Shoulders to Target Line – Open, Closed, or Square?

    Shoulders to Target Line – Open, Closed, or Square?




    To a large degree, the way you setup over the ball at address is going to determine the outcome of your shots. Sure, there are plenty of things you have to get right within the swing as well, but starting from a solid address position is an important step. Without a proper stance, you are going to be taking a difficult game and making it even harder. One of the keys to building a good stance is positioning your shoulders correctly at address, relative to the target line. That is exactly the topic we are going to tackle in this article.

    The target line for any given golf shot is the imaginary line that runs from the ball to the target you have selected. The target may be the hole itself, but not always. For instance, you might use a target line which is to the right of the hole, so as to allow the ball room to draw back toward the ultimate target. Every time you get ready to hit a shot, you should have a specific target line selected. Once the target line has been identified, you can move on from there in order to build your stance and make your swing.

    Is it best to setup with your shoulders square to your selected target line, or should you start from an open or closed position? For many golfers, on many kinds of shots, it will be best to start square. However, as you are going to see in this article, that is not always the case. It can be beneficial to start open or closed to the target line, depending on the specifics of your swing and the type of shot you have in mind. Like everything else in golf, this topic gets more and more complicated the more you look at it. We hope that the advice we are going to provide in this article will help you make smart decisions with regard to your stance.

    As you work on positioning your shoulders correctly in relation to your target line, it might be necessary to enlist the help of a friend to get this right. It is hard to see the positioning of your shoulders while you are standing over the ball, so asking a friend for help is a good idea. From their external perspective, your friend should be able to tell you whether or not your shoulders have landed in the desired spot. Of course, if you don’t have anyone that you trust to make this call for you, it is also possible to use video to check on your stance. Record yourself hitting a few shots and then watch the video back to see how your address position is looking before each swing.

    All of the content 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.

    The Benefits of Starting Square

    For most of your shots, you are probably going to want to start out with your shoulders square to the target line. As we will outline in this section, starting from a square position tends to be the best way to achieve consistent, repeatable results on the course. That is not going to be the case for all golfers, however, so feel free to adjust your own game as necessary in order to reach the highest possible level.

    The list below contains a number of benefits you may experience when starting from a square position with your shoulders at address.

  • Improvement through simplicity. Golf is a complicated game, so making your swing as simple as possible is a desirable goal. By taking as many of the variables as possible out of your golf swing, you can reduce the number of possible mistakes and achieve improved results in the end. When you set your shoulders square to the target line, you are naturally going to simplify your swing because these two important lines will match up from the start. You don’t have to work to bring your shoulders back into position at some point along the way, because you were in a good position right from the start. There should be less timing involved in this kind of swing, and demanding less of yourself from a timing perspective is always a good thing. If you would like to work on building a consistent, repeatable golf swing, starting out with your shoulders square to the target line is a wise choice.
  • Stay connected. During the golf swing, it is your job to ‘stay connected’ by turning your upper body and lower body at an appropriate rate of speed. If one half of your body is racing away from the other, it will be nearly impossible to hit a solid shot. The job of staying connected is going to be more difficult if you don’t start out in a connected, square position. That is not to say it would be impossible – you would just be starting from a disadvantaged position. Why have to work to get your upper body back in sync with your lower body, when you can just start that way to begin with? By setting up with your shoulders square, and then making a solid, controlled turn, you should find that remaining connected in the swing is not the significant challenge you once believed.
  • Aim properly at the target. It is hard to aim accurately at the target when you are using a variety of different setup lines in your address position. Proper aim is one of those building-block skills that you don’t want to overlook in the game of golf. It might seem easy to aim at the target you have selected, but most amateur players actually struggle with this skill. During your next practice session, work on improving your ability to aim at a specific target. You will likely find that you are better able to aim accurately when you stand with your shoulders square to the line.
  • For most players, golf is going to be an easier game when the shoulders are squared up to the target line at address. And this makes sense – golf tends to reward simplicity and repeatable swings, and using this fundamental is going to take you in those directions. With that said, not all golfers are going to benefit from a square stance, and not all shots should be played from this kind of setup, either. The rest of this article is going to be dedicated to the exceptions that you need to understand while deciding how to establish your stance prior to each swing.

    Knowing Your Swing

    One of the most valuable things you can have in the game of golf is an intimate knowledge of your own golf swing. Your swing is your own – no other golfer in the game uses the club exactly as you do. This is one of the things that makes golf so special. While many golf shots look similar, no two are identical. This is a game of endless variety, meaning it can stay fresh for many years to come.

    With regard to this discussion, knowing your own swing is important as it can help you decide how you should set your shoulders at address. While we established in the previous section that it is a good idea to set your shoulders square to the target line as a ‘default’ position, that position might not be best for you. It is possible that you will achieve better results by using an open or closed position at address, depending on the technique you use throughout the rest of your swing.

    We can’t tell you exactly what position is going to be best for your game, as we’ve never seen you swing the club. With that said, we can lay out some scenarios to help you understand how this concept works. Review the list below before thinking about your own swing and any adjustments you may want to make.

  • Start closed to give yourself a head start. If you feel like you are always having to play ‘catch up’ in the late stages of your golf swing, it may be that you would benefit from starting your shoulders in a closed position. This is going to give your upper body a head start over your lower body, meaning you might wind up in a more closely connected position at impact. Basically, by closing your shoulders slightly at address, you are going to shorten the turn required to make it up to the top of your backswing. This won’t be the right adjustment for all golfers, but it can be perfect for those who have trouble keeping up with their lower body on the way down.
  • Start open to tighten the backswing. While many amateur golfers are obsessed with making the longest backswing possible – thinking that a long backswing will mean more distance – your backswing might actually be too long already. It is hard to control the club, and your balance, when you make an extremely long swing. If you would like to tighten up your turn slightly, consider starting with open shoulders to encourage a shorter overall turn in the end. If you start from an open position, but keep the overall timing of your swing the same, you won’t end up going back quite as far. What you might be surprised to find is how beneficial this change can be to your game. Despite what you might think, you are unlikely to lose much – if any – distance when shortening your backswing. And, since you’ll have more control over the club, your ball striking should improve overall.
  • Start closed to improve your takeaway. One of the most common mistakes made by amateur golfers is taking the club back to the outside of the target line. When this happens, the backswing goes too far to the outside, and a slice is the common result. If this is a problem that has been plaguing your game for years, try closing your shoulders at address to straighten things out. With closed shoulders, you should be able to swing the club back on a proper path, and your slice problems may quickly become a thing of the past. That’s right – fixing a problem as frustrating as the slice could be as simple as changing the way you position your shoulders at address.
  • The list above contains just three of many possible examples of what you can accomplish by adjusting the alignment of your shoulders at address. Now, it is time to get to work on your own swing. What are the weak points in your technique at the moment? Is there anything that you can do with regard to your setup that will improve your swing? Think carefully about your game and experiment on the range with various adjustments to see what kind of results will follow.