Ball Position

Ball PositionBy 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 a collaboration between Mr. Irvin and Golfer's Guide's Online Editor, Brandon Underwood.

Proper ball position is a critical element in making solid impact with all of your clubs. Growing up in Ohio, I was always told, as most are, that the mid- to short-irons were to be positioned in the center of the stance. The long irons were to be positioned between the center of the stance and the left heel and all woods should be positioned off of the left heel. 

Not knowing any better, that's exactly what I did. Who was I to question the better players and notable instructors? Looking back on those days, I now know why I had trouble hitting fairway woods and longer irons. Let's talk through this and I think you may see "ball positioning" in a different light.

Envision the motion of the golf swing, focusing on the clubhead as it swings. It is truly a pendulum like arc. Within the arc the club is swinging, where do we need to strike the ball to insure solid contact?

There are three options: the downside, the bottom or the upside. To contact the ball solidly when it is on the ground, you must strike it on the downside (just before the bottom) of the arc.

Ball Position
The club's downward position at impact

Common sense would tell us the bottom but as I have stated before, common sense will lead you in the wrong direction every time in this game. The next time you are watching a tournament on television, pay close attention to the slow motion replays zoomed all the way in during the moment of impact. You will see the club striking the ball, then the ground. This reinforces what we are describing.

Now, let's discuss the pendulum like motion to help you find a reference for the "lowest point" in your golf swing. This will set you up for success at address. The lowest point in a pendulum is, and will always be, below the center or fulcrum regardless of the length of the club.

Knowing your body is responsible for swinging the golf club, we can predict the lowest point if we can find the center of your body. I will use your sternum or chin as that reference. (PHOTO: Set up workstation to reference).

Setting up a Workstation
Setting up a Workstation

Your chin/sternum defines where your lowest point will occur; I don't like to use the center of the feet as a reference because that doesn't necessarily represent the center of the body. So when the ball is on the ground (no matter what club it is) the ball should be lined up with your center.

The more you position the ball forward at address, the more likely you are to drop-kick, fat and/or thin shots unless you move your center forward on the downswing to assure a descending blow. Knowing the swing itself will last less than a second and a half and the club will be traveling upward of 60 miles per hour, there is no way you'll be able to time out the manipulation required to strike the ball on the downside of the arc given poor ball position.

Let's talk about the only club that requires a different position - the Driver. If you're trying to maximize your distance and improve your accuracy with the driver, striking the ball on the upside of the arc the club is swinging is a must. This is why we will start by positioning the ball out toward the left heel. This positions your center (lowest point in the arc) six to eight inches behind the ball. This sets us up to strike the ball on the upside of the arc.

Driver Swing Path
Driver Swing Path
Driver Swing Path
  Driver Swing Path 
Driver Swing Path

Realize this just sets you up for success. A lot of my students that struggle with the driver are moving their chin (center) toward the ball on the downswing. This causes numerous problems with contact, distance and direction.

In conclusion, based on the physics of the golf swing, all shots that are on the ground should be lined up with your chin at address. A little deviation won't hurt you, but for the sake of simplicity and consistency try to keep it as close as possible to your true center, which will eliminate the manipulation requirement to achieve solid impact. This is to achieve impact on the downside of the arc the club is swinging.

The only club that differs is the driver. We position it forward of our center to achieve impact on the upside of the arc. This helps in launching the ball with proper spin in an effort to maximize our potential distance and directional control.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via phone or email.

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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