Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers every to live, wrote a book called, “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” in 1957. This book is relevant to this day. The golf industry of today has radar systems, launch monitors, high speed cameras, balance boards and many other technological devises that confirms Hogan knew what he was talking about.
As most good players in Hogan’s area, he grew up working at a golf course as an Assistant Golf Professional and caddie. The good players were students of the game, and gave lesson at the local country club to make a living. Many tour players today are only students of their swing coach, but do not study the game enough to become teachers themselves. No one blames them; they make money enough playing the game that they do not need a job on the side.
I will read Hogan’s book at least once a year to revisit the classic fundamentals of the game of golf. The book is the bestselling golf instructional book ever written. However, Hogan did cause one debate among golf instructors, and that was his theory on ball position. Hogan and many other golf instructors of past and present believe in “constant ball position.” Constant ball position is always having the golf ball equal to the left chest at address or just inside the left heel. The right foot moves to the right for a wider stance when progressing to longer clubs in the golf bag, but the ball in relation to the left chest or left heel never changes as seen in picture A.
Another ball position belief is “progressive ball position,” as seen in picture B. Progressive ball position is the adjustment in the distance from ball to the left heel depending on the club being swung. The short and middle irons ball position is in the middle to one golf ball left of the center of the stance. Hybrids and long irons ball position is two golf ball widths left of center. Fairway woods ball position is just inside the left heel. The driver ball position is even with the inside of the left heel. Constant and progressive ball position have one thing in common: the golfer does widen the stance when hitting longer clubs.
How do you determine were the ball position is in relation to your feet? Let’s go back to Part 3, alignment. Alignment is feet and body parallel to the target line. The target line is the golf ball to target the golfer has chosen in the distance. Ball position is a 90 degree angle relative to the target line, as seen in pictures A and B.
Even though I am the big fan of “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” I believe that progressive ball position is the best way to play golf. I believe that both ball position theories work, but progressive ball position lets a golfers have the correct angle of the attack on each club without changing the golf swing.
The bottom point in the swing should be even with the left chest or four inches in front of the middle of the stance. When hitting short and middle irons, this means a golfer would hit the golf ball and then impact the ground about four inches after the ball. Research has shown that a tour player’s average impact with the ground is four inches in front of the ball with a 7 iron. The higher the handicap the farther back the golfer will typically impact the ground.
Long irons, hybrids and fairway woods impact needs to be at the lowest point of the swing arch or the bottom out point. Hybrids and fairway woods are designed with the weight in back or to right of the club face to launch the golf ball higher in the air. The golf club design concepts works when impact with the hybrids and fairway woods is at the bottom of the swing arch. Golfers should hit up on a driver. This is the reason the golf ball should be even with the left heel when hitting a driver. The club will bottom out even with the left chest and then ascend slightly by the time the club reaches impact with the golf ball.
I always tell my students as golfers we need to have one swing, and the only thing that changes is ball position. This will help create consistency, and consistency is the key to getting better at the game of golf. Go see your local PGA professional to see if you have the correct ball position for each club in your bag.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is an active Student Mentor at FGCU; a volunteer with the First Tee program and was presented the 2010 and 2011 PGA’s President Council Awards on “Growing the Game.”