The position which the ball should be played from in the stance not only differs from club to club but golfer to golfer and professional to professional.
Golfers altering their ball position with different clubs need to be aware of the consequences. Moving the ball position directly affects the angle of approach which the club will take through impact.
For example, if you were to hit two 7 iron shots, one from the front of the stance and one from the back, the ball flights would be totally different because of the respective shallow and steep angles of attack created. Because of this reason, it is better to have a flexible attitude towards ball position, altering it to fit the shot and not the other way round.
A ball positioned towards the back foot will create a steeper angle of attack and therefore more back spin and a lower ball flight. This can be very useful when faced with certain shots.
The punch shot can be extremely useful when trying to keep the ball low. It can be deployed when escaping from trouble and when trying to control the ball in strong wind.
It would prove extremely inconsistent to play a punch shot from the front of the stance because of the enormous weight shift required during the swing on to the front foot. This is why the punch shot is most effective when the ball is positioned further back in the stance, near the back foot. The further back the ball is placed, the lower the resulting ball flight will be.
However, golfers need to be aware that steepening the angle of approach also de-lofts the club being used. This is important because a punch shot attempted with a 3 iron could prove difficult as the already small amount of loft is further reduced.
- Set up – place the ball just back of centre in the stance, with feet shoulder width apart.
- Alignment is as normal, straight down the ball-to-target line.
- Adopt your normal posture but place about 60% body weight on the front foot and lean the shaft towards the target so the hands are ahead of the ball, opposite the left thigh.
- Swing the club away keeping the body weight 60% on the front foot.
- The back swing should be three quarters in length.
- Drive down and through the ball, keeping 60% body weight on the front foot.
- With the ball placed further back in the stance than normal, a downward strike should be easy to achieve. At impact, the hands should be ahead of the ball.
- The ball should fly lower than normal with a piercing flight.
Playing the ball further back in the stance is also useful in other areas of the game such as chipping and pitching. In both these areas, a downward strike on the ball is desirable to create a clean strike, back spin and control.
Why Play the Golf Ball Back in Your Stance?
Ball position is one of the key components that you need to get right when preparing to hit any shot. If you fail to put the ball in the right position before starting your swing, you will be setting yourself up for inevitable failure. Even if you make a great swing in which you hit all of the textbook positions, you will still struggle to hit good shots if the ball is in the wrong position in front of you. By taking the time during your practice sessions to work on mastering good ball position, you can take a big step forward in the quality of your performance on the course.
One of the tricky things about 'good' ball position is that the definition of 'good' is going to change from shot to shot. There isn't a single ball position that is going to work for all of your shots - instead, you need to match up the ball position you choose to use with the shot you are trying to hit, as well as with the club that is in your hands. Only when you are able to pair the right ball position with the right swing will you be able to consistently create shots that meet with your expectations.
In this article, we are going to look at a variety of shots which can be played successfully by moving the ball back in your stance. You can play shots using any one of three general ball positions - back, middle, and forward - and the content below is going to focus on the shots that are going to demand the back ball position in order to succeed. You might be surprised to learn just how many shots can be played using this ball position. In fact, some of the most useful shots in the game will be played from a back ball position, but before you can play those shots on the course, you need to spend time on the range learning how to execute them correctly.
Many amateur golfers overlook the importance of ball position, largely because it is a hard thing to observe when watching professional golf on TV. When you watch the best players in the world compete on TV - which is how many people learn the game - you get a great look at the player's swings, but you can't easily see where they have the ball positioned in the stance. Because of this, most people pay attention only to the swing itself when watching pro golf, rather than focusing on the extremely important setup phase prior to the start of the swing. You can make the game much easier if you set up properly to the ball at address, and a big part of that job is positioning the ball just right.
All of the instruction 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 most-common reason to play the ball back in your stance is to control the trajectory of your shot. In other words, when you want to keep the ball down closer to the ground as it flies, you are going to move it back in your stance. Many average golfers think of this as an advanced skill that is reserved for better players, but that simply isn't true. Anyone who is willing to put in a little bit of practice time can learn to flight the ball lower, and this kind of shot has a number of various purposes around the course.
Each of the following points is a compelling reason for you to learn how to hit the ball lower through moving the ball back in your stance.
