Have you ever stood over the ball and felt like there was no way you were going to make solid contact with the ball? I’m sure you have. Most people who play golf long enough will experience a moment where everything feels out of whack.
Golfers tend to be tinkerers. Meaning, we’ll change one thing here and another thing there until we find something that work. Often times, this will happen multiple times during a round of golf.
If you’re spending some extended time practicing on the driving range, you might even do it on every swing. That’s a fairly common practice among amateur golfers. We’re all in search of something, anything, to make the ball go where we want it to.
Sometimes, this endless tinkering works and we stumble upon some incredible, seemingly magical truth about our golf swing that changes the course of our golfing lives. Other times, these small tweaks and changes build upon one another until our move barely resembles a golf swing; or at least it feels that way.
All too often, when our swing feels like “an unfolded lawn chair” as Roy McAvoy would say, it’s because of our alignment. Alignment gives our swing a foundation. It provides us a comfortable base as we attempt to hit a little while ball into a hole hundreds of yards away.
Why is alignment important?
So, why does alignment actually matter? Why is it a critical part of your setup?
When a lot of people think about the word “alignment” then think it’s synonymous with “aim.” While aim is part of alignment, it doesn’t give us the whole story. We’ll discuss the aiming part of alignment here in a bit, but for now, alignment provides a comfortable foundation on which to build your swing.
Like I said before, golfers are tinkerers. We change and try new things. It’s when we change too many things that it often comes back to bite us. Your alignment ought to be one of those things that stays fairly consistent.
It’s the way your major body parts set up to the ball; the direction and positioning compared to the ball. There are four main parts to consider in your alignment:
We’ll talk most about how to get those aligned in the next section. For now, just know that those are your reference points. Making sure these parts of your body are connected and aligned to each other in a simple and consistent way allows for you to feel comfortable standing over the ball.
Alignment and a Consistent Swing
Because you’ve got the same foundation every time, the alignment allows you to take the same swing. Having your body aligned in the correct way also makes it so that your body can move the way it was designed, or intended, to move.
Too often, amateur golfers will have the four areas of their alignment pointing in different directions. Then, they’ll ask those parts to work together to hit the ball. It’s not going to work.
This is similar to constructing a train track with the rails perpendicular to each other instead of being parallel. There’s no way a train would be able to successfully move on that track. It’s the same thing with your golf swing. You need to make sure that your body parts are parallel, so that they can work together and move the ball forward.
Alignment and Aim
As mentioned earlier, your alignment allows you to accurately aim your golf shot. Your body ought to aim parallel left (for a right-handed player) of your club face.
With a body that is properly aligned, your club face will be much easier to aim consistently. You’ll also get to the point where you can use your body, typically your shoulder line, to guess where your club face is pointing.
How to get Properly Aligned
Alright, let’s talk about how to get properly aligned. It’s one thing to know that you need to tend to your alignment and another to do it correctly.
The first thing you need to make sure you do is to get relaxed. When most amateur golfers aren’t aligned properly, there’s a lot of tension in their muscles. Your body will naturally rest in an aligned position. It’s only when we force our muscles into positions they aren’t familiar with that we get aligned poorly.
The problem is, we don’t often know that our muscles have become tense. We’ll adapt to what we’re familiar with.
Have you ever been sitting at a desk, maybe typing on a computer, and noticed that your back or shoulders are hurting because you’re hunching over or tensing your muscles? It’s the same with a golf swing. A lot of times we don’t even realize this is happening.
To check, stand up straight, take a deep breath, and as you exhale, imagine all the tension leaving your muscles. Shake them out a bit if needed. Just make sure you are relaxed.
Here are four main areas to check your alignment:
They are all fairly difficult to check on your own, so make sure you have a friend that can help you get set up on the range sometime. The more you practice getting aligned properly, the better you’ll be at doing it correctly on the golf course.
When I talk about these four areas being aligned, I mean that their “lines” ought to be parallel, like the train track image from above.
To check the line, it’s helpful to lay a golf club shaft along that body part. For example, when you address the golf ball, have someone gently rest a club or alignment stick between your two shoulders. That line ought to point parallel left of your target, again for a right-handed player. Do the same thing with your hips, on your waist-line, and your forearms.
The forearms are one line that a lot of people forget and rarely get correct. As you set up to the golf ball, your arms ought to hang down naturally. Pick the point on your forearms right between your elbow and wrist. Those two spots will create another line that you can check by having someone lay a club across your forearms.
Again, this line needs to be parallel to your shoulders and hips. Too often, amateur golfers will tense their forearms, which causes one to raise up in the air. When a forearm raises, or tenses, it makes that line point far right or left.
Finally, while you’re on the range, your feet-line is fairly easy to check because you can lay a club on the ground. This is where your aim can be checked. Put a line outside the ball, parallel to your feet-line. This is a good way to make sure that your shoulder-line, waist-line, forearm-line, feet-line, and clubface are all parallel and your alignment is correct.
Golf Alignment Drills
Again, it can be difficult to check your own alignment without some outside help. That being said, just knowing the areas to check can be helpful. A lot of times you can look down at your forearms, for example, and see if they are lined up properly.
There are also some drills you can do to make sure your alignment is consistent and accurate.
Swing Video Drill
This first drill is simple and only requires a video camera.
- Set the camera up in a down-the-line angle and record yourself hitting some shots on the driving range.
- Make sure the camera is in line with your feet-line, not the ball. This will make sure there isn’t any distortion in the video.
- When you check your swing, you want to make sure that all four of your main body parts are lined up. It’ll be pretty easy to see if your body is going in different directions.
Book Holding Drill
This drill might seem a little weird, but it’ll help you get the right feeling.
- Basically, bring a medium-sized book with you to the driving range.
- Grip your golf club and lift the club in the air, so your forearms are parallel to the ground.
- Then, have a friend rest the book on your forearms.
If the book rests like it would on a table, then chances are that your forearms are in a good position. If the book slides off in one direction or the other, you’ll want to move them, so it flattens out.
Now you’ve got everything you need to make sure that your alignment is correct. Even in the winter months, these things are easy to check and practice inside without hitting a club. So, once you get out on the golf course, your alignment will be so natural you won’t need to think about it.
Master your alignment, and you can check one more item off your list of golf swing basics.
One final tip for alignment: Go here to read our article on golf ball markings.