The Full Swing Set Up
By Chris Foley
How we address the ball has a major influence on what happens at impact and what we do in the golf swing. Our swing is built around our set-up and when we are not in an efficient set-up position, the rest of the swing tends to be a series of compensations.
When a player’s ball striking gets off, regardless of their skill level, generally one of the root causes can be traced back to the player’s set-up.
There are four areas of the set-up that we need to focus on. The grip, our posture, the ball position and our alignment.
The grip is really the first brick in the foundation of our golf swing. It is our connection to the club and has a big influence on where the clubface returns to impact and how we utilize our wrist. How we hold the club can also influence the path of our swing.
We could write several thousand words on the inerrancies of placing our hands on the club, but in general our goal is to place the hands in a neutral position on the handle so that the clubface can return to impact and produce our desired ball flight.
To find your neutral position on the handle, start off by getting into a good golf posture and letting your arms hang relaxed from your shoulders. In this position, as your arms hang relaxed, they will be turned in to some degree. Place the lead hand (the left hand for the right handed player) on the handle in the same manner that it is hanging. The handle should be placed primarily in the fingers with the pad, or meaty part, of the lead hand on top of the handle.
Once the lead hand is placed in this positon on the handle, the trail hand can place on the handle. Place it on so that the palms of the lead hand and trail hand face each other and the thumb of the lead hand sits in the line of the trail hand. In the trail hand the handle of the club is primarily supported by the middle and four finger.
There is not a lot of significance to how the hands are connected together on the handle. As long as the hands are positioned on the handle of the club where they can square the club face, and the wrist hinge and unhinge efficiently, the connection of the hands is acceptable.
The importance of being in good posture at address is that when we are in good posture, we are in balance. When we are out of balance we will seek balance during the swing. If we are seeking balance, we have to create compensations to get the club back to impact.
Good posture starts with having the feet approximately shoulder width apart with the weight being balanced between the toes and heal on each foot. With the legs straight, bend from the hips and then unlock the knees. The knees should be slightly flexed, not bent. Let the arms hang relaxed from the shoulders, gripping the club from this position. The arms should be hanging under the shoulders and the distance we stand from the ball would be dictated by the length of the club.
This balanced position gives us the best opportunity to maintain balance throughout the swing.
Ball position influences the path of the swing, the low point, the angle of attach, and amount of space we have to swing through impact.
Proper ball position is club dependent, but doesn’t change more than about 2-3 ball widths from our longest club to our shortest club. With our longest club, the driver, the ball position should be approximately in line between our lead heal and the big toe on our lead foot. With our shortest clubs, the wedges, the ball position should be slightly forward of the center of our stance. As we move from the driver to the wedges the ball moves back toward the center slightly.
The width of our stance influences the perception of where our ball position is in our stance. Our stance widens the longer the club we are using. As the stance widens, the ball position appears to move forward, but in relationship to the lead foot the ball position doesn’t change drastically.
People tend to use the terms alignment and aim synonymously. However, aim is where we point the clubface. Alignment is the relationship of our feet, knees, hips, and shoulders to the target line.
We aim the club face with the leading edge of the club and it should be aligned perpendicular to where we can get the golf ball to start.
When we align the body, the feet, knees, hips and shoulders should all be in parallel alignment to our target line. The target line is dictated by our desired ball flight. For a right hand player, if the desired flight is a draw, the alignment should be slightly to the right. Setting up for a fade would dictate the alignment slightly to the left.
An efficient set-up has many facets and has a big influence on the swing. The great thing about the set-up, however, is that adjustments are much easier to make. We don’t have to have great athletic ability and no matter your level of play or talent, we can all get into an equally great set-up as the best players in the world.