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Ball Position in the Micro-World of Golf

Ball Position in the Micro-World of Golf
By Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

Golf is a game of geometry, so you need the correct ball position to facilitate the rotary action that creates a powerful and accurate swing. One way to look at it is that all you’re really doing with your set up is arranging an exact micro-world collision so that when your clubhead arrives at the appropriate point on the swing arc, the ball simply gets in its way. If the ball is somewhere other than the ideal position, the impact will be mistimed, producing a problematic shot. This condition is aggravated by the fact that most targets are much farther away in golf than in any other ball-sport, causing The Magnification of Error (micro-error at impact = macro-error at target), and this makes golf not a game of inches, but a game of micro-inches.

It Could Be…

Granted, an article about ball position sounds boring, but think about this: Although it has never been studied scientifically, faulty ball position could be the reason for the sudden disappearance of your A-swing. Here’s a little-known fact – by affecting the muscles of your eyes, stress can cause your eyesight to change, meaning the information you are receiving over the ball is flawed – not much perhaps, but in a world where contact between clubface and ball is timed in milliseconds and measured in millimeters, the dispersion from error at say 150 yards is significant.  In the micro-world of impact at 100 miles an hour, the clubface moves a half an inch with the ball still on the clubface, a.k.a. clubface dwell, which is about ½ a millisecond or .0005 seconds (1000ms = 1 second). Plus, when you combine this type of sensitivity of the micro-world with having to stand to the side of a ball that is well below your shoulders, the question must arise “how many times around do you produce the correct ball position?” And it’s not just you – every week you can turn on your TV and watch the best golfers in the world who have played flawlessly for three and ½ rounds suddenly hitting some bad shots on Sunday-late.

Fixing Faldo’s Foul-ups

Unfortunately for the viewer, understanding why players collapse is not furthered by announcers playing teacher like Nick Faldo who misdiagnose the video instead of admitting “well I don’t see anything he did wrong in the swing itself -it could have been his ball position.” Now, while you have to be careful about camera angles, especially on TV, I can tell you that most of the swing analysis on TV is off the mark. It ends well because it funnels business to the real teachers who profit by fixing Faldo’s foul-ups.

How important is correct ball position?

I offer the case of Ralph Guldahl as an example. He was a very good player who had won several major championships in the 1930s when he signed to do a book that included photography of swing sequences. The problem was that the photographer didn’t understand golf and he took the address shots at an angle that made it look as if the ball was too far back in his stance. Not realizing the problem, Guldahl moved the ball forward, practiced very hard that way and promptly lost his game. Two years later, no longer able to play at a high level, he retired and became a teaching pro.

Our model is using a pitching wedge which is played back near the middle of the stance, and as the club gets longer, the ball position moves forward until the driver is played approximately off the lead shoulder. So, depending on the club, the ball is positioned somewhere in between the middle of your stance and your lead shoulder. It also depends on your swing type (steep or shallow) and the curve of the shot you want to hit – draws are played farther back in the stance while fades are farther forward.

It takes practice in order to find the right ball position at address and match it up with the desired ball flight. With a short iron, our model has her hands ahead of her clubhead at impact in order to strike with a descending blow. With the ball positioned off her left shoulder, she will take the ball with an ascending blow which is correct for the driver.

Takeaway: Stress changes your eyesight, and that creates errors in ball position, which then lead to impact problems – which in turn lead to errant shots – which in turn leads to more stress – and so the loop reverberates, and your swing disintegrates.

So, when your shot results take a turn for the worse, always check out your ball position first before you make in-swing changes.  

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.