Hitting the Ball Sideways? Check Your Alignment

After a couple of recent horrendous ball striking adventures, I returned to my hometown over the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding. It couldn’t have come at a better time for my golf game, because this enabled me to fit in a much needed lesson with an old instructor of mine who has known my game for 12 years. With numerous tournaments coming up in the next month or so, I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to worry about hitting the ball on the club face.

After hitting numerous balls in front of him, he couldn’t understand what I was talking about, because he didnt see anything that would promote wayward shots in my swing. This was despite the fact that all of my divots were pointed well left of my target. Then, he grabbed my 7 iron and told me to aim at a lone flag stick about 160 or so yards (143 meters) out into the range. I hit three shots. One started about 15 paces right of the flag and faded further right, the next was pulled about 20 paces left of the flag, and the third was a flat out shank. Ouch. Hadn’t hit one in years. But, when you’re head is all messed up, and you have no idea where the ball is going, you forget to make an actual golf swing.

After the last shot, he had seen enough, and he informed me that I was aimed “At least 15-20 yards right of your target.” I had apparently hit the first shot right where I was aimed. Then I compensated for that by coming way over the top of the next one in an attempt to pull it on to the green, and he didn’t want to talk about the third one.

This ocassionally happens to me, so I wasn’t totally surprised. It is just very difficult for me to catch, because to my eyes, it looked like I was aligned perfectly with my target. My shoulders tend to get a little closed at times, but apparently my feet, and worst of all, club face were aimed nowhere near the stick.

The best way to catch yourself is to set up to the ball and your target, and have a friend, or your closest neighbor lay a long iron at your feet. Take a step back and examine the results, you might be surprised. And if this doesn’t work, do the same thing with your shoulders, this is usually where I find my faults.

It is basically impossible to make an on plane golf swing when your alignment is incorrect. Poor alignment leads to you eventually adjusting to this fault at some point in your golf swing. In my case, I was coming over the top of the ball like I was casting a fishing line, to compensate for aiming way right.

The majority of people I encounter with poor alignment are aiming well left of their target to compensate for a slice. This only makes their slice worse. Doing this is ALLOWING for the slice to happen, because you have to open the club face on the way down and cut across the ball to get it heading  back toward your target. Squaring up to your target will likely feel extremely awkward at first, and you will likely hit the ball worse than you did before. But, as they always say, you have to get worse before you can get better.

-Patrick Keegan

4 Responses to “Hitting the Ball Sideways? Check Your Alignment”

  1. Tom says:

    I am 68 yr old 15 handicap who can shape the ball both left and right yet play mostly to a hook. I do enjoy reading or watching all the instruction to perfect one’s game,, however, so little time is spent on critical problem as the SHANK, even in the above article it is ignored? Clearly you know this problem can arrive in anyones game, at any moment, and even to professionals,,, why are you and other instructors afraid of approaching the “SHANKS”?

  2. Mike Black says:

    I have issues with alignment at times, and have found that if I extend my leating arm and point at the target, then as long as my shoulders and arm are in a straight line and I ground the club whilst standing thus, I will, for the most part, hit the ball toward the target and not to either left or right.

    My biggest problem with this is that I have not incorporated this into my pre-shot routine; I must be stark raving bonkers not to do so!!!

  3. Robert Hutton says:

    I know my aligment is out because I push most of my putts right. I hit my appraoches right, which has led to drawing the ball with my irons, but my bad shot is usually a pull with those short irons. I hit three straight J. Arthurs a couple of weeks ago, from a position where I usally hit a comfortable eight iron to birdie distance. I didn’t even bother looking for the balls. But playing a second and third into the same area scared me. I though that shot was well and truly out of my locker. But hey, my set up position has recently been right beside the hosel, so I know how to change it. 😳

  4. peter cox says:

    Great to hear that I’m not alone. The other day I peppered the green with balls during practice and was feeling great. Suddenly the ball shanked and the next 15 or so shots did the same regardless what I did

    – I gave up in disgust.

    Almost certainly it was missalignment as you point out. I’ll try that next time.


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