I recently discovered a simple error I was making at address that affected the consistency of my contact in the full swing, especially with the driver. This unlikely culprit was also causing me to bend over too much from the hips with too deep a knee bend at address. What was this error? The angle of the club shaft to my arms was not large enough. In other words, I had preset too much radial deviation and not enough ulner deviation at address; my wrists were preset with too much wrist cock (too close to 90 degrees), which meant I had to bend over more from the hips, bend the knees more, and widen my stance in order to address the ball!
|Taller posture, larger wrist angle|
The result was inconsistent contact on the club face, and the club was also bottoming out behind the ball (fat) or hitting the top of the ball (thin and skulls). I would get a lot of pop-ups and skulled shots with my driver. The wrist angle naturally increases in the downswing as the wrists uncock, which means the difference between my address shaft angle and impact shaft angle was too great; the impact shaft angle is usually always more upright than at address, but too much can cause the errors I was experiencing.
I should note that the two work in tandem: a taller posture should cause one to address the ball with a more upright shaft and, thus, a straighter wrist angle (shaft-arm angle). And the opposite is true. Therefore, as the angle of posture (legs to trunk) decreases (moves away from 180 degrees towards 90 degrees), the shaft-arm angle also decreases (i.e., the hands get closer to the ground). And vice versa.
Other variables play a role. One's body type and equipment (length of shafts and lie angles) have an impact in this equation. You should experiment to find what's best for you to make solid contact in the center of your clubs. I wrote before about having the grip point at the belt buckle at address, but the truth is that this may be too flat for some players: it should point somewhere between the belt buckle and the belly button.
Every golfer needs a good procedure for helping to ensure a proper setup or address posture with respect to stance width and distance from the ball. It's easy to overlook the importance of a good address procedure as a fundamental, but when done consistently the same way with all clubs, it helps eliminate inconsistency introduced into the swing BEFORE the first move off the ball in the takeaway.
I've written before on how a wider stance helps promote a hook and higher ball flight, while a more narrow stance helps promote a slice (a wider stance presets the upper body further behind the ball and theoretically produces a flatter swing). What set me off on my quest was learning that I tended to bend over too far from the hips (also using too much knee bend) when addressing the ball, especially with the driver; this meant that my posture was not upright or tall enough. Increasing or straightening the wrist-club angle at address automatically induces a taller posture and reduces the amount of the downward wrist uncocking (ulner deviation) that occurs during the downswing! It's important not to go too far and completely straighten the angle, but getting closer to straight will help reduce the vertical variance in club movement through the ball when the wrists uncock. In reality, it also reduces the amount of horizontal variance, helping to return the ball to the center of the club face at impact, because you're presetting both downward and outward movement of the club head.
Using chalk on the club face, I noticed that my contact with the driver face was consistenly too high. Most of my misses were no longer left and right (horizontal) but up and down (vertical) with respect to impact on the club face. I could compensate slightly by hovering the club completely above the ball at address, but this was ridiculous as no golf professional does this, and the contact was still too high on the face. So, on a whim, I addressed the ball as usual and then raised my posture a few inches. Doing so caused the angle between the club shaft and arms to increase as my wrists had to increase in ulner deviation to keep the club aligned with the ball. Standing taller can also cause the stance width to decrease slightly, but what's more important is to recognize the relationship between the angle of the address wrist cock and the amount of upper body bend (or posture) over the ball at address. Subsequent drills using chalk as an indicator produced many more impacts located in or nearer to the center of the club face, which is essential for distance with any club but especially for the driver.
So I asked myself if there might be a more failsafe method of addressing the ball to achieve a taller posture, better stance width, larger arm-shaft angle, and correct distance from the ball, and I remembered something that I had poo-pooed away before but that most professionals do some form of when addressing the ball.
After ascertaining the proper aim behind the ball, one should first place the club behind the ball on the intended starting or target line (aligned to a close target a foot or so in front of the ball on the intended starting line). This should be done, initially, with both feet together with the ball located on a line running between both feet and perpendicular to the target or starting line. Most important is that the wrist angle at address is extended or closer to a fuller down-cocked position. The knees, hips, and shoulders should be on lines parallel to the target or starting line. The head should be located slightly behind the ball. At this point, one should assume the correct upper body posture by bending over from the hips with the arms hanging to get the correct distance from the ball; if you've suffered from too much wrist cock at address, your posture should feel much taller.
Now, all that's left to do is to move both feet to a stance comfortably wide enough, with a very slight knee bend, to maintain that upper body posture relative to the ball established when both feet were together! Your head and upper body should not move vertically when you take your stance. In other words, the posture stays taller. With the driver, only the right leg need move, as the ball position should be more forward. The shoulder, hip, and knee lines shouldn't move from their original positions; if they do, then the stance assumed has been too wide. If one wants to hover the club (to improve impact or smooth out the takeaway) then one should hover it when going through this procedure; otherwise, the upper body's posture will change when raising or grounding the club.
Notice that tour players look “big” compared to their clubs. Even with a longer iron, say a 4-iron, they seem to be standing “on top” of the ball, meaning the ball is not too far from their feet. Their spines are generally bent forward a fair amount, and the shaft of the club points at the belt-line, and often higher.
The clubshaft should be pointing to the belt buckle or slightly above it…
In establishing the correct shaft angle, we also resolve the question of the correct position of the hands at address. Far too many players hold their hands too low at address - few hold them too high. Holding the hands low at address is a major cause of excessive wrist action in the swing. A vice to be avoided at all costs!
Here once again, is the routine:
1 Evaluate the shot.
2. Take up your grip and square the club face to it.
3. Ground the club correctly behind the ball.
4. Now place the feet into position.
Note that the positioning of the feet came LAST.
The average golfer often reverses the procedure, placing his feet first, then vaguely grounding the club he juggles with his grip in an attempt to get the club-face square. There is no logical sequence in his method and his last minute grip adjustments account for the fact that his grip is never the same one shot from the next.
In an athletic address position the arms hang comfortably from the shoulders with a slight cocking of the wrists as you grip the club. The toe of the club should be off the ground slightly, with the club resting more on the heel of the club. From this set up position it is easier for the wrists to cock correctly, starting the club on plane and setting the club at the top of the back swing.