Arguably the greatest golfer of all-time, Jack Nicklaus, would start each season with a refresher course on his fundamentals. For the fundamentals of alignment, ball position, and posture are the foundation that everyone’s golf game is built upon. Our resident pro Nate Gray offers a few thoughts on some common issues he sees with his students, why they cause problems, and how to fix them.
Alignment: Using a right-handed golfer as a reference point, the most common issue I see is lining up too far right of the target. In order to ensure proper alignment, I recommend building a practice station that starts by laying down some clubs or alignment sticks. I like to teach my students to use three or four to start with. With the ball on the ground, I will put one down a few feet in front of the ball aiming at your target and one a few feet behind the ball again aiming at your target. The third will be parallel to the target and between your feet and the ball. The fourth will be placed in the ground standing straight up and about 30 yards towards the target in line with the first two. When you stand in your station, you will then be aligned parallel to the target. Your feet, knees, hips, shoulders, and eyes will be parallel to the target. Your club face will be facing the target. Don’t make the mistake of aiming your body at the target. If you do this, you will be aligned right of the target and will have to swing across your body to hit the ball to the target. If you practice this way, your eyes will eventually adjust and you won’t have the feeling you are aimed left of the target.
Ball Position: Now that you have good alignment you need to get the ball in the right spot between your feet. If you look at the swing like a circle you want the ball in the middle of the circle and not right or left of it. Most golfers end up with the ball back in their stance (right side of the circle) and some have it too far forward (left side of the circle). With ball too far back the swing tends to get steep and you won’t be able to rotate effectively, too far forward and you will probably get lateral in the forward swing. The method I use will put the ball in the same place in your stance every time. The only thing I adjust is how far my right foot moves to the right. When I address the ball, I step in with my right foot perpendicular to the target line and just right of where the ball is on an imaginary line coming back to where I am standing. I then place my left foot about 3-4 inches away from my right foot. Now I move my right foot to the right. The distance I move my right foot depends on the club I am swinging. For example, my right foot will move further to the right if I am using a driver than if I am using a 9 iron. The ball position will appear more forward in my stance when using a driver than when using a 9 iron
Posture: Without getting into too much detail about posture there are a couple things I see that cause problems. A lot of golfers don’t have enough knee flex, and they stand too upright. If you do this, the swing tends to go around too much on the backswing and your weight will rock forward and back making it hard to stay balanced. While flexing your knees a bit, try to let your rear end push out a little as your upper body tilts forward so your arms can hang down from your shoulders.
Nate Gray is the Head PGA Golf Professional at Fire Ridge Golf Club in Grafton, Wisconsin. Before Fire Ridge, Nate spent the previous seven years as a full-time golf instructor. Although he loves to help his students win championships, Nate hopes to resume a fuller schedule of competitive golf in the Wisconsin PGA Section events following his second shoulder surgery in the last three years. When Nate has free time his likes to spend it with his best pal Twigs. His lesson rates start at $40 per half for juniors and $50 per half hour for adults, plus he offers numerous lesson packages to customize your experience. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (262) 375-2252.