While most teachers advocate moving the ball closer to the center of your stance with each shorter club, theres a faction of pros who believe the ball should be played from the same position for a full swing with every club.
Those adhering to the first method say that as clubs get progressively shorter in length, the swing bottoms out closer to the middle of the stance. The problem with this, the second group contends, is that changing ball position with each club causes inconsistency. For example, if you have only a general idea that the 8-iron is played slightly right of the 7-iron, youll do it a little differently each time, producing varying trajectory and distance.
No less a golfer than Jack Nicklaus recommends choosing a single spot for all clubs. For Nicklaus, this was just to the right of his left heel. Sean Foley, current teacher to Tiger Woods, is also in this camp.
If you struggle to hit your clubs reliable distances, try the one-spot-fits-all approach. Foley suggests playing the ball in line with the left chest muscle, where the swing should bottom out regardless of which club youre hitting. The one thing you should change from club to club: stance width.
The shorter the club, the narrower your stance.
Should Ball Position Change with Different Clubs?
ball position is one of the fundamentals in golf that many amateurs ignore. They get so caught up in making sure all of the other technical aspects of their swing are just right that there is no time left to think about ball position. Don't make that mistake. If you wish to become the best golfer you can be, you are going to need to understand and fine tune this vital element of the swing.
Why is ball position so important? In a word – consistency. It is difficult to be consistent on the golf course, but placing the ball in the same position in your stance shot after shot is one way to make your game more reliable. When your ball position is consistent with each club in your bag, there is a better chance that you will be able to hit a predictable shot with those clubs. Moving your ball position all around in your stance is like trying to hit a moving target – you might succeed once in a while, but consistency will be elusive.
However, consistency with your ball position does not actually mean that the ball is in the same place in your swing for every shot. On the contrary, it should be placed specifically depending on the shot that you are hitting. So, to answer the title question, yes – ball position should change with different clubs. Each club in your bag is a different length, with a different lie angle, which means they each need a ball position that is unique to that club. While it might sound complicated to have 14 different ball positions, you will soon learn that it is easier than you think. With some practice on the driving range you will soon be placing the ball in the perfect spot in your stance prior to every shot.
When working on your ball position, it might be helpful to remember that there is really only one skill in golf that matters – knowing where the ball is going. If you know where the ball is going to go before you hit it, you can play great golf. It doesn't matter all that much what the shots look like that you are hitting, as long as you can accurately predict where they are going to go. Golf is a target-based game, and control over the ball is the one key that can immediately lead you to lower scores. Understanding ball position is one big step that you can take in the direction of learning how to control the golf ball.
All of the instruction below is written based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions to make sure they apply to your game correctly.
Starting with the Driver
You need to have a point of reference from which you can start figuring out exactly where in your stance the ball is going to go for each club in the bag. That reference point is going to be your ball position with the driver. Start by learning to get your driver ball position just right, and then you can move on to sorting out the rest of the clubs as well.
For most golfers, the proper ball position for a driver is going to be lined up with the inside of the left foot. To find this position on the driving range, take an extra club from your bag and lay it down on the ground. It should be perpendicular to the target line, and the end of the shaft should be pointing right at the ball that you are going to hit. Now, with that club serving as a guide, place your left foot just to the left of that club shaft. To complete the stance, move your right foot into position. Just by following these simple steps, you should be in a perfect position to hit your driver.
After successfully lining the ball up off the inside of your left foot, go ahead and hit a few drives on the practice range. Carefully watch the ball flight of these shots. Are you happy with the trajectory that you are achieving? If not, you might need to slightly adjust your ball position. Use the following guidelines to make the right adjustments –
- Too much fade. When you find that the ball is fading too much for your tastes, you may need to move the ball slightly back in your stance. If the ball is too far forward for your swing, the club will start to move back to the left by the time it reaches impact. That means that fade (or slice) spin will be imparted on the ball. Even just moving the ball position back an inch or two can make a big difference in the resulting ball flight.
- Too much draw. Not surprisingly, the opposite is true when you are dealing with a ball flight that draws too much. Too much draw is a good sign that you are contacting the ball a little bit too early in the downswing. Move the ball forward in your stance just an inch or two and then hit a few more shots. Repeat this process until you are able to settle on a ball flight that you like.
