The Subject of Ball Position
Since I dove so deeply into the grip on Tuesday, let’s stay focused on fundamentals this week – the topic today is ball position. In my observation, golfers’ inconsistency in their set-up . . . their failure to put the ball in exactly the right position with regard to their feet . . . just might be the single thing that holds most back from improved results.

Regardless of your skill level, your golf swing has a basic ability to repeat itself, believe it or not. Your swing is totally your own, but because of that, you have a better ability to do it the same way time after time than you might think. You’ve made thousands of golf swings that way, and there is a muscle memory that you’ve worked hard to earn. And sometimes, that swing produces perfect results, right?

But the way we tend to play golf is in a constant string of swings, misses and corrections, a process that keeps us so out of whack and frustrated that it’s amazing we subject ourselves to it at all. But the good news is that there is one very simple way to make this game much easier . . .

Learn how to set up to the ball where it is in the same relative place with regard to your feet every time.

Now, let me explain a little deeper. Because we play this game with a variety of lengths of clubs, this is a little more complex than that. But what I mean is that you have to develop a routine that puts the ball in the right place for each shot. We are trying to hit a ball that is 1.68” in diameter, with an implement that has an effective hitting area of about 1-1.5” wide. That requires precision. If you vary even an inch from swing to swing, the misses will outnumber the good shots by quite a bit.

A friend of mine in the club-fitting business told me he studied golfers and their set-up consistencies, and found that invariably, the better players were extremely accurate, with any given club, in setting up so that the ball was the same distance from the back of their heels from shot-to-shot. The higher the handicap of the player, the more variance from shot to shot he witnessed and measured. Think about it this way.

If you learn a swing that works, but the ball is in a different place all the time, then your eye-hand coordination has to take over from your learned swing. And the downswing happens so fast that it just cannot do that effectively. But if you learn a swing and then learn how to set up to the ball so that it is precisely in the way of that swing time after time, your results just have to get better, right?

Compare golf to baseball. For the hitter, the ball is moving, and it is in a different place in relation to his body every pitch. That’s why the best of the best completely miss it most of the time, and only catch the ball square a tiny fraction of the time. Would they ever get out of the top of the first if they played tee-ball in the majors? No.

But we golfers have the advantage of being able to ensure that the ball is in precisely the place we want it before each swing.

So why don’t we?
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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
I don't know if i've ever seen what you're talking about among anyone but beginners who have taken only a handful of swings. Everyone i know has the ball in the same position every time... now that being said i think a more proper lesson would be where to position the ball for different clubs. This i see a lot in high'capper setup positions. Most notably the wedge set up where the 3 iron should be. There's not a lot of movement in the setup of the ball, maybe a foot or so but it counts when hitting proper golf shots. /
6/1/12
 
Jbeck says:
great article, I do notice that the ball is not always in the same spot. I also notice that most try to play the ball to far forward thinking that will help it get up in the air. JMO
6/1/12
 
Kurt the Knife says:
great.
Another thing for me to think about.
6/1/12
 
Anti-Mulligan says:
Ball position is such an integral part of the game yet high handicappers don't think about it because they are more worried with trying to make semi decent contact. This article more relates to the better player because it affects their results more than a high handicapper. I think better players tend to setup with the ball too far back in their stance while high handicappers do the opposite.
6/1/12
 
jpjeffery says:
"Dived". "DIVED"!. The past tense of dive is "dived".

Not this strange new word "dove" that rhymes with mauve.
6/1/12
 
jpjeffery says:
OK, I've calmed down now, and read the rest of the article. I think WG makes a reasonable point. The only clubs I significantly change the ball position is for my driver/3wood tee shots. Everything else I keep pretty much centre stance, other than for chip shots, and I've been wondering if that's the right thing to do. I have a 1 hour playing lesson on Thursdays in which I hope to bring this subject up...if I remember (and assuming my teacher doesn't say such terrible non-words as "dove" or "snuck").

;)
6/1/12
 
aaronm04 says:
The pro from whom I take lessons says to take two balls width from the left foot. The position of the right foot is what varies and determines where the ball is in your stance. The longer the club, the further the right foot goes back, and the farther forward the ball is in your stance. Only exception is driver--played off the left instep--and pitches which I play right in the middle of my stance with feet together. Bunker shots are about one ball from the left foot.
6/1/12
 
Duke of Hazards says:
@jp, I didn't know 'mauve' rhymed with 'dove'. I thought mauve rhymed with 'pause' and dove rhymed with 'stove'. I googled it and you're absolutely right. You learn something new everyday.
6/2/12
 
mattyk695 says:
@jp and the Duke, Check out Merriam Webster. Dove IS a past tense of dive. Wedge Guy is like an apostle and you should never question his genius! His words on ball position make a ton of sense. Hey JP, do you inhale or exhale on your downswing? Think about it next time you play
6/2/12
 
onedollarwed says:
Easy jpjeffery. Walk quietly and carry a big dictionary. Dove=Duh-v noun. Dove=doe-v verb. Mauve is pronounced both maw-v and moe-v. The "aw" phoneme is much more prevalent in the East and NE in particular, and can be rare or nonexistent in the West. Think Cawfee Tawk: 444-4444!

