Golf is a target related game, therefore your alignment and set up is very important. Take accurate note of where your feet are positioned because they will encourage good alignment of your knees, your hips, and your shoulders. This would, therefore, encourage a straight swing path and more accurate golf shots.
Your feet should be parallel to your ball to target line. This means that your feet will be aiming just left of the target for a right handed golfer; we call this position a parallel left setup. An easy way to illustrate this would be to imagine you're standing on two train tracks, one rail for the ball to target line and one rail for your foot and body alignment. The two rails never merge or separate they are parallel to each other. The ball is on the target line and the feet are parallel left to the target line.
A quick check - by placing one of your golf clubs across your toes and standing back to look at the direction would check that you have correct alignment before your golf shot.
Correct Feet Direction and a Proper Golf Stance
When you think about working on your golf game, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Working on your swing technique? Maybe going through a club fitting process to make sure you have the right equipment? Both of those are important points, but you would be getting ahead of yourself if you started with either of them. Rather, you should be starting with your stance. The way you stand over the golf ball at address is going to have a lot to do with your performance on the course, so make sure to take this point seriously during your practice sessions.
It is easy to see why many amateur golfers overlook the importance of the stance in golf. After all, it isn't very much fun to work on your stance, as you would probably rather be swinging away with your driver on the range. Launching the ball hundreds of yards in the air is certainly more fun than standing there checking on the minor points of your address position. However, if you are serious about playing better golf, you will dedicate yourself to the fine details of your stance, as this is where real improvement can occur. When you take the time to focus in on the small details, it is amazing how the bigger issues can quickly fall into place.
In this article, we are going to take a look at everything that has to do with a proper golf stance. That includes pointing your feet in the right direction, along with making sure the rest of your body is in a position to succeed once the swing begins. Why is the stance so important? You should place emphasis on the stance simply because the golf swing happens so quickly. There really isn't time to fix any mistakes that you made in the stance once the swing begins, so you have to get things right to begin with. If you make a mistake within your stance, that mistake is almost always going to show up in the outcome of your shot.
Fortunately, there is no reason why you ever need to make a mistake in your stance. Unlike the full swing, which happens quickly and can change from shot to shot, you have plenty of time to build your stance correctly before every swing. Without the need to perform 'on the fly', you can think through the important points of your stance, get everything into place, and then swing. As long as you are willing to be patient with the process – and as long as you have practiced your stance plenty on the driving range – you can count on your body being in the right spot time after time.
All of the instruction included 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.
Starting with the Basics
Believe it or not, a proper golf stance is a relatively complicated thing. Most players thing of the swing itself as being complicated, but it is actually the stance that is the most complex part of the operation. If you manage to build your stance correctly, the swing can be quite simple in the end. To make sure you are building your stance properly during your practice sessions, check on each of the points below.
- Feet shoulder width apart. For a basic golf stance, you want to position your feet approximately shoulder width apart. This is a good baseline position to start in, although you will want to move your feet even farther apart as the clubs get longer. So, for instance, when you are hitting a driver, your feet should be outside of shoulder width apart. Many amateur golfers use a stance which is too narrow, making it difficult to stay on balance from the start of the swing on through to the finish. Since balance is such an important part of the game, make sure you are giving yourself a wide enough platform at address. A wide stance promotes not only balance but rotation as well, so it will have a positive influence on just about every part of your swing.
- Flex in your knees. This is another one of the fundamentals that you simply can't afford to overlook when you are forming your stance. At address, it is imperative that your knees are flexed slightly as you stand over the ball. Without proper knee flex, your posture will suffer, your legs will struggle to get involved with the swing, and your rotation will come up short of its potential. This should be an easy point to hit on, but you can't allow yourself to get lazy during practice by just standing up over the ball in a straight-legged position. Sit into your stance before each and every shot with at least a little bit of knee flex and your swing will quickly become much more dynamic and powerful.
