Standing Too Close to Golf Ball – Causes and How to Fix It

Written by Michael VanDerLaan 

Standing Too Close To Golf Ball

Standing too close to the golf ball can be a big mistake for the average golfer. It can be caused by many things, including an equipment mismatch, not changing your setup when you change clubs, an inconsistent setup from shot-to-shot, or even an altogether bad setup for your swing identity and body type.

Luckily a lot of these things are easier to fix than a swing problem, and a lot of swing problems are actually rooted in setup problems, so it is always the first place to look. We will look at both the effects - to know if standing too close to the golf ball might be a problem for you in the first place - and then look at the causes and how to correct them.

Your setup to the golf ball and whether or not you are standing too close to the golf ball can be the cause of many issues. Whether you're a relative novice looking to break 90 for the first time, or a more experience player trying to puzzle it all together, you distance from the golf ball is an important fundamental. 

At the end of the day, though, it is one of the changes that can be accomplished in a single swing with positive results, and allow you to start to do a lot more with your swing and feel a lot more freedom throughout the shot once you get used to it!

Related: 12 Best Golf Tips To Improve Your Swing And Your Game

What Are The Effects Of Standing Too Close To Golf Ball?

Standing too close to the golf ball can have a lot of different effects. It sets the stage for many different compensations in the swing, and depending on what a player’s natural reaction is to being set up too closely, you could see almost any result, even some that are counter-intuitive.

Most experienced golf coaches will tell you that they’ve seen almost every way imaginable for a player to try to get the club head on the ball from a bad setup position. That said, there are definitely some tendencies that are more likely than others. Let’s take a look!

Can Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause A Slice?

Golfer Hitting A Slice From Being Too Close To The Golf Ball

In this image, standing too close to the golf ball causes an over the top move. Paired with an open club face, this causes a slice.

Standing too close to a golf ball is one of the most common causes of a slice. From this position, it is more difficult to swing in-to-out and feel like you are hitting the “inside” of the golf ball. All else being equal, when there is no space to swing from the inside, the only place for the club head to come into the ball is by cutting across it. Without another compensation, this can make a player hit the ball all over the yard, with their most common miss being a slice.

RELATED: Golf Slice vs Hook, Which Is better And Why

Note: oftentimes, an over the top move is made worse by tight grip pressure. Holding the club with the proper amount of pressure will help you fix your slice almost as much as moving farther from the golf ball!

RELATED: Best Driver For A Slice

Does Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause A Shank?

Golfer Set Up With The Hosel On The Golf Ball

If you are shanking the ball, the first thing you should look at is whether or not you are standing too close to the golf ball. A lot of weird things can happen when standing too close to a golf ball. One that isn’t weird at all and makes a lot of sense intuitively is that the closer you stand, the closer the hosel is to the ball, and the more likely it will be for that hosel to creep out towards the golf ball when swinging at speed.

RELATED: Are Golf Lessons Worth It?

Can Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause A Hook?

Golfer Hitting A Hook From Being Too Close To The Ball

Standing too close to the golf ball can cause you to lose your posture and hook the golf ball, as shown here.

If you are hooking the ball while standing too close, this is where the analysis can start to be fun - at least for your golf coach, but maybe not for the golfer! Standing too close to the golf ball can definitely cause a hook, but the reasons aren’t always obvious.

One way or another the player is trying to make a compensation motion to re-route the club to not swing across the golf ball from the club head being too far outside. The most common things a player will do as a reaction are to start to stand up out of their posture in the downswing and stop rotating their body through the shot, causing the club to come from the inside. This is what they are sensing they need, but also the club head starts to rapidly pass the hands through impact while closing down simultaneously.

Talk about a textbook recipe for a hook.

This body movement often causes you to top the ball as well, given the need to reach for the golf ball as you stand up.

Another common compensation can be that a player who senses that they are too close and the club head is going to cut across the ball and start to tilt away from the target or back out of a shot, again accomplishing their goal of getting the club to re-route to the inside, but if timing isn’t perfect they are going to hit blocks and hooks, all because they are trying to athletically compensate for standing too close to the golf ball.

RELATED: Golf Shot Shapes: How To Hit Fades And Draws

Can Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause A Pull?

Standing too close to the golf ball causing a pull

In this demonstration, the club is moving from outside to in with a club face that matches the path, causing a pull

We mentioned earlier how setting up too close to the ball can cause a slice, and this exact same pattern can also result in the dreaded “dead pull.” This shot is difficult not only because it is off-line, but it will also often go a bit longer than intended, and many golf architects know that “long left” (for a right handed golfer) is a place they want to put a hazard in order to catch these exact shots.