That being said ball position is my big deal - especially when it comes to the nine shot types. It's useful when shaping shot and when diagnosing pulls, pushes, draws, cuts, and straights. What many people fail to realize is that the ball's position (whether off the left foot or the right) will lead to open and closed club faces - or the direction the face is pointing. Back in the stance the club is often pointing to the right, but can impart draw is back or outside a bit. Somebody posted a "nine shot types" video link a while back which explained the physics very nicely. It's not everything, but it can dictate good/bad contact, swing plane, and spin. That's quite a lot!
6/2/12
 
jpjeffery says:
@mattyk695 I exhale. Slowly. It helps me to avoid tension. :)

Dove is apparently a US variant of the past tense of dive, so I'll let him off. THIS time. Seems to be the same thing with sneak/sneaked/snuck.

Interesting that mauve can be pronounced any other way than 'moe-v'. I didn't know that.
6/2/12
 
Dusty23 says:
Interesting how a discussion of ball position became an English class. I love this site. That said, I was just going through Hogans Five Lessons recently and in Chapter 5 he goes over how he positions the ball. In short, Hogan believed that the ball should always remain a half to an inch inside the left heel and that the stance width changed with whatever club you were using by moving your back foot, wider for woods and long irons and narrower for mid irons and narrower still for wedges.
6/2/12
 
TravisMiller says:
am I the only one that caught that the WG is not talking about the ball being forward or back in your stance but rather the distance the ball is away from your body "setting up so that the ball was the same distance from the back of their heels from shot-to-shot" I know that I am not consistent with this but I am getting better. The ball can move forward or back in your stance based on shot type so there is not necessarily a correct position...I do use Hogan's advice on half inch of the left heel for a "straight shot"
6/3/12
 
Matt McGee says:
I'm very consistent about ball position parallel to my body. I do have a tendency to crowd the ball from time to time. It's a difficult thing to master, since the distance you stand from the ball varies with every shot. Terrain, as well as club length, affect it.
"Delved" would have been a better word than "dove."
6/3/12
 
Gromit5 says:
Use of "dove" and "dived" in first person past tense harken back to Old English, and both are acceptable. The Wedge Guy writes colloquially; that's his style. It's relaxed and direct, and we get the meaning regardless of nit-picky misuse of dashes and ellipsis points. Still, the aware reader should question confusing phrases like "...your golf swing has a basic ability to repeat itself...." How can a golf swing have an ability? No need to pile on all these words and add confusion when "...your golf swing repeats itself..." is all that's needed. The best golfers rely on their coaches to notice what they might not see. Same with the best writers, regardless of where their balls are.
6/3/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
Great post Wedgeguy, keep on waving that banner and preaching those fundamentals. I totally agree--the swing is not that hard to repeat, but the setup is. Case in point, I had the misfortune of playing with this one same guy for two rounds last week. Before every shot he would rehearse and try to groove a swing path with about fifteen waggle-like moves, every f****** swing. Meanwhile he gave no thought to his willy nilly setup--ball position different each time, with a stance that got more open as the round went on. I mean I struggle with ball position consistency too but this guy wasn't even trying. Kind of wanted to grab him by the lapels and say "Dude your setup is crap, you will never improve at this rate!!!" There is so much misguided effort out there, it is a farce.
6/3/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
I agree MattMcGee, it is difficult to master. I've made some progress by keeping the left arm tightly connected to the chest. I used to think the purpose of this was for staying connected through the swing, but now I'm learning that it also helps me achieve a more consistent distance to the ball.
6/3/12
 
larrynjr says:
I missed that part that this was about the distance from back of the heel to ball position the first read through. I don't think in all the reading and the instruction I've had to date, this was ever mentioned or I never noticed it. Ball position always meant in relation to forward / back of stance. I started using Hogan's ball positioning this past winter and my scores have dropped significantly this season. Previously my best 9 hole score was a 42, this year I posted a 38 for that same nine. I will start paying attention to the back of heel to ball position now and see what happens! Thanks Terry!
6/4/12
 
larrynjr says:
Though, it seems like if you are the same distance away from the ball with your lob wedge as your driver. You are either very upright stance for the driver or very bent forward and arms stretched out for the wedge.
6/4/12
 
wedgeguy says:
Thanks for all the input on my use/misuse of words, guys. But the point I was trying to make is that ball position is a two-axis thing. One axis is how far forward or back in relation to your left foot, etc. This has many effects and is the only ball position talked about routinely. The other very important ball position variable is an axis 90* to that, i.e. how far from you. And your ability to manage that closely is a huge determinant to your ability to repeat your swing with each club. And yes, that measure changes with each club, making this game that much more difficult. But practicing your set-up and ball position is imperative to improvement. If you start in the same relative place, you have the ability to swing more consistently.
6/5/12
 
mschad says:
When I am struggling with ball position, I do what a pro told me a while back...., notice where you club 'starts' hitting the turf on your practice swings, and set up so the ball there.
6/5/12
 
onedollarwed says:
The above links explain a lot
1. The wedgeguy talks about the big misconception with ball flight (not trajectory).
2. The link he included in that article
3. A great video referenced in the article
4. The first wedgeguy article about ball position including reference to some research, which is what this blog is about.
Think of all the things you can learn in oobgolf, and with the wedgeguy!
The information in these few link is in my mind and body, the most significant information a teacher and student can have in golf. These physics, which come so naturally in tennis and table tennis surprisingly elude almost all golfers - pros especially perhaps!
6/6/12
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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