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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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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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Golf 101: Why do I chunk it?

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Whether you are a beginner, 10 handicaps, or Rory McIlroy, no one player is immune to the dreaded chunk. How many times have you hit a great drive, breathing down the flag from your favorite yardage and laid the holy sod over one? It’s awful and can be a total rally killer.

So what causes it? It could be several things, for some players, it could be a steep angle of attack, others, early extension and an early bottoming out and sometimes you’ve just had too many Coors Lights and the ground was closer than your eyes told you…been there.

This is Golf 101—let’s make it real simple and find one or two ways that a new golfer can self diagnose and treat themselves on the fly.

THE MAIN CAUSE

With beginners I have noticed there are two main things that cause the dreaded chunk:

  1. Players stand too close to the ball and have no way to get outta the way on the way down. This also really helps to hit Chunk’s skinny cousin: Skull.
  2. No rotation in any form causing a steep angle of attack. You’ve seen this, arms go back, the body stays static, the club comes back down and sticks a foot in the ground.

SO HOW DO I FIX MYSELF?

Without doing all-out brain surgery, here are two simple things you can do on the course (or the range) to get that strike behind the ball and not behind your trail foot.

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it worked for years.

  1. Make baseball swings: Put the club up and in front of your body and make horizontal swings paying close attention to accelerating on the way through. After a few start to bend at the hips down and down until you are in the address position. This not only gives your body the sensation of turning but reorientates you to exactly where the bottom of your arc is.
  2. Drive a nail into the back of the ball: This was a cure-all for me. Whether I had the shanks, chunks, skulls, etc, focusing on putting the clubhead into the back of that nail seemed to give me a mental picture that just worked. When you are hammering a nail into a wall. you focus on the back of that nail and for the most part, hit it flush 9 outta 10 times. Not sure if its a Jedi mind trick or a real thing, but it has gotten me outta more pickles than I care to admit.

As you get better, the reason for the chunk may change, but regardless of my skill level, these two drills got me out of it faster than anything all while helping encourage better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

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