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How far to stand from the golf ball

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“How far should I stand from the golf ball?”

It’s a simple question that I’m often asked during lessons. When I tell my students that they should stand where they can find the middle of the club face, they usually ask me to elaborate. What I mean — and what it’s important for golfers to know — is that every golfer needs to position their body at a distance from the ball that fits their “action.”

For example, some golfers have a golf swing that is more vertical. It produces a narrow, up-and-down action where the club swings in close to your body. If that is the type of swing you have, you need to stand fairly close to the golf ball. There is nothing wrong with this shape of swing, but you must allow for a narrow width (as well as for a fade).

Other swings are more around. These flatter swings produce a rather wide arc, which swings well out in front of a golfer on the downswing. If you have this type of swing, you need to stand a little farther from the golf ball. There is nothing wrong with this swing shape either, but you must allow for a wider width (as well as a draw).

Let me explain this all by way of an image: Picture railroad tracks. A golfer is on one side of the tracks and the golf ball is on the other. The upright swing comes down closer to the inside part of the tracks. In the flatter, more rounded move, the swing comes down closer to the outside of the tracks.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY JIM LUFT

Now that you know that the proper distance to stand from the golf ball is relative to a golfer’s swing, how do you know what distance is right for you? An easy place to start is the contact point on your clubface. If you find yourself hitting shots on the toe, move closer to the ball. If you are hitting shots of the heel, move farther away. I use Dr. Scholl’s foot powder spray to see where the face is being contacted because it works better than tape, which tends to skew spin on the shot.

Now, I’m not suggesting that distance from the ball is the ONLY reason for toe and heel hits; I’m merely suggesting that it might be. The great Johnny Miller stood scary close to the ball and Lee Trevino stood a little farther back. They obviously found the center of the club, and did so a lot.

Another reason to change your distance from the ball is to help you change the shape of your swing. I use distance from the ball as a drill to change swing shapes like this: If someone is TOO flat and swinging TOO far in front on the downswing, I move them in closer. Someone who is TOO vertical or coming over the top gets moved farther away from the ball so they can feel what it’s like to swing more “around.”  The reaction to moving closer or farther away from the ball often creates a sensation of swinging more up or around. If you play with these simple ideas, after a while you will notice a difference in the shape of your swing.

One more thing on distance from the ball: Most (but not all) good golfers have their arms hanging from their shoulders, pretty much directly underneath them. This is what I call a neutral distance. To check your distance, stand at address in your normal posture and take your regular grip.  Now remove your right hand from the club. If it is hanging directly in tandem with your left, your arms are under your shoulders. If your arm is hanging closer to your body, you’re one who stands a little farther away from the ball, and if your arm moves farther away from your body then you’re one who stands a little closer to the ball.

I hope that you now realize that standing a little farther away from the ball or a little closer to it might be a good thing for you. Try these simple checks, get some Dr. Scholl’s spray and give it a go.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Pingback: Common-sense Golfing Tactics – Obtaining Help | Melinda's Blog

  2. Jafar

    May 15, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Isn’t this more of a fitting issue with the lie angle?

    If your clubs’ lie angle is right you should be able to sole the club and your arms be completely straight.

    Remember to position your hands and your head appropriately also.

  3. Steve

    Feb 16, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Dennis, please help me. I get the shanks out of nowhere. My HC went from 10 to 13.4. Lately I hit all clubs well — except shank wedges! I hit8-9 fairways with driver, mid- and long irons great, but get within 120 yds, pull out wedge and hit 45* right off hosel, with ballmark on hosel. Quick fix was to set up with ball at club’s toe, try try hit toe. Result: dead center hit. Very frustrating and embarrassing. The shanks show up whenever I hit a lot of balls at the range quickly. I think loss of balance is part of the problem, but why do I hit 7-8-9 irons great, but shank wedges? Thank for any advice.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 16, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      im betting open face but send me a video

      • Steve

        Feb 19, 2014 at 6:39 pm

        Dennis, I would send a video, but am a solitary golfer and would need someone to shoot it. However, I seem to have cured my shanks by trying a more upright plane, keeping my balance and slowing down a little. I concentrate on center of clubface contact, and seem to be over the shanks. Also, my muscle pull in my back seems gone now, so maybe that was part of the problem. Thanks.