The driver ball position that you settle on is going to be the baseline for the rest of your clubs, so make sure you take the time to get it right. Only when you are completely happy with the ball flight that your ball position is creating should you move on to the rest of the clubs in your bag. This process can take some time, especially if you are making a dramatic change from the ball position you are used to playing from. However, it is time well-spent, as your will notice your performance with the driver will quickly improve once you settle on the perfect ball position.
Moving Down to Your Wedges
The ball position that you are going to use with your driver will establish the front of your ball position spectrum - but you still need to establish the back of that range. Since your wedges will be played from the furthest-back position in your stance, those are the clubs you should work on next. Once you find the right ball position for your wedges, you will know that all of your remaining clubs will fall somewhere between the driver and the wedges.
Get started by hitting a few shots with one of your wedges on the driving range. It doesn't really matter which wedge you choose for this purpose. To hit these shots, place the ball exactly in the center of your stance, halfway between each foot. You can use a guide club placed on the ground to find the center point of your stance, similar to the technique used early to establish driver ball position. With the ball in the middle of your stance, hit several shots and pay attention to the quality of contact that you are able to achieve.
Out of that grouping of shots, did you hit any of them fat? Or thin? Notice any patterns that are developing within that small sampling of shots, as it will very likely tell you something about what needs to change with your ball position. Of course, if you are hitting most of the shots solidly off the middle of the club face, you have already found the perfect wedge ball position and you can move on.
For those of you still struggling with solid contact on your wedge shots, use the following tips to get the issue corrected –
- Hitting shots thin. When the leading edge of the club is catching the back of the ball just slightly before you can get down far enough to strike the sweet spot, your ball position is probably too far back in the stance. To correct the problem of hitting thin shots, move your ball position up a couple inches and try a few more swings. When the ball starts to come off of the sweet spot of the club and climb high into the air, you will know you have found the proper ball position.
- Hitting shots fat. As you might have guessed, hitting shots fat is often a result of placing the ball too far forward in your stance. When the club bottoms out prior to reaching the ball, a fat shot is the inevitable result. Therefore, move the ball back an in or two and hit a few shots. Hopefully, it wont take long before you find the ball position that allows you to make solid contact with the ball prior to hitting the turf.
You will probably find that your ideal ball position with a wedge doesn't stray too far from the middle of your stance. If you notice that your best wedge shots come when the ball is moved either way up in your stance or way back, you might want to take some time to review the fundamentals of your swing. A proper swing is going to hit the ball solidly when it is somewhere near the middle of your stance – therefore, an extreme ball position is often a sign that there is a problem in your technique.
Using the Sliding Scale
At this point in the process, you should be comfortable and confident with your ball position for both the driver and wedge swings. If that is not the case, continue to work on those two pieces of the puzzle before going any farther. Without those two ball positions locked in, the rest of the process simply wont come together like it should.
The good news is that most of the hard work is done. Now that you have established baselines for the front and back of your ball position range, you can start to fit the rest of your clubs in between those two extremes. As you move down through your set of clubs, your ball position will gradually move from the front of your stance to the middle, just an inch or two at a time. So, for example, your three wood will be hit from a ball position that is slightly behind the one you use for your driver. Likewise, your nine iron will be hit from a ball position that is slightly in front of the one you use for your wedges.
So, that concept should be pretty simple to understand – as your clubs get shorter, the ball moves further back in your stance. But how do you quantify that movement? That is where it gets a little more complicated. It really isn't practical to take measurements of your ball position before each shot on the driving range, and the rules of golf would not allow for that approach on the course anyway. Instead, you are going to have to learn how to find the right ball position for each club through repetition. Working on your ball position over and over again on the range is the only way to learn this important skill.
One of the best ways to learn a new skill and then incorporate it into your golf game is through the use of drills. The steps below outline an easy drill for learning to put the ball in the right position to hit quality shots for each of the clubs in your bag.
- Head to the driving range with your complete set of clubs. You will be using all thirteen clubs for this drill (not counting the putter).
