Ball position: The Debate Continues
By Tim Mahoney
One of the interesting concepts about the golf swing is the
position of the ball with-in your stance.
One school of thought mentions a ball position in the same spot and
another mentions a ball position that moves with the club. At the Mahoney and Troon Golf Academy we
believe that the ball position is the effect of the desired swing angle at the
ball and the golfers basic swing tendency.
Keep in mind our ultimate goal is to produce a solid strike every time a
golfers hits a shot. The ball position
is constantly being adjusted during a practice session or a round of golf.
The ball position is the effect of your desired impact
goals, swing tendencies and the design of the club. As the club length is varied and the club
head design is implemented the basic ball position will be adjusted as well. Shorter
irons with more loft the ball will be farther back in the stance and a wood
club with less loft and the shaft behind the ball will have a more forward ball
The desired angle of approach of the club head at impact
will effect the ball position as well. A
short game shot that requires a significant amount of back spin and a steeper
angle of approach, the golf ball should be positioned back in your stance. A
driving club with a golfer’s objective of distance with ground speed requires a
shallow angle of approach or slightly upward, a forward ball position is
needed. All golfers need to keep in mind that the position of the ball at
set-up in relation to your feet and head will effect the angle the club
approaches the ball. Ball back-steep
angle and a ball forward shallows the angle.
During a round of golf the goal is to get the ball into the
hole in the lowest amount of attempts.
Your golf swing is constantly changing as your body and mind set changes
as well. If your swing path is too much
in to out, your golf club will bottom out behind the ball. This swing path will result in a ball position
farther back in your stance. A swing
path that is out to in will produce a swing bottom forward of the ball and a
more forward ball position. Golfers need
to adapt to the playing positions and your golf swing.
Lower scores are the effect of the golfer adapting to the
swing and conditions. Keep in mind that
the golf ball relationship within your stance is constantly moving and being
adjusted. A cemented position will
produce inconsistencies and an adjusted ball position will result in lower
Controlling Trajectory in the Short Game
In executing short game shots, inside 50 yards (pitches and
chips), a player’s ability to control the ball’s flight trajectory can be just
as important as controlling the ball’s direction and overall distance. A golfer has options to create consistent
ball flight trajectory and as a result consistent shot patterns swing after
Option One – Ball Choice:
A golfer’s choice of golf ball will have an affect on a golf
ball’s flight characteristics. It is the
dimples on a golf ball that are responsible for its flight
characteristics. Their design (size,
shape and pattern) will help dictate the ball’s trajectory. The size and depth of the dimples affect
performance. Shallow dimples generate
more spin on a golf ball than deep dimples, which increases loft and causes the
ball to rise and stay in the air longer and roll less, which is advantageous
when playing to elevated greens. Deep
dimples generate less spin on a golf ball than shallow dimples, which decrease
loft and causes the ball to stay on a lower trajectory, with less air time and
greater roll, which is advantageous when playing to low elevated greens.
Option Two – Ball Position:
A correct ball position helps you contact the ball crisply and
achieve the proper trajectory on the shot.
Ball position affects the path and the angle of approach the club takes
into the ball which ensures a consistent loft angle of the club at impact. With the ball positioned too far forward,
your shoulders align left of the target, thus creating a swing path that is too
steep and out-to-in. If you locate the
ball too far back toward your right foot, your shoulders are closed, which
creates a swing path that is too shallow and in-to-out. You will be able to produce consistent ball
flight trajectories only if the ball is positioned correctly in your
stance. For chip shots, position the
ball about two inches back of center.
You want to strike the ball with a descending angle of approach creating
a low trajectory, running shot. For all
wedges and pitch swings from normal lies position the ball in the exact center
of your stance.
Option Three – Swing Technique:
To create a low trajectory chip or pitch shot, set your
hands slightly ahead of the ball. A
forward hand position will naturally de-loft the clubface, helping to start the
ball on a low trajectory. Also,
concentrate on making a rhythmic swing with a slightly slower tempo on the
forward swing. A slower tempo will
produce less spin, helping to keep the ball on a low trajectory. Stay level with your hips as you swing
through impact. Feel as though the
handle of the club leads the clubhead through the hitting area to prevent adding
loft to the clubface at impact. A low
trajectory shot means a low finish. The
lower you want to hit it, the lower you want to finish, not only with the hands
and arms, but with the clubhead as well.
While it is okay to play the ball back in you stance to produce a lower
trajectory, it is not advantageous to play the ball forward in your stance as a
means of getting a higher trajectory.
Playing the ball forward in you stance moves it ahead of the bottom of
your natural swing arc. To hit a higher
shot, the first choice should always be to take a more lofted club and make
your standard swing. The second choice
is to open the clubface, aim your swing line to the left of the target and keep
the ball exactly in the center of your stance.
Keeping the ball in the middle of your stance ensures crisp contact.
Option Four – Club Selection:
The easiest way to vary shot trajectory from a normal lie is
to choose a higher degree lofted club or choose a lower degree lofted
club. If you need a higher soft landing
shot, choose a lob (60 degrees), sand (56 degrees), gap (52 degrees), or a pitching
wedge (48 degrees). If you need a lower
running shot, choose a 9 iron (39 degrees), 8 iron (34 degrees), 7 iron (30
degrees), or 6 iron (26 degrees). It is
easier than creating a different swing or changing your mechanics. Clubs are designed with the clubface having
different lofts. It is loft that makes a
golf ball take flight on an ascending trajectory, not an upward direction of
swing. The club actually hits the ball in
a horizontal or slightly downward angle.
