How golfers approach their golf setup routine is the single biggest problem I see when working with many of my students.
There are so many common swing faults associated with setup that can be reduced or eliminated entirely if you are able to stand up to the ball in the correct position and with the correct posture that allows you to swing freely and maintain balance.
The most common of swing faults is a slice….and I put the main cause behind a slice down to golfers using their feet for aligning themselves to the target
Let’s see how that is a problem…
Ball Flight Laws
It is important first to review the ball flight laws to understand the important elements of the setup.
As complicated as the swing may appear to you, there are only two elements of the swing that determine the direction the ball flies after impact and those are:
Club face alignment at impact
Shoulder alignment at impact
This may surprise you, but the physics of golf ball flight states that the flight direction and the spin that is generated on the ball at impact with the club are only determined by:
The club head swing path coming into the ball….which is governed by where your shoulders are aiming at impact.
The club face alignment relative to the club head swing path.
It makes sense then to focus on these two areas in your alignment routine and not use your feet as a means to set yourself up with the target.
I am not saying that your feet positions are not important in the setup. They are….but they are important in your stance routine for correct position relative to the ball after you align your shoulders and club face to the target.
Angle of your feet in the stance
The biggest problem that I see golfers experience when using their feet to align themselves with the target is the fact that they have difficult actually “seeing” the true alignment of their feet as they look down at them and compare them against the target line.
This is due to one factor…
The angle of your feet in the stance can create a lot of “visual distortion”….with the left foot at 30% towards the target and right foot at 0-15% away from the target makes it is difficult to determine if you are aligned “parallel” with the target line…
The only true way of knowing your feet are accurately aligned with the target is by looking at how the backs of your “heels” are aligned because they are not distorted by your feet position angle….that is not an easy thing to do.
The result I see with golfers when they try to align their feet with the target is that they tend to “close” the stance with the target line….and that’s because they are looking at their “toes” in doing so.
The fact that your forward foot is “angled more” than the back foot, the visual distortion created from this effect encourages you to move this foot forward more towards the ball in the stance which creates a “closed” stance position.
Incorrect Ball Position
When you close your stance you have bring the ball position “back” in the stance or else the ball will be too far forward in the stance.
Check this out for yourself….
Stand in your regular stance with the ball in your normal position.
While in this stance without moving the ball position, move your rear foot back into an “exaggerated” closed stance.
Now relax your shoulders so that they are parallel with your feet. In this position check where you should put the ball…what you will see is the ball position needs to come back from where it is now.
This example is overly exaggerated, but I just wanted to demonstrate to you the effect that can be created if you incorrectly align your feet to the target in a closed position…even a subtle closed stance can move the ball forward in the stance enough to create a swing problem.
On top of this, what makes the judgment of the ball position even more difficult is again the angle of the leading foot….
This is because many golfers make the judgment of ball position relative to the “toe” of the leading foot and not the heel of the leading foot, which moves the ball even further forward in the stance.
Ball Position and Shoulder Alignment
The ball position and your hand position in the stance can also affect your shoulder alignment.
As you move the ball forward towards the target in the stance your shoulders will “open”….check this out for yourself in front of a mirror.
As you move the ball back in the stance, your shoulders will close.
Why using your feet to align yourself with the target causes setup problems
Ok, let’s take all these observations and summarize how they compound the alignment errors in your setup:
– First, the visual distortion due to the angle of the leading foots causes the golfer to close the stance.
– This in turn moves the ball forward in the stance
– The visual distortion due to the angle of the leading foot pointing towards the target encourages the golfer to move the ball even further forward in the stance.
– As the ball moves forward in the stance the shoulders start to “open” relative to the target.
The net effect of this causes your shoulders to be aligned “way open” relative to your feet which will adversely affect your take away and backswing motion.
The end result of these setup errors is the ball flight path will go left if you are right handed, or right if you are left handed.
This is because your shoulder direction is aiming open relative to the target…. and shoulder alignment determines the club head swing path.
On top of that you will generate spin on the ball because the club head swing path comes across the ball where the club face alignment is “open” relative to the club head swing path causing a slice….
How to Eliminate your Slice
First of all, recognize that you should align yourself to the target using your club face and shoulders only.
As you are aiming your club face at the target and aligning your shoulders so that they are parallel with the target, make sure your feet are positioned together. This ensures your feet are square with your shoulders.
Next, position the ball on an imaginary line that splits your feet.
This line creates a “visual reference line” against which you will know precisely where the ball is relative to your feet.
Since your feet are together as you do this, there is no visual distortion being created by any angle of your feet because they are square with your shoulders.
Now position your feet, with your leading foot being slightly ahead of the ball, so that the ball position relative to your feet is off center towards the target.
The net effect of this routine is that you now know your club face and shoulders are correctly aligned with the target in the stance.
You also know that your feet will be in line with your shoulders.
On top of this, the ball will be in the correct position in the stance.
Over all this approach will begin to straighten the ball flight path of your shots and with a little practice your slice will eventually disappear…
Good luck with this routine.