“Golf is about 90 percent setup.”
– Many, Many Good Teachers
I have heard the quote above many times throughout my quest for gaining knowledge about the game of golf. Excellent instructors have said it to my face, I have read it, and I have observed it in my own teachings as well as my personal golf game. If someone has a proper setup (that is a proper grip, aim, stance, and posture), it makes it MUCH more difficult to hit a poor shot. When we setup poorly, it makes it almost accidental that the ball goes where we want, or worse yet, maybe we get really good at compensating for our poor setup and develop terrible habits that take years to break. I could write pages upon pages about the fundamentals of setup but for now let me identify one which, when adopted, will immediately help any golfer of any skill level become better at evaluating his shots. AIM!
The majority of golfers don’t even understand how to properly aim. If a player is improperly aimed/aligned, it is obvious that he then must make some sort of compensation with the path of the swing or the face angle of the club at impact to get the ball to go where he intends. Let’s start with the most common mistake I see golfers make. We all know that about 95% of golfers play some sort of left to right shot. It isn’t because swinging the club on an inside to out path is really that difficult. Very few who come over the top do so because of some physical limitation. Their problem is mostly perceptual. Almost all golfers aim right of where they think they are aimed. Go back and read that sentence again. Good. Let us keep in mind that this is NOT intentional on their part. They typically aim their foot line at the target and, unintentionally, aim the club face to the right of it. Tough to picture that? Check out this image:
If we imagine that the yellow dot at the bottom is the ball, and the grey line is our foot line, this is how the majority of golfers aim. You can clearly see that the face is pointed right of the target. If this player were to make a good swing down his line, he would miss to the right. So, instead of aiming differently, golfers unconsciously come over the top in order to get the ball to go where they desire.
You can see here the potential positive result of this alignment. The yellow line denotes the swing path, and the black line is the ball flight assuming the face is the correct number of degrees open to get the ball to go to its target. Notice how the path of the swing must cross the line of the body to get this ball to go to the target. Occasionally this player will accidentally square the club face with his path and hit a big pull. Or worse yet, he may close it! That ball is going to be long gone left. But even WORSE, the poor fellow will likely correct this by aiming more to the right, exacerbating the problem.
Okay, so now that we understand the typical slicer and what NOT to do, let’s look at a good example, shall we? Here is an image of good alignment.
This player properly aligns parallel left of his target. In doing this he aims the face right where he wants the ball to end up. This enables him to swing much more down his target line and hit his target (or close to it) even if the path or face is a little off.
It seems overly simplistic I know, but I assure you that if you take some time and work on your alignment, you will improve your ball striking. Keep in mind that your shoulder line is the line to which to pay attention. Once you line your feet up properly, make sure that your shoulders are in line with them. It is likely that since you have been setting your feet at the target, your shoulders have been open to your foot line in order to allow the club to produce the out to in line necessary for your shot to have any possibility of getting near the target. Now that you are aiming your feet better, make sure to square up those shoulders and you will be well on your way to more solid contact, and lower scores.
Drill of the Week:
We have an easy one this week. Go to Home Depot, Lowes, basically any hardware store and buy some landscaping sticks (we can use these for alignment sticks in golf). They are the same thing and much cheaper than buying branded alignment sticks from golf stores. Here is a link to a 5-pack of them:
Purchase some alignment sticks and make sure that you aim one left of your target for your feet. Then put another behind the ball parallel to the first stick, this one aimed straight at your target. Make sure that you square the shoulders to the foot line, and you’re ready to go! Now practice this way to get the proper alignment imprinted on your brain.