swing with your body alingment 1

A separate tip on this site explains how to line up properly when playing from “misaligned” tee boxes. Sometimes, even perfect alignment can be derailed by a swing that follows the direction of the tee or lines in the grass.

For example, say you're playing a dogleg-right hole where the tee box points down the right side of the fairway. You want to play a fade that starts down the left side, so you line up accordingly. However, the visual cue of the mowing pattern tells your mind to swing in the direction of the grass line. As a result, you take the club back to match that line – in other words, to the inside of your actual target line – and end up hitting the ball right after all.

In these cases, you must be aware of the tendency to swing the way those external cues are aiming you. To fight this, make a couple of practice swings lined up exactly as you will address the ball, and swing with your body's alignment, looking up at the target on the finish. Making practice swings while looking at the target, instead of the ground, can also help.

If playing a fade against a right-facing tee box, the correct takeaway may feel like it's outside the intended target line – it's probably not, and if it is, that's okay because the ball will start a bit farther left and fade back to the fairway.

The same concept holds true on the through-swing. In the fade example, focus on firing your right side through the shot to ensure that your swing follows the proper path.

Swing with Your Body's Alignment, Not the Surroundings

Swing with Your Body's Alignment, Not the Surroundings

Your job as a golfer is to hit targets. The game might seem complicated from time to time, but it really can be boiled down to that one main objective. If you are able to hit your targets, everything else will fall into place nicely. You'll be able to stay out of bad spots on the course, you will be able to lower your scores, and you'll have a great time out on the links.

Of course, actually hitting your targets is a serious challenge. Golf has a reputation for being an incredibly difficult game, and that reputation was not earned by accident. Golf is hard, any way you look at it. Few golfers are able to hit their targets over and over again, and those players tend to be the ones who end up on the professional tours around the world. In fact, even those top players struggle from time to time, which is a testament to the incredible challenge that golf presents.

With this article, we want to help you hit your targets as consistently, and as accurately, as possible. Rather than working on your swing mechanics, we are going to talk about how you can move your swing in the right direction time after time. If you are swinging in the correct direction, you will have a much better chance to hit the ball where it is intended to go. You still won't be happy with the outcome of each and every one of your shots, but you should at least be making progress toward a better game.

While we are going to be talking about alignment and swing direction in this article, we do not mean to downplay the importance of swing mechanics. The technique you use to move the club through the ball is incredibly important – in fact, your swing technique might be the most important single piece of the golf puzzle. However, it is not the topic at hand in this article. By helping you to improve your alignment skills, we hope that you'll be able to play better golf without having to make any changes to your swing mechanics. If you do decide to make mechanical changes later on, the things you have learned with regard to alignment will continue to be valuable.

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.

Target, Aim, and Alignment

Target, Aim, and Alignment

To understand how to align your body correctly before each swing, you first need to understand the relationship between your target, your aim, and your alignment. These three pieces of the golf puzzle are all related, but each of the terms refers to slightly different things. In this section, we are going to clear up any confusion that you may have regarding these subjects. With this groundwork out the way, the rest of our article is far more likely to pay dividends for you on the course.

First, we are going to provide you with a quick definition of each of these three terms.

  • Target. The target for any given shot is the spot you have selected where you would like the ball to wind up when all is said and done. In some cases, your target is going to be the hole itself. For example, if the hole is cut right in the middle of the green, and you are hitting an approach shot, you'll probably aim directly at the hole and make your best swing. In other cases, you will need to aim away from the hole as part of your course management strategy. Often, you'll aim off to one side or another when the hole is located near a hazard. By picking a target that is on the safe side of the hole, you'll be giving yourself some margin for error. Before you step up to hit any shot during a round of golf, make sure you have thoughtfully picked out a specific target.
  • Aim. Each time you stand over the ball to hit a shot, you'll need to aim the club face accurately. When we talk about aim in the golf swing, we are talking about aiming your club face in the right direction based on the target you have picked. Importantly, you should understand that accurate aim does not necessarily mean you are aiming the club face directly at the target in a straight line. If you are hitting a long shot, you'll usually need to aim off to one side or another in order to account for the curve of your ball flight. Players who use a draw will need to aim out to the right of the target, while players who hit a fade will need to aim out to the left. It is easy to take aim for granted in golf, but you'd be wise to respect this important aspect of your game. Learn how to aim your club face correctly and you should quickly take strokes off your average score.
  • Alignment. Finally, we come to alignment, which refers to the way your body is positioned at address. Most of the time, you are going to want to setup with your body square to the target line, which means the lines of your body match up in a parallel position with the target line you've selected. Put another way, an imaginary line traced along your toes, knees, or shoulders would be parallel to the target line you're using to aim the shot. While setting up with square alignment should be your default option for most shots, it is possible to use an open or closed stance from time to time in order to produce different shot shapes. For instance, you might be able to produce a draw by turning your alignment to the right, and you may hit a fade as a result of standing open to the line.

