Have you ever hit a perfectly struck ball that ends up 10-yards left or right of your target? Chances are you were aiming there. Have you ever hit a thin, low shot only to see it end up several feet from the pin with your playing partners groaning and saying “lucky miss”? Chances are you were aiming there. That brings me to my point. It’s all in the set-up and one of the most important elements of the set-up is alignment. Typically, instructors place too much emphasis on the technical aspects of the golf swing when often the fix is nothing more than a correction in one’s set-up. Simply align yourself correctly to the target by picking a spot between the ball and your target line that is directly in front of your ball. Next, align the clubface to the spot. Finally, set your feet parallel to the ball to target line. If correctly done, your feet will point left of the target and not directly at it.
My mentor, and collegiate coach for Jack Nicklaus, told me the three most important parts of the swing are set-up, set-up and set-up. A proper set-up promotes a good swing. Let’s examine other components of the set-up. This includes ball position, correct body/spine angles and proper weight distribution in your feet.
Ball position – I tend to see the average player with the ball positioned too far back in the stance causing one to back up from the intended target on the down-swing, bottom out and chunk the shot or raise their body at impact to avoid bottoming out with the result being a thin shot. If this is happening, position the ball in your stance toward your left heal. It will force you to stay in the hitting zone longer and promote the proper weight shift.
Correct Body/Spine Angles – a common mistake of the average golfer is picking the club up abruptly on the take-away with arms rather than making a good turn away from the ball with one’s shoulders. The tendency with picking the club up is that the weight drifts to the left side on the back-swing causing a change in your spine angle and what we call a “reverse C”. Set up with a perpendicular spine angle and simply turn around it. You will generate more power and avoid the chunk or thin shot. The one exception is with the driver. In an effort to sweep the ball off the tee, there should be a slight upper-body tilt away from the target during your set-up. In order to maintain the correct spine angle on your backswing, get your left shoulder over your right leg.
Proper Weight Distribution - I like to say that golf is played underneath you rather then around you. If your weight is on your heels at the setup, you will sit back in your posture. This leads to playing golf around you creating a bigger dispersion of left and right misses because of the club face being square to the ball for only a fraction of a second. This is in comparison to the weight at the set-up being on the balls of your feet. Along with a slight upper body tilt forward, this will position you properly with your arms hanging directly under your shoulders. Playing golf underneath you will keep you in the hitting zone with a square club-face for a longer period of time.
By focusing on your set-up and less on the technical side of the swing, I believe you will be more relaxed throughout the swing. Remember, when you’re struggling with your swing, check these elements of the set-up first before looking to make swing changes.