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Most of what creates solid golf shots is taken care of well before you ever take the club back. Once your grip is established, the next important fundamentals are your posture and your alignment. It doesn’t matter how good your swing plane is; without these fundamentals, a consistent ball flight is difficult to achieve. Continue reading this article to find out how to get a proper setup alignment.
The Ideal Setup Position
I drew this stick figure to illustrate the anatomy of an optimal setup position. A few things to take note of from this drawing:
- There should be a straight-line relationship from your neck down to your pelvis. For those of you with more rounded shoulders, that’s fine, but you don’t want your chin down towards your sternum, which is an indication of tightness in your neck.
- Your arms hang down from your shoulders, relaxed. In relation to your body, your arms being closer is better than extending your arms out, which can also create tension in your neck and shoulders.
- Probably most important, since it goes against popular thought. Too many times I’ve heard people talking on the range or on the course about “keeping your knees bent.” If you think about it in terms of knee bend, it’s easy to bend them too much. If your knees move over your ankle, that throws off your balance and adds to the difficulty of swinging the club without moving all over the place. Look at the stick figure. The hips move back and away from the knees, but the knees stay right on top of the ankles. This allows you to rotate your hips while maintaining your balance, which is key to making consistent contact.
Disclaimer: Before attempting any strength or flexibility training, consult a medical professional first.
It's Important to Stretch
If you struggle with your posture, particularly with rounded shoulders and tightness in your chest and neck, it’s important to spend a few minutes every day stretching these areas. In the video below, Mark Crossfield and his guest James Diamond go through a few basic stretches that will improve your posture in these areas.
For Hip and Back Pain
For those of you who struggle to maintain posture due to hip and lower back tightness and/or pain, you’ll want to carefully stretch and strengthen these areas, which are not only important to your golf game, but important to your everyday life. The Chiropractic Source has a great video, below, containing stretches that will help alleviate pain and stiffness in your hips and lower back.
Include Your Feet
The way your feet sit on the ground is also important. While it may be tempting to keep your toes pointing perpendicular to the target line, keep in mind that most feet naturally splay out a little. Having your feet turned straight ahead can add tension which will hinder a free swing. Once you have your posture set, it’s time to focus on your alignment.
Alignment - Right and Left
Alignment, as a concept, is simple to understand. Ideally, you want your body lined up parallel to your target, specifically your shoulders and hips. If these two focal points are properly aligned, everything else should fall into place.
While this seem simple in practice, the act of consistently lining up parallel is a tedious, and often difficult, task. One main reason is that every shot in golf is different: some shots require you to aim left, and others right. The key to feeling comfortable is to utilize the entire driving range, finding different targets and hitting shots to them, utilizing alignment tools to ensure your lines are correct.
Take a look at the figure above. It represents an typical driving range; the darker green is the hitting deck, and the lighter green is the target area. Each position (1-3) on the hitting deck changes the length and the angle of alignment for each target, as shown by the lines drawn from each location.
Almost every golfer struggles one way or another in regards to aiming way right of what feels comfortable or way left. The key is to become as comfortable as possible with every shot you line up to.
A couple of reflector rods (which you can buy at a hardware store for about $2 each) or even your own clubs laid parallel to each other will help you with your alignment. There are a few ways to set up your alignment rods, but I suggest placing one rod directly at your target, and have the ball about an inch inside of it, then get set up to the ball with the other rod in your hands and lay it in front of your toes. Then, take a step back and take a look at the alignment of your rods:
If your alignment is square, you’re good to go. If your stance is open or closed, adjust the crooked rod to square and step in. Does it feel awkward? Humans are creatures of habit, and if your alignment has been off, it may take a while to adjust your feel and your eyes to a more square alignment.
The Bottom Line
When you’re practicing, it’s extremely helpful to use alignment tools. Not only will it help you eliminate the question of whether or not you’re aligned properly, it will also avoid any bad habits misalignment can create. Once you have your posture and alignment set properly, you’ll be amazed at how your golf swing becomes more consistent and easier to repeat with the proper foundation. Use these tips and start playing better golf immediately!