You need to pay attention to the small details in the game of golf if you want to have success over the long run.

Learning How the Golf Ball Position Impacts Ball Flight

Sure, you may luck your way into a few good shots from time to time if you don’t pay attention to the details, but those good shots will be the exception rather than the rule. If you would like to build the kind of consistency that is required to post low scores round after round, it will be necessary to pay attention to the finer points of your technique.

One of those finer points is ball position. The ball position you use for each of your shots has a significant impact on the final outcome of those shots, so this is not something you can afford to overlook. When we talk about ball position, we are actually talking about two separate variables – how far you are standing from the ball at address, as well as how far forward or back the ball is placed. Both of those elements are going to impact your trajectory significantly, so we will discuss the techniques for each of them in this article.

The beauty of learning how ball position impacts trajectory is that you can eventually use changes to your ball position as a way to produce different shots on command. For instance, if you need to hit the ball higher or lower than normal for a given shot, you should be able to make that happen just by altering your ball position slightly. Many amateur golfers try to play this game with just one ball flight that they use for every single shot, but it’s tough to get around the course that way. You never quite know what you will encounter when you head out for a round, so it is helpful to have as many different ball flights in your arsenal as possible.

All of the content in this article has been written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Understanding the Two Elements of Ball Position

Understanding the Two Elements of Ball Position

In the introduction, we mentioned that there are two parts of ball position that you need to consider when taking your stance. You need to determine how far away from the ball you should stand, and you need to determine how far forward or back in your stance the ball should be placed. In this section, we are going to take a detailed look at each of these two components. Once you understand how these points work and why they are important, we can move on to offering some advice on how you can improve your trajectory based on ball position adjustments.

Let’s first dive into the topic of how far you should be standing from the ball in order to strike solid shots. Most likely, this is the half of the ball position equation that you have been ignoring. You’ve probably spent at least some time thinking about your ball position from a ‘forward or back’ perspective, but you may have never thought about this other dimension. That is a mistake, unfortunately, because the distance that you stand from the ball has a significant impact on both the quality of your strike and the trajectory that the ball takes while it is in the air.

Generally speaking, players who stand farther away from the ball are going to be more likely to hit a draw than players who stand closer. This is not a rule which is set in stone or anything like that, but it is a good starting point for your understanding of this part of the game. When you move back farther away from the ball at address, your swing is naturally going to become flatter. If you don’t make a flatter swing, you might not be able to reach the ball at all when swinging through the hitting area. And, due to the flatter shape of your swing, you will be more likely to turn the ball over from right to left.

Obviously, you can look at this from the other perspective and say that moving closer to the ball is going to promote a fade. That would also be true. Standing in closer to the ball is going to move your swing naturally into a more upright position, and the path that you take through the hitting area is more likely to promote a left to right shot. Again, this is not a guaranteed outcome, as there are other factors involved, but most players who stand close to the ball do favor a fade pattern.

Before even thinking about the trajectory that you would like to produce, your first goal on this topic should be to get into a comfortable position over the ball. You don’t want to feel like you are reaching out awkwardly at address, but you don’t want to feel like you are crowded, either. Find a position that allows you to stand comfortably so you can let your arms hang freely from your shoulders as your hands grip the club. Once you know how to find a comfortable distance from the ball at address, you can then work on altering your trajectories by making subtle adjustments later on. We will talk about that more later in this article.

The other half of the ball position equation is the one you are probably more familiar with – the forward or back positioning of the ball in the stance. A ‘forward’ ball position would be one where the ball is resting closer to your left foot than your right, while a ‘back’ ball position would be the opposite. The ball position that you use for a standard shot is going to vary based on the club you are holding. A driver will usually be played with a ball position up near the front foot, while a standard wedge shot is usually played from roughly the middle of the stance, if not a bit behind that point.

