Golf is arguably one of the most challenging sports in the world. Physically, no it’s not going to potentially damage your body like football or rugby but mentally, it’s second to none.
You’re out there for 4+ hours, battling the elements, playing different courses, with different people and trying to score your best. Some days you can’t miss the center of the club face and others, you can’t seem to find it (or your golf balls).
But there’s one part of golf that so many players screw up and don’t even know it! That’s right, so many golfers want to improve and buy all the latest equipment and forget this one critical piece.
So what’s the secret?
Yet, so many golfers aim right (when they think they’re square to the target), come over the top, and hit a pull fade (or slice) to compensate. You might have been guilty of this in the past or witnessed it up close and personal with your golf buddies.
It’s time to fix your aim once and for all.
In this post, I’ll help identify why most golfers screw up their aim, the best alignment tools, and tips to set yourself up for consistency.
Why Alignment is So Important
So why is alignment important?
Because a lot of times, golfers think they are aimed perfectly at the target. But in reality, they’re usually off and in a majority of cases, I’d say right-handed players aim too far right.
You might be thinking… So what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that over time, you will create bad habits (without even knowing it). Whether you realize it or not, your subconscious mind knows exactly where you’re aimed.
If you say you want to aim at the flag but set up 10 yards right, your mind realizes the mistake. Internally, it’s saying “Hey man, you’re way right of the target… we need to do something on the backswing or downswing to compensate.”
Then, it will try to signal to you and overcompensate by doing something in your backswing or downswing like hitting a pull fade. Sometimes it works and oftentimes it doesn’t. Like I said, I would guess you’ve seen this up close and personal.
Heck, sometimes you might even hit a perfect shot dead straight but you’re aimed way right. Then, you wonder how you “pushed” it, when in reality you hit it dead straight.
Does that sound familiar?
The moral of the story is that poor alignment creates bad habits and limits your potential. And these bad habits, compounded over time, can create horrible tendencies in your swing and make it nearly impossible to become a good ball striker.
Over time and with enough repetition, you will train your mind and body to compensate based on your aim. If you’re not careful, these habits will continue until you work with a swing coach and finally make the necessary adjustments.
Don’t worry, when you follow these steps, you can finally learn how to aim in a simple way every single shot. Then you won’t have to keep paying your buddies from losing bets or hiring an expensive swing coach to “cure” your game.
Golf Instruction: Aim in Golf – 6 Steps to Success
Step 1: Do Your Homework
Before getting into alignment specifics, let’s talk about the shot you want to hit first. Whether it’s on the tee box or approach shot, you need a clear strategy for aiming.
You need some information before you can decide where to aim and which club to pick. If you have a rangefinder, golf watch or golf GPS, use it to get some numbers. Ideally, you want the distance to the pin and front of the green.
Let’s use an example to illustrate how to aim properly. Let’s assume that you have 150 yards to the pin which is in the middle of the green. We’ll assume you have about 135 yards to the front and there isn’t any looming trouble like deep bunkers or a water hazard. There’s no big wind gusts and it’s not cold so the distance should play true.
You decide that if it’s 150 you want to hit it 140 yards or so because it’s a perfect 8 iron distance. If you flush it, then you should be all over the flag and if you hit it okay, you’re still on the green with a birdie putt.
Step 2: Choose a Long Range Target to Aim Correctly
Once you have all the information you need to pick the right club, it’s time for step number two – picking your target. You want to choose a target in the distance that is past your target.
For our example, if you’re in the fairway ready to hit your approach you can find a target past the pin to aim like a mound, telephone poll, electrical box, or tree. I would advise against picking the pin unless you’re under 100 yards in and really want to attack the thing. Otherwise, outside of a wedge distance, focus on something other than the pin (especially if it’s a tucked flagstick).
Here’s where most amateurs and high handicap players screw up… they pick a target in the distance and go.