For each shot during a round of golf, you need to make sure these three important pre-shot keys are in place. That might sound like a lot of work, but this task is going to get rather easy as you gain experience. Once you have picked your target – which is not a task you can't afford to take for granted – you'll quickly be able to finalize your aim and alignment. With a bit of practice, you should soon find that you are moving through all three of these steps in a matter of moments.

Ignoring Outside Influences

Ignoring Outside Influences

As you may already know, it is quite a challenge to handle your aim and alignment properly on each shot. It's hard enough to get lined up correctly on the driving range, but it can be even trickier on the course when there are distractions to deal with. Believe it or not, your surroundings on the course can actually make it quite difficult to execute your aim and alignment. In some situations, your surroundings will cause you to aim incorrectly, and your shot will be a failure as a result. In the end, you might wind up blaming your swing as the cause of the trouble, but in reality, it was your aim and alignment that caused the ball to head in the wrong direction.

So, what kinds of surroundings are likely to get you into trouble from an alignment perspective? Let's take a look at a few possibilities.

  • An off-line tee box. Most of the time, course designers will build tee boxes in such a way that helps you find the fairway. If you think about it, the typical tee box is oriented with the fairway, so that if you square your stance with the sides of the box, you'll be aimed right down the middle. While this is customary in golf, it is certainly not required. You will find tee boxes from time to time which are built in a way that actually lines you up well off target. This could be intentional on the part of the course builder, or it could just be an accident that occurred during construction. Whatever the case, you need to be sure not to automatically trust that setting up square with the box will line you up down the middle. On each tee box, you need to pick your target, aim the club face, and align your stance based on your aim. The orientation of the tee box shouldn't come into play at all. It is easy to make a mistake on this point, so remember to pay careful attention when you stand up on each tee. It would be a shame to make a great swing and still see the ball sail into the woods, just because you mistakenly trusted the tee box to point you in the right direction.
  • Fairway going another direction. Just as you may take your alignment cues from the tee box, you may do the same thing when hitting an approach shot from the fairway. Of course, there is no expectation that the fairway will lead you directly to the green, as golf holes take on all sorts of different shapes. Still, it is easy to fall into the trap of using something like the mowing lines in the fairway as a guide to hit your shots. Again here, it all comes back to your process. You need to stick to the process of picking a target, aiming the face, and then aligning your body. When you manage to stick with your process, you won't have anything to worry about with regard to your surroundings getting the way.
  • Mowing lines on the green. This is a tricky one, and it just might be the hardest one of all to get over mentally. When there are well-defined mowing lines present on the green – as is often the case on particular types of grass – you might have trouble separating those lines from the line you have chosen to use for your putt. As you stand over the ball, you will know what line you should be taking to send your ball toward the hole, yet you might subconsciously find yourself swinging the putter down the mowing line instead. So, how do you get over this hurdle? There are a couple of options. First, try making a couple of extra practice strokes before you step up to the ball, just to remind yourself of where the stroke should be headed. Also, try picking out a specific spot on the top of your golf ball to stare at during the stroke, rather than getting distracted by the mowing lines. If you just watch the ball as you swing the putter, you may find it easier to stay on track.

The surroundings you find on a golf course can be beautiful, but they can be distracting as well. You don't want to let outside influences get in the way of your ability to execute great shots, so remember to pay careful attention to your target and aim on each individual swing. With practice and experience, you should find that these potential distractions are no longer a problem, and you'll be able to hit great shots even when the course is trying to lead you in the wrong direction.