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Ball position: The forgotten fundamental



Golfers seem to accept grip, aim, alignment and posture as important fundamentals, but ball position is forgotten at times. That’s unfortunate, because the more consistent a golfer’s ball position is, the more consistent his or her shots tend to be.

So what’s the proper ball position? Well, it’s a little different for every golfer, but the best place to position the ball is slightly behind where the swing reaches its low point on a shot from the ground, and slightly ahead of where the swing reaches its low point for a shot from a tee.

The problem with defining ball position is one of relativity. It is not enough to say, “The ball goes back in your stance,” or “Play it in the middle” for the simple reason that the width of a golfer’s stance varies considerably from club to club. And many golfers don’t understand the relationship between stance width and ball position, and if you’re one of them I’d like you to try this experiment.

  1. Position the golf ball off your left heel (if you’re a right-handed golfer) and take a very wide stance. The golf ball will appear forward in your stance (see photo 1).
  2. From that position, bring your right foot in close to your left foot and look at the ball in your stance. The now magically appears in the middle or even the back of your stance even though you never moved the ball (see photo 2).

Photo 1

photo 3

Photo 2

photo 4

To learn how to use ball position to create a good attack angle, curvature and more consistency, you must first establish a starting point, which is the place you’ll position the golf ball for shots of normal trajectory. Here’s how to do it.

Sole the club with the manufactured loft on it — not de-lofted or with extra loft added — and look at the angle of the golf club. The lob wedge, a golfer’s most lofted club, will lean slightly forward, meaning the handle will rest ahead of the head (see photo 3). The driver, which is usually a golfer’s least lofted club with the exception of the putter, will lean backward (see photo 4). This is normal, and part of the design of the clubs.

Photo 3

photo 2

Photo 4

Dennis Clark ball position

Now for the easy part. Point the handle of the clubs at your belly button and the ball will be positioned correctly. You’ll notice that to do that, you will need to change the width of your stance (about the width of your hips for a wedge and a little wider than your shoulders for a driver) and slightly adjust your ball position as well.

The procedure I described above will help you get into position for all shots of standard trajectory, and we can refer to this position as the “starting point.” From there, golfers can move the ball forward to hit higher shots or rearward to hit lower shots. But changing ball position can also have an effect on other critical factors in the golf swing.

The effect of ball position on angle of attack, path and shot shape


Angle of attack: If you need to hit more down on the golf ball (steeper), move it a little back of your starting point. If you need to hit up on the ball (or get more shallow), move it a little forward. Remember that this is a ball position tip; there are several things in the swing that factor into this as well.

Path: Move the golf ball back to hit more right and forward to hit more left. Notice, however, that attack angle and the path are actually part of the same dynamic. When you’re hitting DOWN, you’re hitting more right, and when you’re hitting UP, you’re hitting more left. I use ball position to help a lot of players feel a change in their swing path.

Shot shape: You can also add curvature to your ball flight simply by moving it in your stance. For more draw spin, try moving the golf ball back of the starting point. For more fade spin, try moving it forward of the starting point.

The reason for these changes is where the golf ball is struck in your swing arc, which changes your face-to-path relationship. The farther back the ball is in your stance, the more inside-out golfers can can swing to give the ball draw/hook spin. And the farther forward your ball position is, the more outside path you will create, which will give your shots a fade/slice spin.

One further point on swing path: If you aim farther right, the golf ball will move back naturally, and if you aim farther left, the ball will move more forward.

Now you know how vitally important ball position is. Along with the grip, it is one of the most important fundamentals and the one MOST people struggle with. Golfers who slice tend to play the golf ball too far forward in their stance, and those who hook the ball tend to play it too far back in their stance. You need to overcome these instincts. If you do straighter, more well struck shots will be yours.

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



  1. Col Walker

    Mar 30, 2017 at 7:40 am

    i kuke this article and your writings generally , but….

