Alignment – The Hardest Easy Fundamental

Introduction

The next time you’re playing golf with your buddies, pay special attention to their alignment.  Unless your regular Sunday foursome is a bunch of Q School hopefuls, you’ll find that they are aimed everywhere but where they think they are…and the same is probably true for you.

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The Easiest Fundamental

Alignment is one of the simplest, most basic elements to good golf, but it’s ignored by most players.  Since your alignment happens at your own pace, before you even think about swinging, there’s no reason to ever get it wrong.  It should be the easiest fundamental…

…But It Isn’t

One of my favorite things to do with first-time students is to check their alignment.  I’ll ask them to aim at a flag in the distance, and then I’ll lay a club down behind their heels.  When they step back and see that the club is pointed away from the target, they’re shocked.  They can’t understand how being misaligned can look correct.  The answer is fairly simple: their perspective is all wrong.

Think about the activities where accurate aiming is important: shooting a gun, playing pool, or throwing darts.  In each of these examples, you put both your eyes on the target line behind the projectile.  Why?  Because this is the best way to use your binocular vision.  You’ll never see a champion sharpshooter standing beside their rifle, because this is a difficult, unreliable way to aim.  Yet 99% of golfers expect their aim from this perspective to be accurate.

Good Bad

How Accurate Are You?

I imagine that some of you are thinking, “Matt, you’re wrong.  I align myself perfectly from beside the ball.”  And you may be right; I have a handful of students who can aim very accurately from address.  But to be sure, I’d recommend checking yourself in practice.  The next time you go to the range, set up a practice station (explained HERE) and see if that alignment looks and feels correct to you.  If it doesn’t, you can bet that when you feel correctly aligned, you aren’t.

A Better Way to Aim

To develop alignment that you can rely on during a round, you need to build alignment into your pre-shot routine.  Start by standing on the target line behind the ball.  Visualize the line from the ball to the target.  Next, pick out a small intermediate target on that line, no more than 12 inches in front of the ball.  The reason for using an intermediate target is to make aiming easier: it’s very hard to accurately aim at something over 100 yards away, but very easy to aim at something 6 inches away.

Lesson Pics (21)Intermediate Target

Now, set the club head behind the ball and aim it at your intermediate target.

Lesson Pics (22) Intermediate Target 2

Finally, align your feet and body to match your club face.

Lesson Pics (23)

Conclusion

Using this pre-shot routine doesn’t guarantee that you’ll hit it like the pros, but you will be aiming like they do and enhancing your chances of hitting your shots on target.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please post them below.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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3 Comments

  1. This has been my pre-shot routine for a while now, but I have aiming left so ingrained in my head from years of fighting a fade that I find it very hard to aim straight or even right of the hole now. Time to set up my practice station and work on it :)

  2. I have been using a certain set of clubs (Hippos by Beast) which is a no-name brand for approximately 10 years and I have grown a foot since then. I am now 6’4″ and I think my clubs are too short for me. My golf game is NOT where I want it to be, and I’m not sure how much to blame on clubs that might be too short? Where should the club length be on my body? Will buying longer clubs enhance my game? Please e-mail!

    Cheers.

    • Matt Saternus

      Marc,

      Please go get a fitting with a qualified club fitter. They can get you into clubs that will fit your body. Do not accept simple “rules of thumb” for finding the appropriate length.

      Best,

      Matt

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