The alignment of your feet may not directly improve a lot of technical aspects of your golf swing but it will certainly help set you up to make a good swing and deliver the shot towards your target.
A very popular method for teaching golf alignment is the rail road tracks analogy. You imagine one rail line running to your target and you set your feet along the second rail so that your feet, hips, and shoulders are parallel to the target line. To ensure proper aim, many instructors teach players to aim by first setting the club down and aligning it with their target. Next, they can put their feet in place and get in their stance. When at the driving range, it's good practice to place a club along the ground towards or parallel with your target line. It also helps to have someone check your alignment from behind you to ensure you are aiming correctly.
If you have problems with alignment then you might want to look into clubs that will help you. Thomas Golf incorporates technology that will aid in proper alignment. An independent research study was conducted by a University of Central Florida researcher that showed Thomas Golf clubs were not only easier to align but they led to straighter shots- a result of the alignment technology. Their irons have a patented alignment indicator and the AT100's square shape is also an effective aid to ensure your shots are aimed correctly. Along with the alignment indicator, their woods also have a flat top plane which is easier to align than the curved crowns found on most woods.
If you are an advanced player then you may look into using your feet alignment to aid in curving your shots. A traditional and very basic way of teaching someone to curve the ball is to set the feet along the line you want the ball to start and aim the clubface where you want the ball to end up. Ball flight testing shows that this isn't entirely correct; the ball starts and curves more towards where the clubface is aimed. But as a general rule of thumb, this is a good way to help a developing player to get an idea of how to shape the golf ball.
Another option to consider is the flaring of the feet (pictured) . A lot of right handed golfers like to flare their left foot out towards the target some to help the body unwind on the downswing. Some players also flare out their right foot to increase their backswing coil but keep in mind that this also can restrict motion in the other direction.
As always, it's best to experiment until you find the right golf stance and alignment cues that work best for you.
Golf Feet Alignment
Alignment is a critical part of playing good golf - and proper alignment always starts in your feet. If you are able to get your feet correctly aligned with your selected target before each swing, you will be taking a big variable out of the equation. Many golfers blame their actual swing whenever they hit a poor shot, but sometimes the real culprit is simply improper alignment at address. Like anything else on the course, alignment is a skill that must be practiced in order to be mastered. Placing your feet in the right position might seem like a small and simple detail, but it has the potential to unlock ball striking ability that you have never before been able to access.
Most golfers, when they are first getting started in the game, simply stand up next to the ball and make a swing. While that is fine when you are just learning the basic mechanics of the swing, you will need to work a little harder if you hope to hit quality shots on a regular basis. There are two general elements that are going to influence the direction of each shot that you hit - the position of your club face at impact, and the path that your club is taking through the ball. If you can get both of these pieces just right, there is a good chance you will hit a shot that winds up reasonably close to your target. The position of your club face is a topic for another article, but swing path has everything to do with the alignment of your feet. Placing your feet in the right spots, when combined with other technical elements, can lead to a great path swing after swing.
It is important that you have a basic stance which you can use for most of your shots, but it is also helpful to be able to tweak that stance as needed in order to create different shots when necessary. For example, if you normally hit a slight draw from your regular stance, you may want to work on an alignment that promotes a fade. You can play decent golf relying on just one ball flight, but you will need a variety of other options if you hope to really take your game to another level. Instead of dramatically changing your swing mechanics when you want to create a new ball flight, adjusting your alignment is an easy way to carve the ball around the course. You might be surprised to learn how many different shots you can hit with your standard swinging motion just by tweaking your stance.
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 Basics of a Quality Stance
There is certainly room for your own personal style in the stance that you use to start off your golf swing. No two stances will look exactly alike, so feel free to stand in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confidence over the ball. With that said, there are certain basic fundamentals that should be used by every golfer. If you are breaking any of the 'rules' below, you are likely making the game harder than it needs to be. The items on the list below aren't necessarily about the alignment of your feet so much as they are about the stance in general. However, a good stance is a key component of proper alignment, as you won't be able to get aligned the same way each time if you aren't in a fundamentally-sound position.
To make sure you are on the right track with your stance, review the three points below –
- Stack your knees on your feet. One of the key fundamentals to making yourself feel athletic and balanced over the ball is to place your knees right over your feet when you take your stance. This might sound like an obvious point, but it is a quick and easy way to focus in on a solid lower body position. As you settle in over the ball, work on finding the feeling of having your knees slightly flexed while keeping them right over top of your feet. You want your lower body to be engaged right from the start of the swing, and hitting on this point will make sure that happens.
