Proper Golf Stance
A general rule of thumb that is taught by most golf professionals is that the proper golf stance should be shoulder width apart for your driver, and then get progressively narrower as you go up in loft on your other clubs. Many can be confused as to what “shoulder width apart” means. Does that mean that the outside of your feet should be even with the outside of your shoulders? Or does it mean that the insides of your feet should be even with the outside of your shoulders? Universally, it means that the area between the insteps of the feet can be even with the outside of the shoulders.
If this distance is difficult to judge exactly, I suggest taking a yardstick or measuring tape, and get a close estimate of how wide your shoulders are, and then transferring that to a measurement that you can place on the ground for reference at first to know that you’re starting from a good solid base.
If your golf stance is too narrow, you’ll end up losing precious distance and power because again, you won’t be able to swing as loose and free and your swing will lack balance. The foundation of a golf stance that is too narrow will be compromised and the rest of the golf swing will be somewhat limited, and you won’t achieve maximum distance in your golf shots.
Now that you’ve got the proper golf stance width taken care of, you can cross one thing off the list and move on to the next. The next thing is proper golf ball position in the stance. The general rule is that for a driver, you should position the golf ball even with the instep of the left foot for right handed players. And as you hit clubs with increased loft, you should move the ball progressively toward the middle of your stance. So for a sand wedge, you will want to have the ball positioned right in the center of your stance. The reasoning behind positioning the golf ball further up in your stance for a driver is because the driver has less loft than any other club in your bag, save the putter, and the driver is the one club that you will need to hit the ball on a slight up-swing or ascending blow. Almost like if you were to “sweep” the ball off the tee. And by having the ball positioned further up in the stance by the left instep, it allows you to hit the ball off the tee with optimum trajectory to get the most distance out of the swing.
All other clubs in the bag you need to hit with a descending blow. This idea is also foreign to many amateur golfers that feel the need to “scoop” the ball or try to lift the ball themselves, rather than letting the club do the work. The rules allow us to carry 14 clubs in our bag for a reason. They all have different lofts on them and that is what determines the trajectory of the ball. Because our goal is to hit the ball with our irons on a descending path, we need to move our golf ball position back in our stance a bit from where we have the ball positioned for the driver.
If you end up positioning the golf ball too far forward in your stance for your irons, you’ll generally either top the ball or chunk the ball too often because you’ll have to reach for the ball. Reaching for the ball is not natural, and if you find yourself doing that, your golf ball position is probably the culprit. Experiment a little in moving the ball further back in your stance and allow the club’s loft to get the ball airborne. This Full Golf Swing Drills DVD will help dig deeper into the golf stance and set up and golf ball position (among every other aspect of the swing) with vivid illustrations to help you build your foundation that your entire golf swing depends upon. I encourage you to have a look at this video sample below, and if you feel your golf game would benefit from the full video, you can purchase it here.
The golf ball position doesn’t only relate to how far forward or back you have it in your stance, but also how close you stand to the ball. This is important because if you stand too close to the ball, you’ll find yourself slicing the ball more often than not. If you stand too far away from the ball, this usually results in hooking the ball. So it’s important to find the right distance away from the ball.
The way I do this is by taking my golf stance, hang my arms straight down, give a little flex in my knees, bring my hands together to form the grip, and wherever the club head rests, that’s where the ball should be placed. The key is to hang your arms straight down before taking your grip. And that is the place you need to have your hands at the start of the swing.
This method is slightly compromised with the driver and other woods in your bag. Because those clubs are significantly longer than your irons, you'll need to swing them on more of a wider arc, it will be necessary to reach out a little toward the ball to start the club out wide to increase the club head radius as it travels around the body. The wider the swing's radius, the more club head speed can be generated.
