Consistent Set-Up Key To Success
One thing about writing this blog is that I get to learn so much from all of you as to what are the things that you are struggling with, or are curious about, or are just plain under- or mis-informed. Over time, maybe I can answer each and every question you all have, one at a time. Just keep sending them in. And remember, if I use yours in the column, you win a FREE EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge of your choice.
Last week, I received an inquiry from Ben K., who is confounded by his inconsistent impact and divot pattern even after being fitted for new irons. He’s assumed that his problem is that he’s standing too close or too far away from the ball and asks:
Is there a standard way to find out the best distance away from the ball I should be?This is such a good question, and deserves such a thorough answer, I’m going to take both columns this week to answer it. We’re going to thoroughly define the problem today, and address how to beat it on Friday.
Ben is experiencing what I believe to be the most common problem to affect mid- to high-handicap players. We play golf in a constant cycle of swing-and-correction, swing-and-correction, when most of the time our bad swings are caused by improper, or inconsistent set-up. I’m a firm believer that once you have played golf for a while, you have developed a pretty repeating swing path and method. Even though it might not be textbook, it’s yours, and has your fingerprints all over it. And if you’ve ever struck shots that were just right, that proves that your swing has the capability of producing results that are gratifying.
Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work to improve your swing – the better the mechanics, the better the results you are going to get. But my point is that your swing has produced good shots before, and it can do so more often if you just “fix” one thing – your starting position.
The single issue that troubles golfers of all skill levels, from tour player to struggler, is the ability to be consistent. And I’m a firm believer that most bad swings are the result of a bad starting position . . . an improper and inconsistent set-up. Think of it this way: if you groove a swing that works, but you start each shot with the ball in a different position in relation to your body’s core rotation axis, you simply cannot get the clubhead back on the ball consistently.
The ball is 1.68” in diameter, and the effective striking surface of an iron or fairway wood is only 1-1.5” across. That’s pretty tight demands on your ability to get the club behind your head and back on the ball with consistency. For a moment, let’s compare golf to a baseball hitter. He’s standing in the box and the pitch can be anywhere in the strike zone. He’s got to have good technique, but is heavily reliant on his eye/hand coordination to get the bat on the ball. Darn difficult task, which is why the very best hitters only average .350 or so, shank off lots of fouls and completely whiff the ball at least 20% of the time! If you translated that to golf, no one would ever break 150!
The single thing that makes this game remotely playable . . . is that we get to start with the ball in the exact spot where we want it – every time.
I have a friend in the custom club business that actually did some research measuring the set-up consistency of hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. What he found is simple, but revealing. His methodology was to have golfers address and hit a series of 6-iron shots, stepping away and taking a fresh set-up for each one. He found that good players with low single digit handicaps showed the ability to put themselves in almost the exact same position in relation to the ball every time. Measuring from the back of their heels to the ball showed an average deviation from shot to shot of less than ¼”.
His research revealed that the higher the handicap, the more shot-to-shot error in set-up consistency the golfer exhibited – 20+ handicap golfers exhibited an average shot-to-shot deviation in distance from the ball of up to two inches or even more!!! That’s the entire width of the clubhead! It’s a wonder they ever hit it at all.
This variance is a major reason why we can get “in the groove” on the practice range, but have difficulty taking it to the course.
So, think about that for a few days, and on Friday we’re going to dive into a way I think you can quickly build a solid and repeating set-up, so that you can give yourself the best chances of hitting good shots more often. If there is any one “secret” to improving your ball-striking, shotmaking and scoring . . . this is certainly it.
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[ comments ]
Matt Otskey says:
I'll agree with everything you said! I think at least 70% of your swing is in set-up and alignment. Such an important aspect that is almost always overlooked.
Tim Horan says:
You don't say what handicap Ben K is. Although he has been fitted for new irons, did they do a dynamic lie analysis? or just a static lie check. Is his swing too upright? Are the clubs too heavy at say D2 or higher? they may well be matched at say D2 but at full swing with an upright swingplane they will be mismatched at the impact point causing inconsistent impact across and quite possibly thinned long irons and fatted shorter irons.
I think set up is key. The Ultimate Golf System (Tracy Reed) taught me the consistent set up. I am still a high handicapper, (21) but I dropped about 10 points this year after using his memorized set-up routine and back swing stuff. I totally agree with this article.
I seem to have this problem with gap wedge 52* sand wedge 56*and lob wedge 60*. My P edge through 4 I can strike the ball consistantly with no problems. I'm a 6 handicap and am inconsistant from 120 in. I feel if I can tune in my low wedges I can possibly get to a scratch golfer which is the goal. The wedges I use are victory red nike's and my set is ping G10's could this be helped or fixed by getting G10 wedges? I feel that I come in too steep with my wedges cuz the length is short which makes me fat it. but when adjust the swing plane I seem to thin it. Any suggestions?
