Proper Posture: Starting It Right
Rick Martino, PGA

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Instruction Feature

Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010 | 1:09 p.m.

In order to develop a fundamentally sound address position to play your best golf, you need to understand the various components involved. The effective blending of ball position, body position, relationship of the club to your body and balance are the key, "ingredients," in creating your ideal set-up position.

Ball position is one of those crucial fundamentals that affects your body position and requires constant review. If you attend a professional golf tournament, you will often notice that players ask both their fellow competitors and PGA Professional instructors to check their positions at address. One of the elements they focus most precisely on is ball position. When we talk about ball position, we're concerned with not only where the ball is placed relative to our stance, but also how far the ball is located from our body.

In most cases, this is largely determined by a player's physical stature and swing style. Legendary two-time PGA Champion, past U.S. Ryder Cup Team captain and player, and one of the all-time great PGA Professionals, Byron Nelson -- the man who not only mentored former Senior PGA Champion Tom Watson, but also won an unthinkable 11 tournaments in a row -- once famously said, "No one ever stands too close to the ball." Of course, there are people who do, but "Lord Byron's" point was that the overwhelming majority of golfers err by standing too far from the ball, as this position gives them a false sense of power.

From Grip To Hips Here's a good method that will help the vast majority of golfers determine how far the ball should be positioned from their body:

Assume your address position, with a 5-iron placed behind the ball. Now, take your lower hand off the grip and run it between the butt end of the club and your hips. For most people, the ball is correctly positioned if your hand easily glides between the grip and your hips. Addressing the Ball Despite what some non-golfers would have you believe, hitting a golf ball is an athletic exercise. So, the game has many things in common with other sports. For example, if you watch a baseball batter waiting on the next pitch, you will see that he stays in motion as he takes practice swings, until the pitcher is ready to begin his windup. This practice keeps the batter loose and helps to lock in his timing mechanism. The same is true for a basketball player at the foul line. He or she will bounce the ball a certain number of times until the time comes to take the shot, all the while envisioning success. NBA MVP Steve Nash, an avid supporter of the Play Golf America campaign, is a master at the pre-foul shot routine. A pre-shot routine is particularly critical for a golfer, since hitting the ball is an active process, as opposed to a reactive process. In other words, you are the only one who decides when to begin your swing, unlike a hitter in baseball who reacts to a pitch. So, it's important to have a pre-shot routine that enables you to maintain your motion, as this works to prevent tension from creeping into your swing. And just as in other sports, it's important that your beginning -- or address -- position provides both stability and strength. Your address should reflect an athletic position, similar to a top infielder in baseball (picture the positioning and stance of Alex Rodriguez)... a cornerback in football (imagine Champ Bailey's textbook technique)... or a tennis player preparing to receive a serve (none better than Roger Federer). All of these players have mastered the fundamentals of their game to incredible heights.

Using similar principles to enhance your golf game, your knees should remain comfortably bent and consistently flexed throughout your swing. This is often a critical, yet overlooked point. If your knee flex changes throughout the swing, your body's position can't help but follow. The inevitable and frustrating result is inconsistent ball striking. For most shots, your weight should remain evenly balanced between both feet. However, there is a sizable contingent of PGA Professionals that recommend a variation on this theme. In fact, some Professionals recommend that players place more weight on their trail foot when hitting longer club shots and to shift their weight to the target side when playing the shorter clubs. As in any rule, whatever works best for your game is what applies most. Consult with several different PGA Professionals to learn whose advice works best for you.

On every shot be sure to check your address fundamentals Skeletal Balance. Make sure your body weight is pressing downward on your arches -- as if you are standing at attention. Ankles. Keep your ankles under your shoulder joints, as you let your arms hang freely. Spine. Your spine should tilt forward from the hip joints until the base of your sternum points toward the ball. Spine Tilt. The spine should also tilt toward the trail side (right side for right-handers and left side for left-handers) of your swing. Center of Rotation. The four conditions listed above determine the position of your center of rotation, which is maintained throughout the swing. Grip, Club Angle, and Ball Position. The location of where your lead arm hangs is where you should place your grip. The position of your grip, along with your club angle will help set your ball position for each shot. Make this process a habit, and before you know it, your address position will serve as solid base to make repetitive swings from.

If you would like to learn more about proper techniques for playing the entire game of golf and to inquire about individual and group lessons from a PGA Professional near you, be sure to check out

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