Everyone is built differently; some have shorter legs, or longer arms, etc. This will play a part in where the normal ball position is for you individually. Golf club “lie” angle is a customizeable property of a golf club that may be an issue for you if you are taller than say 6’1” or shorter than 5’8”. It would be a good idea to get fitted for clubs if you're serious about really fine tuning your swing to rid your game of a consistent slice. “Off the shelf” golf clubs are standardized for the average height of around 5’10”. Clubs that are too long or too short for you will wreak havoc in your golf game. I highly recommend getting fitted for clubs if you’re playing with a standard set of golf clubs.
I am 6’2” myself, and my clubs are built a half inch longer than standard across the board, and my irons are adjusted to be 2 degrees upright on the lie angle. My clubs are built that way because when I swing the club with standard clubs, I make consistent impact with the ground more toward the toe of the golf club. The sole of the club makes impact with the ground about a half inch toward the toe of the club from center. This will actually cause the ball to leak right naturally. To correct this, the hosel of my irons were bent 2 degrees upright to lessen the angle. So now when I swing, the point of impact of my sole with the ground when I strike the ball is directly centered in the middle of the club. This results in a square club face at impact.
Golf is a hard enough game as it is. You want your equipment to be built for you and your body type. I would highly recommend getting fitted for clubs to see what the results are. You may be able to uncover a hidden issue in your game that you were unaware of before that has been contributing to you slicing the ball. Granted, it’s not going to make all the difference, but it will help some.
We’ve discussed ball position and width of stance, now we need to address the open or closed stance. I talk about this on the golf hook and slice pages in more detail, but it’s worth mentioning here. To hit a straight shot, you want your feet to be lined up parallel to your target. Often times I’ve seen golfers think that they’re lined up at the target, and then I’ll ask them if they know where they’re aiming, and their response is often 30 yards different from what their stance is telling me. This issue is something that you need to practice and know exactly where you’re aiming.
Inconsistencies in where your club face is aimed and where your feet are aimed, is all it takes to hit a big slice or hook. Chances are you’re reading this because you slice the ball. Next time you’re on the range, take your normal stance and setup as if you were going to hit the ball. Pick out your target and get all ready to hit the shot like you normally would. Instead of hitting the ball, take your club and set it down on the ground so that it is touching each of your toes. Step back from the club, and have a look at where that club is pointing out in the range. Is where that club is pointing where you thought you were aiming the golf shot? I’m willing to bet, if you slice, your golf club is pointing left of where you thought you were aiming.
The reason this drill is so important, is that if you have an open stance, your tendency is to slice or fade your golf shots. If you have a closed stance, you will often hook your golf shots. When you’re practicing, you need to practice with a purpose, and not just beat balls out onto the range. One tool that will really help you with your alignment and golf stance is the Set Right training aid. You’ll never be able to hit the ball where you want, if you don’t know where you’re aiming. And this tool will cure that problem for you and tell you exactly where you’re aimed every time.
One other part of the stance and alignment is your spine angle. When you set up to the golf ball, you want your spine at an angle around 25 to 30 degrees from perpendicular to the ground. You don’t want to be to far upright, and you don’t want to be hunched over either. This proper golf spine angle builds the foundation in which you swing the club around. We talk about swing plane and the importance of maintaining an even swing plane throughout the swing for consistent golf shots.
Your spine angle has a lot to do with how flat or how steep your swing plane is. If you have too steep of a swing plane, it might have a lot to do with you being too hunched over when you set up to the ball. Conversely, if you are too upright in your spine angle, you may have a tendency to have too flat of a swing plane, and probably end up topping the ball more than you would like.
The Swing Plane Video will discuss all aspects of proper golf spine angle and the cause and effect relationship on the swing plane. The proper golf stance is not something you can just take for granted. The golf stance sets the foundation that any good golf swing can be formed around. If you don’t get the stance and set up correct, you’ll be playing catch up and making compensations for it in other parts of your swing that lead to inconsistencies.
For an illustrated look at the proper golf stance and alignment, take a look at the Full Golf Swing DVD taught by Bobby Eldridge that was referenced above. Eliminate the unknown, and better understand the keys to a proper golf swing. Start building your foundation today.