The golf swing is a sequence of events. Your golf stance and set-up are critical in determining the golf swing that follows. In this article we’ll talk through how to create a great golf stance, golf posture and explain the why behind the how. We’ll also cover a couple of great drills to help you set up correctly.
We’ll start simple, but I do like to go into further detail once we have the basics in place. Please use this information for developing your insight and understanding. I still urge you to go find a great local PGA pro to help you with building a golf swing. Trying to coach yourself golf is a little like trying to cut your own hair – you know what to do, but can never see exactly what is going on.
A great golf stance pre-sets your body to move and strike the golf ball the way you want to. A great golf stance saves a lot of in-swing adjustments, making you more consistent. If you struggle with consistently striking your irons or driver, your set-up is the first place to start.
When thinking about the perfect golf stance it is often handy to think of the golf swing as a baseball swing that is tilted over at 45 degrees towards the ground. A lot of the mechanics transfer well – we just need to change your set-up angles.
There are four key parts to your golf stance – golf grip, posture, alignment and ball position. The only piece not covered here is your golf grip, as it deserves its own article – just click the link to jump over for a read.
Let’s begin with our golf posture. As described above, we are looking to make a tilted baseball swing, therefore we need to flex forward from the hips so that our chest is facing the golf ball.
After 14 years of coaching golf I still find the golf posture drill below to be the simplest way to achieve a great posture and set-up.
Carry out this posture drill in front of a mirror or window to check your own set-up.
Golf posture key points
Notice in the video how we aim to stand tall in our natural posture, then maintain this as we tilt forward. This keeps our spine in a neutral position (with a small curve at the base of our spine, and a second curve running from our shoulder blades to the base of our skull). In this position our vertebrae are in their natural position and free to rotate during the golf swing.
This posture drill should also ensure you get into an athletic stance, with the pressure through the mid-points of your feet. Also, note how this gives room for your arms to hang down, softly – not rigid – under your shoulders.
Golf posture for all sizes
You’ll notice we haven’t talked about any angles – that is because there aren’t any perfect angles. If you’re 5′ 8″ like me, or 6′ 8″ like a good friend of mine, you are still looking for the same points:
- Begin by standing tall with a natural posture
- Flex from your hips so your chest faces the golf ball
- Feel an athletic balance – pressure through the middle of your feet
- Arms hanging softly under shoulders
- Slight knee flex
To achieve these for your own build you will need to play around with how much knee flex and hip flex you have – these are the only two variables that alter.
Common posture errors
Many golfers set up with far too much knee flex. This leads to not enough hip flexion (upper body tilt) which makes their swing too high up above the ground and results in many tops and thins.
Too much knee flex also results in too much pressure going through their heels. As they swing, they move forward and back trying to stay balanced and struggle to hit the middle of the club face (shanks are common from this set-up).
A second common error is having a hunched posture at address. When your spine is not in its natural position we tend to lose our ability to rotate and end up putting pressure on the lower back and hips, and/or generate compensatory movements during our swing.
Master your posture and the resulting golf swing becomes much simpler.
Alignment – how to aim
Creating the correct alignment in golf is something amateur players often worry about. Yet, we as humans, are very good at aiming (I’ll explain why later).
The textbook way to create great alignment is to place your golf club behind the golf ball and point it to your target. Next build your stance parallel to this line (see the image above). A useful analogy is to think of rail tracks, with your club face and ball on one rail, and your feet and body along the parallel rail.
If you have a good golf grip and follow the posture drill you should find your knees, hips and shoulders all fall into ideal alignment shown above.
Golfer’s concerns with poor alignment
As I mentioned earlier, golfers frequently worry about their aim. However, slicers always aim left (for a right hander), golfers who hook the ball always aim right and golfers who hit the ball straight never tend to have alignment issues.
The take away message – poor alignment is nearly always a consequence, not the root cause. I’m yet to find a player with a 40-yard slice who also aims right. Miss-alignment is your inner athlete trying to get the golf ball to the target.
Therefore, when you are on the golf range and working on your golf swing, please put down a club or alignment stick to check your aim. Don’t feel you have to create a perfect set-up on the golf course however. Aiming slightly left or right to compensate for poor shots can be a good thing for optimising scoring.
Golf ball position – driver and irons
Once you have reviewed your posture and alignment we can move onto ball position. This is the major factor that changes when you move from hitting a driver to mid-irons and wedge – let’s recap on why.
When you strike your wedge shots and mid-irons, you want to create a descending strike, and let the loft on the club send the ball upwards. With a driver we want to hit the ball with an upwards strike.
The easiest way to achieve this is to alter your ball position, as shown in the following video. This drill also doubles up for alignment too.
Golf ball position drill
The perfect ball position for you depends on your golf swing, and specifically, your weight transfer and body position at impact. As a rough guide, hit wedge shots from the middle of your golf stance, and when hitting driver, gradually move your ball position forward to inside your front foot. This automatically changes your strike from downwards with irons, to upwards with a driver.
The ideal stance width
If you want the short answer for the ideal stance width, have your feet around shoulder width apart. The longer answer is this – the wider your golf stance, the more stable base you create for your golf swing, the more narrow your golf stance, the easier it is to turn and rotate through your golf shots.
For this reason we tend to have our golf stance slightly wider for driver, shoulder-width for mid-irons and slightly more narrow for hitting wedge shots.
You will also notice we set up with more weight on our back foot (55%) when hitting driver – this helps us create the upwards strike we discussed earlier. We aim for a 50 – 50 weight split with our mid-irons and add a little extra weight (55%) to our front foot when hitting wedge shots. This encourages a good descending strike with wedge shots and is a simple tip to improve your strike with short irons.
As with previous sections, you can see our aim is to tweak our set-up so that we don’t need to make any in-swing changes. As a beginner it is well worth building these fundamentals into your game.
Setup tips for advanced players
As you move towards single figures and below, please don’t neglect your stance, posture and set-up. Focus on the small, subtle changes that allow you to make a balanced, powerful swing and result in consistent striking.
Aim to master:
- A great spinal posture, that replicates what we have discussed and still feels relaxed.
- Create a powerful, yet balanced golf stance that allows you to stay balanced throughout your golf swing. For this you will need to really master where the pressure is at set-up.
- Lastly, ensure your arms hang naturally and free from tension. It is a small point, but key for correctly taking the club away into the backswing.
These three factors can make a considerable difference to your swing mechanics and ball striking.
Building and maintaining your golf setup
The golf swing is a sequence of events. Keeping on top of 3 – 4 basics in your golf stance prevents 101 possible swing faults that may follow. With the pros I work with we video and check posture, grip, alignment and ball position every 4 weeks. This is one of the best tips I can give you to build a great golf swing – keep on top of your fundamentals and your golf swing and performance will stay in shape.
I hope this article gives you the knowledge needed to keep on top of your golfing stance and set-up. Feel free to post any questions below, I will update the article with answers for you and others.
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Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider
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