|Standing too close.|
Most professional golfers would tell you that the biggest and most likely error seen among amateurs in terms of stance distance to the ball is standing too far away--in a sense, reaching for the ball. However, Tom Watson and others' opinions aside, I'm telling you that you CAN stand too close to the ball, because I did it for a while.
What are some symptoms of standing too close? Over-the-top/outside-in swing, pulls, slices, shanks, divots pointing left, fat shots, steep swing plane, standing up through impact, etc. True that these mishits and characteristics can originate from other swing problems, but I believe it's true that many--if not most--errors can be traced to the setup (GASP - grip, alignment/aim, stance, and posture/position).
You will find numerous methods online and in books to explain how you can judge the correct distance to the ball, and you'll notice that it's not an exact science. And two additional factors probably account for this inexact advice: One's body type and equipment (and whether that equipment is fitted to one's body type). For example, maybe you're 6 feet tall and skinny but your arms are short for your height. Or maybe you're 6 feet fall with a long, thick torso but you have short arms and legs. No matter, all of these characteristics can affect how far away you should stand from the ball to get an ideal swing plane. To me, the best advice is to just allow your arm-triangle to hang straight down from the shoulders, such that there's some open space between the arms and body; a down-the-line view would give the arm-triangle plane a perpendicular-to-the-ground appearance (though the arms may reach out towards the ball a bit more with the driver). I like to think of this triangular arm plane as floating on top of the chest and swinging around the neck and NOT underneath the chest; this should help you to visualize how to assume the proper distance to the ball with a given club.
I had experimented with a taller posture, which can cause one to stand closer to the ball, especially if one is not a tall player. Anything in golf can be taken too far, and what was a good thing, in retrospect, had gone too far for my body type. Standing closer to the ball, with a narrower stance and a taller posture, can lead to a swing plane that's too vertical, especially troublesome for shorter players. I had pulled my arms in closer to my chest, such that my elbows were REALLY close to my stomach. My arms were no longer just hanging from my shoulder sockets as they should be; I had been using unconscious tension to pull my arms inward, with my hands too close to my thighs at address. I had become that version of golfer that Tom Watson said didn't really exist: I was standing TOO close to the ball. My arm-triangle plane was angled inward; it no longer hung straight down. I had become TOO connected, meaning my entire upper arm was pressed against my torso, when only the top part of the upper arms should be pressed against or connected to the chest.
To correct my mistake, I had to let the triangle formed by my arms at address hang a little more freely from my shoulders, and because of this, I had to back away from the golf ball a few inches and bend over more. The club shaft automatically lowered into a flatter position at address, and I could focus a bit more on the inside of the ball instead of the top of it. It felt like I was much further away from the ball, and my posture was more bent over, covering the ball more. If you're 5-9 like me, chances are your posture should be more bent over, and your swing plane more flat. Getting further away from the ball (still only far enough so that one's arms hang freely) automatically shallows the swing plane and makes it easier to hit from the inside-out. It's also easier to stay in one's correct posture, covering the ball through impact, because the arms have space to move through without crashing into the body.
I finally started seeing a push again, which was a welcome sight after lining up on the left side of tee box, hoping to hit a push-draw, and instead, ending up with a pull-hook into the left rough or trees. If you do this and start pushing the ball, you will only need to close the club face more to get the ball drawing. If it starts hooking too much, you'll need to work on closing the club face less. This works hand-in-hand with a correct takeaway; be sure to keep the club outside the hands in the takeaway and avoid jerking the club inside, which will just cause another pull situation due to rerouting the club on the downswing.
Standing too close to the ball causes golfers to stand too upright, losing the forward upper body tilt. The arms won’t have enough room to hang and swing freely, causing the club to be lifted by the hands in the backswing, forced down on the downswing, and lifted again to the finish position. Since the hands are overly active, the body will remain relatively inactive resulting in poor club contact with the ball and very weak shots.
Your posture determines your swing plane to a large degree. It seems that golfers who stand very tall and close to the ball have very upright swings and golfers who bend over a lot and are farther from the ball tend to have flatter swings. I would encourage the average golfer to bend forward more in order to make it easier to make a flatter (more rounded) swing as this will help him hook the ball and also help him take a divot after the ball is struck.
Heck, if we can stand too far where we're reaching or stretching for the ball that takes us out of dynamic balance. It should be obvious that the exact opposite could be true. We can stand too close to the ball and be out of dynamic balance. In fact, being way too close to the ball, we're in trouble when we swing down with our hands and arms and club to impact the ball. We could very likely start bumping our arms into our body or into our hips or into our legs and have to spin out of the shot too fast to make room. So yes, we can definitely stand too close.
Interestingly enough, Martin Kaymer just brought this up last night on the Fix. He said when hitting a draw, he sets up a bit further away from the ball. This results in 2 key things for shaping a draw: I allows him to come more from the inside without getting stuck, and it flattens out his swing plane a bit more.
Standing with your body too close to the golf ball so you don’t give yourself enough room, then you try and lean back to create room, there’s another big cause of the fat shots.
If you stand too close to the ball the club gets too steep in the back swing and if you are too far away, the club becomes too flat. You need to get a feel for this and ensure that your weight is in the center of your feet. If you are too far away from the ball, you will feel like you are too much on the balls of your feet. If you are too close you will be on your heels.