Step 3: Choose an Intermediate Target
Before just pulling the trigger, you can’t forget step number three; pick an intermediate target.
This is a step that most people make time and time again. But it’s a skill that every good player does and is commonly talked about the pros – no matter what!
The third step is to pick an intermediate target between your ball and the target in the distance. This should be a target that is 6 inches to 2 feet directly in front of your ball and in line with your long range target.
Before you start your pre-shot routine, pick a target that is on the ground and in the direction of your long range target. For our example, you’re in the fairway, so you can probably find a divot or piece of different colored grass in front of you to focus on. And if you’re on a tee box you can use a divot, old tee, or something else as your intermediate target line.
You might be thinking, why do you need this intermediate target? Why can’t I just aim at my target in the distance and go?
The fact is that it’s hard to do and most golfers aren’t good enough to line their club up with a distance 100-300 yards away. The margin for error is way too big. It’s much easier to line your club up with something that’s right in front of you than something way off in the distance.
When you pick an intermediate target (aka your start line) you set yourself up for success! It gives you a much better chance at setting up square so you don’t have to make any mid swing adjustments.
Step 4: Nail Your Pre-Shot Routine
Once you have your distance, club, and two targets, don’t forget to nail your pre-shot routine. As Dr. Bob Rotella said, “Your pre-shot routine is your wing man on the golf course.” It’s there to help you succeed!
Stand behind the ball, take 1-2 practice swings looking at your targets. You want to make sure to imagine it going over your intermediate target, the ball flight, and soaring toward your long range target. Think about feeling the ball hit the center of the face and making a smooth swing.
At this stage, you want to avoid technical swing thoughts and instead focus on something related to tempo or target. This will almost always yield the best results!
Step 5: Build Your Stance
Once you’ve executed your practice swings, give your long distance target one last look. Then, confirm your intermediate target in front of your ball. Then, keep looking at it as you walk up to address position – do not look at the target (yet).
Set the club face square to your intermediate spot and then build your stance around the club face. So many golfers do the opposite and look up too quickly. But remember, aiming at something 100+ yards away without an intermediate target makes it much more difficult.
Once you feel great about your alignment to the intermediate spot, then look up and make any adjustments in your stance. Maybe you adjust your feet, shoulders, body, weight distribution, ball position, grip pressure etc. until you feel comfortable.
Overall, your direction should be good and if it’s not – back off and start again. Don’t rush the processs!
Also, some golfers also like a waggle or two to get rid of any tension out of their arms and shoulders too.
It’s almost go time…
Step 6: Pull the Trigger
Finally, take a deep breath if you want and take one final look at your tree, electrical box, etc. Then, pull the trigger, take the club back, rotate your shoudlers and hit your golf shot.
Maybe you hit it right on your line or maybe you didn’t – either way accept the outcome and do it again. Remember, the final step to a good routine is accepting it and moving on.
More Golf Aiming Tips
If you want more golf tips to aim correctly, use these tips to setup get your feet and body square more often.
Use Alignment Sticks to Aim Correctly
A huge piece of advice – always use clubs or alignment sticks on the range!
So many people hit massive buckets without a clue of where they were aiming. Over time, this can mess with your swing path and hurt your game.
Instead, hit a few wedges to warm up and then use sticks for the rest of your shots. This will help you make the most of each practice and use your time on the range wisely.
Personally, I like to use 1-2 sticks depending on what I’m working on.
In general, I like one on my feet and one for the club path. I set one parallel left of my target close to my toes and one laying down pointing in the direction where I want it to go.
If you just use one, have it between your feet and the golf ball. For a right handed player, the alignment stick should be parallel left of the target.
Here’s how much a typical golfer should aim left for each type of club:
- 2-4 yards left with wedge-pitching wedge and short irons.
- 3-6 yards left with long irons, hybrids, and fairway woods.
- 6-8 yards left with a 3 wood or driver to compensate for their longer length.
