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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ball Positioning: Feet VS Hands

This is a response to a comment Dana left on my post about Claude Harmon III's setup advice. In that post I mentioned there was a difference between using your feet and your hands to position your golf ball. Dana asked for a bit more detail, so here we go.

Let's start with a theoretical setup with the ball positioned right in the middle of your stance. Your weight is evenly divided between your feet, and a vertical line (dotted in the diagrams that follow) would pass through your chin, along your spine, through your hands and split the ball exactly in half in the middle of your stance.

As you can see, in this admittedly perfect setup, the clubhead sits just behind the ball at address and, as the curved line with the arrow shows, its swing path would contact the ball perfectly and take a tiny divot just after you hit the ball.

Normal setup and ball position

But this is a perfect address position, after all. Let's suppose -- simply because we need a situation that you might commonly experience -- that there's a stiff wind blowing at us from the direction of the target. In order to steady ourselves, we shift our weight a bit forward, placing more weight on our lead foot. As you can see in the diagram below, the vertical dotted line shows that our spine has shifted forward.

However, since the ball is positioned in the center of our stance -- that is, we positioned the ball using our feet -- the ball is no longer in the correct position for solid contact. In fact, the ball is actually hidden by the clubhead in this diagram! If you position the ball relative to your feet, you'll have to make changes to your swing just so you can get the ball in the air.

Forward setup and ball position by feet

But what if we had been using our hands to position the ball? In the original diagram, the ball was also directly under our hands. What if we had set our weight forward to resist the wind BUT we still positioned the ball under our hands?

Forward setup and ball position by hands

As you can see from the final diagram, the ball is still in the correct position relative to our head and our spine, which is the critical thing here if we want to keep our swing arc consistent. In this final address position, we'll make the same solid contact with the ball that we would have made in the original setup in the first diagram.

And as long as we don't lean our spine toward (or away from) the target, positioning the ball relative to our hands means we automatically keep our swing consistent.

Obviously we're talking about stances on fairly level ground here. If we have a serious uphill or downhill lie, we'll always have to adjust our swing. But for the vast majority of normal stances, just letting your hands hang down and setting up so the ball is directly beneath them gives you the most consistent method of creating solid contact.

Now I have to admit, it's not exactly correct to say the ball is UNDER your hands. The ball would be much too close to your body if that was the case. It would be more correct to say that, if you drew a line on the ground extending away from you -- imagine a line connecting your feet, and the "ball line" would form a T with that line -- the ball would be on that line far enough away that your could make proper contact with the clubface. When using this method, you just let your hands and arms hang down, then position the ball so that the T is directly under your hands.

Hopefully that's pretty clear. (I didn't think to make a diagram showing the T positioning method, so that may be a bit hazy.) If you have any questions, you can just put them in the comments below and I'll try to do a better job. But once you've done it a time or two, I think you'll agree it really simplifies your setup with all but the most difficult stances.

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