Jack Nicklaus influenced generations of golfers, who emulated many of the Golden Bear's setup and swing techniques. Nicklaus' simple method for lining up shots is used by countless golfers the world over;

Here's how it's done:

  • Stand behind your ball so that it's directly between you and the target (where you want the ball to finish).
  • Find a small object (broken tee, divot) or piece of discolored grass on the line between ball and target, no more than a few feet in front of your ball.
  • Step to the ball and aim the clubface at the spot.
  • Align the feet, hips and shoulders accordingly.

If you're playing a left-to-right shot (fade for right-handers), align the feet and body slightly left of the clubface's target. Aim slightly right for a right-to-left shot (draw).

Use this method on every shot, even chips and pitches, and your accuracy will improve.

Use Intermediate Spot for Better Alignment

Use Intermediate Spot for Better Alignment

Proper alignment is one of the building blocks of a quality golf game. If you are unable to get yourself aligned correctly with the target you have picked out for your shot, you are bound to be disappointed by the result. Many amateur golfers get poor results from good swings simply because they are unable to line up correctly at address. This should be one of the first skills that you work on when developing your game. By aligning yourself properly before each swing, you will have taken one big variable out of the process.

This article is going to focus on a specific technique you can use to improve your alignment – the intermediate spot technique. To be honest, this technique is not exactly ground-breaking, as most professional golfers in the world already use this method. Plenty of amateurs are aware of it as well, and it has likely helped millions of golfers perform better over the years. However, countless amateur golfers still walk up to the ball without a plan for how they are going to line up, and those players pay the price for that mistake. By the end of this article, you should have a perfectly clear understanding of how you can aim each shot exactly where you intend.

The great thing about this method is its simplicity. You aren't going to have to learn any complicated technique here, and you won't even need to spend much time practicing with this system. Try it out a few times on the driving range and you should be ready to put it into action on the course. These kinds of improvements to your golf game are exciting because they don't take as long as a swing change to pay dividends. You can play better in your very next round simply by learning how to align yourself more accurately with the target. If you are looking for quick results in your game, better alignment is an excellent place to focus.

Of course, alignment is important for all of the shots you hit during the course of a day, whether they are long shots or short ones. In this article, we are going to cover both long game and short game alignment. The method of using an intermediate spot is roughly the same for both categories of shots, but there are some subtle differences.

At its heart, golf is a target game. Just like darts, or billiards, you are trying to hit a very specific target. However, unlike those two games, golf requires you to hit shots from hundreds of yards away. It is tremendously difficult to be accurate from such a great distance, which is why you have to focus on executing your alignment as successfully as possible. The best golfers all known how to get lined up properly prior to each shot, and you can work toward that same ability.

All of the content 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 Basic Concept

The Basic Concept

When you get started with any golf shot, there are just two points you have to work with – the ball, and the target. It is important to note that the target may not actually be the hole itself. For a tee shot, for example, the target could be the middle of the fairway. Or, it could be one side of the fairway which will provide you with a better angle to the hole for your approach shot. Whatever the case, the only thing you have to work with is the ball and the target. From there, you will need to align your body and the club properly in order to send the ball on its way.

If you are dealing with a two-foot putt, you can probably just stick with those two points and have good success. It is pretty easy to aim your putter correctly at the target when that target is on the ground a couple feet in front of your ball. However, this process gets much more difficult as you get farther and farther away from the target's location. It can be tricky to even line up properly on a long putt, let alone a tee shot you plan to hit hundreds of yards. The problem is this – when you take your stance and stand over the ball, you can't see both the ball and the target the same time. Sure, you can turn your head back and forth to look at them individually, but you can't get them in the same visual 'frame'. For that reason, it is nearly impossible to be sure that you have aligned yourself properly.

This is where the idea of an intermediate spot comes into play. By using an intermediate target to aid in your @alignment, you no longer have to worry about turning your head back and forth while building your stance. As long as you are aligned correctly with the intermediate target, you can be confident that you are also aligned well with the actual target in the distance. It may take some practice before you trust this method to lead you in the right direction, but you will believe in this technique sooner rather than later.