One of the tricky things about deciding how far forward in your stance you should place the ball is the fact that the right positioning is different for every player. You can’t just copy the template used by another player, because that setup might not work for you. You will have to experiment with various ball positions until you can establish standard ball positions for each category of clubs. We are going to talk about how you can go through that process in the next section.

As you might assume, the ball position you pick in terms of forward or back is going to have a powerful impact on the launch angle of your shots. Playing the ball forward in your stance will likely lead to a higher launch angle than playing the ball back in your stance. That doesn’t necessarily mean the eventual trajectory will be higher or lower, as the height of your shots is going to depend on a few different factors, including spin rate, swing speed, and even your equipment. However, being able to manipulate the launch angle of your shots is an important skill, and again, something we will get into in greater detail later in the article.

To summarize, both the distance you stand from the ball and the position of the ball in terms of forward or back are going to play a role in the trajectories you produce. Whether you want to turn the ball in a certain direction, or hit it a specific height, adjusting your ball position can be a big help. Moving forward, we are going to offer some tips on how you can settle on standard ball positions for your basic shots, and also how you can make adjustments to tweak your ball flight on command.

Establishing Some Standards

Establishing Some Standards

During an upcoming practice session, consider taking some time to work on your ball position. While this might not be the most exciting thing you can do in golf, it does have the potential to pay off in a big way. The time you invest in working on the ‘little things’ during practice can be incredibly valuable down the line.

So, how do you get started working on your ball position? Try following the techniques and steps below.

  • For the purposes of this example, we are going to imagine that you are working on your ball position with the driver. Although the ball is going to land in a different spot for other clubs like your irons and wedges as compared to the driver, the process outlined in these steps will be the same.
  • To get started, you’ll obviously need your driver, a bucket of practice golf balls, and a space on the driving range to hit. In addition, you will want to have an extra club available (a long iron works well), as well as a few golf tees.
  • For the first shot, you are going to do your best to use the ball position that you typically use when out on the course hitting a drive. Even if you haven’t thought much about ball position previously, it’s still likely that you have a standard you go to for most of your tee shots. In other words, don’t think too consciously about your ball positioning on this first shot – just make a stance that feels comfortable and get ready to hit the shot.
  • However, before you actually hit the shot, there is a little bit of work to be done. You are going to take that extra club we mentioned above and lay it down on the ground in order to mark the lateral element of your ball position. To do this, you want to set the club down such that the butt end of the grip ‘points’ at the ball. The shaft of the club should be between your feet, and the club should be running perpendicular to the target line. Also, you are going to take two of those golf tees we mentioned and place them in the ground just slightly in front of the toes of your shoes. This will serve as a marker for the positioning of your feet during the swing, so you’ll be able to tell exactly where you were when hitting the shot.
  • With all of these preparations made, it is time to hit your first shot. Try to put the ball positioning concerns and setup details out of your mind and just do your best to make a great swing. Go ahead and hit a few shots if you like from this first position before moving on.
  • At this point, it is time to get into the adjustments phase. You’ve now hit some shots from what is your normal ball position, and you have hopefully noticed a pattern in your trajectory. If you like your trajectory, you’re all set – no further action is needed. However, if there is something about your trajectory that you’d like to change, it is worth experimenting with other ball positions to see what kind of results you can achieve. The changes you try should be based on what you hope to change about your trajectory. Want to launch the ball higher? Move it a bit forward in your stance. Want to launch it lower? Try moving it back a bit. To encourage a draw, stand a little farther away, or stand a little closer to encourage a fade. The results of your shots on the driving range don’t matter, so feel free to experiment and see how you do.
  • It may take a bit of experimenting, and you may not get it all figured out in the first session, but you should eventually arrive at a ball flight that seems to serve you well. If you are so inclined, you can then repeat this process with other clubs to iron out the ball positions you will use with them, as well. You don’t necessarily have to go through it with every single club, rather you can group clubs together (fairway woods, long irons and hybrids, mid irons, short irons, wedges) to make it simple.

