By Tim Barter
When it comes to ball position, I find that many amateurs fall foul of what can only be described as an optical illusion, believing the ball moves within the stance. But take a look at these set-up positions and study closely the ball position in relation to the left heel - it's consistent throughout.
The point I am making is that for all your irons shot - whether you are playing a full 5-iron, a controlled 9-iron or a standard chip (as illustrated below), the ball position should be consistent at roughly a clubhead's width inside your left heel.
As one of the on-course analysts for SKY Sports, I spend a lot of my time watching and talking to the best players in the world, and the vast majority follow this rule-of-thumb for the simple reason that it promotes consistency in their ball-striking. Of course, the exact width of the stance varies according to the size of the pivot you intend make: with a 5-iron you need a reasonably wide stance to provide the necessary foundation for a full shoulder turn, and, as you can see clearly here, with the ball played a club-head's width inside the left heel, the majority of my body is set behind the ball (which promotes a more sweeping angle of attack.
Moving down to the 9-iron (a club that draws less heavily on the pivot motion), I simply narrow my stance by bringing the right foot in towards the left. The ball position is exactly as before (i.e. a clubhead's width inside the left heel), the key being that by making that adjustment to my stance, and easing my weight slightly more onto my left side, my sternum and centre of gravity are now directly over the ball, which will help to promote a more descending angle of attack, thus promoting the backspin that you are looking to create to control these approach shots.
Moving down the scale, the ball is again played a clubhead inside the left heel for standard chip shot, but the right foot is now drawn in so close to the left that the impression given is that the ball is now being played off the back foot. Critically, my sternum is now in front of the ball, my weight heavily in favour of the left side - a position that pro¬motes the arms-and-shoulder motion I am looking to create.
In summary, do as the pro's do: for all of the iron shots, play the ball a clubhead inside your left heel and simply move your right foot to adjust the width as required. Move the ball to a position directly opposite the inside of the left heel for the woods. Next time you play or practise, work on these simple guidelines - I guarantee they will make you a more consistent ball-striker.