As a golf fan, you no doubt watch the top players on the PGA Tour and admire their amazing swings. Let’s be honest, even fellow PGA Tour professionals admire players like Dustin Johnson and Rory Mcilroy’s ability to drive the golf ball. These guys are simply amazing!
Well I have some encouraging news for you!
While very few of us will ever hit towering drives as far as Dustin and Rory there is one element of your swing that can be exactly like theirs.
Yes, you read that correctly!
Every player regardless of skill level can learn to have a good setup, which is a vital step in learning to play better golf. If you setup to the golf ball with a flawed stance, you’ll have a flawed swing. It’s as simple as that!
You don’t need years of golf experience to set up to the golf ball properly, this skill can be learned in just a few minutes. This is one reason many golf coaches enjoy teaching it to people brand new to the game of golf. They don’t have any bad habits engrained with years of experience. They start from scratch and immediately learn a proper grip and stance. If you’ve ever gone through a grip change, you know how difficult it is to break bad habits. However, if you are struggling with your game, take a moment to examine your setup.
In this article we are going to give you 5 easy steps to find the best golf stance for you.
- The Importance of an Athletic Stance: Setting up in an athletic stance is vital for making an effective golf swing. This involves having knees slightly bent and the upper body tilting forward from the hips, similar to a soccer goalie ready to make a save. Such a stance puts the body in a powerful position and enables an athletic motion of the club.
- Three-Step Posture Drill for Optimal Setup: To achieve a good setup, one can use the three-step posture drill. It begins with standing straight with arms extended in front; followed by a slight knee bend while letting the arms drop to rest on the chest; and finally, bending forward from the waist until the clubhead touches the ground. This puts the golfer in a powerful setup position with the body weight on the balls of the feet and hands located directly underneath the chin.
- Understanding and Achieving Neutral Posture: Neutral posture, which lies between the rounded C Posture and arched S Posture, is ideal for golf. To find the neutral posture, practice the extremes (hunching back and arching back) and then find a middle ground. This is essential for achieving a balanced stance that allows for efficient hip rotation and a stable spine angle.
- Customize Your Stance to Your Body’s Comfort and Limitations: It’s important to recognize that a good golf stance should be adapted to the individual’s physical capabilities and comfort. For some players, a slightly rounded shoulder or altered position may be more suitable due to physical limitations such as hip mobility issues or injuries.
- Consistent Practice and Monitoring of Fundamentals: Even the professionals continually practice and monitor the basic fundamentals such as posture and alignment. Golfers should make it a routine to review and practice their stance, and having regular check-ups by viewing their swing on film can help in ensuring that their posture does not deviate from the ideal setup over time. The setup is so critical that most swing problems can be traced back to issues in the setup.
Table of Contents
1. Always Think Athlete
When teaching my students a proper golf stance, I always start with a simple question:
“What other sports have you played before?”
This is important to me, because often times players can relate certain elements from other sports to help them better understand golf. Golf is an athletic sport and therefore we need to setup in an athletic position. By far the majority of amateur golfers setup in static positions that don’t allow their bodies to move athletically!
The player in this photo is a prime example of a non-athletic setup position. His knees are bent significantly, causing his body weight to shift to his heels. His spine is completely vertical and hands almost touching his body. From this position it will be impossible to make an athletic motion with the club.
Using the analogy of other sports. I want you to imagine a goalie in soccer. He stands very upright with a slight bend in his knees, and his weight towards the balls of the feet. Have you ever seen a goalie significantly bend his knees, hunch his back and have all his weight in his heels? Of course not, and the reason is simple.
The goalie needs to be in an athletic position to move either left or right in a fraction of a second. Sometimes we forget how athletic a golf swing is, but it’s not much different. We are moving both right (backswing) and left (downswing) in our golf swing and need to be in a powerful position to do so.
So what does an athletic stance look like? Let’s look at one of the PGA Tour’s star player, Australia’s Jason Day for more insight:
Jason Day is an athlete, and sets up to the golf ball like one. His knees are only slightly bent allowing his upper body to tilt forward from his hips. If we draw a straight line from the back of his right shoulder, we see that the line touches the front part of the knee and extends to the balls of the feet. Jason has put his body in a powerful position to swing the club with authority and power!
2. Use the Three-Step Posture Drill as a Guideline
I like to keep things simple and over the years I’ve found this 3-step posture drill the most effective way to teach an athletic setup. This is how it works:
Begin by standing with your feet as wide as your shoulders and stand perfectly straight while extending your arms and golf club out in front of you.
It’s important to note, in this first stage my knees are not bent, and my arms and club form a straight line that is parallel with the ground below.
