Part 1 and 2 covered the grip and set-up position. Now, we move on to Part 3: alignment. This is the simplest fundamental of the four pre-swing fundamentals. Golfers can fix many problems by aiming a different direction. If a golfer always slices the ball to the right 30 yards, they will aim 30 yards left to get the ball to land at the target. This is a reasonable solution while playing golf. However, in the long run, aiming 30 yards left will lead to more problems. Golfers always tell me one thing: I want to be more consistent. Proper alignment will help a golfer achieve consistency.
To achieve proper alignment, we must first have a target. The target can be the flag stick, a tree in the back ground, the left corner of the green, etc. The target needs to be very small and specific. The target line is the golf ball to the target. In any golf shot, from the driver to the putter, square alignment is feet, hips and shoulders parallel to the target line. Golfers should not aim at the target. A right handed golfer will have the feet, hips and shoulders aimed left of the target when aimed parallel to the target, like train tracks, as seen in the photo.
Golfers get so focused on the feet alignment and forget about the hips and shoulders. The hips and shoulders are more important to align properly than the feet. Hip and shoulder alignment changes the path of the club, which changes ball flight. As a golf professional, I am always working on alignment when I work on my game, so are the PGA Tour professionals.
Watch a tour player warm up or practice on TV, they all have alignment aids to help them aim properly. These alignment rods can be purchased at a golf store for $15 each, or purchase survey sticks at Lowe’s for 99 cents each. One alignment rod will designate the ball to the target line, and the other stick should be just in front of the toes to help align the feet, hips and shoulders properly. I use a mirror as well to help students see their feet and body alignment because “feel is not real.” What a golfer feels is many times different from the reality. If I can get a player to see reality, it is much easier to make the correct change.
How do I align correctly without the sticks because they are not allowed on the course? Pick a spot on the target line one to six inches away from the ball. Use the spot to make an imaginary line while setting up to the golf ball. Aim the feet and body parallel to the imaginary line. Be careful not to pick a spot to far away from the ball. It is much easier to get the imaginary line from a spot within six inches from the ball.
I watched Claude Harmon III, son of Butch Harmon and world renowned teacher, speak at a teaching conference. He was asked to describe teaching a Tour Player, and he teaches numerous tour players. He said the last golf lesson he gave was with a PGA Tour Professional. The tour player flew to Las Vegas to see him at one of his academies, and they worked on his golf game for two days. They worked on ball position and alignment for two days. Two full days on two very simple concepts!
The tour player had put himself in a slump because he was working on complicated swing changes and forgot the fundamentals of the game of golf. Could you imagine paying a golf teacher a few thousand dollars to work on your ball position and alignment? The moral of the story is quit worrying about where the club is in your swing or about how a feeling you had the other day was the feeling you want to last forever because you played well. Believe me, it will be gone tomorrow. Focus on the ball position, alignment, grip and set-up. These fundamentals last a life time, and lead to progression in your game.
As a teacher, I have to remind myself of how important fundamentals are every day I teach. I have a lot of knowledge about the physics of the golf swing and why the ball flies in different directions. The fact is that it all comes back to fundamentals, and all my complex ideas are irrelevant without proper fundamentals.
Go see your local PGA Professional to see if your feet and body alignment are correct so you can play a consistent golf.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Awards on “Growing the Game.”