- Back straight. Keeping your back straight and maintaining that quality posture is important from the start of the swing all the way through to the finish. To help yourself get into a straight-back position, you should feel like you are sticking your backside out behind you at address. With flexed knees already in place, work on pushing your backside out slightly behind you in order to straighten out the lower part of your back. From there, make sure you keep your chin up and your shoulders relaxed, and you should be in a nice upper body position to go along with your balanced and engaged lower body.
- Eyes down on the ball. Despite what you have probably heard from many other golfers over the years, you don't actually want to keep your head down during the golf swing. Keeping your head down will force your chin right into the path of your shoulders, and your backswing will be limited as a result. Instead, keep your head up and your eyes down. As long as your head is up, you should be able to make a full backswing and an aggressive downswing without your chin causing any problems. Of course, you do want to keep your eyes down until the ball has been struck so you can watch the club smash into the back of the ball. Allowing your eyes to move away from the ball before impact will make it difficult to achieve solid contact at the bottom of the swing.
As long as you are willing to dedicate a small amount of practice time to these three points, it should be pretty easy to build a solid stance. Creating a good stance requires almost nothing in the way of coordination or athleticism, so there is no excuse for cutting corners on this part of the game. Build a great stance and then you can quickly move on to learning how to align your feet properly before each shot.
How to Get Square
To start with, you need to learn how to get 'square' in your stance. To be square means that your feet are aligned perfectly parallel with the target line that you have selected for the shot. A line drawn along your toes would run parallel to the target line all the way down the fairway when you take a square stance. While you don't actually want to play all of your shots from a square stance during a round, it is important to understand how to find this position first. Once you are adept at getting square to the line, you can then learn how to adjust from there to create a variety of different shots.
Before getting into actually taking the stance, one point should be highlighted – you need to remember at all times that aligning your feetsquare to the target means that they are parallel left of the target, and not pointing directly at it. If you were to establish your stance on a line that heads right at your target, your club will inevitably be pointing out to the right. Many golfers are able to better understand this concept when they picture train tracks running down the hole – the track on the right is your target line, and the track on the left is your foot line. These lines never cross, yet they are helping you work the ball toward the same target. One of the most-common amateur mistakes in the entire game of golf is aiming the foot line at the target instead of aiming it parallel to the left. If you can simply avoid this one mistake you will be a big step ahead of your competition on the course.
So how do you get your feet square with the target line each and every time? You practice it. That might seem like an obvious answer, but it is the only one that will allow you to make progress. You aren't going to be able to get out a tape measure before each shot to measure your distance from the target line on each foot, so you have to be able to build your stance naturally and get your feet into the right spot on your own. Once you have practiced this fundamental, you will probably be able to build a square stance without even trying – it will just happen as a result of all of the preparation that you have put into your game.
On the driving range, take two long irons from your bag and lay them on the ground in front of you. One of the club is going to play the role of representing the target line, while the other club will serve to guide your feet into place. After you have aimed the first club at the target (with the shaft forming a line that points at the intended target), place the other club on the ground parallel to the first. The second club should be positioned such that you will be able to place your toes right up next to the shaft when you take your stance.
This simple setup will now give you a great visual aid as you are building your stance before each ball you hit on the range. With these two clubs on the ground, you won't even have to think about the stance because you will have an outline on the ground that you can reference on every shot. Simply place a ball to the inside of the first club (with enough room to swing down and hit the shot while missing the club on the ground) and place your feet up next to the second club. As long as you have done the setup properly, you will know confidently that you have built a square stance when you use this practice technique. Hit as many balls as you would like from this setup and you will get more and more comfortable finding a square stance as you go. After a few practice sessions, you will likely find that you no longer need the clubs on the ground to get square. However, it is still a good idea to use them from time to time simply to stay in good habits with regard to your stance.
Ideally, you would play most of your shots from a stance that is square to the line. This is the easiest way to play golf as there are fewer variables involved in the swing when everything is lined up square. With a club face that is square to the target line, and feet that are lined up parallel left, there simply isn't much that can go wrong. With a fundamentally-sound setup and a balanced swing, solid golf shots can't be far off.
