One of the common traits of good golfers is their ability to hit any type of shot – high, low, fade, draw – and handle any type of uneven or imperfect lie. Watch a good player work on shot making, and you will see that the swing looks essentially the same. The subtle adjustments that allow golfers to control their impact conditions and ball flight can be found in the fundamentals of the setup and start with ball position.
Ball position influences the takeaway and virtually all of the impact factors. When the tour players I work with struggle to hit the ball solidly, ball position is one of the first things I have them check. Proper ball position – combined with the other elements of a good setup – maximizes the natural release of the hands and arms, which allows you to generate more clubhead speed and produce a better impact position.
For normal shots, there are three basic ball positions:
- Short irons – play the ball about one inch to the left of the center of your stance.
- Mid-irons – play the ball about two inches left of center.
- Long irons and woods – three inches left of center, or just opposite the left heel.
The Low Point of Your Swing
Ball position should match the low point of your swing, and should make the clubhead strike the ball before it strikes the ground. This helps you contact the ball crisply and get the proper trajectory on the shot. You can locate the low point of the swing during your practice swing. Just pay attention to where the club naturally hits the ground. Remember that the low point of the swing can change due to many factors. From a downhill lie, for instance, the low point of the swing will be farther back, meaning you should play the ball slightly behind the normal position for the club you’re using. Likewise, an uphill lie calls for a slightly more forward ball position.
Setting Up for Ball Placement
Establish ball position as a part of your standard setup and pre-shot routine. As you visualize the shot prior to hitting it, note the ball flight that you are trying to create. For example, a low shot such as a knockdown or punch shot will require you to play the ball farther back in your stance. If you need a high shot over a tree, you’ll want to move the ball slightly forward in your stance to set up an impact position where the hands will stay just behind the clubhead to create a higher launch trajectory.
Your Game Depends on You
The type of player you are is a factor in determining the correct ball position for you. If your swing is more of an arms swing with minimal lower body activity, the low point of the swing is slightly farther back. This helps you strike the ball with more of a descending blow, which will give you more control of the flight characteristics of the shot.
In general, mastering the normal ball positions for short irons, mid-irons, long irons, and woods will help you develop more consistency in your ball striking and give you better control over ball flight. But be sure to experiment when you practice to see how ball position can help you handle the shot making conditions you will encounter on the golf course.