Where to position the ball in your stance can sound like something obvious or even trivial but many new golfers fail to give this seemingly small detail enough importance when learning and practicing. Golf is a game of precision, repeated precision, and by paying attention to the position of the ball in your stance you can give yourself a greater chance of hitting those good shots more consistently. The flight of the ball is directly affected by the ball’s position in your stance, so of course it makes sense to use the same ball position with each club every time you hit it.
That said, each club requires a slightly different ball position in order to get the best results. The idea behind why it is important to have the ball positioned correctly is to do with how the clubs are designed to work with your swing. Each club has a different loft (the angle of the face when it makes contact with the ball) and each club has a slightly different shaft-length, increasing as we move from wedges to the long irons and eventually woods.
By moving the ball in your stance rather than attempting to adjust your swing or hit every club the same way despite their differences, you’ll find that your shot-consistency will improve and you’ll grow to know each club better.
As a basic rule, the ball should be placed centrally between your feet only for the shortest clubs in your bag – the wedges and shorter irons – and should only be backwards of the central line if you’re trying to hit a ‘punch’ shot, but more on these later. So the wedges and short irons will be the clubs where the ball is positioned most centrally in the stance and with each longer club, the ball position should move very slightly further forward towards your front foot (that is, the left foot for right handed players). Which means if a pitching wedge shot dictates that the ball is central in your stance then a six iron shot will mean the ball should be slightly further forward, a five iron a little further and so on and so on.
There is no exact ‘ideal’ position or amount of movement between each club, it will come down to practice and feel to decide specifically what feels best and how far you move the ball between clubs. Also remember that as the clubs get longer your stance should gradually widen. With a three iron for example your back foot will be slightly further from your front foot than it would be say, during a pitching wedge shot so that you have a wider base to swing from, but the ball position in relation to the center of your stance will be unchanged.
As the longest clubs in the bag you can probably imagine how these fit into the rule mentioned above. When hitting a shot with a driver or wood the ball has to go even further forward in your stance. The furthest forward the ball should be positioned is when hitting a driver from a tee, when the ball should be just inside your front foot. This is so that the club can really catch the ball on an upswing, to give you maximum distance. So all normal shots should be between this position furthest forward, for the driver, and the central line between your feet, for the wedges.
Just as with a driver the putter’s face is specially designed to hit the ball on an upstroke. For drivers this is for range but for putters this is designed to give the ball the cleanest roll on the putting surface, so that it begins rolling smoothly immediately upon impact rather than skidding or bouncing, which will give you less control. So when putting the ball should be forwards in your stance so that the putter connects with the ball on its move up and gives it a smooth, forward movement, ideally where you aimed it! Putting is more than difficult enough without having to worry about the ball bobbling or jumping off the club-face.
When to move the ball forwards or backwards in your stance
There are some shots we can make simply by changing the ball’s position in our stance. Moving the ball backwards in your stance intentionally is called hitting a ‘punch’ shot. A punch shot is so-named because the idea behind it is to punch the ball low along the ground, whether to avoid high winds or tree branches or some other obstacle. By moving the ball backwards in the stance – and this can be done with any club – we can alter the loft of the club so that, by making contact with the ball earlier in the swing the club hits slightly more downwards on the ball and with a slightly more closed face, punching it forwards at a lower trajectory than would normally be achieved.
The second type of shot that you can ‘make’ by repositioning the ball in your stance is the famous ‘flop’ shot. Almost in the exact opposite way to a punch shot, a flop shot moves the ball forwards in the stance so that the clubface makes contact with the ball in a more open position, increasing the natural loft of the clubhead and ‘flopping’ the ball up high, whether to give you a quicker stop on the green or to avoid an obstacle. It should be said that these shots are very difficult to master and even the professional players use them quite sparingly. So be careful, they may seem like a good way to impress your playing partners but the truth is there’s usually a more traditional shot available and the chances of mishitting it will be much lower than attempting a flop or punch shot. As your game improves though shots like these will become increasingly useful tools to have in your repertoire, and satisfying shots to make once you know how.
Close up view of golf ball on tee on golf course by EpicStockMedia/DepositPhotos