    “One further point on swing path: If you aim farther right, the golf ball will move back naturally, and if you aim farther left, the ball will move more forward.”

    are you still happy with this description? this seems to defy basic geometry to me

    surely if a RH golfer sets up to ball with good basics, then as he/she gradually and progressively opens the stance , ie turning left, by say 20 degrees, then that ball is by definition moving BACK in their stance because if they were to set the club back down in front of them normally the clubhead would be way ahead of ball(and vice verca) please clarify thanks

  2. KK

    Aug 1, 2015 at 12:19 am

    The pic of the lob wedge is incorrect in visualizing the manufactured loft. Lob wedges have more loft AND usually more bounce so you can’t sole the club that way or it will dig half way to China. And it will be de-lofted. The correct visualization of the lob with is, I believe, with the shaft position at the neutral position, must like the driver.

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  5. Joseph

    Mar 13, 2014 at 1:19 am

    I am 49 years old and just picked up my Taylor Made Burner Woods $ Ping Eye 2′ 1-W Irons after 23 years of not playing ANY golf whatsoever. I went and bought a Ping G15 1 12* Wood when I realized that my TMB was the size of a modern 5W, lol! To make a long story short, I shot a 101 (Redhawk Golf Club, Temecula Whites) after hitting about 100 balls at the practice range. If I hadnt chunked or topped so many darn iron shots I would have been in the mid-80’s most likely.

    I havent been able to figure out this ball position thing and that is what is driving me nuts. With my driver, I can pretty much hit a Draw, Straight or Fade on demand as long as I dont screw up. My irons are driving me nuts because I cant figure out the ball position.

    One thing not discussed here in your article is how far the ball should be away for you. You may have covered it by the Belly Button reference but it wasnt specifically addressed.

    Another point is should you always (as a starting point) start with your ball off or your left heel and simply adjust the ball position for different clubs by adjusting your stance width or should your ball move forward or rear ward of your left heel based on your club selection.



  6. Jake

    Feb 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Dennis, I am a little confused on your explanation of “point the handle of your clubs towards at your belly button and the ball will be position correctly”. In photo 3 of your lob wedge, you can see (and you also state) that the handle is leaning past the head and is pointed to the golfer’s left shoulder. According to your explanation, this is the incorrect ball position because the handle is not pointed at the belly button. Now keeping the golfer’s right leg and the club planted where they are, we can point the handle at the belly button by pushing out the golfer’s left leg. So now the golfer has a widened stance and the butt of the golf club is pointing at the belly button (albeit at an angle). However, the golf ball is now no longer near the left foot or the center of the stance, it is now in the back of the stance by the golfer’s right foot. Are you saying that this is the correct ball position for a lob wedge? Also, in photo 4 the driver’s handle hardly leans left or right of the clubface. So by the belly button placement, the correct ball position for a driver is in the middle of the stance?

    I am getting confused with your explanation, and I’m wondering if you can clarify it for me. I love your other articles, I just can’t seem to grasp this one haha. Keep writing Dennis, your tips and advice are greatly appreciated!

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 26, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Jake… these photos were taken to illustrate a procedure that one can use as a guideline for establishing ball position. Photo three is more done to illustrate that the wedge is built differently than the driver. In it I believe my hands are forward of the belt buckle; this photo is more to make the point i just described. Think of this article as a guide or system to help find a starting position. Nothing should be further back than the middle of the stance for normal trajectory shots, regardless of how wide the stance is. I wrote this tip to illustrate that clubs are built differently, and we line up to them accordingly. One of my top players (+5) prefers his hands well ahead to keep his attack angle steep enough; so it does vary. And remember that the hand position to start is NOT the position at impact. Thx for reading and Im glad you enjoy my instructional approach. DC

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Jake if you like my teaching, stay tuned for next article which details the most common drills I use to correct swing faults