- Stay under the wind. When you think about hitting a lower-than-normal shot, you probably think first about windy conditions. When the wind is blowing, having the ability to hit the ball lower is a great advantage. You certainly don't want to launch the ball high up into the sky on a windy day, as that kind of height will make it very difficult to control exactly where the ball is going to come down. Contrary to popular belief, you don't want to use your lower shot only when hitting directly into the wind - it is actually a good idea to hit lower shots regardless of wind direction in order to gain control over your ball. Golf is a target-based game, and it will always be hard to hit your targets if you are allowing the ball to be affected significantly by the breeze.
- Take distance off of a shot. This is a technique that is a good option when you need to hit an approach shot to a distance which is in-between clubs. Rather than trying to hit the shorter club as hard as you can, which is a common mistake, it is a better idea to take extra club and play a lower shot. By hitting the ball lower, it will come down out of the sky quicker while traveling a shorter distance overall. So, for example, if you hit a normal 7-iron shot 150 yards, but you only need to hit the shot in front of you 145 yards, you could move the ball back in your stance to hit a lower, shorter shot. This is a great way to make a distance adjustment, as long as you have first practiced it on the range.
- Improve accuracy. Facing a shot where accuracy is of extreme importance? Try hitting the ball lower. A lower shot will have less time to turn to the right or left in the air, and it will also be easier to strike with a minimal amount of sidespin (thanks to the ball being positioned back in your stance). This is a great strategy to employ on approach shots to greens which are guarded by hazards. For instance, if you are hitting a 150-yard approach shot to a green guarded by water on the left and a bunker on the right, try hitting the ball lower to keep it online and land it safely in the middle of the putting surface.
As you can see, there are plenty of applications for this kind of shot out on the course. To hit a full shot with the ball placed back in your stance, you will first need to your address position as usual. Once in your normal position, move your feet toward the target by just an inch or two in order to adjust your ball position successfully. It only takes a small adjustment in order to make a big impact on your ball flight. To learn exactly which ball position is going to lead to what kinds of ball flights, the best thing you can do is experiment on the driving range. Try a variety of different ball positions with different clubs until you start to get a good idea of what shots are possible thanks to this pre-swing adjustment. It will take a bit of time to get comfortable with these shots, but you will love the results once the work is done.
Deal with a Poor Lie
Golf would be considerably easier if all of your shots were played from perfect lies. Of course, it would probably be a bit boring as well, if that were the case. One of the things that keeps golf interesting is the variety of lies that you can face on the course during any given round. It is ideal to keep the ball on the short grass as often as you can, but that isn't always possible. Sometimes, you are going to find your ball in a tough spot, and you will need to know how to escape that situation quickly to keep your round on track.
Playing the ball back in your stance helps you hit better shots from poor lies for one simple reason - it promotes a downward angle of attack, which allows you to miss more of whatever it is that is behind your golf ball. When you are in the rough, for instance, there is long grass behind your ball that you want to miss on the way toward impact. Sure, you aren't going to miss all of it when playing the ball back in your stance, but you can miss a lot of it by hitting down on the shot. Your primary objective when playing a shot from a poor lie is to catch the ball as cleanly as possible, and moving the ball back in your stance is the best way to do just that.
Of course, it is important to remember that making this adjustment is going to change the way the ball flies once it does leave the club face. You shouldn't expect to hit any high, powerful shots from the rough when you position the ball back in your stance. All of your shots are likely to come out low when you employ this technique, and they will usually fly shorter than they would from a 'regular' ball position. There is nothing wrong with playing a lower, shorter shot from a bad lie, but you need to remember those factors when picking the club and target line that you are going to use.
There is a point that needs to be made from a course management perspective which relates to this topic. If you do find yourself dealing with a bad lie, you should always be thinking about taking a conservative, patient approach in order to avoid posting a big number. Sure, you would love to hit a 'miracle' shot from this tough spot, but taking that chance is rarely worth the risk. Instead, you will almost always be better served to take the conservative approach in order to get the ball back in play. It isn't going to hurt your scorecard that badly to post a bogey, but a double, triple, or worse will do real damage. Keep the overall scope of your round in perspective and make the safe play in order to get the ball back into a better position.
It should go without saying that the best way to deal with a bad lie is to not put yourself in that position in the first place. However, that is easier said than done, and you are inevitably going to find some poor lies on the course from time to time. When you are in a tough spot, consider moving the ball back in your stance to make it easier to achieve clean contact. Also, pick a conservative line and don't try to force too much out of the shot. With a combination of patience and good ball position, you should be able to get out of this tough spot without much damage to your score.
