Think of your feet as the pillars of your golf stance. A nice, solid base is necessary to build a fundamentally sound swing.
Many golfers stand too narrowly, with their feet too close together. This causes a “top-heavy” swing in which their balance tips too far right going back (for right-handers); from there, they are unable to properly shift weight back to the left on the downswing, often resulting in pushed and sliced shots. A narrow stance also inhibits shoulder turn, robbing golfers of power and accuracy.
A stance that's too wide may restrict the hips, forcing the golfer to sway laterally in order to generate power. Also not good.
For most shots, the feet should be set at shoulder-width apart. That is, the insteps of the feet should line up with the outsides of the shoulders. (Many golfers take “shoulder-width” to mean that the outsides of the feet align with the outsides of the shoulders, but this is actually too narrow in most cases.)
Three exceptions to the shoulder-width rule:
- When hitting the driver, place the feet slightly wider apart to help generate additional power.
- On short-iron shots that require less rotation, the feet can be slightly closer together.
- On very short shots from around the green, which require little or no lower-body movement, the feet may be placed very close together, nearly touching.
How and Why Solid Foundation Golf Stance
The fundamentals are crucial in golf, and building a great stance is one of the basic fundamentals that must be in place if you are going to play your best. As an amateur golfer, you probably spend most of your practice time thinking about things like your grip, your backswing, your transition, and even your balance. While all of those are certainly important in their own right, you would be making a big mistake if you didn't pay attention to your stance as well. It is never going to be easy to hit quality golf shots, but you can make it a little bit easier by providing yourself with a solid stance each time you get over the ball.
If you ever take a moment to watch some golf on TV, you will instantly notice the quality of the address positions used by the world's best golfers. These players do not take their stance for granted in any way – instead, they take great care to build a proper stance before hitting any shot. Professional golfers already know what most amateur golfers still need to learn – that the stance is one of the most important parts of creating a reliable swing. Players who stand properly over the ball are prone to hitting good shots on a regular basis, while players with a poor stance will be lucky to hit even one or two good shots throughout the day.
The key to consistency in golf is the ability to deliver the club into the ball the same way time after time. If the club comes in on the same path, with the same amount of release through impact, the ball flights that you generate should be remarkably similar. Of course, that isn't how it goes for most amateur players. Instead, the average golfer struggles to repeat their swing from one shot to the next, and the results speak for themselves. Most amateurs can't accurately predict which way the ball is going to go when they strike it, and that fact makes it nearly impossible to shoot good scores. If you feel like you are just hoping that the ball goes in the right direction, rather than being able to expect it to go in the right direction, you may need to work on the stability and consistency of your stance.
A good golf swing is a compilation of steps that have all been completed successfully, and the first step in that process is the stance. If you don't get the stance right, all of your efforts during the moving parts of the swing will be wasted. Even if you are able to execute a beautiful golf swing with wonderful timing and rhythm, you still are unlikely to hit good shots because you started out with a poor stance. However, if you can add a proper stance to a well-executed swinging motion, impressive results should be soon to follow.
All of the instruction contained 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.
Why the Stance is Critical
If you are one of the countless golfers who simply don't pay attention to the way you stand over the ball, you likely aren't doing so because you don't care about your game – you may just not understand the importance of the stance in the first place. Once you have a better grasp of exactly why the stance is a key piece of the golf puzzle, you will be properly motivated to work on improving it. Also, by understanding what it is about a good stance that helps you swing the club correctly, you will have a better chance to fix your swing when it gets off track.
Following is a list of points that highlight the importance of the stance in golf –
- Maintains balance. While the stance is important for many reasons, this first one is the most important. Balance is critical to your ability to hit good golf shots, and building a stable stance at address is one of the best ways to keep your balance throughout the swing. The golf swing is an aggressive action with rapid body rotation taking place as the club rushes up to speeds of 100 mph or more, meaning you need to be well-balanced if you are going to hit the ball cleanly. Players with poor balance always struggle to find the sweet spot, and some may have trouble even making contact with the ball at all. If you are a player who feels like you need to improve your balance in order to take a step forward, start by making sure your stance is as stable as possible.
