Find the stance that sets your body square
Question: I’ve been watching a lot of golf on TV this year, and have noticed that no two setups are the same, especially foot position. Some players flare both feet, some are square with the right and open with the left, and others are square with both. What are the advantages/disadvantages of each?
Nancy W., La Quinta, Calif.
Answer: There’s a one-word answer to your question regarding the advantages and disadvantages of setup differences: balance.
Perfect balance is achieved when your core (the area around your lower spine) is centered. Problem is, hardly anyone is built with a centered core. Changes in the tension and strength of certain muscles in your abdomen cause your core to rotate subtly left or right. More experienced golfers learn to adjust their stance to accommodate this core rotation. The result is lower-body balance.
Here’s how to check your core rotation. Stand three feet from the corner of a room with your feet about six inches apart. Make sure your feet are parallel to one another and that your head, torso and feet point at the corner. Stand tall, close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax your body. Open your eyes and you’ll likely find that you’re no longer facing the corner. Your body rotated right or left of the corner in response to your natural core rotation.
Now, widen your stance to two feet and repeat the test. Notice the change in core rotation (you may even rotate in the opposite direction). Flare your left or right foot (or both) until your torso points directly at the corner after you open your eyes. (Start from the beginning every time you change your stance.) Now you’re square and in balance. Keep in mind that your balanced stance changes with even the slightest alteration of stance width.
Some players achieve perfect balance with both feet square. These golfers, like Tiger Woods, have such a strong core-conditioning program that they have zero core rotation from any stance width. Most of us, however, are built with some degree of core rotation that requires a change in stance to create balance.
—DAVID WRIGHT, Arroyo Trabuco GC, Mission Viejo, Calif.
The lowdown on downhill chips
Question: I have trouble hitting short chips from downhill lies (especially from greenside rough). Even my aim is bad. Help!
Charles D., via e-mail
Answer: Downhill chips are tricky and setting up can be a challenge. The first step is to point your clubface at your target before you set in with your feet. That will help your aim. Second, position your ball in the back half of your stance and get your shoulders parallel to the slope (left shoulder below your right) with your weight favoring your downhill leg. As you take away your club, think of swinging “with the slope.” By that I mean your clubhead should move from a high position in the backswing and swing down and through the ball to a low finish. The shot will shoot out lower than normal, so use a 56- or 60-degree wedge to add some loft to the shot. The ball will also run a bitâ€”thanks to the grassy lie and lower trajectoryâ€”so always try to land the ball short of the pin and let it run to the hole.
—CHUCK WINSTEAD, The University Club, Baton Rouge, La.
Use same swing to hit it high or low
Question: At my home course there are two reachable par 5s if I hit a good 3-wood into the green. One is fronted by water and the other is wide open. Is there any way to adjust my swing so I can hit one 3-wood high (to carry the water and land soft) and another one low (so I can run the ball safely up to the other green)?
Orel P., Tacoma, Wash.
Answer: I don’t recommend ever altering your swing to create a specific ball flight, but you can adjust your setupâ€”and use your everyday swingâ€”to create either a higher or lower shot trajectory.
For your high shot over water, play the ball a bit more forward in your stance (where you play your driver) and drop your hands slightly at address. Pre-set a bit more weight over your rear leg by tilting your spine away from the target. These alterations will put you in better position to sweep the ball off the turf and add some loft to your clubface. Though your setup is different, make your normal swing and watch it fly.
To play a shot with a lower, more piercing trajectory (and extra roll), do the opposite. Position your ball where you’d normally play a mid-iron and set more of your weight on your forward leg. Paired with your standard swing, these changes will de-loft the club at impact and produce the lower ball flight you need to run the ball onto the green.
—DANA RADER, Ballantyne Resort, Charlotte, N.C.