April 2012

April 2012 Tips From a Pro - Ball Position: Why It Matters

Author: Pete Popovich

Years ago, ball position was taught the same way to everyone. The driver was to be played off the front foot instep with each club moving progressively further back in the stance until the sand wedge was played off the rear foot instep. The problem with this method is that it forces the golfer to bottom out at a different point for each club in order to make clean contact on each swing. This is not possible to do without altering your swing in one way or another. Wouldn’t the game be much easier, and your swing much more consistent, if you were swinging to the same spot on every swing? The answer is yes. Here is why.

For nearly all normal shots, the ball should be positioned perpendicular to the left side of your face or the logo on your shirt (right-handers). Your stance will be narrow for short irons and widen as you progress thru mid-irons. With your fairway woods and driver, the stance is widest with the insides of the feet matching the outsides of the shoulders. Note, however, that the relationship of the ball to the target side of your body does not change! The difference in stance width is created because the rear foot is moved back progressively for each longer club while the forward foot and ball position remain the same.

The reason for this is that the bottom of any swing arc will be where the axis of rotation, or an extension of this axis (your spine), contacts the ground. If you were to stand vertically, any oval or circle (which would be your club’s path) drawn around your body would bottom out where your spine line extended to the ground, i.e. directly between your feet. However, when you take your grip, your rear hand is lower than your lead hand, causing you to tilt away from the target. This is called the secondary spinal angle. Because of this secondary angle, the tangent point of any arc, i.e. the clubs path, will now be forward of the center of your stance or under the logo on your shirt.

Going forward
The above deals with the bottoming-out point of your club at address. However, when we apply the motion of the swing, this bottoming-out point actually moves toward the target for better golfers but often moves backwards for golfers of lesser ability. This happens because the better player moves toward the target on the downswing, which causes the swing arc’s tangent point to move toward the target. Higher handicap golfers and beginners tend to stay stationary during their swing with little or no drive toward the target, and because of this, their swings bottom out at or behind the ball. Watch most high handicappers or beginners and you will notice that, at the end of the swing, their weight is on their back leg. Lower handicappers and professional golfers end with their weight on their front leg, because their weight is moving forward toward the target.

Contemporary golf instruction often uses technical terms such as one- vs. two-plane swing, lateral shift or stationary rotation, biomechanics vs. physics, etc. It sounds impressive, but it nearly always serves to complicate rather than clarify a real understanding of the golf swing. One common teaching theory is to play the ball in the middle of one’s stance. Doing so causes two problems: 1) When the ball is behind the point where the club head will bottom out, you will compensate your swing to accommodate a bad ball position. 2) When the ball is in the middle of the stance, the head has to shift laterally to get behind the ball. This excess motion makes it difficult to replicate your swing. When the ball is played forward of center, your head is already behind the ball, and you can make a full rotation without having to move your head laterally, time after time.

Ball position is the basis for consistency in golf. Once you have the proper ball position, it is a simple step to learn to move your weight forward and make solid swings repeatedly. Many students practice for hours without improving because they are told how to do something rather than why to do it. We believe in justifying our advice, and we are willing and able to explain the how and why of it in whatever terms are necessary for you to understand it. Only then can you comprehend its logic and see the value of it in your improvement.

For more information, contact Pete Popovich at The Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head, (843) 338-6737, pete@golfacademyhiltonhead.com or on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head.

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