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Swing Principle #2: Alignment

A Story from John Toepel
Kent Shumate is both a Concept Golf student and the golf professional at the Mount Airy Country Club in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Several years ago Kent decided to become a better golfer. He found a renowned teacher and visited him about six times each year for five years. However, Kent's game deteriorated rather than improving. When he talked to me about the state of his game during a PGA meeting in Myrtle Beach, he had reached the low point of his golf life.

He asked if I thought I could help him. "Yes, probably," I said. "We need to play golf together and get to know each other. Then we'll know." We played several rounds of golf. I knew I could help him and he trusted me. The swing instruction took only a few minutes, and the result was terrific. Kent immediately began hitting the ball much farther. When we started playing golf his drives were 50 yards behind mine - and I'm 25 years his senior. Now his drives are at least 75 yards ahead of mine -- and he is not as much fun to play with.

His scores did not immediately come down. First of all, he didn't know how far he could hit each club. It was difficult for him to make pars and birdies after hitting his shots over the greens. We also worked on his wedge shots, his confidence and his playing strategy. His golf game is now very good - and he knows it. When ability and confidence converge there is no limit to how low a golfer can score. About three weeks ago Kent called to tell me he had played well in a tournament. He said, "I didn't miss a shot for 15 holes. I messed up on the way in, but those 15 holes were perfect."

Last week Kent called again. This time he told a better story. He had played in another tournament and started out with an eagle, then a birdie. After 14 holes he was six under par. Kent finished three under and WON the tournament!

Just thought you'd like to hear about a very happy Concept Golf golfer. Let me hear about your golf successes! You can email me at john@conceptgolf.com
John Toepel

Alignment, the second of Concept Golf's five Swing Principles, is the next step to helping you become a great shot-maker!

Alignment is simply positioning the club and body so the ball can be delivered to the target with an uncomplicated swing. This is simple and important, but it is often overlooked or misunderstood. To consistently hit the ball toward the target, the club and body need to be correctly positioned.

Aiming the club at the target involves making an imaginary straight line through the ball to the target and simply setting the club behind the ball so that the bottom line of the club is perpendicular to the target line.

Once the club is positioned correctly, you need to position your body so that it can function most effectively. The line through your toes needs to be aimed at least parallel to the target line, preferably to the left of the target line (See illustration 1 below). With your body thus aimed, you are able to make a swing that will have the club on line to the target throughout the entire swing. It also positions the target out in front of you rather than off to your side or behind you. In other sports the target is out in front of the player.

Alignment left of target line What happens if your body is not aimed to the left of your target? Most of the golfers that come to me for instruction are inclined to aim their body at the target or even to the right of the target (See illustration 2 below). By this I mean that the line through the tips of their toes tends to point toward the target or to the right of the target. For some reason golfers think that aiming their body at the target will facilitate the ball going toward the target.
Alignment at or right of target line
If the body is aimed at the target, or to the right of the target, the club is actually aimed much further to the right. Such an alignment will cause the swing to redirect to an outside-in path during the downswing in hopes of getting the ball to go toward the target. It will cause a glancing blow to the ball and result in a weak slice. Do not worry that aiming your body to the left of the target line will cause a fade or slice. That is a myth. You can fade or draw from any alignment.

Alignment can be easily demonstrated by placing two golf balls about 3 feet apart. One represents the target and the other is the golfer's ball. The target line is most obvious when the two golf balls are close together. You can easily set the golf club perpendicular to that imaginary line. Next, simply position your body so that the line through your toes is either parallel to the target line or, preferably, aiming at a point to the left of the target. Now you are in position to make a swing during which the club stays on the line to the target, or in golf vernacular, on the plane. A straight, solid shot at your target will be your consistent result.

However, if you position your body with the line through your toes aiming at the target, you can see how far to the right of the target the golf club is actually aimed. (See illustration 2). If the golf club is aimed way to the right of the target, your body will make a compensating move during the downswing to try to get the ball to go toward the target. This creates the outside-in swing that will result in weak, unreliable shots.

Golfers who aim to the right have a standard shot: a miss-hit which consistently slices. I witnessed a U.S. Open champion playing in a Senior Tour event. He was aiming far to the right. I watched him hit two shots with irons. The first was a miss-hit that went way to the right of the target. The second was almost a grounder. Good alignment allows your body and system to create a swing that will consistently deliver the object to the target. Alignment is deceptively important and simple. It's easy to get it right and causes mountains of trouble if you get it wrong.

I have instructed many students who were having a great deal of difficulty striking the ball because of faulty alignment. Once they understood and utilized proper alignment, their ball striking immediately improved and they were able to enjoy the game once again.

I remember watching Tom Kite practice. He always practiced with a club on the ground to make sure his alignment was correct. If you want to put a club on the ground to check your alignment, put it six inches outside the ball on the line aimed at the target. Let your feet go to the left of that line but don't put a club along your toes (See illustration 3 below).

Checking Alignment

Alignment is important and simple. It takes place before you swing. Please understand it and get it right now, or you will forever lose power, accuracy, low scores, good caddies and the club championship.

Align to the target, not the golf ball. I see many high handicappers working hard to get in a good address position aimed at the golf ball, taking only a cursory look at the target. On the other hand, good players set up to the target with a vague awareness of the golf ball. If you want to improve your golf game, spend a lot of time looking at the target and only a little time looking at the golf ball.

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