What are the Correct Stances for Different Golf Clubs

The standard golf club set features 14 clubs: one putter, and a mixture of 13 woods, irons and hybrids. And each one requires a slightly different stance at setup.

Sounds complicated, doesn't it? It's not. Just follow the following rules to set up correctly every time. And remember, none of these are absolutes, just general guidelines. It's fine to adjust your stance to find the most comfortable, effective arrangement.

  • Driver stance – feet shoulder width apart, ball opposite left heel: By shoulder width, we mean a stance with the insides of your feet directly below the outsides of your shoulders. Position the ball so that it's straight across from your left (lead) heel, with the toe flared a little toward the target. This stance will give you ample stability and promote a clubhead path that catches the ball on the upswing for greater height and distance.

  • Woods and irons – narrow the feet, move ball toward the center: Each time you drop down in club length (from a 5-iron to a 6-iron, for instance), your feet should be slightly closer together and the ball closer to the center of your stance. About 1/2” or so of movement for the feet and the ball is a good rule to follow.

  • Wedges – feet directly below shoulders, ball in center: By the time you reach the pitching, gap, sand and lob wedges (your shortest clubs, besides the putter), the outsides of your feet should be beneath or just inside the outsides of your shoulders. The ball is now in the middle of your stance. This will create a downward strike on the ball, which creates backspin and aids accuracy.

To sum up, the shorter the club, the narrower your stance, and the closer the ball is to the center. Who says this game is hard?

What are the Correct Stances for Different Golf Clubs?

What are the Correct Stances for Different Golf Clubs?

The rules of golf allow you to carry 14 different clubs in your bag for any given round of golf. That might sound like a lot at first, but once you get out onto the course, you will usually find that you would like to have a couple more. There are an infinite number of possible situations and shots you could face on the golf course, meaning it is important to have as many clubs available as possible as you play. Since the rules limit you to 14, you will want to make good use of each and every one of those slots.

In this article, we are going to take a look at the topic of stances, and how your stancess need to match up with the clubs you use. That's right, we said stances, as in more than one. Unfortunately, golf is a rather complicated game, and you are going to need more than one stance if you are going to play successfully. Sure, you could try to get by using the same stance for all of your shots, but that would be a mistake. Different clubs – or, at least, different categories of clubs – require different stances. By matching up your stance perfectly to the club you are using for a given shot, you will maximize your chances of success.

One of the main reasons that you need to vary your stances throughout the bag is the fact that your clubs are not all the same length. Your driver is significantly longer than your wedges, and the clubs in between gradually move from one end of the set to the other. A longer club means a longer swing, and a longer swing is generally going to require a wider stance. If you were to stand in the same manner for every swing regardless of the club you were holding, you would find it difficult to maintain balance on your longer swings. Or, you would find it difficult to get into a rhythm with the shorter clubs. Either way, you would be playing at a sub-optimal level. It will take some work to figure out the right stance for all of your clubs, but that work will pay off in the form of better performance on the course.

The short game should not be forgotten in this discussion. You need a proper stance for all of your short game shots, just as you need one for all of your full swings. We will be discussing how to stand properly when using your putter, and we will also get into stance issues that will be faced when chipping or pitching the golf ball. Golf is a fun game, to be sure, but nobody said it was simple. There is a lot to learn, and hopefully this article will be a big help as you work on refining your stances.

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

Creating Groups of Clubs

Creating Groups of Clubs

It would be awfully difficult to establish 14 unique stancess in your golf game. Even if you wanted to invest the kind of time and effort required to do such a thing, you probably aren't able to practice enough to really make that stick. After all, as an amateur golfer, you certainly have plenty of obligations in your life away from the course. So, to simplify this process, we are going to setup some groups of clubs which you can use to keep your stances straight. By using the same general stance for the shots you hit within these groups, you will need to invest far less practice time to reach your goals.

The list below includes four groups of clubs. The idea is to build a stance for each of these four groups – once that is done, your game should be elevated to a new level.

