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Golf teaching and playing articles > Correct ball position is critical to success

23 Sep 2004


The position of the golf ball in your stance is another important part of your set-up, which I wrote about last week.

The correct position of the ball is one of the things most often neglected by the average golfer. Sometimes there is confusion about where the ball actually is positioned.

Last week I gave a lesson to a gentleman who has played golf for 15 years. His main complaint was that he wasn't getting enough loft on his long irons.

He is a left-handed golfer, and when checking his set-up I observed he was lining up the ball off his back (left) foot with his 3-iron. Because of the low loft and the length of this club, the proper ball position should be forward of center. But the golfer told me he thought this was where he was lining the ball up.

I took a video and showed him the reality, and he was really surprised.

"I know better than that," was his comment. "I really thought I had the ball positioned off my forward foot."

He saw an optical illusion about where he was playing the ball, and it looked correct to him. This is one of the biggest reasons for poor ball position - the ball looks to the golfer to be in a different position than it really is.

I set up a hitting "T" station for him to help him see correctly where to line up the golf ball. I placed one club down on the grass aiming at the target, then placed another club at a right angle to the first one (leaving several inches for safety between the two).

I had him line up his golf ball on the arm of the T and then straddle it with his feet. Looking down as he did this allowed him to make sure that the ball and the T were not lined up closer to the rear foot. It will take a while to retrain his eye to what "looks right," so I encouraged him to practice this way for a while. You can view an example of this on the drill page (hitting T) of my Web site: www.golflessonsorangecounty.com.

This is an example of why golf instructors spend so much time during lessons on the set-up. You cannot create a successful shot without it.

When you watch tour players set up for a low chip-and-run shot, they normally play the ball back in their stance, which helps to create the low shot. When playing a lofted pitch shot, they normally set the ball up forward in the stance, which helps to loft the shot.

I have found that many newer golfers confuse this and set up with the ball back when trying to hit a high shot and with it forward when trying to hit a low shot.

There are many variables to learn in golf. Make notes after your lessons and remember to indicate what kind of golf shot you are setting up to play and where to play the ball for that particular shot.