Slightly bend your knees and allow your arms to drop down until both are resting on your chest.
In this position, the golf club is still parallel to the ground and my knees have only bent a couple inches. A good visual reference to feel this slight bend in the knees is to imagine you are sitting down on a high bar stool. Your knees just need to a bend a fraction before your backside makes contact with the chair.
The final and most important step, slowly bend forward from your waist, until your clubhead touches the ground. When it does you will be in a perfect setup position.
If you’ve done the drill correctly, you will feel your body weight in the balls of the feet and your hands located directly underneath your chin. Your spine will slightly tilted forward, but relaxed. You are now in a powerful setup position to make an athletic swing.
3. Practice the Extremes
You are starting to make great progress on your setup and now just need to fine tune your positions.
For this step, we are going to focus specifically on your spine angle and help you find the most neutral, or in other words “natural” position. Generally speaking, there are three types of posture at setup. C Posture, S Posture, and Neutral Posture.
Golfer’s with C Posture have a rounded back and level hips at address:
Golfers with S Posture arch their backs and have excessive tilt with their hips at address:
Golfers with neutral posture are in between C and S and have a straight back and their hips tilted the correct amount:
It’s hard for most players to initially find a neutral posture position. The most effective way to find what “neutral” feels like is to practice the extremes. Begin by taking your golf stance and hunch your back like a cat. This sounds a bit odd but I want you to focus on rounding your shoulders, bringing your chin closer to your chest, and feeling very “crunched up” and small. This is position is now one end of the spectrum.
To find the opposite end of the spectrum, stand tall and arch your back as much as possible. Your chin should be far away from your chest and you should feel a lot of tilting in the hips. This is now the other end of the spectrum.
It’s important to practice both ends of the spectrum because you can then go to the middle point and find a posture that is a perfect balance of the two. If you’re struggling with your posture use this exercise as an effective way to help you find exactly what the neutral position feels like.
4. Analyze What’s Comfortable
Earlier in this article I mentioned the fact that every golfer can setup to the golf ball like a PGA Tour player, however there is an important element to understand.
You also need to find the position that is most comfortable for your body and if you suffer from any physical ailments there is nothing wrong with adjusting your setup to reflect what makes your body feel comfortable.
Many times, I work with players who suffer from a lack of hip mobility. This lack of mobility could be from a previous injury, general loss of flexibility, or just a general aging of the body. Sometimes I purposely put players in a position where their shoulders are more rounded and chin tucked closer to their sternum (the C Posture). The best example of how effective this method can be for some players is to look at current European Tour golfer Tommy Fleetwood:
Tommy’s shoulders are much more rounded than most other professionals. However, this setup position allows him to keep his spine angle stable throughout his swing.
Generally speaking I would always prefer a student to have more of a C Posture (rounded in the back and shoulders) than the S Posture. Students with a C Posture will find their hips to be slightly more level allowing them to rotate their hips better. Just like every golf swing is unique, every posture is unique to how your body feels and can move.
5. Wash, Rinse, and Repeat!
As you progress in the game of golf you will realize that the more advanced you become, the more important the basic fundamentals are.
When I was the Head Golf Professional at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with many PGA Tour players on the range during the WGC-HSBC Champions event every year.
I’ve watched all the top pros hit balls and one of the best lessons I learned from many of the game’s top players is how much focus and dedicated practice they put on the basic fundamentals of the game.
Things like posture and alignment, concepts so basic you would think that a tour pro wouldn’t need to worry about, were the exact things most of the guys were constantly practicing.
Learning the correct golf stance is something you never actually “learn” and then forget. It’s something that needs to be practiced, monitored, adjusted, and like every other aspect of your game given focused practice.
As a general rule of thumb, I don’t like to go more than 1 month without seeing my swing on film. Errors in posture in stance don’t happen overnight, they gradually happen as we travel, practice, and play. But if your posture adjusts every day by even just a millimeter, it will be way off in a month’s time.
Having a routinely monthly checkup (or weekly if you are playing often) will help you stay fresh and monitor your progress.
After teaching golf to students around the world for over a decade, I would say that 2 out of every 3 swing problems can be traced back to an initial problem in the setup. When PGA Tour professionals start hitting the ball poorly, every single one of them will immediately go back to the basics and examine the basic fundamentals beginning with the golf stance, it’s that important.
As you examine your own golf game, do you setup to the golf ball in an athletic position? Do you know what neutral posture actually feels like? When was the last time you saw your setup on video?
Use these 5 methods to improve and monitor your golf stance and you’ll be on your way to more consistent swing soon.