  7. Matt Reynolds

    Feb 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks for the article — but its just the opposite for me. I have been tinkering with the driver all ball position all winter and I finally think I have it figured out. Unfortunately…it is just the opposite as you said (due to my swing of course). When I play it off my heel I get a nice fade to almost a slice…but when I play it off my middle toe (well out front) I get my draw. Big toe is practically a straight shot. I feel that if I have the ball off my heel my hands are not allowing the club to fully rotate resulting in an open club face at impact and vice versa with the ball off my middle toe — she is starting to close and produces a mild draw. I know my swing is the issue…but it works and I have never been more consistent in my drives than I am right now heading into the 2014 season. Anywho, I just thought I would throw that out there… 🙂

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm


      You need to get some FLIGHTSCOPE or Trackman numbers and send them my way…If you’re anywhere near naples FL, Id be glad to put you on my FLIGHTSCOPE machine. You have an unusual face to path relationship and Id love to see it. This of course is assuming center contact; heel hits and toe hits, all bets are off

  8. Robert Rohanna

    Feb 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you Dennis. This is a method that Dennis taught me when I was struggling with my ball position. It helped me win the state open Championship.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      You’re welcome Robert. I might add that Robert just posted a nifty 136 at the half way mark in his first PGA co sponsored event. We have worked together for some 10 years and you’re about to hear a lot about him. A great talent and student! Nice playing Robert.

  9. Jerry Stidham

    Feb 20, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Just so I am clear, does the “handle” of the club always point to your navel at address?

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      Pretty much…other than specialty shots, i.e. low or high, yes pretty close. At least it’s a good reference point.

    • Shallowface

      Feb 21, 2014 at 11:53 am

      Jerry, that’s why I asked the questions and made the comments I made. What I saw in Photo 3 didn’t seem to match the text.

      Here’s another point of view.

  10. Travis

    Feb 20, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Don’t let the interwebs know it alls get you down, Dennis. I literally shot 8 strokes lower doing this today compared to 6 days ago on the same course. I couldn’t believe how well I was striking the ball!

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 20, 2014 at 7:13 am

      You’re welcome; I share my experiences of 50 years being around this game because it’s what we as dedicated PGA Professionals do. It is our job to help promote and grow the game. My instructional pieces are almost all experiential. Hogan once said that the answer to golf is “in the dirt”. So is Teaching. It is not found on the internet, in books or tapes. When one stands behind people on the lesson tee for 30+ years, patterns emerge. The things that work, I use; those that don’t, I simply abandon. And hopefully my readers are the benefactors of that “research” 🙂

  11. Dennis Clark

    Feb 19, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    The suggestions I make are generalized tips that I have seen be effective over a number of years. But if the way you’re doing it now is working FOR YOU, please…continue! It’s not about prettier, it’s all about making the golf ball behave!

    • Shallowface

      Feb 20, 2014 at 5:46 am

      That’s what’s it’s all about, Dennis. Exchanging ideas so we all get better. Nice talking to you!

  12. Jack

    Feb 19, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for the article Dennis, this is great info. Do you ever make it back up to Philly?

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 19, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      I did last summer unfortunately I was in a building most of the time! I had open heart surgery at U of P. Very successful and feeling GREAT! Did you work with me up there?

      • Jack

        Feb 20, 2014 at 11:53 am

        Great to hear you feeling better! No we have not worked together, but would love to have you out over at Huntingdon Valley CC if you are in the area.

        • Dennis Clark

          Feb 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm

          Thx. I’d love to. I might do some teaching in the Philly area this summer.

