AIMING THE WHOLE CLUB.
The way we present the shaft of the club at “Set-up” is every bit as important as the way we present the blade to the ball. So often we take care to aim the blade at our target, not realising that it is equally vital to “aim” the shaft. The plane of the shaft at address is dependent on the club, choice of technique and type of shot; in other words it is a “preference". However, the way the shaft leans at address has the same ramifications for everyone; therefore we can call it a “law”. It is an age-old truism in teaching golf that says the attitude of the shaft at address is almost identical to where we would like it to be at impact. From now on I want you to see the whole golf club when addressing the ball and not just it’s face or leading edge.
N.B. Please assume that in all instances I am talking about shots from a “square” or “neutral” stance to the target line.
In Pic.1 I’ve addressed the ball with my Driver; note the shaft is absolutely vertical, set at 90 degrees to my target line. - this is perfect in for the Driver. If the shaft were behind the ball I would be inviting a “Takeaway” outside the line. Conversely, if the butt of the club were over or ahead of the ball, I would be inviting a “Takeaway” to the inside of my intended line. This way of “aiming” the shaft is totally sympathetic to my “Ball Position”; it encourages me to set the ball opposite my inside left heel. This is the best place to launch a Driver, as it would catch the teed-up ball with a sweeping, slightly upward blow at impact.
Pics.2 & 3 demonstrate the error of my teenage years and one that is almost universally fallen into by amateur golfers everywhere. It shows me moving the ball back in my stance as I pull the club “up my sleeve” to mimic the shorter 6 iron and wedge; notice that the shaft of the club remains vertically behind the ball in each case. This is a disaster as it causes me to cup my left wrist progressively as the ball position moves back. You are absolutely correct in thinking that the ball position moves more to the centre as we use shorter, more lofted clubs. But! And it is a huge “but”, the attitude of the club shaft is still behind the ball; this is not where we need it to be at impact. For, as the club becomes shorter, we need to catch the ball earlier, nearer to the base of our downswing arc. Consequently, the club shaft should be over the ball at impact and slightly past it with a wedge this will encourage a shallow divot with a 6 iron and a slightly deeper one with the wedge.
Pic.4. In this photo I am holding the Driver, 6-iron and wedge simultaneously; Whilst I have not yet changed the width of my stance, retaining that for my Driver, I hope it clearly explains the way in which the angle of the shaft at Address changes as the club becomes shorter. The beauty of this subtlety is that we now can kill a number of birds with one stone! Aiming the whole of the club, handle, shaft and clubface correctly encourages:
- Ideal “Ball Position”.
- Correct placing of the hands.
- Correct weight distribution between both feet for each club.
- Correct attitude of the spine for each club.
- Increased likelihood of the appropriate Takeaway movement.
I can expand on these points as I demonstrate the ideal Set-Up and “Shaft- alignment” with each of the three clubs on their own.
Pic.5. Here with the Driver the shaft is perpendicular and at 90 degrees to the target line. With the ball forward in my stance, opposite my inside left heel, my spine angle is inclined a hint to my right with the right shoulder lower than my left. If anything my weight should slightly favour my right foot, approximately by 55% to 45%. Ideally the shaft will be close to this at impact for optimum “Launch angle”, power and accuracy.
Pic.6. With my 6 iron, a slightly narrower stance, the ball is now positioned “left centre” with the butt of the club handle directly over the ball. Now my weight is distributed evenly, 50% on both feet and my spine angle set neutrally, leaning neither to my left or right. This way of presenting the shaft should create a shallow, even divot through impact.
PIC.7. My narrowest stance is with the wedge; the butt of the club is leaning to my left, slightly past the ball. If anything my weight will slightly favour my left foot by 5% or so. You can imagine now the ball being struck at the base of my arc and a slightly heavier divot than the 6 iron. For those of you who hit your wedge shots thin, this advice alone is worth the price of a year’s subscription to Golf World! Imagine how many balls will be saved from a watery grave: if you can present the shaft like this at address AND impact! That old scoop with the wrists and shots sculled over the green will be history – just remember to sand fill your divot!
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