- Chin up off of your chest. It is easy to fall into the habit of burying your chin down into your chest when you address the golf ball. As you might imagine, however, this is a mistake. You need to have great shoulder rotation in your golf swing going both back and through, and that shoulder rotation is going to be difficult to achieve when your chin is down. In order to allow your shoulders to turn as freely as necessary, work on keeping your chin up when you stand over the ball. You have probably heard that you need to keep your head down in your swing, which may be why your chin is down in your current stance, but that advice can be misleading. Yes, it is important to keep your eyes down on the ball during the swing, but that doesn't mean your entire head has to be down as well. Keep your eyes down and your chin up, and your stance will start to round into shape.
- Relaxed feeling in your body. Stepping away from the technical points of the stance that you need to have covered, you also want to make sure your body is generally relaxed and ready to swing as a whole. There is no room for tension in the golf swing, so there should be no room for tension prior to the golf swing, either. Your body should be relaxed at address, and you should feel prepared for the athletic motion that you are about to perform. While golf might not seem like an athletic sport as there is no running or jumping involved, the swing itself is still very much an athletic activity. If you are going to make a swing which delivers considerable power to the ball time after time, it is important that you keep your body as free and relaxed as you can in your stance.
The basic building blocks of the stance are going to take you most of the way to a solid address position. Remember, there is some room for personal preference and comfort during the stance, as long as you are hitting on the key points listed above. Those points above should be considered non-negotiable, so start with them and then move on. As long as you have all of these keys built-in to your stance, a solid golf swing shouldn't be far around the corner.
Considering the Direction of Your Feet
One of the amazing things about golf is how seemingly minor details can have such a profound and important impact on your game. That is certainly the case with this next topic, which is the direction of your feet in the stance. You might not think that the orientation of your feet at address would have much to do with the swing you are going to make – but you would be mistaken. In fact, the way you set your feet at address has quite a bit to do with the shots you can hit, so pay attention to this minor detail if you would like to take your performance up to a new level.
When talking about the direction of your feet, it is considered 'standard' to position them perpendicular with the target line. Most golf teachers would call this having your feet 'square' to the line at address. If you are looking to start out by building a basic, fundamentally-sound stance for your game, you should go ahead and put your feet in this square position. For most golfers, this will be an effective way to stand over the ball, and it should lead to positive results.
However, leaving your feet square might not be ideal in the long run. Depending on the specifics of your game, your swing, and your body, you may be better off by making a modification to the direction of your feet at address. Generally speaking, there are two changes you can make – opening your left foot, and opening your right foot. These changes are going to have different outcomes, so check out the bullet points below to understand why would you decide to make either change.
- Opening your left foot. By opening your left foot, we mean you are going to point your toes slightly to the left of where they would be pointing in a square stance. This move to open your left foot doesn't have to be dramatic – even opening your foot just a few degrees can have a powerful impact on the way you swing the club. So what is going to happen when you open your left foot to the target line? Most likely, your lower body is going to become more engaged in the downswing. As you know, the lower body plays an important role in the downswing, and opening that lead foot can make it easier for the hips to turn all the way through the target. Many golfers struggle to get through the ball properly when they keep their left foot square to the line, so opening it even slightly is a good option to have in your back pocket.
- Opening your right foot. Just as the action of opening up your left foot is going to help you in the downswing, opening your right foot is going to help you in the backswing. As you swing back, you may find it difficult to get up to the top of your swing without allowing your right leg to 'give' somewhat as you turn. Of course, allowing your right leg to give is a bad idea, as that movement will cause you to lose your balance to some degree. As a better alternative, consider opening up that right foot to make it easier for your body to rotate to the right. You now won't have to allow your right leg to give way during the turn, but you will still be able to get all the way up to the top. This is a great adjustment for players who aren't particularly flexible, or those who are getting up there in age.
The great thing about these two adjustments is the fact that they are easy to test. If you aren't sure that these will be the right adjustments for your swing, simply head to the driving range and hit a few shots with an open right foot and then a few more with an open left foot. It shouldn't take more than a few swings each way to determine if these adjustments are going to be beneficial to your swing as a whole. In the end, there is no right or wrong on this point – you can play great shots with your feet square, and you can play great shots with your feet slightly open to the line. Either way, make a clear decision and then move forward to work on the rest of your stance.