How about you just tell me today? I'm playing Friday...
Seriously though, I think that this is my number one priority as far as game improvement goes. There are too many times where I set up and begin my backswing even though I'm still not completely comfortable and am still thinking about how uncomfortable I am.
I'm all ears.
i also find that the difficulty in determining set-up multiplies when considering shots off of uneven lies, behind trees, off the dirt, etc. could you talk about this too? looking forward to friday--thanks!
@Hoody - I would like to hear what Wedge Guy says, but I would tell you to stick with your current wedges and just try a few things. If your hitting fat shots it is probably due to either decelerating before impact or having the ball too forward in your stance. Try putting the ball really far back in your stance and picture driving down and through the ball at impact. Also, don't change your swing plane for the wedges, instead try an 80% backswing and maybe your swing won't feel so steep. The best thing I did with my wedge game was stop swinging 100% with wedges. Better distance control and accuracy.
Tim Horan says:
@hoody - depending on the severity of your fat shots and as an alternative to suggestions from joepro23 you could consider playing the shots more centrally in your stance to shallow the impact. Also if your stance is too narrow your body may be swaying forward on the downswing causing the impact to get steeper as your body centre moves forward of the ball position.
Guilty. i said this 1000x before. Sometimes i am thinking about making a good swing that i overlook the little things.
@ TWUES17: i do the same, i start my swing knowing im not comfortable and swing anyways, we need to learn how to step away and re adjust.
Thanks joepro23 and Tim horan I will continue to try these things. I think the 80% swing may be the key because when I take a 50% swing for shorter shots my ball striking flight and distance is much more consistant.
Tim, I am a 10 handicapper. Like the wedge guys says in his post, I am great on the range when I can take the time to set up properly and line everything up with a straight line. Taking it to the course is a totally different animal. I know that a proper routine will make a ton of improvements in my game and shave some strokes!! can't wait til Friday!
So, Hoody, you are right about the opportunities to improve are from 120 and in. At EIDOLON we are strong proponents of your wedges offering a "seamless transition from your irons, which few golfers have. Almost all wedges are purchased off the rack and they have the same heavy and stiff steel shaft that is wrong for most golfers. I'd start by comparing length and lie angles, as you can do that yourself by looking. Then see if there is a "disconnect" between your shafts. For example, irons with R flex graphite are a dismal match to off the rack wedges.
And yes, I'm also a big proponent of swinging wedges at 80% so that the hands can release properly through impact.
I'm sure that the shafts on my wedges are comparative to my irons, lie and angle not so sure. My issue mostly lies in ball striking with the wedges only. I'm a consistant 290 to 300 of the box with a driver and at the coarses I play at most par 4's that puts me within 120 in. I'm going to hit the range today to test out the 80% swing to see if that will pure up my ball striking and get me some consistant distances with my wedges because right now with my 20 yard varience it makes for some brutal birdie chips and long birdie putts. I'm looking forward to Fridays column to see if maybe my setup with my wedges could be tweaked as well. Thanks for all the great tips from everyone. I watched a show on the golf channel last night with anthony Kim and tiger woods and even Anthony Kim said some days is S wedge goes 120 and some days 100, and some days a 3/4 swing goes further that a full swing. I guess I'm not the only one so that was nice to hear.
Bryan K says:
I'm also a huge proponent of the 80% swing simply because I tend to forget a lot and that's when I hit the ball poorly. When I'm at the range, there is no pressure to hit the ball hard, so I tend to do much better. That said, there area couple of low handicappers I play with who tell me that once your swing is grooved, it's okay to swing harder. I think that's for a select few people, though, who have been practicing their swing every day for a decade or more.
I also believe that 70% of a golf stroke is in setup and posture. I knocked ten strokes off my handicap just by trying to be consistent in that aspect alone. The rest of the stroke is in the backswing and the very beginning of the actual swing. Once you get the club moving on the correct path towards the ball, it becomes difficult to mess up the shot.
Trevor Spring says:
One thing helped me a lot become more consistant ball striker. Imagine your on top of a building, stand on the edge and try look into the window of the floor below. Thats your address position. Key is to maintain that spine angle. This will produce very consistant shots. Also keeping your weight centered and getting on your left side for Impact. This is all Jim Hardy stuff.
For wegdes, center the ball in your stance, also you want to imagine the face of the club like a mirror and you always want to see your reflection in it.. (Mark Roe Short game guru) I slso agree 80% power and shorter swing but you must have acceleration through impact (that goes for every other club too)
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