  • Woods. This group is going to include your driver and any fairway woods that you carry in your bag. Nearly every golfer carries a three wood, so that will go in this category, along with a five wood if you have one. Since these are the longest clubs in your bag, this stance is going to be the widest. You will still want to vary the width of your stance slightly within this group based on the specific club you are using, but the basic overall stance will remain the same.
  • Hybrids and long irons. It might be tempting to lump hybrids in with the woods, but they actually fit better with the long irons. Hybris clubs have a relatively upright design, which means they are better served by the kind of stance you would use with a three or four iron than the stance you would use with a three wood. The stance for this group is going to still be relatively wide, but not as wide as the stance for the woods. Also, you are going to want to keep your upper body relatively upright for these swings, and you will need to stand a little closer to the ball.
  • Mid-irons, short irons, and wedges. This is the biggest category, as it will include everything from your seven iron on down to your wedges. Depending on how many wedges you carry, it is possible to have as many as seven clubs within this category. Fortunately, the same basic stance is going to work for all of those clubs. Since these clubs are shorter, and you don't need to make an extremely long swing to hit them, you can stand with your feet fairly close together. Also, you will want to stand rather close to the ball in order to make an upright swing which attacks the ball on a downward plane at impact.
  • Putter. Of course, the putter gets its own category. There are no other clubs in the set which you use in the same manner as the putter, so it is necessary to break this club off from the rest. You are free to stand with your feet close together or far apart when putting, and you may be hunched over or standing straight up and down. The putter only travels a very short distance on most putts, so your stance should be more about personal comfort and preference than anything else. We will get further into the specifics of building a putter stance later in this article.

You should now have a nice understanding of how you can break up your stances by grouping like clubs together. With only four categories to think about, the task of customizing your stance throughout the set suddenly seems more manageable.

Standing Properly Over Your Woods

Standing Properly Over Your Woods

This is where most golfers will want to start, as these are some of the most exciting clubs to hit. Specifically, most golfers love to hit the driver. When struck properly, your driver is capable of impressive distance, and it can help you get most holes off to a great start. Of course, the driver can go wrong as well, as all of that distance potential can get you into trouble when your shots veer off target. A good stance with proper fundamentals is one of the best ways to make sure you don't send your ball in the wrong direction.

Below you will find three key points related to building a solid stance for your woods.

  • Outside shoulder width. When you hear other golfers talk about the stance, you will frequently hear them say that your feet should be placed shoulder width apart. That is fine for your short irons, but it is not nearly wide enough to support an aggressive swing with the driver. To maintain your balance while making a big driver swing, you need to set your feet outside of your shoulders. The exact width of your stance is going to depend on variables like your body type, swing style, personal preference, and more. However, start with your feet outside shoulder width and then experiment from that point until you find a comfortable spot.
  • Plenty of knee flex. You can think of your knees as the shock absorbers for your golf swing. They are going to take the up and down movement that occurs in your swing and even it out so that your entire body is not moving around dramatically. Of course, they can only act like shock absorbers if you flex them in the first place. Set up over the ball with plenty of flex in your knees and then maintain that flex from start to finish. It is common for amateur players to lose knee flex near the top of the swing, so watch out for that costly mistake. Not only will a swing made with good knee flex feel nicely balanced, but it will also feel rather athletic as well.
  • Give yourself some space. The stance you use for your swing not only relates to the various parts of your body, but also to the position of the golf ball and how far it is from your feet. You should be standing a comfortable distance from the ball, such that you have plenty of room to make a free and aggressive swing. With the woods, it is better to stand a bit too far away than it is to be too close. You want to make a rounded swing with your woods, and standing farther back is going to help you do just that. As long as you don't feel like you are having to reach out awkwardly at impact to reach the ball, you should be good to go.

Your main concern when building a stance for your woods should be maintaining balance while still making a fast swing. Balance is critical in golf, and too many golfers overlook that point while trying to swing as hard as they can. Set your feet wide enough to establish a stable base, and make sure your knees are doing their job as well. With a little practice, you should soon find a stance that feels comfortable and repeatable for all of your driver and fairway wood shots.

Hybrids and Your Irons

Hybrids and Your Irons

In this section, we are going to discuss the middle two groups which were outlined earlier – the hybrids/long irons, and the mid/short irons. We have lumped these two categories together because the stancess you use for these shots will have more alike than they will have different. The subtle differences will be highlighted along the way, but you can plan on having these stances look very similar from top to bottom.

First, in terms of width, you are going to gradually bring your feet closer together as the clubs get shorter. Assuming you already play golf, you probably do this naturally, even if you don't think about it. Most players find it hard to get comfortable with a wide stance and a short club, or vice versa. There is a natural element to finding the proper stance width which will always help you stay on the right track.

