by Cathy Mant

Good golf weather is almost upon us and that means the start of the golf season is near. It is time to begin setting some personal goals for your game and to have a plan for reaching those goals.

In all my years as a player and then as a teacher I have found that the one area that contributes to poor shot making is poor preswing setup. I am referring to your grip, your alignment and your stance, ie G.A.S.

Right now is a great time to review your own grip, alignment and stance so you will be ready to begin your practice with sound fundamentals. If your G.A.S. is correct then it makes it much easier to swing the golf club properly. If you have errors in your G.A.S. then you have to make compensations in your golf swing for an improper setup.

A poor grip in many cases is a leading cause for either a slice or a hook. In other woods, how your hands are set on the club can effect the direction of the golf ball. The grip can also effect your distance because a poor grip can limit your ability to hinge your wrists correctly thus limiting potential clubhead speed.

Alignment is the area that even the world’s best players constantly check. If you have poor alignment then some form of a swing compensation (flaw) must occur in order for the ball to travel to the target. There are a number of ways to work on aligning your body correctly to your target.

An easy exercise is to lay a club down on the ground pointing directly to your target. Stand with your feet and shoulders parallel to this club. Generally speaking most golfers have a tendency to aim 15-20 yards to the right of their target because they believe that they are to align their feet to the target when in fact they are to align their feet parallel to their “target line” (the imaginary line drawn from the target right back through the ball).

The final ingredient of a great setup and the one I will emphasize is your stance. This incorporates your posture, your weight distribution between both feet, your ball position and the distance that you stand from the ball. Even at a professional level this area is monitored constantly because an improper stance makes it more difficult to produce a good repetitive golf swing.

In my teaching, I have found that the biggest culprit in this area is the way people posture themselves to hit the ball. When bending to hit the ball you should be in an athletic ready position, which means that your knees are very slightly flexed and your back is tilted at approximately a 45 degree angle (this depends on your height). Many golfers bend from the waist which gives the back the appearance of being rounded or hunched. The back should remain fairly straight but tilted so really you are bending from the hip joints.

Your weight should be evenly distributed between both feet for most shots and you should feel completely in balance at address. Finally the distance that you stand from the ball can vary slightly but I have found that at address a good guide is that your hands and club should hang about a handspread from your left thigh (if you are a right handed player).

As you can see there are a number of things to look for if you are going to set up to the ball correctly. I firmly believe that every golfer can look like a professional at address if they are free of any physical limitations. It takes a lot of practice to have a good G.A.S. but the rewards are in the great shots that you will make and the lower scores that you will shoot. So now is the time to begin working on your G.A.S.

Cathy Mant, a member of the National Golf Coaches Hall of Fame, is a LPGA Teaching Professional at Leonard Golf Links. Previously, she played on the LPGA tour for ten years, serving as President of the LPGA in 1985.