Golf is an athletic game based in geometry and physics. The outcome of most golf shots is determined before you take the club back. Even the best golfers in the world have a difficult time hitting the ball consistently when their setup is off. Setting up for success does not necessarily mean setting up perfectly square every time. As always, there are variations to a square setup depending on what particular shot you're going to play. Those variations are covered in many of our shotmaking articles. Here we are focused on how to setup square every time.
How to Setup Square
Pick an Intermediate Target
Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, two of the best golfers that have ever lived, both use an intermediate target a few feet in front of the ball to line up all their full shots. In order to emulate them, pick an old divot, broken tee, or some discoloration in the ground about 5 to 10 feet in front of your ball. That spot should be on a direct line between your long range target and your golf ball. Standing behind the ball, picture a straight line that intersects your ball, your intermediate target, and your long range target. This is called your target line.
Aim the Clubface First
As you approach the golf ball to set-up, aim your clubface at your intermediate target first. In other words, your clubface will be lined up perpendicular to your target line. Most people do it the other way around. They aim their bodies first and then the clubface. The result is almost always a stance that is setup to the right of the intended target. Once again, set your clubface first, then set your feet.
Note: If you're having difficulty determining whether or not your clubface is aimed at your intermediate target, focus on the bottom groove of the club. The loft on clubs can play tricks on your eyes and narrowing your focus to the bottom groove will give you a better idea of where square is.
Set Body Parallel Left (For Righties)
Imagine a railroad track. The outside track is the target line and the inside track is parallel to the target line but to the left. The feet, knees, hips and shoulders should be aimed to the left of the target (not at the target) because the ball is to our right. A good drill to practice this is to take a club and place it a few feet in front of your ball pointing at your target. Next, take another club where your feet will be placed and set it parallel to the club pointing at your target. Most of you will find that it feels you are aiming farther left (for righties) than you normally do. You can also have someone watch you and make sure your body is parallel left of the target and the club head is facing the target.