The Golf Setup: A Detailed & Visual Guide

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the golf setup

Developing a proper, structured golf setup and stance will help you achieve your lowest scores to date. 

How could we know that? By specifically focusing on building our setup in the most repeatable way possible I’ve lowered my handicap significantly, seen more stable and predictable scoring results, and feel exponentially less stress on the course, generating much better golf! 

Below, I’ll detail every crucial aspect of the golf setup and stance you should master to show you why the setup such an important fundamental to the golf swing just like a proper grip. Each section below contains its own set of instructions, so I encourage you to read deeper into each part to make sure you are getting every checkpoint of the setup correct!

Step 1: Align Your Clubface To Your Target

square to target illustration

Ensuring your clubface is in proper alignment with your target is the first step to more consistent and accurate shots with every club. 

We start our alignment by standing directly behind the golf ball and choosing our ending target in the distance. From there, we pick a point on this “target line” between the ball and target, and aim our clubface directly at the point we chose in front of our golf ball on our “target line.”
In our example above, our ending goal was the right-center of the green. A divot in front of us lined up perfectly with that area. We teed up directly behind this divot to help our visual of the “target line!” Some golfers call this “Bringing the target closer to you.” and it’s incredibly helpful for your golf game to do so!

Detailed Guide Here: Club Face Position During the Setup: Golf Explained

Step 2: Check Your Bodily Alignment With the Target

golf setup alignment

After ensuring our club face is aimed correctly, we align our feet, hips, and shoulders parallel to our target line (not directly at our target). 

We like to visualize imaginary “train tracks” between our feet and the target when we’re struggling to align our feet or shoulders “parallel to our target line.” 

Nailing proper alignment from the very beginning of the golf swing setup gives us the greatest chance of hitting the ball at our target with the least excess swing variables possible! 

Detailed Guide Here: Golf Alignment 101: Everything Explained

Step 3: Determine How Far to Stand From the Golf Ball

easy golf setup drill

Essentially every amateur/recreational golfer stands too close or too far away from the ball when they create their stance. 

To determine your appropriate distance to stand from the ball with any club in your bag, simply follow these steps:

Stand upright and extend your arms from your body until your golf club is parallel with the ground (and your grip points at your belly button). 

Hinge forward at the waist until your club reaches the ground. Where your club naturally rests (with your hands below your shoulder sockets) is the perfect distance to stand from the ball!

Detailed Guide Here: How Far to Stand from the Golf Ball

Step 4: Establish the Correct Ball Position

golf ball position for each club type setup

Proper ball position will change depending on which club category you choose from for your specific shot (Wedges and “Scoring Irons,” Long Irons, Fairway Woods, Driver). 

We follow a very simple rule to ensure we establish the correct ball position with every club: 

“Position the ball 1 golf ball-width forward of the last as you progress through every club category.”

Beginning at the center of your stance for wedges and scoring irons, simply move the ball one ball width forward of center for long irons, one ball position forward of that for hybrids and fairway woods, and another ball position forward of that for driver!

Detailed Guide Here: Golf Ball Positioning for Each Club Type: Golf Explained

Step 5: Match Your Golf Stance With the Club

Golf stance width

To perfectly control the “low point” of your golf swing (where the club bottoms out with the ground while swinging) you must adjust the width of your golf stance depending on the club you’re using. 

Wedges can afford to have the narrowest stance (just inside shoulder width apart) because they are the shortest clubs in length! A correct iron stance is slightly wider than a wedge stance, at roughly shoulder width apart. 
Since the driver is the longest club in your bag with the widest swing arc, it requires the widest stance. We position our feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Detailed Guide Here: Proper Golf Stance for Drivers, Irons, and Wedges

Step 6: Distribute Your Weight Properly Between Your Legs

weight transfer golf compared to baseball

Wedge shots require precise contact and less powerful swings than irons, fairway woods, or the driver. 

When thinking of weight distribution during your setup, wedge shots can afford to have more weight on the leading foot (left foot for right-handed golfers) to limit their swings to a repeatable length for more accuracy and distance control.

For driver swings and iron swings, golfers should feel their weight distributed evenly between their legs. 

