Are you aimed right, or "right"?
By Erika Larkin on 7/18/12
Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virigina. She was recently named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine and she's oobgolf's newest columnist. She'll be writing on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, email her at erikalarkin@pga.com. Enjoy!

I was inspired to write a tip about alignment because of confusion and misunderstanding on this topic amongst more than just a couple of my students. These students included new and experienced golfers, who all seemed to think that their feet should be lined up to the target!

To set the record straight: When you line up to hit a golf shot there are four things that need to be aimed "square" (1) the club face (2) feet (3) hips (4) shoulders.

Now, let’s think for a minute. When you aim a rifle, your eyes are lined up with the barrel. Therefore, the gun is pointed where you are looking. But with golf, your eyes and body are 2-3 feet away from the clubface (the barrel). Since our eyes are not directly on the target line, we have to trust that the clubface is pointed to the target and let our eyes and body stay parallel LEFT (for right-handed golfers). This is "square".

If a light bulb just went off in your head, you are not alone. Most people do not line their shots up from behind the ball; they step up in their address position and then turn their head to see the target. They try and get their body lined up, which they do, and it points to the target! This is dangerous because it could cause any of the following:
  • The clubface also points right, causing a big push!

  • The clubface stays straight, which means it is now "closed" in relationship to their body position, causing a big hook!

  • Hips and shoulders may conflict with the foot line, and this can really get messy!
The #1 culprit for errant shots in my opinion is FEET. The second is SHOULDERS. Shoulders are hard to see yourself. Have a friend check you from down the line and tell you if your shoulders are matching the parallel line that your feet are supposed to be on.

The best way to practice: PUT A CLUB ON THE GROUND close to where the tips of your toes are. By seeing the correct alignment visually laid out it will be easier to retrain your eyes to understand what the correct setup feels like and looks like from left of the ball. When you feel ready, test yourself and see if you can line up without the club on the ground. Start behind the ball; see the target line first (from the ball to the target). Find a spot on the ground in front of the ball that is on that line, and then come around the side of the ball. Visualize a line from your ball to that spot and set your clubface square to it. Lastly, set your feet, hips and shoulders parallel to that line. You’re ready to go!

Good alignment takes practice just like the skill of swinging, so put some time and attention into your aim and it will pay off. After all, if you strike the ball perfectly but you are not aimed correctly, it will be in vain! Good Luck!

Image via Flickr, Aberdeen Proving Ground


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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
Alignment is the one thing i work on the most for sure and it's the one thing i consistently see wrong with almost everyone that i meet up with on my weekend rounds. it's the single toughest thing to do properly because you can't see it. I always always always line up from behind the ball and choose a spot about 12 inches in front of the ball. I line up the face to that and then everything else parallel to that line. More recently, thanks to the help of my caddie/wife i found out that my hips have a mind of their own sometimes, as does my head. It's one thing to be aligned, but another to make sure that everything is still aligned with the other things and in the proper position. Great article! I'm a fan of, when practicing, setting up then taking the club im' using and checking shoulders hips and feet before swinging.
7/18/12
 
Matt McGee says:
Don't you just love it when you hit a shot perfectly, but it's 15 degrees to the left because that's the way you're lined up... because you simply didn't remember to check your alignment before the shot? *sigh*
7/18/12
 
Banker85 says:
Ya nothing like a nice shot and it ends up off target and your playing partner says "well it went were you aimed it" A lot of people have this problem and that should not be so. Alignment posture grip these are all things that should be consistent and ingrained sp? I will usually aim the club head behind the ball first by getting my line from standing behind the ball. Then lay the club square and align my feet hips shoulders. Check posture grip waggle hit.
7/18/12
 
billbadaz says:
too many times I am playing with people and they are aiming straight into the trees. So being nice, you make them aware of this alignment, only to watch them re-align, set up over the ball more to the left, and then as they waggle or try to set up for a shot, they start opening up again and are aimed back in the trees. they hit it good, and they are O.B. All I can do is shake my head, and like someone said, "I told you". I always start behind the ball and pick something a foot in front fo the ball to aim at so I keep my head down....
7/18/12
 
woobwoob says:
I've been using a club at my feet for my approach shots for the past month. Starting to be able to line up without it, but still need it here and there.
7/18/12
 
birdieXris says:
Video is another good way to go when talking about alignment. I just saw a video of me from a while back, when compared to now i'm maybe 15% better. I worked a lot last night at the range to correct this. The feeling is the same but when i look at the video i'm so out of whack. Got it fixed and now i know what it feels and looks like to be aligned properly and how to do it. Remember that perspective is everything, just because it looks right to you doesn't mean it is.
7/18/12
 
SteveMM says:
Only slightly off-topic story: We were visiting my wife's favorite aunt, and I ended up playing a round with her neighbor. I was having significant trouble getting off the tee during the round. I topped the ball a lot and hit several toed shots. Right in the middle of this mess, the guy starts harping on my alignment. Finally I half screamed at him, "It doesn't matter where I'm lined up if I'm not hitting the ball square and in the middle of the club face! Let me deal with that, and then I'll deal with my alignment!"

Yeah ... I lost my cool a little.
7/18/12
 
Torleif Sorenson says:
I wish that Erika Larkin, PGA had taught me golf instead of a math teacher in high school; I would not have been frustrated by my incompetence until the summer of 2007.
7/18/12
 
Banker85 says:
Can't blame you SteveMM i dont give unsolicted advice and dont wanna hear it either but seems he may have been somewhat right?
7/18/12
 
SteveMM says:
Oh, he was absolutely right Banker85, my alignment *was* wrong. However, I needed to stop lifting my upper body during the backswing so I could actually hit the ball right ... and THEN I'd concern myself with alignment. One major problem at a time :)
7/18/12
 
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