The Setup Revisited

John Stahlschmidt
PGA Director of Instruction
JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

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Jack Nicklaus said it best, “The single most important maneuver in golf is the setup” (meaning how you position yourself to the ball before you swing). “Setup correctly,” explained Jack, “and there’s a good chance you’ll hit a reasonable shot, even if you make a mediocre swing. Set up poorly, and you’ll hit a lousy shot even if you make the greatest swing in the world.”

Jack went on to explain that each new season consisted of work to improve his Grip, Posture and Alignment. The reality remains that the setup can make or break your ability to shoot better scores. Since it is the beginning of the year, I want you to do an audit of your grip, posture and alignment. Below are some points that will help guide you through the process.

1.  Grip – the grip is the only physical connection we have with the club and the manner in which we hold the club dictates how we can or can’t use the club face.    The club face determines the starting direction of your golf ball and influences the curve. If you have too strong or weak of a grip, you can struggle with ball control.  Check your grip and make sure it is close to neutral. Finally, make sure you are not gripping the club too tight with your fingers and that you have little to no tension in your arms and shoulders.

2.  Posture – There are 3 types of posture: C posture, Neutral or S posture. C posture is no good as it makes it impossible to turn your upper body during the backswing. S posture is not good as it puts a tremendous amount of stress on your lower back. The ideal posture is neutral. This allows you to pivot correctly which will lead to better golf shots.

3.  Alignment – It is obviously important to aim your club face in the general direction you want the ball to start. The next step should be to always align your body (feet, hips and shoulders) parallel left of the target (for a right handed golfer). This “square” setup will allow you the best chance to hit your ball with minimal curve. If you want to curve your ball to the right (for a right handed golfer) try opening your stance or aligning your body more to the left and vice versa for a shot that you want to curve to the left.

Most golfers tend to overlook their setup and focus more on the actual golf swing. If you simply pay more attention to your setup, not only will your swing get better but your scores will improve.

John Stahlschmidt, PGA is the Director of Operations for the TOURAcademy brand and is Senior Head Instructor for TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass and the PGA Tour Golf Academy at the World Golf Village. To comment on this column, email John at