Even weight distribution for these types of shots helps golfers transfer their weight efficiently between their trailing leg and leading leg for more power and distance!

Detailed Guide Here: Weight Transfer in the Golf Swing

Step 7: Check Your Golf Posture

Finding The Proper Golf Posture

Having correct “golf posture” not only saves you from potential injury, but also allows your golf swing to work most effectively for more consistent play. 

We find perfect golf posture every swing by taking an iron in hand and placing the grip end on our hip and the clubhead end at our foot/side. 

When the grip is aligned with your hip bone, the club head should be between your ankle and the balls of your feet. This signifies “perfect posture” in the lower half of our body!

From this position, we simply hinge forward at the waist (like we explained in Step 3: Determine How Far to Stand Away from the Ball) until the club reaches the ground and we’re in perfect posture for our golf swing!

Detailed Guide Here: Perfect Golf Posture

Step 8: Position Your Hands Appropriately at Address

shaft lean golf hand position golf setup

The best position for your hands at address with every golf club is a moderate amount of forward press where the butt-end of the grip points just forward of the zipper on your pants. 

Too much forward press of the hands will lower the loft of your golf club (lowering the flight and increasing your likelihood of chunking the ball). 

Not enough forward press or even poressing backwards of the hands will often result in skulled shots (from hitting the equator of the golf ball), slices, or topped shots that travel very little distance.

Detailed Guide Here: Hand Position At Address in Golf

Step 9: Incorporate a Shoulder Tilt

How to Create Perfect Shoulder Tilt With The Driver

Thinking about the golf swing anatomically, the trailing hand is lower on the grip than the leading hand, meaning your body will create a natural amount of shoulder tilt with all clubs.

That said, many amateur and recreational golfers have a love/hate relationship with the driver due to the fact it causes the biggest and most costly misses for most players. 

When our driver feels out-of-sorts, the first thing we do to add more consistency is ensure we have the proper amount of shoulder tilt. To set the right amount of shoulder tilt with the driver, its important not to overdo it. A handy trick is to hug the driver at the center of your chest, then while holding the driver in place against your body, point the club head towards the tee’d-up golf ball.

Helpful Tip: When creating your stance with the driver, release your trailing hand from your grip. Your hand should fall away from the club and naturally be lower than your leading hand, further ensuring you have proper shoulder tilt. 

Detailed Guide Here: Shoulder Tilt With The Driver Explained

Step 10: Check Your Aim

Bring Your Target Closer To You

Even after performing all the previous steps correctly, it’s completely normal and natural to wiggle/ mini-step and adjust your feet as you stand over the ball and look between the ball and your target. 

A good way to establish your aim is to identify your target and your intermediate target. This allows us to align our bodies accordingly following these two points while ensuring our club face is squared towards that target.
One of the best ways to check your aim is to have a friend, film your golf swing or when you’re playing down at the course. You’ll be surprised to realize that you can think you’re aimed in one place, while actually aimed somewhere entirely different. It happens all the time!

Detailed Guide Here: How to Aim in Golf


Correct Golf Stance for Drivers, Irons, and Wedges

The proper golf stance for each golf club is a combination of the width of your stance, the amount of knee bend, the angle of your shoulders to the target, and weight distribution.

Shoulder Tilt With The Driver EXPLAINED 

Discover the pivotal role of shoulder tilt in hitting the driver and witness noticeable differences in your game.
Hand Position At Address in Golf

Correct Hand Position At Address in Golf

The correct hand position at address depends on the golf club you use. Generally, the longer the club, the further your hands are from your body which reduces mobility and improves consistency.

The Perfect Golf Posture

To determine if you’ve got the perfect golf posture, check that your Armpits over knees, knees over balls of feet, arms comfortably underneath or slightly in front of shoulders, slight rounding of upper back, flat lower back (avoid arching), and butt-end (handle) of golf grip pointing at waistline.
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ScramblingTom is a writer for Golf Leap and has been playing golf competitively for the last 13 years. He loves to dive deep into different subjects within the game to further his knowledge and help others along the way. Currently, he is hovering around Scratch.

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