If you've played baseball or basketball, you know that a wide, balanced stance is a key fundamental. Stand too narrowly and you'll forfeit power and stability.
The same goes for golf. Standing with your feet too close together – meaning anything less than shoulder width apart for the driver – limits the arc of your swing and creates an overly steep path to the ball. This can cause popped-up drives and other assorted mishits.
A wider stance also creates tension between the upper and lower bodies on the backswing; the unwinding of this tension on the downswing produces extra power. Photos of professionals illustrate this concept well.
Widening your stance is a simple fix, but requires some work to get used to. Practicing with the driver:
- Assume the address position with your feet spread at least as wide as your shoulders. Specifically, the insides of your shoes should be directly under the outsides of the shoulders.
- Start your backswing, stopping at the 10:00 position.
- On the downswing, stop the club at 2:00 – in other words, well short of a normal follow-through.
- Once you're making consistently solid contact, move on to making full swings.
Widen Stance to Add Power and Accuracy
Power and accuracy is a dangerous combination on the golf course. A player who can strike their shots both powerfully and accurately is going to be difficult to beat, and they will regularly be setting up great scoring chances. Obviously short game elements like chipping and putting remain crucially important, but power and accuracy are a ball striking combination that any golfer would love to have.
As you already know, however, it isn't easy to have both of these abilities at the same time in your swing. Plenty of players can hit the ball on target consistently, and plenty of players can hit the ball far – but very few can do both on a regular basis. In order to reach this goal, you have to have a good combination of athleticism and technique in your swing, so you can position the club correctly at impact and also supply it with enough speed to launch the ball into the air. Reaching a point where you have both power and accuracy in your game isn't impossible, but it will take plenty of hard work and careful practice.
One of the mechanical adjustments that you can use to pursue this goal is to widen your stance at address. Think of your stance as the launching pad of your swing. With a wide stance, you will have a stable base that you allow you to swing aggressively without falling off balance. A narrow stance may feel more comfortable, but keeping your feet in close together doesn't provide you much in the way of stability – especially with the longer clubs. Making your stance wider, even if only by a couple of inches, can go a long way toward improving the overall performance of your swing.
If you decide to use a wider stance, you will also need to make sure that the rest of your swing technique lines up with your new address position. Each element of your swing needs to work perfectly with the rest if you want to whole operation to run smoothly time after time. If you were to simply widen your stance without paying any attention to the rest of your swing mechanics, the results would probably not be pretty. Widening your stance has the potential to improve your swing, but only when you bring together all of the necessary mechanics to make it work.
While it is true that additional power may come from using a wider stance, you shouldn't make this swing change thinking that you are going to start to blast the ball incredible distances during your first practice session. It takes time to gain power in your golf swing, as your body will become more and more comfortable with this new stance over time. Rather than seeing a single jump in your distance, you will more likely see gradual increases that show up one or two yards at a time. If you can remain patient and keep working on the quality of your swing, these small gains can accumulate until you are eventually hitting the ball much farther than you do today.
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.
Finding the Proper Width
It wouldn't make very much sense to widen your stance if you are already playing from a wide stance to begin with. The first step that you should take is checking on the current width of your stance so you have a point of reference going forward. Making your stance too wide is actually worse than making it too narrow, so it is important that you find the right balance on this point.
To check your current stance width, head to the driving range and take your driver out of the bag. Your stance will be at its widest when you are hitting the driver, so this is the perfect club to use for this exercise. With your driver in hand, take your normal stance and address the ball as if you were going to hit a shot. However, before you start your swing, stand up out of your posture while keeping your feet in place. Look down and examine the width of your stance. Where is each foot in relationship to each of your shoulders? If both feet are slightly outside of the position of your shoulders, you already have a great stance. If both feet are directly underneath your shoulders, however, you could benefit from widening your stance by a few inches.
For most golfers, a stance that has each foot slightly outside the position of each shoulder is going to be perfect for the driver. However, that stance should narrow slightly as the clubs get shorter, so don't use this rule of thumb for each club in your bag. By the time you get down to your wedges, your feet should be directly under your shoulders. This is a point that is confusing to many amateur golfers – the perfect stance for a driver is not the same as a perfect stance for short iron shots. Since the driver is the longest club in your bag, it requires the longest swing, and therefore the widest stance. Forcing your stance to remain wide even when you get the short irons will reduce your ability to make a fluid, accurate swing down through the ball. Ideally, you will stand with your feet outside of shoulders width apart with the driver and then gradually move them closer together as you work your way down through the bag.