The great advantage to working on your game on the driving range, as opposed to out on the course, is the fact that you can hit one shot after the next. This makes experimentation easy, as you can directly compare the results of one swing to the results of the previous shot. Unfortunately, many golfers fail to experiment on the range, instead choosing to continue on using the same technique for shot after shot. Whether you are working on ball position or something else in your game, use the range as a testing ground and you will be much pretty prepared when you hit the links.

Making Adjustments On-the-Fly

Making Adjustments On-the-Fly

Hopefully, after working through the process in the previous section, you will be able to settle on a ball position that works nicely for each of your groups of clubs. The ball position you select should be used for the majority of your shots, but you probably won’t be able to use it for every single shot. There will be situations which arise on the course that require you to alter your trajectory, and making a change to your ball position is a great way to do just that.

So, how do you become proficient at the skill of altering your ball position to influence your trajectory? Let’s take a look at a few tips.

  • Practice the adjustments. You don’t want to be trying shots on the course that you have never before attempted in practice. So, with that in mind, make sure to work on some ball position alterations during your practice sessions. Move the ball back to hit some lower shots, and move it forward to hit some higher shots. Also, experiment with standing closer and farther away to influence the curve of your shots to the right and left. Not only is this kind of practice beneficial to the overall development of your game, but it can be fun, as well. Rather than hitting the same shots over and over again each time you practice, add in some of this type of variety and you’ll probably wind up looking forward to your range sessions more than ever before.
  • Don’t try to do too much. When you decide to adjust your ball flight for a particular shot on the course, be sure that you aren’t trying to do too much. In other words, you don’t want to make the shot harder than it needs to be. If you can deal with the shot successfully just by using your normal ball flight, do that. Only when you think adjusting your ball position and trajectory is going to make the shot easier should you move in that direction. Golf is a hard enough game as it is – you shouldn’t make it more difficult by picking shots that don’t need to be attempted.
  • Read the lie. The lie of the ball is going to have a significant impact on the kinds of shots you can hit by changing your ball position. If the ball is sitting cleanly on the fairway, you should be able to do just about anything you want with the shot, as long as the shot you attempt is within your abilities. On the other hand, if the ball is sitting down in the rough, you should forget mostly about trying to adjust your trajectory and instead focus on just getting the ball out of the long grass and back in play.

Golf is all about adjustments. With so much variety to deal with on nearly every golf course you play, it is essential that you develop your ability to adjust quickly to the circumstances at hand. Moving the position of the ball at address is one good way to adjust the kinds of shots you hit out on the course, but only if you practice this skill on the range in advance.

Ball Position in the Short Game

Ball Position in the Short Game

To wrap up our discussion on ball position and trajectory, we want to talk quickly about the short game here at the end of the article. Of course, you don’t really have a ‘trajectory’ with your putts, since you are just trying to roll the ball along the ground, so we are really talking about chip and pitch shots here. And, not surprisingly, the story is much the same as it is when hitting a full shot.

To hit a low chip or pitch shot, try moving the ball back in your stance. This will promote a swing that moves down through impact, and a lower launch when the ball leaves the face of the club. If you need to get the ball up into the air quickly, you’ll do the opposite and move the ball forward in your stance. The combination of a forward ball position with a high-lofted club should make it easy for you to hit high, soft shots from a variety of positions around the green.

Again here, it is going to be essential to practice various ball positions in the short game, so you can know what to expect on the course. Ideally, you’d like to have a number of different shots that you feel comfortable executing at any given time based on the situation you face. For instance, you will want to have a low chip shot, a ‘standard’ chip shot, and a high chip shot. You may also find that you wind up developing other types of short game shots as a result of experimenting during practice sessions.

Ball position is one of the key fundamentals in the game of golf. You probably don’t think about it very often as you play, but it would be wise to spend some time during your practice sessions to work on this key. We hope the discussion in this article will help you get on the right track – good luck!