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A Setup for Major Success

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Will Zalatoris of the United States plays his shot from the 18th tee during the third round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club on June 18, 2022 in Brookline, Massachusetts.Getty Images

Will Zalatoris has made the cut in five of eight majors he has competed in. In those five, he has never finished higher than eighth place. How has this young professional superstar been so consistently special under the most pressure packed situations. It was only a month ago when he battled Justin Thomas in a playoff to decide the 104 th PGA Championship. Now on a very difficult Saturday at the 122nd US Open, Zalatoris climbs the leaderboard with another “major” score.
There are a couple successful strategies Will employs to create such consistently great play. As a PGA Coach my favorite is his ability to take these two textbook setup fundamentals and use them on every single swing. As an amateur, if you want to lower your average score follow the young major player’s blueprint for the basics. Copy this pre-swing look.
The first characteristic my eyes are drawn to are those arms. Like curtains, they just hang down perfectly straight. I know it sounds simple, but do your upper appendages look the same? Take a stance in front of the mirror. Go for the view we see on the television just like this video. Do they hang straight down? If they don’t, then you need to evaluate your ball position.
When it comes to “ball position,” most golfers believe we are talking about where to place the ball in our stance from front to back. In this case, I’m referring to how far the ball sits away from your body at address. To determine the best distance, go through this exercise.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold an iron in your lead hand. Throw the club over your lead shoulder and take your trail hand and pin it against your tailbone. The shaft of the club should be touching your back between the shoulder blades and at the tailbone. It should feel like you have a second spine.
Now pull forward with that top/lead hand until you get in that normal bent over address
position. With that same lead hand pull the club over your head and drop your arm
straight down in front of you. Sit the club on the ground so the sole meets the turf. Place
your trail hand on the club. That position of the club is the distance the ball should be
from your stance.
Now look at his toes. Both sets are aligned to the left of the target since he is a right handed golfer. Our body is always setup to the side of the target, and never at it.
To test this setup imperative, get an alignment rod or an extra club out of your bag. Lay the stick/shaft across both sets of toes and see where it points? If it points to the target or in some other crazy direction, correct it. Once the alignment aid is correctly laid down parallel to the target line, step back into your address position. Now see where your body in pointing.
Your perspective on this one may take some practice. If you do have to retrain your eyes, then make sure you leave something on the ground every time you practice. Proper alignment has a very strong effect on the dynamics of our swing. This is exactly why these two fundamentals are so important.
Will Zalatoris keeps showing up in major moments because he’s a textbook player. If your basics don’t mirror these two simple setup positions, then make sure you change your approach. Once you do, the results will then speak for themselves, just like Will’s.
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