The most common alignment errors our golf professionals see.

17 Professionals Contributed |
Proper alignment plays a crucial role in achieving consistent results on the golf course. We asked our golf professionals to reveal the most common alignment errors they encounter and share their recommendations to address the issues.

The walk in

Most of the time I see amateurs walk into the ball incorrectly and set their body to the target instead of their clubface. This skews their alignment and now they have to begin to make compensations to get the ball started on their intended line.

I would have golfers practice picking an intermediate target on the practice area and get comfortable lining up the club face properly. As the golfers rehearse this, first they need to align the club face then set their feet/body. This will ensure that the clubface is at the target.

"The walk in" @ardogolf55 Click to Tweet

The Difference between Aim and Alignment

There are several things most amateur golfers do when aiming and aligning that create a situation where they are not aimed from “Point A” to “Point B”. They create a “Point C”, causing inconsistency within their entire set up and in turn, continual compensation within their swings.

This is all caused by their failure to understand to aim the club and align themselves to the club. As well as knowing what part of the club to aim. Check out my 2 part video of how to “Aim and Align.”

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John Hughes Golf
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Align the Face First, Body Second

Most common is that many player’s work diligently in an attempt to get perfect “square” body alignment of their feet, yet pay little attention to where their club face is actually aiming- which is far more important.

It should also be noted that square feet does not guarantee a straight shot, contrary to popular belief.

The goal of most amateurs should be to first align the club face toward where they want the ball to start, and then secondly position their stance and body in a way that is comfortable and allows them to promote the correct swing path for their desired ball flight. For example, for a right-handed player to hit a nice draw, the player should aim the face just right of the flag, and then align their body slightly more to the right to promote a rightward (in to out) club path. In this example, a “square” set-up would not be beneficial at all. Proper alignment for the shot is something good ball strikers are keenly aware of and work on regularly in practice.

It’s best to find a good instructor who can help you understand your tendencies and find the best set-up for you.

Florida Gulf Coast University PGA Golf Management
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Most common alignment errors in golf

Here are some of the most common alignment errors in golf:

1. Open or closed stance – This is when the feet are not aligned parallel to the target line. An open stance is when the front foot is positioned away from the target line, while a closed stance is when the back foot is positioned away from the target line.

2. Misaligned shoulders – This is when the shoulders are not parallel to the target line. This can lead to a swing path that is off-line, resulting in a shot that misses the target.

3. Misaligned hips – This is when the hips are not parallel to the target line. This can cause the body to sway during the swing, resulting in inconsistent shots.

4. Misaligned clubface – This is when the clubface is not pointing at the target. This can result in shots that either slice or hook.

5. Misaligned head/eyes – This is when your eyes aren’t parallel to the target line resulting in misalignment of the club face and body. Knowing which eye is dominant can eliminate this error by learning how to swivel your head while keeping your eyes parallel to the target line.

To avoid these errors, it is important to practice proper alignment and focus on the target rather than the ball.

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Begin your alignment as you walk into the shot!

Many golfers will stand next to their ball, and make a practice swing or two. Then, shuffle forward a few inches and address the golf ball. The issue here is that after a couple practice swings alongside the ball, and then a short movement forward; the likelihood of correctly aligning oneself to the target is very difficult. I recommend standing behind the ball and make your practice swings first. Then, focus on your visual target as you walk into the ball. Set the clubface in line with the target, then set your feet, then square your knees, hips and shoulders to the feet in a parallel to the target line. Once this is done, you are ready to swing it down the line, toward your target. Let it Fly!

"Begin your alignment as you walk into the shot!" @orangewhipgolf Click to Tweet


First you have to have a pattern, fade draw or straight to be able to aim with complete confidence. How can you trust aim when you have no idea what your ball is going to do? It’s called “aim and hope”

The intended line of flight is not the line across your shoes, it’s the line from the ball to the target. Rail lines are a good visual, the ball flies along the outer rail, your shoulders and feet are on the line parallel to the outer rail.

