Aim and Alignment

Aim and AlignmentBy Jim Irvin, Director of Instruction Belfair Country Club

Editor's Note: The following is the first in a continuing series of bi-weekly instruction articles and is collaboration between Mr. Irvin and Golfer's Guide's Online Editor, Brandon Underwood.

These two words are often used in golf, but what do they really mean? If you have poor aim and/or alignment, this will force you to manipulate to achieve an acceptable result. If not, well, you know the outcome.

As we get started, the first thing you should always do prior to striking your first golf ball in each training session is set up a workstation. The best players in the world never assume they are “aimed/aligned” properly.

They will always have references lying on the ground insuring they are correct! That said, I highly advise that you set a shaft down in front of the hitting area representing your intended target line. Then you can lay another shaft down that is parallel to the target line for a body reference.

The Workstation

Keep in mind that everything you do in your setup and swing is in reference to the intended target line. Most reference their toe-line when working on alignment. Reality is that the club dictates where the ball goes; not your body. Those that align their toe-line, knees, hips and shoulders in the direction of the target are actually aimed way to the right of the target. Given this scenario, you must literally pull the ball back (or strike the outside of the golf ball) to the target to achieve success. I love the saying “If you have poor aim, you’d better not have a good swing!” This saying pretty much sums it up.

The first thing you should do when setting up the golf ball is “aim” the clubface at the target. 

Aiming the clubface

To help insure that the face is pointing where you would like the ball to go, try picking out a spot that is 12” to 18” in front of the ball. This is commonly referred to as an “intermediate target”. This allows you to take a target that could be up to 300 yards away and make it 18” away from the ball! You and I both know that it will be much easier to align to something 18” away versus 300 yards. As well, it forces you to reference the clubface in aiming rather than the body.

The next step is to “align” the body to the pre-set club.

Aligning the Body

Note: Once you have the clubface aimed, freeze the handle and hands, and then set your body up to the club. Do not let the handle move as you align your body to the club as it will change the aim of the clubface.

In nearly 22 years of teaching golf, I have never had to show someone how to setup to a golf club! What’s my point? If you aim the clubface first then align the body to the club, you will improve your direction as well as your swing! Due to poor aim and alignment, your swing will have to be a series of manipulations to achieve the result you so desire. Example: If you are aiming way to the right (right-handed golfer) then you must come across (pull) the ball to get it back to the target. We both know this won’t be possible to do all day, hence the word “inconsistency”.

About Jim Irvin: Mr. Irvin is in his first year as Director of Instruction at Belfair Country Club. He has been a PGA member since 1993 and studied under renowned instructor Jim Flick for a number of years. Flick coached notables such as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Lehman. Irvin was named "Teacher of the Year" for the Southern Ohio Section of the PGA in 2000 and 2005. He has been a participant on the NIKE and Tours. Irvin is a 4-time winner of the Northern Ohio PGA Match Play tournament ('89, '91-'93) and has won 15 PGA Section events. At Ohio Wesleyan University, he was a two-time All-American and was named NCAC Conference Player of the Year in 1987. He was also selected to the conference's All-Decade Team (1984-1993).

If you're interested in receiving a lesson or instruction from Mr. Irvin, he may be reached by telephone at (843) 757-0726 or by e-mail at

About Belfair Country Club: Along with the magnificent half-mile oak-lined drive, Belfair is home to both prehistoric and historic sites, dramatic marsh and river views, secluded wetlands and Hidden Lake, a 42-acre freshwater chain of lakes. Approximately 1100 acres in size, Belfair is located on the mainland in Bluffton, SC five (5) miles from Hilton Head Island, SC on Highway 278. Its waterfront side faces the marshes of the Colleton River. Belfair is 25 miles north of Savannah, GA, 32 miles south of Beaufort, SC, and 110 miles south of Charleston, SC.



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