One of the nice things about working on the width of your stance is that you don't have to be at the golf course to practice this important fundamental. Without a club in your hands, you can stand in front of a mirror and home and rehearse taking your stance. To start, position your body so that you are facing the mirror, and get into a stance that you would use to hit a driver. You won't be holding the driver, of course, but pretend that you are getting ready to hit a driver shot by placing your feet outside of shoulder width apart. Next, imagine that you are holding a five iron and move your feet in somewhat closer together. Finally, pretend that you are hitting a short iron by putting your feet directly under your shoulders. This might seem like a simple exercise, but it will help you get comfortable with the various stances you need to use to hit all of your clubs. During your next visit to the practice range, you will hopefully find it a little bit easier to get into the perfect stance prior to each shot.
Wide Stance Equals Rotational Swing
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of golf swings – those that derive the majority of their power from lateral movement, and those that get most of their power from rotation. When you use a wide stance, you are committing to the rotational form of power creation. For most players, that is a good thing. It is far easier to execute a rotational swing than it is a lateral one, and rotational players tend to develop more power as well. However, you need to be sure that all of your swing mechanics are working together to create a rotational swing. If you have even one or two elements that belong in a lateral swing instead, you could have serious trouble hitting quality shots.
So what kinds of fundamentals should be present when you are making a rotational swing? The following points are a great place to start –
- Relatively flat swing plane. It is hard to make a rotational swing when you put the club high up into the air during the backswing. Instead, try to swing the club around your back, with your hands down close to your right shoulder at the top. This position will allow you to rotate aggressively to the left in the downswing without having to make any kind of correction to get the club in the right place at impact. If you already swing on a flat plane, you don't need to worry about this point. However, if you are used to using a steep backswing in your golf swing, flattening out your motion will take some time and effort.
- Stable right leg. During the backswing, it is essential that you keep your right leg steady so that you can anchor your motion around that point. If you allow your right leg to sway to the right during the backswing, it will inevitably have to sway back to the left in the downswing, meaning that your overall swing will be more lateral than rotational. Swing the club up to the top while holding your right leg as steady as you can and your whole body should be positioned perfectly for the downswing.
- Hip turn coming down. This is really the key to the rotational golf swing. As long as you have executed the backswing properly, the final piece of the puzzle is to turn your hips hard to the left coming down toward impact. It is during this phase of the swing when many golfers slide to the left – which simply isn't going to work if you want to hit powerful shots from a wide stance. Rotate aggressively to the left while keeping your weight in between your two feet. Your center of gravity will naturally move slightly toward the target during the downswing, and that is fine – but make sure that movement is a result of your rotation, not a lateral slide. When your swing is complete, the majority of your weight should be balanced over your left foot with your hips completely opened up to the target.
There isn't anything overly complicated about a rotational golf swing. In fact, this style if swing is simpler than a lateral swing, as long as you know what you are trying to do with your body and the club. Following the three points above will set you on a good path toward a fundamentally sound golf swing which will play nicely with your new, wider stance.
Accuracy Comes with Consistent Execution
Many golfers think that they have to possess perfect swing mechanics in order to hit accurate golf shots on a consistent basis. That simply isn't true. There are plenty of good golfers – including many of those on the PGA Tour – you don't have perfect mechanics. The important thing isn't that your mechanics are perfect, it is that your mechanics repeat time after time. Being able to hit the ball accurately toward your target means being able to predict the ball flight that you are going to hit. The only way to do that consistently is to make the same swing each and every time.
One of the advantages of using a wide stance is that it allows you to stay on balance, making it easier to repeat your swing over and over again. Poor balance leads to inconsistency in golf, which is why working on your balance should always be such a high priority. A golfer who is well-balanced will always have an advantage over a player who is leaning to one side or another at some point during their swing.
Unfortunately, balance is only a starting point when it comes to consistent execution. In addition to great balance and solid technique, you also need to have a quality mental approach to each swing. The repeatability of your swing often comes down to how you think before and during the shot. Believe it or not, the right mindset during your swing can make up for some minor technical mistakes.