Practice Your Balance
This reason for moving the ball back in your stance is not one that you are going to use on the course, but rather on the practice range. As you may already know, balance is one of the biggest keys to playing good golf, yet most players struggle to stay properly balanced from address on through to the finish. If you are a player who struggles with balance, you can try putting the ball back in your stance in an effort to work on the fundamentals of your swing. Think of this as a practice drill which also has the side benefit of helping you learn how to hit shots from the back of your stance.
To give this a try during your next practice session, follow the simple steps below -
- Take one of your mid-irons from your bag in order to hit a few shots. A 7-iron will be a good choice for most golfers, but you can use anything in that range in order to achieve the desired effect.
- Set aside five practice golf balls for use in this drill.
- Pick out a target for this set of five shots. This should be a target somewhere on the range that you can reach easily with the club you have selected. Remember, since you are going to be playing the ball back in your stance, your shots aren't going to fly as far as they would with a normal ball position.
- As you set up over the ball, make sure you position the ball about two or three inches behind the center of your stance. You shouldn't make any other adjustments to your setup at this point - keep everything else just as it would be on any other shot.
- During the swing, your primary focus is going to be on the balance that you have during the motion. Keep your center of gravity directly between your feet, and don't allow yourself to sway in either direction. Making a shorter backswing will make it easier to stay balanced, so watch the length of your arm swing as you go back. As long as you stay connected and controlled going back, it should be easy to make a clean strike at impact.
- Hit all five shots while focused only on your balance. With good balance, you just might be surprised to find how quickly your ball striking can improve.
Of course, you don't want to hit all of your shots with the ball back in your stance, so go ahead and a hit a few shots from a normal ball position once you are finished with this first set of five. The best thing to do with regard to this drill is to use it from time to time in order to remind yourself of the importance of balance. Make it a regular part of your practice routine to hit a few shots from this kind of ball position and you should be able to keep your balance under control moving forward.
Short Game Ball Position
Believe it or not, the ball position that you use for your short game shots might be even more important than it is in your full swing. Ball position matters in the short game because clean contact is absolutely paramount to hitting successful shots. If you don't catch the ball cleanly when hitting a chip or pitch, you have almost no chance of seeing the ball finish close to the hole. Only when you are able to consistently catch the ball with a clean strike will you be able to control where it goes and when it stops.
For a standard chip or pitch shot, you are going to play the ball near the center of your stance. However, just as is the case with your full swing, you can move the ball back in your short game if you would like to alter the way the ball travels toward the target. Not surprisingly, a chip or pitch shot that is played with the ball back in the stance will fly lower - and take a bigger bounce - on its way to the hole. Many golfers refer to this kind of shot as a pitch and run, because the ball will have plenty of run out after it lands. This is not the way to play a short game shot that you need to stop quickly, but it can be a great option when you have plenty of green to work with and want the ball to roll to the target.
Learning when to move the ball back in your stance for short game shots is largely a matter of experience. It will take some time and experience to learn when you should be playing the ball from the back of your stance, and when you will want to keep it in the middle (or, move it up toward the front). The only way to gain this valuable experience is through practice, so you need to carve out part of your available practice time to work on your pitching and chipping. When you regularly invest time in this part of the game, you will be able to quickly improve both your execution as well as your decision making. Don't be afraid to experiment with different shots during practice, as that experimentation will lead to the discovery of a variety of new short game shots that you can use to get the ball in the hole as quickly as possible.
When it comes to bunker shots from around the green, you are rarely going to want to move the ball back in your stance. The proper approach for a 'standard' explosion shot is to slide the club cleanly under the ball, and that is going to be best accomplished when the ball is slightly forward of center. The only exception to this rule is when you are dealing with a plugged lie. If the ball has become buried under the sand, moving it back in your stance in order to chop down aggressively is the right play. You are going to have trouble getting much height on this kind of shot, but there isn't anything you can do about that problem at this point. Play the ball back in your stance, swing hard, and do your best to get out anywhere onto the grass.
It should be clear by now that moving the ball back in your stance can serve a great number of purposes. Whether you want to hit the ball lower to cheat the wind, or you want to gain control over an approach shot, or you have another motivation in mind altogether, it is important that you are comfortable with the technique used to hit the ball from a rear position. Work on this shot on the range on a regular basis, and pull it out on the course from time to time as well. As you gain experience with this kind of shot, you are likely going to find yourself using it more and more as the years go by. Thanks for reading and good luck!