- Promotes a shoulder turn. The rotation of your shoulders is the engine of your golf swing – you aren't going to create much power unless your shoulders are turning back and through the shot. While you might think of the shoulder turn as an upper body concern, it is actually the lower body that can set the stage for a great rotation away from the ball. When you have your knees flexed and your weight balanced nicely between your feet, your shoulders will be free to make a big turn. Unfortunately, many players who have a poor shoulder turn think that there is something wrong with the way they are using their upper body, when it is actually the stance that is to blame all along. By working out the problems that may exist within your stance, you should find that your shoulder turn suddenly improves as a result.
- Repetitive motion. One of the hardest things to do in golf is to swing the club the same way over and over again. This is probably near the top of the list of frustrations experienced by the average golfer. How many times have you heard another golfer say that they would shoot great scores if they could just repeat their best swing? All golfers would love to find consistency within their swinging action, and building that consistency can start with your stance. If you are standing over the ball the same way prior to each swing, it only stands to reason that your swing will be more consistent. Improving on this point doesn't guarantee perfect repeatability within your swing, of course, but it will take you a big step in the right direction.
- Confidence builder. As you get more and more comfortable with the stance that you are using over the ball, you will find that you start to draw confidence from the comfort that you have in your stance. In other words, the familiarity of your stance will make you feel like you can produce quality shots on a regular basis. There are a lot of things in golf that work to draw confidence away from you as you play, so having something to lean on as a confidence boost is a great advantage.
There are likely even more benefits to using a solid foundation than just those listed above, but these four points are a good start. Simply put, having a quality stance is something that you should take very seriously. If you are going to set out on a path toward better golf in the months and years to come, that path is going to be far easier to travel when you have an excellent stance working underneath your swing.
Building a Great Stance
Attention to detail sits at the heart of this part of the game. If you are willing to pay attention to small details when building your stance, you will find this process to be relatively simple. Where creating an actual golf swing is quite difficult, building a good stance is just a matter of taking the time necessary to get all of the parts in the right place. It doesn't take any talent or athletic ability to form a good stance – you just have to be willing to be patient enough to put it all together in the right way.
Following is a list of steps that you can use when building your stance. If you follow these steps properly, the result will be a sturdy and stable stance that quickly improves the performance of your swing as a whole.
- As you walk up to the ball to take your stance, the first thing you want to do is set the club head behind the ball and align the face with your selected target. It is important that you place the club head first, because everything else you do while building the stance is going to be based around the alignment of the club. Without having the club in place, you will struggle to align your feet properly with your target line.
- Now that the club is in place, the next step is to position your feet accurately in relation to the club. Remember to keep the ball in the correct position in your stance based on the club in your hands and the shot that you want to hit. Most right handed golfers will find it easier to place the right foot down first before positioning the left, but this is a matter of personal preference. The placement of your feet just might be the single most important part of building your stance, so don't take this step for granted. Take your time to get everything into place and only move on when you are completely happy with the location of each foot.
- With your feet set, you now want to add some flex to your knees. It is important to flex your knees because they are going to act like 'shock absorbers' during the swing – they will iron out any ups and downs and allow your upper body to rotate freely. You don't have to go into a deep knee bend at address, but there should be enough bend to allow you to feel like your leg muscles are engaged in the stance. The right amount of knee flex will vary from player to player, so you will need to experiment with this part of the process until you find a comfortable position for your swing.
- Once your knees are flexed, the lower half of your body should be set to go. At this point, the final step in the process is to lean your upper body out over the ball so that you can reach the handle of the club comfortably (while the club head remains in position behind the ball). This is a point where many people go wrong while taking their stance. Rather than hunching over in your back to get out to the ball, you want to tilt from the hips while keeping your back straight. A straight back at address is crucial if you are going to make a good shoulder turn once the swing begins. As you tilt over the ball with your back straight, make sure to keep your chin up away from your chest. Tucking your chin down into your chest would cause the upper part of your back to round off, and it would also get in the way of your shoulder rotation. With a flat back and your chin high, you should be all set to start the swing.
