Five Fundamentals of a Good Set-up

The more golf instruction sessions I do and the more golf tips I write, the more I’m convinced that a solid set-up is a critical fundamental. Without a good one no one, including the greatest golfer in the world, can play the game well. That’s why I key on the set-up in introductory golf lessons. If you want to get the most from your swing, you need a good and settled set-up.

The discussion that follows will help you build a good set-up. While many of the tips in this article are reminders of advice you’ve probably heard previously, they will help you achieve consistency and accuracy in your swing, which is what we all want. Establishing a good set-up can help your golf handicap greatly.

A sound set-up starts with a solid grip. The way the hands are placed on the club determines a swing’s shape and the clubface’s direction at impact. That in turn dictates the direction of the ball. Use whichever grip (baseball, overlapping, or interlocking) feels the most comfortable yet allows you to make solid contact with the ball, as I tell those who take my golf lessons. But, like everything else in golf, it must be right for you.

How do you know when you have the right grip? Your grip is ideally suited to you when the tips of the fingers on the left hand (right-handers) just touch the fleshy pad of the palm. If they don’t, try another grip or check the position of your hand. Either or both maybe the problem. It’s the “trigger” position formed by the thumb and the forefinger of the right hand, however, that’s really critical. Make sure you can “squeeze the trigger” with your grip. If you can’t, there’s something wrong. Also, when it comes to the overall grip, apply just enough pressure to provide a secure hold on the club while feeling the club’s weight in your hands.

Posture is also critical to a solid set-up. The body angles created at address in your posture have an impact on the shape and quality of your swing. Keeping your balance throughout is crucial to hitting good shots and a direct result of good posture. Good balance stems from perfect weight distribution at address, essential to creating a solid base for your swing. To achieve good posture, stand up straight with your arms and club extended, then bend over from the waist while you lower the club. Once the club touches the ground, flex your knees slightly. That’s good posture. Watch Ernie Els next time a tournament is on TV. He has nearly perfect posture despite having less than an ideal build for a golfer, as I’ve mentioned in my golf tips.

Stance and Ball Position
Your stance’s width-the distance the feet are apart at address-is determined by the club used. A major component in a consistent set-up, the stance gets narrower as the clubs get higher. Widen the stance for a driver, and narrow the stance for a wedge. With the driver, make sure the heels are the same width apart as the shoulders. With the wedge, the feet should be close together. Somewhere in between lies the ideal stance for every other club in the bag. Trial and error will tell you what feels most comfortable, but it’s imperative you find a stance the fits each club.

Ball position influences the clubhead’s path at impact. That in turn determines initial shot direction. Many golfers vary ball position, depending on the club used. They move the ball back from just inside the left heel (right-handers) to the middle of the stance as the clubs get shorter. Others, like Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, maintain constant ball position, just inside the left heel, for every club. Again, it’s a matter of comfort and personal choice. While varying the ball is more popular, I usually advise those attending my golf instruction sessions, to try both. Use whichever approach feels most comfortable and provides the best results.

Aim and Alignment
Good golfers constantly monitor their aim and alignment. The clubface must be aimed at the target and the body must be aligned with the clubface-known as perfect parallel alignment. Start by standing behind the ball and visualizing the shot. With a clear picture of the shot in mind, step to the ball. Pick out an immediate target, such as a leaf or divot mark, a club length or so in front of the ball along the target line. Aim the clubface over that point. Once you establish a square clubface, build your stance around it. Square your feet, hips, and shoulders to the clubface position. Check your alignment by laying a club down on the ground parallel to the target line in practice, something I have beginning students do in my golf lessons all the time. Your stance should be parallel to the club.

Triggering the Swing
Once in their set-up some players use a small movement to trigger their swings in motion. A “swing trigger” encourages a smooth takeaway and helps prevent jerky movements that could harm the swing. Swing triggers are different for each player. Gary Player kicks in his right knee. Arnold Palmer gives the club one final, aggressive waggle. Jack Nicklaus turns his head to the right slightly-Nick Faldo does the same. Try each of these swing triggers. If they don’t work, try developing one of your own. It can make all the difference in the quality of your swing.

Copyright (c) 2006 Jack Moorehouse