One of the big keys in terms of your iron stance is making sure you are the appropriate distance away from the ball. This is even more important here than it was with the woods, as you are usually going to be taking a divot with your irons. Since the clubs will actually be interacting with the ground, you need to make sure they are as square as possible when the clubhead hits the turf. To make sure you are standing a proper distance away from the ball at address, please use the process below.

  • With your iron in your right hand, walk up to the golf ball and set the club head down in its usual position behind the ball. You aren't going to have your feet set at this point – you should just be standing casually next to the ball while holding the club head in position.
  • Make sure the sole of the club head is flat on the ground. You should still be holding the club lightly with your right hand only. If you take a stance which has either the toe or the heel of your iron up in the air, you are going to run into trouble later on.
  • Once you are happy with the position of the club head behind the ball, go ahead and add your left hand to the grip. While you are doing so, be sure to keep the club head in place. Don't tilt the shaft of the club up or down at all, as this will disrupt the way the sole of the club is resting on the turf.
  • With your hands in place and the club head in the right spot, you can now position your feet to take your stance. It will become easy to place your feet in the right spot because you will know that the club is resting properly behind the ball. Your arms should be hanging down comfortably from your shoulders, and there should be plenty of flex in your knees.

This simple process is one you can use on both the driving range and the course. With a little bit of practice, you won't have to think much at all about going through these steps to position your stance nicely.

Ball position is another important part of your iron stance. Again here, just like with your stance width, this is another element which is going to change gradually from club to club as the length changes. With your hybrids and longest irons, you will want to play the ball roughly halfway between the middle of your stance and your left foot. As you move down the set, that ball position should move back slightly with each club. By the time you get down to your wedges, the ball should be played perfectly out of the middle of your stance. For a standard shot, the ball should never be played from behind the middle of your stance. The only time you would move the ball that far back is when trying to hit some kind of a specialty shot.

It is going to take some practice to learn how to stand correctly over all of your irons. Don't be intimidated, however, as this is going to get easier and easier as you go. Experienced golfers usually don't have to think much about their stance, as they will be able to settle into a comfortable position without any effort at all. You will get there – it is just going to take time and repetition.

The Putting Stance

The Putting Stance

We are going to spend this last section of the article discussing the stance you will use on the greens. Standing over the ball properly with the putter in your hand is part art, and part science. That means you will need to use your own style to get comfortable while obeying some basic golf fundamentals at the same time. When done properly, your putting stance will be unique to you and it will allow you to succeed on the greens day after day.

To get started, we should first identify the fundamentals you need to obey. Those are as follows –

  • Flex your knees. Just as is the case around the rest of the golf course, you need to have your knees flexed when preparing to hit a putt. Even though you aren't making a big swing with your putter, you still want to have your knees flexed so you can keep your body steady throughout the stroke. It is easy to sway from side to side when your knees are locked out straight, and that kind of movement would ruin your putting action. Bend your knees at least slightly to engage your legs and hold your body steady.
  • Position your eyes just inside of the ball. If there was a line coming up out of your golf ball and stretching into the sky, your eyes should be just inside of that line at address. Some golf teachers will tell you to get your eyes all the way out over the line, but we believe that is taking it a bit too far. Keep them just inside the line and you should be able to make a smooth stroke which sends the putter head beautifully toward the target.
  • Get everything square. Settling into a square position is one of the keys to successful putting. Your feet, knees, hips, and shoulders should all be square to the target line before you start the stroke. This is a little more difficult than it might sound at first, so spend some time working on this during an upcoming practice session. With everything square, it will become much easier to swing the putter back and through in an accurate manner.

Once you are obeying the three points listed above, you can feel free to experiment from there to find a position which is comfortable to you. One of the biggest ways in which you can experiment with your stance is adjusting how close you stand to the golf ball. It is possible to putt well by standing very close to the ball and standing quite upright. On the other hand, you also may be able to putt well by standing farther back and bending more from the waist. Work your way through a trial and error process on this point and settle on the spot that leads you to the most success.

Your stance is an important piece of your overall golf technique. It is easy to overlook the stance while thinking about the moving parts of your swing, but everything is connected in this game. Making a quality golf swing starts with a quality stance. As soon as you are able to improve the fundamentals in your stances from the driver down to the putter, you wil see your overall game improve as well. Good luck!