Choose the option that works best for your game. Your golf ball selection will be based on the
design of the golf course that you’ll be playing. Under normal lie conditions, you’ll want to
maintain a consistent ball position for crisp club to ball contact. Vary the length of your swing technique to
produce low or high trajectories. And
choose your club wisely. Practice with
different lofted clubs and observe the ball flight trajectory patterns. Take your observations to the golf course.
Consistency is the number one goal of all players from Jordan
Spieth to Jack Nicklaus. Distance,
Direction and Trajectory make up the elements of the ball-flight. Golfers need all three elements for
consistent ball striking. I believe that
the sequence of learning is: trajectory,
distance and direction. The three
components are interrelated and we cannot have one with out the other.
Trajectory is controlled by:
Selection- the club is designed to provide loft. Allow the manufacturer to get the ball
of Approach- the correct angle of approach provides solid impact and the proper
consistency starts here. Grip, posture,
ball-position, aim, mind-set and tension level are the fundamentals of the
plane- a vertical swing shape will produce high shots and a flat swing shape
will produce lower shots.
speed- without swing speed the golfer has a difficult time producing loft. Golfers with a limited swing speed will
produce the same trajectory for all clubs.
Distance is controlled by:
Selection- longer clubs longer shots.
of motion- increased range of motion will assist in distance.
of contact- hitting the ball in the center of the racket. Path and plane are significant
influences. Vertical plane produces toe
hits and a flat plane produces heel hits.
speed at impact. Body rotation, arm
speed and wrist movement are the biggest influences. Overall swing speed is a goal not club head
Direction is controlled by:
parallel lines of the eyes, shoulders, forearms, hips, knees and heels.
alignment at impact. Clubface at right
angle to your swing path at impact.
path at impact. A swing path that is
from the inside to along the target line to the inside.
Every golf lesson and group activity I participate in every
golfer is in search of consistency. Ball
flight has three elements: trajectory, distance and direction. You master all three in order to gain
Sand play is often regarded as the easiest shot in golf, due
to the fact, that the club never comes in contact with the ball during a
greenside bunker shot. As a result of
over 30 years in the golf instruction business, I have found that the greenside
bunker shot maybe the most difficult.
There are several myths when it comes to this shot: first of all, “you must hit 2” behind the
ball, actually with the skidding effect of the bounce the clubs enters the sand
approx. 3-4 inches behind the ball.
Attempting to strike 2 inches behind may result in club ball
contact. Second myth, due to the
clubface open at address one must aim to the left. The golf ball is positioned
forward in the stance (off of left heel)
and no club ball contact the golf ball travels in the direction of the swing
path not the clubface. Keeping this in
mind there is no need to aim left. Third
myth, you must swing more upright.
Ninety percent of all golfers slice the ball due to an upright swing;
swing more upright simply produces a weak glancing hit that will travel a short
distance to the right. And the final
myth, you must look and aim behind the ball.
All shots in golf you make every attempt to strike the ball first, now
we are told to strike the sand first. If
you make 2 adjustments in your set-up: ball positioned off of the left heel and
lower your body in the sand you will automatically strike the sand first. Look at the ball and attempt to hit it.
Consistent sand play is the effect of:
the clubface according to the lie. Good
lie open the face, bad lies close the face.
As you adjust the club you must use the entire club. You never grip down on a greenside bunker
the golf ball off the left heel. This
position will allow the club to enter the sand behind the ball.
your body in the sand by digging in.
This adjustment will allow the club to get beneath the ball.
and swing towards the target. The golf
ball travels along the swing path not the clubface alignment.
3 times the amount of swing. The amount
of sand ways 3 times the weight of the ball.
Keeping this in mind you must make enough swing.
Trust the club and your full swing for the green side bunker
shot. Keep in mind that consistency is
the effect of perfecting one swing shape and make pre-swing adjustments for
How to Aim
A perfectly struck shot with an imperfect aim results in an
imperfect result. An imperfect shot with
a perfect aim could result in a perfect shot.
The art of aiming I believe is the single most difficult aspect in the
game, due to the fact that the golfer is inside and above the ball line. I have been in the instruction arena for over
30 years and have tried every aiming tip with my students, and have come up
with the conclusion that all good aimers have 2 common traits: a consistent
ball flight and they always aim the clubface first and body second.
Golf swing and pre swing compatibility will develop a
consistent ball flight. For an example:
strong grip, centered ball position, body supports golf club and a reverse K
posture these alignments will produce a controlled draw. Conversely, a weaker grip, forward ball
position, X posture and an arm control will produce a controlled fade. Uncontrolled ball flights make a consistent
aim impossible. Hooks followed by a
slice develop an atmosphere where it is impossible to aim. Develop a consistent ball flight and then
develop your game plan for aiming.
Clubface Followed by
The only contact with the ball is the clubface. Consistent aimers align the club first
followed by the torso. Step 1 of a
consistent aimer is positioning the clubface behind the ball with the completed
grip. During this alignment the golfer
must align the leading edge at right angle to the target line. After successfully aligning the clubface the
golfer must position the body parallel to the intended starting line. The golf ball and club head would be on the
outside rail of a railroad track with the body on the inside rail. The body will be parallel left. A line across the eyes, shoulders, forearms,
hips, knees and feet must be aligned parallel left. Inconsistent aimers consistently check there
feet, when the feet are only 1 piece of the aiming puzzle. Aiming is guaranteed if you aim the leading
edge at your intended target line and then aim your body parts parallel
left. Your golf club will approach the
impact area on a line across your shoulders; as a result it is an imperative
that the golfers position their trunk parallel left.
Develop a consistent ball fight with a compatible set of
pre-swing and in swing fundamentals and as you aim, position the club with your
body aligned parallel left. Consistent
aiming is the effect of a consistent ball-flight not the cause.