  13. Sam

    Feb 19, 2014 at 9:36 am


    Amazing info. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

  14. Shallowface

    Feb 19, 2014 at 8:00 am

    You say to start with the handle pointed at the belly button, but with the wedge in photo 3 it looks like the handle is pointing ahead of that.
    What I do notice is that the hands are in the same place opposite the inside of your left thigh with every club, and then the construction of the club, dictates the ball position.
    That’s how I get my ball position. Sam Snead wrote about that in a book back in the mid 70s. He described it as putting the hands in an imaginary holster opposite the inside of the left thigh.
    Then, let’s say you want to move it back for a low shot. The ball moves back, but the hands stay up front. I see so many people move the hands back along with the ball. It doesn’t work.
    Getting the hands in the right place in front of me, at the correct height, and my eyes parallel to my target line (which I hardly ever see mentioned in modern instruction but failure to do it is the cause of all kinds of problems including the yips) are the three critical pre-swing things for me to be consistent.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 19, 2014 at 8:59 am

      Dynamic loft alteration. Greenside bunkers hands behind. Lob shot hands behind….jacks eyes weren’t parallel when he cocked his head. They get parallel when clubface is square, left when it’s closed, right when it’s open. That’s where many of my students over the last 30 years have struggled. Slicers look left, those who hook right.

      • Shallowface

        Feb 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm

        In Golf My Way, Nicklaus blamed turning his head to where his eyes were lined to the right for his three year slump in the late 1960s, a slump which featured a lot of hooks and a reduced ability to fade the ball. He said he corrected the faulty head turn and they were parallel after that.

        • Dennis Clark

          Feb 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

        • Dennis Clark

          Feb 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm

          I have helped thousands of students closing their shoulders and cocking their head to the right. Those who take the club up and outside can’t see the inside unless their looking that way. Jack did it his whole life. Look at the 5 iron on 16 at the 86 Masters. “Golf My Way” is a good read not entirely instructive. I watched Jack hit balls at Lost Tree Village many times and walked with him dozens of times at various points in his career. He’s the greatest champion the game had ever known but didn’t always do what he thought he did. Thx. DC

          • Shallowface

            Feb 19, 2014 at 5:21 pm

            Just watched that video.
            Of course I can see the head turn back, but it’s impossible to say that the alignment of the eyes changed.
            The few instructors (Jim Flick is one) I’ve seen that mentioned eye alignment felt that aligning the eyes to the right is a recipe for disaster.
            I know it is for me. I saw Michael Breed give a lesson to one of the Big Break contestants and fixed his chipping yips by fixing his eye alignment. I’d been fighting that for years. Made that one change, no more chipping yips.
            I’m glad you were able to help some folks with it, but it’s a disaster for me.

  15. Dennis Clark

    Feb 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Photo 1 looks more left heel you mean. The answer is something called parallax. A slight difference in camera angle makes a big difference in appearance. Ever look at the speedometer from the passenger seat? Wedge near middle of narrow stance, driver off left heel of wider.

  16. Andrew

    Feb 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Is Photo 3 and 4 the spots you’d actually place the ball to hit a standard drive/wedge shot? If so, it looks like you are playing the ball 3-4″ off the left heel. Photo 1 looks more like just off the right heel.

    • Daniel

      Feb 19, 2014 at 11:58 am

      If you put a ball in front of the clubhead in those photos it would be in the proper spot. Photo 1 looks correct because there is a ball in front of the club.

  17. Martin

    Feb 18, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I totally agree with the article and this is almost always the problem when I start hitting it bad.

    Only does my experience differ with the driver, when I tee it back a bit I tend to hit down on it and hit big ballooning fades with 8 iron spin.

  18. paul

    Feb 18, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I totally agree with the title. Its the easiest thing to forget about during setup. Its really easy to put the ball in the same spot everytime regardless of club. I found with my wedges I always hit balls right of the hole (lefty). Moved the ball back 2″ and I hit straight, 2″ more puts balls on the left side of the pin. Now I know where to aim, and put the ball. Can’t wait for the snow to leave and hit the range to experiment.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 18, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      You and thousands it seems. Im lucky to live in Naples, FL but I hear horror stories north of here! Snow must go!

      • Pete

        Feb 18, 2014 at 8:11 pm

        How do I send a swing video to you Dennis?

        • Dennis Clark

          Feb 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

          YOU TUBE and let me know the name/number of the video

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