The Basics Part 3: Staying on Track
By Erika Larkin on 3/6/13
Before you get into the "meat and potatoes" of your 2013 season, Erika wants you to check your fundamentals. So over the next several weeks, she's going to run a five-part series about the fundamentals. If you missed part 1 or part 2, click here and here. Enjoy!

It's easy for a golfer to be misaligned and not realize it for a good reason, it "looks" correct to them! Why is this so?

We have to understand that hitting golf shots is like firing a gun with your eyes three feet left (for righties) of the barrel — we have to deal with this optical illusion.
  • Stand back behind your ball so that you get a clear view of your target line. For practice, lay a club on the ground on or very close to this line. Move over a foot or two to the side of your ball and lay another club on the ground parallel to the first one. This will become a guide for the correct foot line, but before you go and address the ball with your set parameters, stand directly behind your foot line and take note of where this line is actually pointed. On a 150 yard shot, your foot line may seem like it aimed 10 or more yards left (for righties) of your actual target. This is okay and this explains why it looks like you're not aimed correctly when you address the ball. Your eye line is essentially your foot line which is parallel left of the target line. Keep checking yourself from time to time and use clubs or alignment rods to practice with so you know you're aiming where you want!

  • Pick an intermediary target: golfers know about this but I'm always surprised at how few actually do it ... pick a spot on the ground within a few feet in front of your ball on your target line. Use that as a reference point to help create an imaginary target line you're your address position and this should help you set a truly parallel foot line.

  • If your goal is to play a fade, set your foot line left of a square foot line (above description) but keep the clubface looking at the target. If your goal is to play a draw, set your foot line slightly right of a square foot line but keep the clubface looking at the target.
From a front-on perspective, the tilt/hang of a golfer's head (right, left, up, down, rotated right or rotated left) as well as the squareness of their body/shoulders at address influences what the ball position and clubface alignment "looks like" to them as they take their stance.
  • Address the ball and take note of your natural head tilt. Reach down with peg a tee in front of each one of your shoes to mark foot position. Lay another tee flat on the ground along the leading edge (bottom) of your clubface. Step away and stand in front of your setup (face on where you were standing) and see if your ball position and clubface are where you intended. If it is not, re-address the ball and check your foot line and your head title/rotation to see if changing these helps you line up more accurately and square the face.
Next column: The Basics Part 4: Backswing Wind-up Fundamentals

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was 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 writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, email her at Enjoy!

Image via Flickr, mhofstrand

[ comments ]
mjaber says:
For the point "intermdeiary target": I've always found it helpful to find something in the distance to aling myself to, rather than right in front of me.

I find my line behind the ball. Take a step to the left, and find something to line up to- a tree, cell tower, somebody's chimney- and align myself to that as I take my stance. To me, it seems easier to find something off in the distance than to find something right in front of you.
joe jones says:
Nicklaus always lined up using a wood chip, a tuft of grass or anything he could find on the ground about 15 to 20 feet down his line of sight. He could not see things very well in the distance so he picked out a close in target.(near sighted?). He also had that swing key where he cocked his head to the right just before he initiated his back swing. It sure worked for him.
GBogey says:
I'm finding that as my swing improves more and more of my errors are due to improper set-up, so the challenge is recognizing when the set-up is off and when it is correct before you swing. I'm also struggling with the shot routine thing - I like to take my practice swing beside the ball but feel that often this causes me to lose my line.
Tim Horan says:
My alignment woes are from the waist up. I can pretty much saunter up to address and plant my feet square to target. Placing the club behind the ball is where I get all skewed with my shoulders aiming left of target. This causes and outside takeaway and then hand/ eye takes over to recover and the result a block out to the right or if the hand get a message too early a duck hook. You would think that it would be easy to find a fix for the shoulder alignment?? I have tried placing the club with either hand and then with both all seem to have this left hand skew. I have tried not placing my feet until I am happy with my shoulders. nothing seems to work. From 150yds in my accuracy is crap.
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