Monday, February 7, 2011

Golf World: Better stance, alignment leads to consistency

There are two types of fundamentals that a golfer must learn: (1) Pre-swing and (2) In-swing.

The pre-swing fundamentals are those things that happen before any movement occurs. These are static rather than dynamic fundamentals. Fortunately for us, these pre-swing fundamentals have a direct bearing on how we swing the club.

Some examples of these fundamentals are stance, alignment, posture, ball position, clubface aim, weight distribution, and tension level.

Let's focus on stance, alignment and ball position. No greater player than Jack Nicklaus said that the feet, knees and hips were one of the most important fundamentals in golf.

The golf swing is a ground-reaction game, so therefore, we need a correct stance in order to be consistent. The width of the stance is important for stability and freedom of movement. A stance that is too narrow will result in poor balance, while a stance that is too wide will restrict movement and cause unnecessary lateral movement with the body toward the target. Stances are also classified as open, closed or square.

Some players, mainly senior players, play out of a slightly closed stance. This stance is lined up slightly right of the target. This allows the player to make a better body turn on the backswing and, generally, will help the golfer hook the ball. Sam Snead played this way. He aimed to the right and "came over the top" on the downswing. His shot was a pull hook that was very consistent. Arnold Palmer also played out of a closed stance most of his career.

The other stance type is called the open stance. In this stance, the left foot is pulled off the target line. This stance will restrict the turning motion of the hips on the backswing, but will help the hips turn out of the way on the forward swing. Lee Trevino played this way. This stance is hard on the back, and not generally recommended for the average player. The open stance encourages a left-to-right fade.

The other stance type is the square stance. This stance is used by most golfers, and is a stance that is parallel to the target line. The thing that I see most golfers leaving out of their stance is what I call foot flare. Foot flare is simply flaring out the left foot about 15 to 20 degrees at the setup. This also helps the golfer turn his hips and body through the shot on the forward swing.

Body alignment or shoulder alignment is another pre-swing fundamental that should be addressed. The direction the shoulders are aimed has a direct bearing on the path of the clubhead through impact.

For example, if the shoulders are lined up too far to the left of the target at address, the golfer will cut across the ball and hit a pull hook or pull slice. On the other hand, if the shoulders are lined up to the right of the target at address, the golfer would probably swing too "inside out" and hook the ball.

You can work on your stance and your posture by putting two clubs down on the ground as you are practicing. One club is for the stance and shoulder line, and one club for the target line. A third club can be put in between your feet in order to keep your ball position consistent.

I use a training aid called the Practice Pod that works on all three of these pre-swing fundamentals. Sometimes the simplest fundamentals will make the biggest difference in your game.

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