This simple exercise will help you understand how you aim well. Stand behind your ball and point your right arm and finger at the pin, take your left arm and point it parallel to the right arm and you will see where your feet and shoulders actually should be aiming. Parallel left, certainly not at the pin. This simple exercise amazes players, the left arm is only 2 feet left, looks like way more than that!

Also Two alignment sticks one just outside the ball aimed where you want the ball to go, the other stick should near your toes parallel to the other stick, always practice with those two alignment sticks so you train correct alignment. Since your arms are attached to your shoulders not your feet, which of the two should be critical? Better to keep the shoulders parallel to the sticks and let the feet go where you are comfortable and balanced, many players have the back foot foreword or back from the alignment sticks, it’s ok.

The key, be comfortable, balanced and ready to swing, be happy with your aim.

"Misaligned" Click to Tweet

Railroad Tracks

I see often that people line up their body to the target, either by looking over their shoulder while at address or putting the club hip high and pointing it to the target. I affectionately call this technique “the limbo stick.” If the club face is pointed to the intended target, your body and feet should be parallel to that target line (i.e. railroad tracks).

The best way to practice consistency with alignment is to put alignment sticks on the ground parallel to eachother, one by the ball and one by your toes.

It also helps to check that your shoulders are over your feet. Another common error I see is lining the feet parallel to the target line, but having the shoulders too open or closed at address. You can check this by putting your club across your shoulders at address to see if they are aligned over your feet.

PGA Golf Professional
"Railroad Tracks" Click to Tweet

Alignment woes-CURED!

Ah, alignment. The simplest part of the set-up, except when our students don’t listen and implement our suggestions.
Using an intermediate target for alignment of the clubface is critical. So placing the club behind the ball BEFORE address, with the “eye” of the center of the club pointing “through” the ball and at a close (less than 12 inches) target in line with the flag: a specific blade of grass, divot, etc., is the key. Then building one’s stance around the clubface to take the address position, guarantees that the player is aligned correctly.

After all, the clubface is what strikes the ball. It had better be in the proper spot, or the entire set-up is flawed.
I equate this with shooting billiards or a firing a long gun. Imagine standing astride in these pursuits, and trying to tell where you are aimed. It’s nearly impossible to know where the cue/gun is really pointing. And using this analogy with your students is a great way to get them to understand.

I can’t count how many of my students seem to accept and implement this system in our sessions, only to see them a short time later not doing it! It needs to be emphasized in your sessions and play lessons so that they begin to see the value.

"Alignment woes-CURED!" @kambymanpga Click to Tweet

Don't forget the forearms

The most common alignment error that I see is the mismatch between the club face and forearms/upper torso. When the upper body and forearms are aligned to the left of the target but the club face points at the target, the club face is effectively open. When you combine this with the average golfer’s tendency to under rotate their body at impact, you get a perfect storm of misalignment that frequently leads to a slice or the overcompensation of a big hook. This setup error is often compounded by a lack of spine tilt away from the target.

Balbi Golf
"Don't forget the forearms" Click to Tweet

Shoulder, feet, club face

There really are three lines to pay attention to at set up. Club face, shoulders, and feet. I see a lot of players set up with open shoulders, aimed left for right handed players. This is a recipe for disaster more often than not. Using a mirror and or video to practice can help with this a ton. The general rule is if you can see your left shoulder out of the corner of your left eye at address your in a good place!

Canyon Springs Golf Course
"Shoulder, feet, club face" Click to Tweet

Think Train Tracks

The biggest issue I see with golfers is a lack of understanding of the proper set up. If golfers visualize train tracks, they’ll have a better set up to reward good swings. The club face should be aiming to the target. The body should be parallel (left) to the clubface . This creates target line on the outer rail of the tracks and set up line on the inner rail. Many longtime golfers try to align their bodies to the target which means the clubface is aiming right. For many they then bandaid their swings which only leads to bigger issues. It’s a simple fix. Clubface down the target line and foot, knees, hips, shoulders and eyes aligned parallel on the st up line. Hit it solid!