As you review the steps above, you might start to feel like building your stance could take quite a long time, but that shouldn't be the case at all. The whole process can be completed properly in just seconds, as long as you are willing to practice it first on the driving range. Go through the process over and over again on the range until you get comfortable with the positions you are trying to reach. With that practice under your belt, you should find that the task of building your stance on the course will be quick and easy.
Staying in Your Stance
If you have taken the necessary time to learn and practice the process above, you should find yourself in a quality stance before each and every shot that you hit. Unfortunately, however, the job does not end there. Once you get into a good stance, you have to make sure you stay in that stance throughout the swing. It is easy to come out of your stance during the swing, which will effectively undo all of the work that you have done to this point. To make sure you stay in your stance nicely throughout the swing, review the following tips –
- Focus on the right knee. Movement in the right knee during your backswing is the most likely place to spot problems with regard to coming out of your stance. As you swing back, the right knee should be almost completely stable, with only a slight movement to the right taking place as you turn. If that knee tries to straighten out, however, you will know that you are coming up out of your stance and trouble is likely to follow. This is, for example, a classic mistake that is made by golfers who slice the ball. They allow the right knee to straighten on the way back, the club moves over the top during the transition as a result, and a slice is the eventual outcome. Do a good job of holding your right knee largely in place throughout the backswing and your stance should be maintained.
- Keep your eyes down. Looking up at the target before you have even hit the ball is one of the classic mistakes in golf. As you probably already know, it is important to keep your eyes down as you swing through impact to give yourself the best possible chance at solid contact. If you look up early, your shoulders will move out of the swing along with your head, and all kinds of bad outcomes can follow as a result. To make it easier to focus on keeping your eyes down, try drawing something on your golf ball that you can stare at throughout your swing. Train your eyes on that specific spot on the ball at address, and keep them there until you strike the shot and the ball is sent on its way.
- Maintain spine tilt. This is a point that is easy to overlook, but it really is important if you want to get the most out of your swing. As you move the club back away from the ball, pay attention to the spine tilt that you created at address. Ideally, you will be keeping that tilt angle steady while the backswing develops. Unfortunately, many players lift up during this phase of the swing, to the point where they have lost nearly all of their tilt by the time they get to the top of the swing. To help alleviate this problem, focus on turning your left shoulder under your chin early on in the takeaway/backswing. If you can move your left shoulder down and to the right as you get started, it should become much easier to keep your spine tilt steady throughout the rest of the backswing.
It would be a shame to waste that great stance that you worked so hard to build. The fundamentals of your swing need to work together with the stance you are using in order to create a swing that functions properly from start to finish. Make sure that your swing technique isn't pulling you out of your stance prematurely and you will be on track for some quality ball striking in your upcoming rounds.
The Stance in the Short Game
As you might suspect, your stance is just as important in your short game as it is in your long game. However, since the physical demands of your short game swings do not come close to those that you have when making a full swing, you have more freedom for personal style and preference with your short game address position. The fundamentals of the stance as it relates to the short game are not written in stone, so feel free to experiment to a certain degree until you find success.
When chipping, the most important piece of the puzzle is having a slightly lean toward the target at address. You need to hit down on the ball in order to chip successfully, and setting your weight slightly onto your left side will help promote that downward angle. You shouldn't be leaning so far to the left that you lose your balance, of course – just a slight lean toward the hole is all you need in order to hit down time after time. You should also be standing with a somewhat open stance in order to give yourself a good look at the target from address. As long as your stance is a bit open and you are leaning to the left, you should be good to go with regarding to your chipping stance.
For putting, you will want to get back into a position where your weight is evenly distributed between your two feet. Leaning to one side or the other while putting is not a good thing, as you need to be nicely balanced in order to let the putter swing freely as it should. Also, you will want to have your feet parallel to the target line at address, as the positioning of your feet will influence the path of the putter. With your feet lined up nicely parallel to the line and your weight evenly distributed, you should be ready to make a smooth, flowing stroke.
The stance is an incredibly important part of the game of golf. While it might not be all that much fun to practice your stance during your next trip to the driving range, that practice can pay off in a big way when you go back out onto the course. Using a solid stance for every shot that you hit is going to make it far easier to strike the ball consistently, and consistency is the key to shooting good scores.