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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 [email protected]

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

Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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