Written By Joe Saia

“Golf is 40% setup”

– Jack Nicklaus

There is no one correct way to setup for a golf shot and this is shown when watching the best players in the world. Some players will setup with their alignments open to the target line and some players will setup with their alignments closed to the target line. It all depends on what type of shot the player is trying to hit at that time. Golf is also not always played on a perfectly flat surface so the best players know when to adjust their alignments based on different lies. Unlike top professionals, amateurs often overlook their setup alignments and this leads to inconsistency. Not all top players setup parallel with the target line, but for amateurs, setting up “parallel left” is a great image when learning how to properly align your body to hit a good golf shot.

Setup Misconceptions:

A lot of amateur players believe that they need to set their body alignments aimed directly towards the target in order to be aimed straight. This can lead to a right handed player setting up closed to the target which can effect the ball flight. Setting your body alignments closed to the ball to target line can result in the ball over hooking or being flared to the right. I explain how the setup can effect the balls flight in my article Hit Straighter Shots by “Turning Towards The Skid”. Players should understand that the ball to target line is different from the body target line and they shouldn’t both be aimed directly at the target. Doing so can cause inconsistencies with the ball flight. Players should instead learn to setup with their body alignments aimed “parallel left” to the ball to target line.

Setting Up “Parallel Left”:

Drill: Now that you understand that the body target line is separate from the balls target line you can learn how to setup parallel left. When learning to setup parallel left you should use 2 alignment rods. One is for your body alignments and one is for the balls alignment. If you go to any PGA TOUR event and watch the players on the driving range most of them are using alignment rods to make sure their alignments are setup the way they want them. Lay one alignment rod on the ground aimed directly at the target. This rod will represent your ball to target line. Then lay the second alignment rod to the inside and parallel to the first rod. This alignment rod will represent your body alignments. Your body alignments are your feet, knees, hips, shoulders, and eyes. All of which should be aimed parallel to the ball to target line. It is okay for your shoulders to be setup slightly more open than your other body alignments. Now match your club face with the ball to target line and your body alignments to the inside alignment rod. This will set up your body alignments to be parallel left of the ball to target line (refer to the image below for a parallel left setup). All amateurs should practice setting up parallel left which gives them the best chance at a neutral swing path and straighter shots.

A parallel left setup for better golf alignments.
A parallel left setup using alignment rods. Note that it may look like my lead foot is aimed well left, this is only because my lead foot is turned out about 45 degrees. Flaring the lead foot out about 30-45 degrees is common among top players and can improve rotation through impact.

Railroad Tracks:

A popular example among top instructors is to use railroad tracks to give the student a mental picture of a parallel left setup. The two rails on a railroad track are setup parallel to each other. If they were both aimed directly towards the target then the rails would intersect. Think of the outside rail as the ball to target line. This is where your clubface should be aimed, directly towards the target. The inside rail represents how your body alignments should be aimed, parallel left of the outside rail (refer to the image below for a visual reference). The next time you are practicing on the range try getting into a parallel left setup by using alignment rods. You might be surprised to see that you have been setting up your alignments incorrectly and that could be the cause of inconsistent shots.

Parallel left setup for better golf alignments.
Jason Day is an eight time PGA TOUR winner, including the 2015 PGA Championship.

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