Before going too much further, we should stop and identify the definition of an 'intermediate target' in this setting. An intermediate target is simply a point directly on the imaginary line between your golf ball and your selected target. This intermediate target is not going to be halfway between the ball and the actual target – rather, it is going to be only a foot or so in front of the ball itself. You want to be able to see the intermediate target at the same time you can see the ball, so it needs to be within short range of where your ball rests.

To pick an intermediate target accurately, you need to do this job while you are standing behind the ball. From this perspective, you can see the target in the distance, your ball, and the intermediate target all at the same time. It will be easy to select a spot or object that can work as your intermediate target while you are standing behind the ball prior to hitting the shot. Use this perspective to pick the intermediate target, then keep your eye on the spot you have picked out while walking up to take your stance. Simply align the club face with that intermediate target, and you will be good to go. This is a surprisingly simple process that has a powerful effect.

Most golfers already stand behind the ball prior to walking up and taking a stance, so it should be easy to build this method into your existing pre-shot routine. After going through the process just a few times during practice, you should be ready to put it to use on the course.

What Can You Use for Your Intermediate Target?

What Can You Use for Your Intermediate Target?

When this method is taught to an amateur golfer, they immediately get hung up on the idea that they will need to find something on the ground to use as an intermediate target. After all, isn't a golf course just a blanket of green grass, with one blade looking exactly like the next? No – not even close. When you start to look closely at the turf below your feet, you will notice that there are countless options for picking out an intermediate target. Some of the most-common options you will find are listed below.

  • A small bare spot. Even well-manicured courses have little bare spots throughout the course. Grass simply isn't reliable enough to grow without any patches over the space of many acres. These bare patches aren't going to be big – hopefully – but they will be enough to stand out visually from the rest of the turf. If there happens to be one of these small spots on your target line, you can easily use it as an intermediate target.
  • Fallen debris. If you are playing a golf course which is lined with trees, there will likely be plenty of material that has fallen on the course which you can use to aid your aiming process. For instance, pine needles make a great intermediate target, as do small leaves. You will probably want to remove any large loose impediments from your line of play, but you can leave the small ones in order to have plenty of intermediate targets to consider. This option may not be a viable one on a desert course, but it is effective on nearly every tree-lined layout.
  • A long blade of grass. Depending on the situation, you may even be able to use a blade of grass which is slightly longer than the rest for your intermediate target. This option can be hard to see from address, however, so be sure that it is prominent enough to catch your eye. Remember, something that is easy to see when you are standing behind the ball might not be so easy to locate from your perspective at address. Mowers don't always catch every single blade as they roll by, so you may be surprised to find how many longer blades are out there when you really look closely.
  • A pebble. This is a particularly common option when you are playing a shot near a bunker. Sand is regularly blasted out of the bunker as play moves along, and sometimes small pebbles will come out of the trap as well. You would obviously want to move a larger rock out of your line of play, but a small pebble (which isn't in the way of your swing) can work as a target.
  • An old divot mark. Here we find one of the best options you will have available for an intermediate target. If you have hit a tee shot into a popular section of the fairway, you will probably be surrounded by many old divot marks. These make for perfect spots that can be used to accurately line up for the coming shot. Even on the tee you may be able to find marks from players who use an iron to hit their tee shot. Of course, when you are on the tee, you have the luxury of placing your ball anywhere you wish (as long as it is within the parameters of the tee box). That means you can pick a location to play from which will offer you plenty of choices for intermediate targets.

It is important to remember that it would be against the rules of golf to make your own mark which you then use as an intermediate target. You can't disturb your line of play in any way, even if you are going to hit the ball up in the air over the spot in front of your ball. You will need to pick out intermediate targets which are naturally occurring on the course. Fortunately, that is rarely a challenge. As demonstrated by the list above, there are plenty of options you can consider. During your next round, even if you don't use the intermediate target method just yet, at least take some time to check out the turf in front of your ball. You will quickly learn that locating something you use as an intermediate target is no trouble at all.