Making Adjustments to Your Alignment
Getting square is a great first step, but it will only take you so far. It is hard to change your ball flight without changing your stance, and being able to produce a variety of ball flights is an important skill for a good golfer to possess. Hitting at least two or three different shots on demand will open up many new possibilities for you on the course, but you have to be able to execute those shots consistently in order to make it count. By learning how to use your stance effectively, you can improve your chances of carving the ball around the course like a pro.
Below are some of the basic points of instruction that you need to understand if you are going to start working the ball effectively. Of course, none of this instruction is going to be helpful without practice, so feel free to start working on your stance adjustments during your next trip to the range.
- Open to fade, closed to draw. When you want to change the curve of your shots from right to left or left to right, the first thing you should do is open or close your stance accordingly. To hit a draw, start by closing your stance. A 'closed' stance is one where the left foot is closer to the target line than the right foot. On the other side of the coin, you will want to play from an open stance if a fade is your goal. Obviously, in an open stance the right foot is closer to the line than the left. Generally speaking, the more open or closed you make your stance, the more curve you will put on the ball. However, simply tweaking your stance may not be enough to create a new ball flight, so you might have to experiment with other parts of your swing technique as well in order to achieve the desired result. Start by altering your stance while hitting balls on the range and see what shapes you can create. From there, continue to tinker with your swings until you can hit nice looking draws and fades on demand.
- Move it back to keep it down, move it up to hit it high. Altering the curve of your shots is only one piece of the puzzle, as being able to hit the ball higher or lower has its advantages as well. By aligning your feet closer to the target and moving the ball back in your stance, you should be able to produce a lower trajectory without changing anything else about your swing. In the same way, you can move back on the ball and hit it higher when playing it closer to your front foot. These adjustments are simple, and usually don't ask much more of you in terms of swing changes. However, they take practice like anything else, so expect to put in time on the driving range before breaking out your new trajectories on the course.
- Make subtle changes. One of the common mistakes that is made by the average golfer when they work on curving the ball is to dramatically alter the stance in order to get the shot they desire. In reality, you probably will only need to modify your stance by a couple of inches in one direction or the other in order to turn the ball right or left. During your practice sessions, make very small adjustments as continue to make them bigger and bigger until you find the perfect stance for each shot shape. Remember, you don't want the ball swinging wildly out of control when it leaves your club face. Rather, you just want to hit controlled shots that curve gently in order to allow you to access difficult targets.
Curving the ball on demand is a sure way to impress your friends and make you feel like a pro. Even better, the ability to hit specific trajectories when necessary makes it far easier to navigate a golf course that is lined with trees and other hazards. Also, combating windy conditions is less of a challenge when you can hit the ball low as necessary. A good golfer is one who can deal with just about anything the course throws their way – and learning new shots is going to take you a big step in that direction.
Pre-Shot Routine is Crucial
Even after you practice your new and improved stance over and over on the driving range, it can still be difficult to replicate it on the course with everything else that is going on. As you get busy thinking about your course strategy, or even just talking to your friends, you might forget to focus in on building a good stance. Because it is so easy to get distracted on the course, a pre-shot routine is vital to your success.
When you use a pre-shot routine, it will serve as mental cue to snap back into 'golf mode'. There is nothing wrong with socializing and having a good time on the course, but you need to remember to focus when the time comes to hit a shot. Your pre-shot routine can do a great job of allowing you to perform well while swinging the club because it will bring your mind back to the task at hand quickly (and almost automatically).
The key to this process is to actually develop and practice your pre-shot routine on the driving range. A pre-shot routine might not seem like something you need to rehearse, but it requires just as much practice as any other part of your game. Put together a plan for your routine that includes anything that you want to remember right before you make a swing. Some people focus on their grip, while others simply take a deep breath and visualize the shot. Just about anything can work, as long as it is easy to repeat and it doesn't take up too much time. If you are working on improving your foot alignment currently, it would be smart to include a step that relates to alignment in order to keep that point fresh in your mind throughout all 18 holes.
Don't cut corners when it comes to your pre-shot routine – every shot during the round counts the same, so they all deserve your full attention. You might be tempted to skip the routine from time to time, such as on a hole where you have already hit a few poor shots. Instead of getting lazy, stick with your routine and give your best effort on each and every shot from the first hole to the last.
Aligning your feet correctly, and consistently, is a big part of the game of golf. Practice proper alignment as part of your normal driving range sessions and you should notice a quick improvement in the overall quality of your ball striking.