Correct Golf Setup

Back to Basics: Golf Setup 101

The golf swing setup, or address position, is a critical part of hitting a good shot. If you don’t start in the proper position, it’ll be really difficult to create the desired result.

A proper setup can be fairly complex, but once you get everything in the correct position, you can pretty much forget about it and focus on your specific swing thought. It’s definitely something you can “set and forget.”

In this article, we’re going to look at all of the main elements in a golf swing setup position;

  • The Stance
  • Correct Foot Position
  • Ball Position
  • Posture
  • The Reverse K
  • The Proper Weight Distribution

We’ll also give you some simple drills to practice that will help make sure you set up to the golf ball correctly every time.

The Correct Stance and Foot Position in the Golf Swing

When it comes to the stance of your setup, or address position, there are really two main factors that we want to focus on.

  • The Foot Position
  • The Toe Line

By stance, we’re really referring to your foot position. The first element of the stance that we need to get in place is the width.

In general, the width of your stance ought to be the same as shoulder width for a full swing. That being said, I would rather see a golfer error on the side of too wide than too narrow. A narrow stance will make it more difficult to maintain your balance throughout the swing.

On the other hand, a wider stance will lower your center of gravity and give you greater balance. Another thing to keep in mind is that, because the driver swing is slightly different than an iron, you should setup with a slightly wider stance.

I normally encourage students to stand as wide as they can, while still remaining comfortable over the ball. This is typically a couple inches wider than a full iron shot.

The Toe Line

Next, we need to talk about the toe line. This is an imaginary line that connects both tips of your shoes and continues indefinitely in the direction of the target. A lot of people get messed up on where this line ought to point.

Some golfers believe that this is the aiming line and should point directly at the target, but that is incorrect.

Instead, because your toe line is not directly on top of your ball, it will actually extend parallel left (for a right-handed player) of your target. It’s important to keep your toe line parallel to the target line because every player will naturally swing down their feet line. Meaning, your club head path is very much influenced by your foot position, or stance.

As you may know, in many situations, our goal is to have a straight path, so we need a straight stance. (Obviously, if you’re trying to work the ball in different directions with a fade or draw the stance may change.)

Finally, there’s room for an optional toe flare in the foot positon and stance at address. This means that you can open your front foot slightly towards the target if you want to and it remains comfortable.

If you do this, it’s best to start with both toes lined up and then twist your front foot a little towards the target, so that you maintain the “parallel left” toe line. A flared front toe will allow you to clear your hips easier and quicker, which can lead to slightly more distance.

Like I said earlier, this is an optional move. A lot of skilled golfers only use this foot positon on their driver or when they are looking to hit a club a little farther.

Correct Ball Position

The next thing you need to consider when setting up to the golf ball properly is where the position the ball in your stance. When we talk about ball position, we’re referring to the placement of the golf ball in relation to your front and back foot.

In general, the farther you hit a club, the farther forward you want the ball to be positioned.

So, for the driver, you want to line the ball up with the inside of your front foot. This will allow you to hit up at the ball and close the club face easier.

Then, for your longest iron, you want to move the ball back, towards your back foot, about a half-ball length. My recommendation is that for each club you move down (shorter in distance), move the ball back about a half-ball length until you get to your wedges. The farthest back you’ll want to position a ball, for a full swing, is the middle of your stance.

There are some specialty shots that may require different ball positions. For instance, a flop shot, or one that you open the club face and try to hit the ball really high, you’ll want to move the ball more towards your front foot.

Also, a punch shot, where you want to keep it low, will require a ball position that is further back, at times behind the middle of your stance.

In general, the further back a ball is positioned in your stance, the more spin you’ll see on your ball. A ball position that is further back in your stance will require a steeper swing, thus creating more spin.

Proper Golf Posture

A golfer’s posture is important for a couple reasons.

  1. It helps to prevent injury in the long run. A proper posture will relieve unnecessary pressure and stress on your back. Even if you’re a young golfer with few aches and pains, you’ll be happy you had a good posture when you get older because you’ll be able to play, pain free, for longer.
  2. It will allow you to swing easier with greater force. A proper swing allows your bones and muscles to move the way they were designed to move. You’ll won’t have to work as hard to create the same results.

In most sports, there’s a well-known “athletic position” where you bend your knees and keep your back straight. In golf, the “athletic position” is different than basketball, baseball, football, or other popular sports.

The big change is where you bend. Instead of bending at the knees, you want to bend at the waist. Your knees will bend, but only slightly more than if you kept them straight. When playing golf, you really want to focus on keeping your back straight.

