Making contact with the golf ball, and making the golf ball fly in the air at the target are golfer’s instinctual foundations. Even the least athletic golfer has these two instincts. I believe my job as an instructor is to provide students guidance that enables their instincts to succeed more consistently. It’s what I hear most on the lesson tee, “I just want to be more consistent.” If a golfer’s club face or body alignment makes these two instincts hard to accomplish, there will be compensations made when delivering the club head – and compensations lead to inconsistency.
If the club face is opened or closed during the downswing it will change how a player intuitively delivers the club head. As an experiment, turn the club face closed (where the club face is almost pointing back at you), then grip the club—now try to hit the ball at the target. Then do the opposite, turn the club open (where the club face is pointing away from your body), then grip the club—try to hit the ball at the target. When this drill is complete it will be evident that our instincts are strong, and the club face orientation changes how we deliver the club head into the golf ball.
For many golfers, club face alignment at address is an issue, and leads to compensating movements during the swing in the attempt to make the ball fly towards the target. Many golfers align with their eyes or their body to the target. However, the golf ball only knows the club head, and the longer the club the farther away our eyes are from the golf ball, and target line at address. If the body is aligned at the target, and the club head is aligned adjacent to the body, the club head is well right of the target (for a right handed golfer). The club head from 150 yards can be aimed 20 to 25 yards right of the target with this misalignment. With the misalignment to the right our subconscious/instinct will have us making inswing adjustments, and lead to inconsistency.
Proper club face alignment is not perfectly straight at the target. However, I believe it should be in the ballpark of straight. As an instructor, I prefer students aim the club face at the intended starting line of the desired ball flight. For those who draw the ball, the club face will be aligned slightly right (for right handed golfer) of the intended end target. Conversely, for those who fade the golf ball slightly left of the intended end target. And yes, there are players on tour who aim the club face not in the ball park of straight. However, I believe most amateurs would benefit from this ideal.
To make sure your club face is in the ball park of the intended starting line, focus more on where the club face is aiming when you address the golf ball, and then align your body according to the club face—not the other way around. Use alignment rods, or one of your golf clubs, as a guide when you practice. We must learn how to align without these guides though, so only use them for 10 to 15 shots, and work without them in an attempt to develop a procedure in which you can align the club face appropriately at address on every shot.
Todd Elliott is the Head Golf Professional at Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island, Florida. Todd is a PGA and CMAA member. Todd is Titleist Performance Institute Level 3 Golf Certified. To contact Todd email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @elliottgolfpro.