Below is a list of three key mental game tips that you can use to improve the consistency of your swing execution. Putting these mental game tips to use, in addition to using a wide stance to improve balance, can unlock accuracy that was never before present in your game.
- Repeat your pre-shot routine every time. For some reason, the importance of a pre-shot routine seems to be lost on the average amateur golfer. Despite the fact that nearly every professional player in the world uses a well-rehearsed routine prior to their shots, most amateur players skip this step – and they pay the price. The fastest way to improve your consistency is to establish a pre-shot routine that you use before every shot that you hit. The routine doesn't need to be long or complicated to be effective. It simply needs to get your mind in a place of confidence and focus prior to making a swing. During your next trip to the driving range, work on creating a routine and then practice that routine before each shot of your practice session. Pretty soon, the routine will become comfortable and you won't even have to think about it consciously – it will simply happen as part of your process.
- Pick a specific target. This might end up being part of your pre-shot routine, but it is an important point to highlight on its own anyway. You need to have a specific target identified prior to each swing if you hope to be accurate with your shots. When you fail to pick a target, your swing will lack purpose and confidence, which means the ball is likely to go just about anywhere except the right direction. Select a target that you are comfortable with prior to each shot, and then focus all of your attention on placing the ball as close to that target as possible with your swing.
- Each shot is the same. It is a natural tendency for many golfers to place increased importance on some shots as compared to others. That habit will lead to inconsistency in your performance. Remember, each shot counts exactly the same on the scorecard, so they should all be treated the same in your mind. Regardless of whether you are trying to reach the green in two on a par five or simply get out of the trees after a bad drive, all shots require your full attention and effort. When you apply even effort for the entire round, your results are sure to become more consistent.
Using a wider stance at address can set off a chain reaction in your golf game. The wider stance should lead to better balance, with better balance leading to improved consistency, and improved consistency resulting in accurate ball striking. Accuracy is a wonderful trait to have in your game, and the journey to possessing that accuracy can be started simply by widening your stance.
Confidence Can Result in Power
There are technical aspects of widening your stance which can result in improved power off the tee and from the fairway. For example, improved balance should allow you to turn more aggressively toward the target in the downswing, creating more club head speed and more power. Also, a wider stance will make it easier to avoid a lateral slide in the downswing, which is a common way that amateur golfers lose power. However, in addition to these technical improvements, you could stand to gain power simply by feeling more confident over the ball.
The only way to hit powerful golf shots is to allow the club to release fully through the hitting area, maximizing your club head speed. If you are holding anything back at impact, you won't be living up to your power potential. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers hold something back through impact because they are worried about the ultimate destination of the ball. Unsure of their swings, these players will slow the club down at the bottom in and effort to 'steer' it toward the target. It should go without saying that this is not a great way to play golf.
Thanks to your new wider stance, however, you should have plenty of confidence in the way you are swinging the club. If you are using the wider stance properly, you should feel balanced and athletic over the ball, ready to launch it long down the fairway or high in the air toward the green. With those feelings of confidence in your minds, you can go ahead and turn the club loose without worrying about where the ball will go. You are feeling great about your technique, and you are confident that you will look up to see the ball headed in exactly the right direction. No longer holding back, you will now be tapping into all of the power potential in your swing – possibly for the first time.
Remember, you don't need to intentionally try to swing harder to in order to find more power in your swing. All you need to do is allow your swing to do what it wants to do naturally. That might seem like a meaningless distinction, but it is actually quite important. If you consciously try to swing harder, you are going to develop problems in your mechanics that could take a long time to fix. Swinging hard on purpose is rarely a good thing on the golf course. Instead, allow your swing to live up to its power potential by keeping a confident attitude from the takeaway all the way through the finish. As long as you feel confident, you will be able to release the club through impact, and your power will be maximized.
Many golfers spend years chasing down the magical combination of power and accuracy. While most never reach this goal, you can take a big step in the right direction by using a wide stance at address, especially with your longer clubs. A wide stance is a big help in terms of remaining balanced during the golf swing, which will always be one of the key ingredients in proper technique. As a result of that balance, you should start to feel great about your swing after just a little bit of practice time on the range. With your balance improved and your confidence high, there will be almost no limit to what you can accomplish on the course.