A lot of people will tend to hunch over, which is where injuries can occur over time. It also makes it a lot tougher to twist around your spine in the back swing when it is curled.

The final thing to check in your posture is your arm hang. Your waist ought to be bent enough that your arms can naturally hang straight down towards the ground and grab the golf club. Too often, golfers will lift or lower their arms to grab the club. That move puts too much tension in your arms right from the start. In order to stay loose, simple let your arms hang straight down in a relaxed position.

The Reverse K Setup

You may have heard of the “reverse K” approach to the golf setup. A lot of people talk about it, but few people ever explain it.

Basically, the reverse K refers to the position of the arms and legs at address. The reverse K is something that a player will, almost naturally do, but should also have knowledge.

If you were to set up a camera, or just have someone look at you, from the face-on position at your setup, they will see the reverse K.

  • The two top lines of the “K” are your arms, and the two bottom lines are your legs.
  • Since your back hand (right hand for a right-handed player) is lower on the grip, it will create the angled line on the “K.”
  • At the same time, your back leg will also bend slightly because of the tilt in your shoulders; this is the bottom part of the “K” which creates the other angled line.

When setting up with the reverse K position, it’s important to not let it get too dramatic. It can definitely be overdone if you are leaning too far back on your back side. (We’ll talk about weight distribution in the next section)

Basically, you want to be comfortable and relaxed at address. If your shoulder tilt is causing your muscles to tense up, or your start to hit too much up on the ball, you may have taken the reverse K too far.

For more, head over to our full post on the Reverse K setup.

Weight Distribution

Like I said above, weight distribution can be tied to the reverse K setup position. When we talk about weight distribution, we’re referring to the location of different percentages of your total body weight.

There are a couple areas that we’ll talk about:

  1. Weight distribution between your front foot and back foot.
  2. Take a closer look at heel to toe distribution.

In general, at setup, you want 50% of your weight on each foot. This is the most relaxed and natural position and will allow you to maintain your balance throughout the golf swing.

As we look closer at where the weight is located on each foot, we want your weight to be slightly forward on the toes, or balls, of your feet.

This will also give you better balance and more agility throughout the swing. A swing that starts too far back on the heels is one that often loses power and accuracy because the golfer will fall backwards after the swing.

It’s really difficult to keep the club face square and make solid impact with a swing that starts on the heels.

Drills to Improve your Setup

Alignment Pole Drill

There are a lot of great drills you can practice to make sure your setup is in the proper position before you start the golf swing. The first drill is fairly simple and all you need are a couple snow poles, or alignment sticks. Some players even use a golf club they aren’t hitting to do the same thing.

  1. Basically, you want to get two alignment rods (poles).
  2. One of them you’ll lay down your toe line and the other will be parallel to that, but placed on the far side of the ball.
  3. This drill will allow you to hit balls and not worry about whether your feet are lined up properly.
  4. Continue to hit range balls like this every time you practice and you’ll get to the point where you naturally set up with your feet in the correct position every single time.

Posture Drill

Next, to make sure you get the correct posture, all you need is the club you’re hitting.

  1. First, grab the club with one hand down by the head and the other hand on the grip, so that the club is waist-height and parallel to the ground.
  2. While keeping your back straight, place the club across your waist and bend over the club. This will help you create a good waist-bend instead of knee-bend setup posture.
  3. Then, take that same club and lay it against your spine. This part of the drill is to make sure that your back stays straight.
  4. Make sure that your club touches your back in three places; the back of your head, middle of your back (between your shoulder blades), and your tailbone.

If you can setup with your waist bent and back straight, you’ll be in the perfect position to hit a golf ball.

Balance Drill

The final drill will help you with your balance and weight distribution.

  1. Take some time to get all setup to the golf ball
  2. Then have a friend or playing partner approach you and give you a little push backwards, forwards, and side to side.
  3. If you fall over in any direction, it may indicate that you have too much weight on the heels, toes, or a specific foot.

Your goal is to stay balanced every time your friend gives you a push.

Conclusion

There you have it! Everything you need to know about the proper golf swing setup.

Practice this position all year long to make sure that you can repeat it once you get on the golf course and under pressure. Muscle memory is definitely your friend when it comes to the setup position.

It will allow you to setup and forget about it, so that you can focus on other things throughout your golf swing.

If you can replicate the perfect setup every time, you’re one step closer to hitting beautiful and consistent golf shots.

Now that you know the basics of the setup, make sure you read our other articles on the basic golf swing fundamentals:

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