- Find a spot on the range that will allow you to hit all of your various clubs from the same spot. Some driving ranges have sections that are for short irons only, for example, so make sure you are in an area where it is okay to hit everything from a wedge up through a driver.
- Count out 26 practice balls and set them aside for this drill. If you have more than that, you can use the left over balls for work on other parts of your game once this drill is completed.
- To start the drill, hit one shot with your driver. Of course, you want to make sure to put the ball in the proper position in your stance, and make the best swing possible. Don't rush through the shots in this drill – treat each one of them as if it was an actual shot out on the course.
- The next shot you hit will be with a three wood. Since you just hit your driver, the ball position that you used for the previous shot should be fresh in your mind. To hit the three wood, move the ball position back in your stance about an inch or so.
- Each subsequent shot will be hit with the next club down in your set. From your three wood, you will likely move to your five wood or hybrid club, whichever you happen to carry. Continue on until you have hit one single shot with all thirteen of your clubs.
- Once you have hit a shot with your shortest wedge, you are going to reverse the drill and start moving back up through the bag. Hit another shot with your shortest wedge, and then start inching the ball position back forward in your stance until you complete the drill like you started – by hitting the driver.
The purpose of this drill is simple – to teach you how to move from one club to the next in terms of finding the right ball position. Since you are hitting your clubs sequentially, you should have very little trouble making the right adjustments to your ball position gradually throughout the drill. You don't usually work through your bag in order out on the course, so it can be harder to learn ball position in that scenario. Use this drill to train yourself on the range so that good ball position comes naturally when you play an actual round of golf.
Ball Position with the Putter
All of the content above has focused on getting the ball position right with your full swing clubs – and that is certainly important. However, ball position is just as important on the putting green, so you need to learn the proper set up with that club as well. A good ball position when putting will help you hit your target line more consistently, and can also help you roll the ball better off the putter face.
Most golfers will have them most success when using a ball position for their putter that is similar to the one used with the driver. The reason is simple – just like when hitting a driver, you want to hit up slightly on your putts. Making contact with the ball while the putter head is moving up away from the turf will help to get the ball rolling on the ground faster, as opposed to skidding along the top of the grass.
So that means that you should start by positioning the ball in the front of your stance, aligned with the inside of your left foot. Set up with this ball position and hit a series of short putts from about five feet away from a practice hole. The green between you and the hole should be as flat as possible so you can evaluate the accuracy of your stroke without having to worry about the break of the green. Hit ten putts from five feet away using this ball position and see how many you can make.
If you are able to make eight or nine of the ten putts, you should feel confident that you have found a ball position that works for your stroke. However, if you struggle to make even a few of the putts, the ball position may need adjustment. The following tips will help you adjust, based on what kind of misses you were experiencing.
- Putts missing right. When the ball is consistently missing to the right side of the hole, there is a strong chance that this ball position is too far back for you. You want to start adjusting it forward until you are able to more-consistently roll the ball at the target. For each adjustment you make to your ball position, hit a few more putts to see if you have successfully corrected the problem.
- Putts missing left. Obviously, the opposite problem is going to have the opposite cause. In this case, the putter face is closing prematurely and pulling your putts to the left of the target. Move the ball back in your stance gradually, again testing your results at each step along the way. Once you start to consistently roll the ball into the hole, you will have found your correct ball position.
If you are a golfer who is frustrated with the results that you get on the greens round after round, make sure you spend some time working on your ball position with the putter. Your putting stroke might not be the problem after all – it could simply be a matter of having the ball in the wrong spot in your stance for the putting stroke that you are trying to make. ball position is a relatively easy fix that can have a powerful effect on your ability to make putts.
You don't want to try to play all of your shots from the same ball position. Since each of the clubs in your bag is different, you need to have a specific ball position that matches up with each of them properly. While that may sound like a major undertaking at first, you should find that the directions contained above will help you pinpoint your perfect ball positions within just a short practice session. As time goes by, make sure to periodically work on your ball position as part of your regular practice routine. There isn't anything exciting about finding the right ball position for your golf swing, but the results that it can help you achieve will be well worth the effort.