The Importance of Ball Position

Due Respect to The Hawk…

Everyone has seen the famous ball position illustration in Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, but is that truly the final word?  In this lesson, I’ll discuss this underappreciated element of address, and how you can use it to create shots and improve your skills.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You want to shape your shots

You want to control your trajectory

You want to improve your ball striking skill

Improve Your Skills

I’ve written frequently about how most golfers fail to challenge themselves in practice.  Hopefully you’ve read some of those lessons and have adopted practices like switching clubs after every shot.

Today, I’m suggesting that you add another element of challenge: different ball positions.  If you’re conscientious about your practice, you probably use some device to establish your standard ball position.  Hitting shots from there is great, but imagine how your skill will increase if you teach yourself to hit shots with the ball closer to you or farther away, more forward or more back in your stance.  You’ll no longer fear those tricky lies, because you’ll know you can handle all manner of set ups.

As you improve your skills, you can move from a grid like the one shown earlier to the one shown above.  Hitting shots from this wide grid is liberating: there are no expectations!  Who would ever hit a ball that’s in line with their right foot and barely within reach?  But if you do hit a good shot, or even get a decent knock on it, you feel like a world class ball striker.

Shape Your Shots

Most golfers think of ball position in terms of right and wrong: there is one correct ball position for each club, and everything else is bad.

I will suggest to you that there are many possible “correct” ball positions – it just depends on what you want the ball to do.  The key to using different ball positions to create shots is experimentation.

The standard advice says that moving the ball back will produce a lower shot that tends toward a draw.  Conversely, a more forward ball position will produce a higher shot that tends to fade.  I would encourage you to find out for yourself.

If you’re an excellent ball striker, you may find a dramatic difference between the three ball positions shown above.  However, for the player who is less consistent, you may not see a predictable difference from those small changes.  You may need to try something more extreme, as shown below.  It’s also possible that, for you, everything I just said is backwards.  Again, experimentation is the key.

I’d encourage you to try this with your short game, too.  With your short shorts, I don’t expect that you’re going to curve the ball significantly, but the change in trajectory will be important.  If you develop the ability to hit both low runners and high shots with stopping power, your scores will improve dramatically.

Another advantage to experimenting with ball position is that you’ll learn about your swing.  You may find that, despite what you read in magazines, a back ball position doesn’t work for your chipping stroke.  It’s possible that you’ll unlock dramatic improvements just by trying the “wrong” things.

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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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7 Comments

  1. paul oldfield

    Great advice will try it out next time I am at the range

  2. Mike Bennett

    Thanks for the info. I am struggling to reclaim some resemblance of my golf game. Life kind of interrupted it for a few years. This is great information.

  3. Dan Shepherd

    Couldn’t agree more with your succinct conclusion that “experimentation is the key,” Matt. Also, you’re point was spot on that first-class ball-strikers can much better pinpoint shot predictability related to ball placement. As a 16-handicap player, while certain ball placement choices can elicit specific results (lower ball flight, shot shape, etc.), because I don’t hit it on the sweet spot with any regularity, I often defy conventional thinking on ball placement related to desired shot types. I have mixed results, of course, but that’s okay; the point is, I get positive results from defying conventional ball placement choices as often as I do negative ones. Good article sir, keep up the great work at Plugged In Golf. Happy New Year!

  4. I’m not a great ball stricker, but what your saying makes sense to me . I will be practicing different ball placements will the weather warms up in northeast Ind.

  5. I will be practicing different ball placements when the weather break

  6. Hi Matt,
    Many thanks for the reminder that in golf there is a need to be able to play a range of shots when required. To be in more control of the outcome is a way to be a better player.
    To be able to hit the ball high, low, fade or draw is a great asset. We don’t all hit it straight. Anyway thats boring. But to shape a shot is a lot of fun and part of the game we try to master every time we play.

  7. BH Five lessons good revisit for starters.

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