you will be able to adapt to the situation at hand.
As you may already know, adjusting your stance is one of the best ways to alter your ball flight. Even without changing the way you swing the club, it is possible to create a different shot shape simply through pre-swing alterations. Closing your stance, for example, should make it easier for you to hit a right to left shot, while opening your stance will encourage a left to right flight. Professional golfers are constantly adjusting their stances to generate different types of shots, and you should follow their lead. Practice using modified stances on the driving range to see what kind of ball flights you are able to generate.
There is an important point to be made, however, regarding your stance alterations. While you can move your feet around in order to change your ball flight, you still need to keep your hips aligned correctly with your feet. No matter what kind of shot you are trying to hit, the position of your hips as you stand over the ball should match the position of your feet perfectly. So, if you are open to the target line with your feet, you should be open with your hips as well. You don't want to put your body in a position where your hips are working against your feet during the swing. In order to make a quality golf swing, your shoulders, hips, and feet need to be in concert right from the start.
While developing a variety of ball flights is an important skill for any golfer, it may be best to wait on trying different shot shapes until you are completely comfortable with your ability to position your hips correctly. Working on too many things at the same time is a recipe for disaster in golf, so be sure that you have mastered your hip alignment before moving on to using your stance to shape shots. Since changing your stance can have a direct impact on the position of your hips at address, you want to check off the first skill before tackling the next. Hopefully, it won't take long until you feel comfortable with your hip alignment and you can move on to learning some exciting new ball flights.
There are certainly more exciting things to work on in the golf swing than hip alignment, but this is a fundamental that is crucial to your success on the course. A large percentage of the quality of your shots is determined before you ever put the club in motion, so do everything you can to get the address position just right. With a fundamentally sound stance supporting your swing, you will find it much easier to hit quality golf shots on a regular basis. It isn't particularly difficult to learn how to align your hips correctly, but it is something that requires persistence and attention to detail. Dedicate yourself to the finer points within the golf swing and the big picture is sure to come together nicely.