  4. eric

    Feb 2, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Dennis – Do you think that the driver should be held slightly farther away from your body as it generates so much more speed? It seems to me that physics would naturally have the club moving farther away especially with a high swing speed.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 2, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      it swings on a flatter plane and centrifugal force swings it OUT more than irons which are directed more down. So one would might stand further from the ball but not necessarily the handle. Though many do? You have to remember that the last part of the hand path the force is actually centripetal. When the hands get to about right thigh high, they start to come in and up. Tricky business to be sure! Great question BTW.

  5. jerry

    Feb 2, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Awesome! I just got my first range session in of the year yesterday (rough winter in Ohio), and hit nothing but draws and hooks with my irons. Thinking about it last night, I decided I must have been standing too far from the ball. Today when I opened golfwrx.com, this article was on the homepage. Exactly what I needed. Thanks

  6. Chris

    Feb 2, 2014 at 11:30 am

    I fought with my setup a couple years ago and distance to the ball was one of my big issues. I finally developed a bit of a system during my approach to the ball that has been working really well. I basically set up so that, when standing up straight with my left arm hanging down my side holding the end of my club, the ball is positioned at the toe of the club. This seems to control for changes based on club length and I find myself in a good position once I fully get into my stance. I often check it by letting my right arm hang and find its been hoping me get not a good position. Only change is for teed balls where I set up a little off the toe to account for the ball position on the tee.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      Yep, thats the beauty of the individuality of golf. That set up works for YOU. Great!

  7. RG

    Feb 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Great article Dennis! I could make an argument that proper distance from the ball maybe be the most important fundamental in the set-up, especially for high handicappers.
    Also I have found that distance from the ball is somewhat relative club to club. I tend to stand a little farther with driver, woods and hybrid, which I swing a little “flatter”. Yet with wedges and short irons I like to feel nice and tight to the ball and swing a little shorter and more upright. Is this sound or should I try to keep everything equidistant.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 1, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Well how far you stand from the ball and how far you stand from the club are two different things. Naturally you’re closer to the ball with short irons than driver, but I was referring to closer to the club

  8. Marc

    Jan 31, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    I find that I’m struggling to getting to the next level of knowing where I should be standing when moving to different clubs. Sometimes I just feel it, and end up right in the perfect spot for 15-20 shots,then I lose that feeling and blow a couple shots. It’s always a problem of being just a bit too close or too far away from the ball. What drills can I do to raise the likelihood that I will recognize that my distance from the ball is not quite right and make the appropriate adjustment?

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 1, 2014 at 7:11 am

      When your in the groove, measure yourself; actually draw a line where you’re standing and know it for future reference when you lose it.

  9. pk20152

    Jan 29, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I’ve recently changed my setup for my driver and found that if I stand farther from the ball where my arms are forward of hanging “plumb” I’m more consistent, hit straighter and longer. I’ve fixed the occasional slice and sometimes get a baby draw. The only problem now is that, coincidently, I’ve developed serious tendonitis (golfer’s elbow) in my right elbow. I’ve had tendonitis before, but that came from griping too tight and it cleared up once I loosened the grip. Has this happened to others?

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 30, 2014 at 6:39 am

      Epicondylitis is inflammation of the inner elbow. It goes away or a shot of cortisone works wonders. All part of our game.

      • pk20152

        Jan 30, 2014 at 9:20 am

        And getting old :o( that sucks. Wish I had taken up golf at a MUCH younger age!

  10. Alex

    Jan 29, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Great article!

    The way I’ve checked to see if I was standing the right distance away from the ball was to drop my bottom hand off the grip and let it hang naturally from my body. When I go to place my hand back on the club, if it’s going to hit my top hand I’m standing too close, if it’s going to be to far down the grip I’m standing too far away.

    Pretty easy and simple way to check how far you’re standing from the ball at address.

    • antonio

      Jan 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      If I understood you correctly is just the opposite, as explained in the article

      • Dennis Clark

        Jan 31, 2014 at 3:24 pm

        Take ur address. Take your right hand off and let it dangle. If I it’s hanging close to ur body your too far. If it’s hanging out farther away from ur left (like outside it) your too close.

        • marte

          Oct 19, 2014 at 11:12 am

          Just read this very interesting article. Thanks. Bit slow here. Maybe you can clarify. Take my address…take right hand off grip and let it dangle. When I let it dangle it stays in position below my left hand and I can just move it back to take my grip. Is this correct? Or, should the hands be dangling together (like palm to palm) and then move the right hand down to take the grip? Hope you see this Dennis and have time to reply. Thanks. marte

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