Mattawang Golf Club
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Fix your aim then your swing

The average right handed golfer aims 20 or more yards right of their target. Mostly I believe because of where they think they should align their feet. Parallel lines don’t describe aim very well. In truth, our feet, knees, hips, and shoulders aim much further left of the target then you think. Lay down two alignment shafts about 16-18″ apart, one for your toes and one to the target in front of your ball. You can measure the distance apart at two points to make sure they are parallel. Look at the that represents your toes if you lined up correctly. It is likely much more to the left of your target than 16+-18″. Your ability to aim will never be as good as your ability to sense and swing to the target! If you aim right you must come outside in (pull or slice) or hook the ball to make it wind up at the target. To fix your swing and get rid of either, you must learn to aim first!

The Golf Center at the Highlands
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Align your Clubface First

Simple but please aim your clubface toward the target first when thinking about alignment. From putter to driver after gripping the club set the club behind the ball and aim it toward your intended target. After club is aimed align body parallel to target line and then you’re ready. Too many players aim their body line directly at the target causing lack of rotation and obviously offline shots. Clubface aimed first and take that to the bank. Enjoy!

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Get your alignment "Open" for better short game results

DO you struggle with most all short game shots? If so make sure to check your alignment. Even though we want to be able to work the clubface in different directions in the short game, in general it is best to stand “Open” or get your lines a little left of parallel for a right hander.
When you open up it, it starts your body in a rotated position which is crucial for short shots if you want to hit them softly.
Lining up “Closed” or to the right for a right hander and make you “hook” short shots and “flip” the clubhead past your hands.

"Get your alignment "Open" for better short game results" Click to Tweet

Getting lined up

Most golfers those whom are “right handed” aim the the right, and opposite for lefty golfers. When clients come to me and we see on video, I ask them what makes the ball go to where we want it to go? We usually get various answers of course at this time, so we get Alignment Rods we place one along there toes then one in there belt loops if wearing shorts our pants, finally I place one under there armpits. We finally realize how much we are doing things in correctly. Get lined up correctly and start playing better golf. It’s the club head NOT our BODIES

Fox Hollow Golf Club
"Getting lined up" Click to Tweet

In my opinion!

I believe the largest issues with alignment come from #1 not practicing with alignment sticks to engrain what it feels like to be square ( if you are trying to hit it relatively straight), and #2 I think players should build their stance placing the club face square first then the feet, while constantly looking at the target and a spot on the target line 2 feet in front of the ball !

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Pre-Shot Routine

Alignment may be the most important part of the pre-shot routine. Most amateurs I see set their feet first and this is a critical error. Pick a specific target and align the clubface to that target (or intermediate target if you use one). Then align feet and body using the clubface. This will also improve consistency in ball position and distance from ball issues in set-up. When you look back to your target, it may not look correct. That is normal and you just have to get used to that. Our eyes are on the side of the line and therefore give us a skewed perspective. The other mistake players make is that they don’t practice alignment or check it often so it doesn’t get off.

Arsenal Island Golf Course
"Pre-Shot Routine" Click to Tweet

TLDR: What our Backswing professionals have to say on the topic “Fixing Common Alignment Errors”:

  1. Start with a proper pre-shot routine that includes alignment checks to ensure a solid foundation.
  2. One common error is misalignment of the feet; focus on aligning them parallel to the target line.
  3. Pay attention to the positioning of the shoulders and hips, ensuring they are square to the target.
  4. Eye alignment is crucial; aim your eyes parallel to the target line for better accuracy.
  5. Incorporate alignment aids such as alignment sticks or targets to reinforce correct positioning.
  6. Regular practice drills, such as mirror work and video analysis, can help identify and correct alignment errors.
  7. Seek professional guidance for personalized assessments and corrective measures.

By addressing alignment errors through consistent practice, awareness, and professional guidance, you can enhance your overall performance and enjoy more accurate shots on the course.

The Professionals in this Roundup

The Backswing Fix

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