Analyze Your Rounds
Another great way to ensure your aim is consistent is by analyzing your rounds. After rounds, note which side of the fairway and greens you missed on so that you can nip anything before a major issue occurs.
Then, when you practice between rounds or before your tee off use training aids to get back to square. Learn the process to track your rounds here!
Video Your Swing
Maybe the best way to check your aim is to video your swing. If you’re on the driving range, use a tripod and record your swing. And if you’re golfing buddies are nice enough, have them record some golf shots on the course.
After the round, review each video and see if you’re sticking to your routine and overall alignment. Remember, a lot of times it can feel like you’re totally square to the target but be way off. Luckily, the video doesn’t lie!
Use a Golf Alignment Tool
Finally, I’ve found a great tool to help with your alignment as well. This magnetic club tool helps with your aim for irons and wedges.
Simply put the magnetic end on your clubface on the range to see how it lines up to the target. It can also help you realize your irons and wedges are too upright or flat as well. If this happens, have someone at your local golf shop adjust so that your equipment is right for your game.
FAQs About Aiming
Do you have more questions about aiming in golf? If so, hopefully these answers will help you out.
Where do you aim on the golf ball?
This is a good question and no two people seem to have the same answer. Unlike the method outlined above which is commonly practiced by the best in the world, aiming on the golf ball itself is different.
Some guys look at a certain dimple, while others look at a certain part of the ball. For example, some guys look at the front of the ball in fairway bunkers to make sure they hit slightly down on it. While others look at the back on tee shots.
The best answer we can give is to test out what works for you as every golfer is different. Some like super small spots like a dimple, while others just look at entire ball. It’s 100% your thing!
How do you align your own golf shot?
Using the six fundamentals above. This isn’t some gimmicky advice that may or may not work. This is the exact method that guys like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus use to aim the golf ball. If it works for the two best golfers of all time, it’s pretty safe to say it should work for you too.
Also, don’t forget to practice with an emphasis on your alignment as well. This will make sure you create positive habits at the driving range that should transfer to the golf course.
How do you aim a golf club face?
As outlined above, aim the face before building your stance. When you select something directly in front of your golf ball, it makes it much easier to aim the face square.
Once you aim the club face, then build your stance around the face – not the other way around. This will ensure you don’t set up open or closed to the target.
How should my club face look at address?
It depends on what you want to achieve with the specific shot. For the majority of the time, the face should be square to your target with your hands slightly ahead (for shots off the turf). The shorter the club, the more forward press you want to ensure that you compress the ball and hit down and through it.
With your driver, you want your hands in line with your ball or maybe even slightly back to promote swinging up (since it’s on a tee). The only time you want to see the face shut or closed is if you’re trying to play a sweeping cut or hook shot to get out of trouble. Otherwise, keep the face square to give yourself the best chance to make great contact.
Final Thoughts To Aim Correctly
Remember, learning the proper way to aim in golf is one of the best skills you can ever master. It will help you avoid a ton of frustration down the road if your golf swing isn’t performing well. Please, do not skip these fundamentals, no matter what!
Pay attention during your next time out and I bet you’ll spot other players forgetting step #3 entirely.
Follow these six steps to aim correctly:
- Do your homework. Before picking a target, pick the right distance and club that will make it happen.
- Choose a long range target behind the fairway or green. This should be something other than the flagstick like a mound, a spot of grass in the fairway, or a certain tree.
- Choose an intermediate target directly in front of you. This will be where you aim the clubface.
- Have a pre-shot routine. After you find your aiming points, take a few practice swings that are similar to your upcoming shot.
- Build your stance. Once you feel good about the shot, look at your target and line the club face up to it. Then adjust your feet, ball position, and rest of your stance.
- Take a final breath and go!
Finally, make sure your practice your aim correctly so it doesn’t sabotage your golf game. Use alignment tools and video your swing regularly to ensure you aren’t creating bad habits on the range.