Adjusting to Uneven Lies
There is one big problem with working on your stance on the driving range – almost all driving ranges are perfectly flat. It is one thing to make your stance work on flat ground, but it is another thing entirely to make it work on an uneven surface. Most golf courses have at least some degree of uneven ground, and some courses are even built right into the side of a hill. If you are going to be able to play well under a variety of circumstances, you have to know how to adjust your stance in order to hit solid shots from uneven lies.
The first thing you should do to your stance when you find an uneven lie is to make it at least slightly wider. Widening your stance is going to give you added stability and balance, which you need if you are playing off of sloped ground. No matter what directly the slope is pointing, try widening your stance by at least a couple of inches. Also, you are going to want to move the ball slightly back in your stance to accommodate for the lie and the wider stance that you are using. When playing from a wider stance you are not going to move as much laterally in your downswing, which is why you want to move the ball back a bit.
Overall, you are going to be making a more stable, centered golf swing from an uneven lie. Basically, you are going to be simplifying everything you do in your swing in order to place a premium on making solid contact. You probably aren't going to be able to hit the ball as far as you can from flat ground when on an uneven lie, so forget about power and just focus on great contact. The best golfers are those who are able to play well on any kind of course under any kind of conditions, so a big part of your development as a player is learning how to stand on uneven ground.
One other adjustment that you can make prior to starting your swing from an uneven lie is to choke down slightly on the grip of the club. While this point might not relate directly to your stance, it is part of the address position that you are going to use to hit your shots. Choking down on the club is another step you can take to simplify the swing, as you are going to effectively be making the club shorter. Coming down on the grip is likely to cost you a bit of distance, but that isn't a big deal as long as you plan for that loss in your club selection.
Proper Short Game Stance
Standing over the ball is important in the full swing, and it is important in the short game as well. Whether you are putting or chipping, you need to be sure to take a solid stance that is going to allow you to play consistent shots hole after hole. Fortunately, many of the fundamentals that you find in the stance you use for your full swing are the same in the short game. For example, you want to flex your knees when hitting a short game shot just the same as when swinging away with a long club. Also, you want to keep your chin up, you want to be nicely relaxed, and you want to keep your back flat. However, while there are plenty of similarities, there are a few differences as well. Check out the list below to see the parts of your stance that are going to change as you go from long game to short game.
- Narrower foot position. There is no reason to use a particularly wide stance when playing your short game shots. Of course, you can if you would like, but most people are going to be comfortable with a narrower foot position. Experiment during your short game practice sessions with the width of your stance and settle on a position that feels right to you. This is a point that you can't really get wrong – you just want to be consistent from shot to shot, and from day to day. As long as you are comfortable and your stance is enabling you to get a great feel for the shot at hand, you should be good to go.
- Leaning left while chipping. This is a point that applies only to chipping and not to putting. When preparing to chip, be sure to set a majority of your weight (at least 60%) onto your left foot. Of course, this is something that you would not do when preparing to hit a full shot. When making a full swing, you want to be as well-balanced as possible both before and during the swing. However, when chipping, you want to set up with a slight lean to the left in order to promote the downward swing you need to hit the ball cleanly.
- Open stance while chipping. Again, this is a point that relates to your chipping stance rather than your putting position. To give yourself the best possible chance to get the ball up and out of the grass time after time, try standing with your feet slightly open to the target. In this case, we aren't referring to the orientation of your feet themselves, but rather the line they create once in your stance. In other words, you want to have your left foot farther away from the target line than your right foot in order to create this kind of open stance. With your stance set, simply swing along your foot line and you should have no trouble popping the ball nicely up into the air.
It is hard to overstate the importance of the stance within your golf game. When you stand correctly over the ball, everything gets a little bit easier. However, when you stand incorrectly, everything gets quite a bit harder. Take the time to work on your stance during practice and you should find that your ability to hit solid shots quickly takes a step forward. Good luck!