The pattern of swinging across the ball is exactly the same, but a player has managed to close the club face down through impact, resulting in a dead pull instead of a slice, all because they are standing too close to the ball.

RELATED: How To Get Better At Golf Without Lessons

Can Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause “Over The Top”?

As mentioned before, standing too close to the ball can cause a player to swing more out-to-in and cutting across the ball. It is actually easy to come “over the top” when standing too close to the golf ball and in order to avoid this, a player will have to make some kind of compensation in their swing as naturally the path of the club will be fighting its way back to an inside route.

One thing players will do is start to manipulate the club and pulling down with the hands hard in the downswing in order to not miss the ball entirely and square the face, which gives the classic “over the top'' and “chopping wood” look that many amateurs struggle with.

This is often more of a setup fault than a swing fault because the player is just trying to find some way to make good contact from a position that is working against them from the start.

Try adding a practice station that encourages a better swing plane to your range session to maximize your results.

Can Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause A “Chicken Wing”?

Chicken Wing Follow Through

A chicken wing is often termed one of the most “dreaded” swing faults. While there are a lot of examples of elite players who have a slight bending action in their lead elbow through impact (Jordan Spieth, Victor Hovland), they don’t do so because of the same reasons as most amateurs.

Most amateurs will “chicken wing” because their arms are racing past their body in an arm-driven or stalled-out downswing.

Standing too close to a golf ball will subconsciously make a player not want to rotate their body because they can sense that it is going to cause them to swing dramatically out-to-in and hit slices and pulls if they commit to rotating hard through the shot. In order to avoid this they will stall the body in a last-ditch effort to re-route the club in the downswing and as the arms take over the swing through impact, the lead arm has to break down and cause a “chicken wing” unless the chest continues moving through the shot as well.

This is a great video of PGA Tour coach George Gankas demonstrating a drill mimicking Ben Hogan getting into a “water skiing” position after impact that will completely avoid any chance of a chicken wing. 

If you cannot do this drill without shanking the ball or standing up during the downswing, you are probably standing too close to the golf ball.

Can Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause Loss Of Distance?

Standing Too Close to Golf Ball Causes Loss of Distance

Almost all of the compensations made for standing too close to a golf ball will cause you to lose major distance. Most of them involve slowing down, standing up, stopping rotation, and/or letting the arms take over in the swing and trying to time a throw at the bottom of a swing that has already stalled out. 

Can Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball Cause Heel Shot?

The heel shot is the most straightforward symptom of standing too close to the golf ball. Very basically, if no adjustments are made, you are setting your stance in a place where the heel of the club is always going to be trending closer to the golf ball than you want it to be.

On short shots like chipping and putting, it’s possible to stand very close and have it not be an issue, but when you swing hard, the physics and mechanics of the club movement will always have forces pulling the club head away from the body and therefore bringing the heel into play for anyone who is standing too close to the ball.

How Do I Know If I am Standing Too Close To A Golf Ball?

Letting The Arms Hang Address Drill

The best way to find out if you are standing too close to the golf ball is to first learn a proper and natural setup position and practice getting into it repeatedly over and over again. This can vary from player to player but a basic guideline is that when you are in an athletic, balanced golf setup your arms should hang straight down from your shoulders and not be “in your lap.”

After this you should check yourself often - in a mirror or on videotape, and also practice with a practice station to learn how to repeatedly get to the same place every time when you set up and not accidentally creep closer to the ball from time to time. 

One other thing to check is that there should be at least a fist of space between your belt buckle and your hands at setup. This is a bare minimum with a wedge. With other clubs it can and should be even more, and there are a lot of players who are successful who have a lot more space than that.

Are You Standing Too Close To The Golf Ball With Driver?

Standing Too Close To Golf Ball With Driver

This is a good example of what it looks like when you're standing too close to the golf ball with the driver.

The driver is the club that you should naturally be standing the farthest away from the ball with, so it is easy to end up standing too close. This is not only because the club is the longest, but because the lie angle also causes the natural position of the club to fall farther away from the body and the arms to give the appearance of “reaching” away from the body slightly more. 

You might be standing too close if you feel “jammed up” through impact, if you struggle with heel shots, or with slices.

RELATED: Golf Driver Buying Guide

Are You Standing Too Close To The Golf Ball With Irons?

Standing Too Close With An Hour

Here's what it looks like when you stand too close to the golf ball with an iron

It is easy to stand too close to the golf ball with irons, especially since you are slightly adjusting where you stand with each club. You should make sure you have more than a fist of space between the butt of the club and your belt buckle with a mid-iron, or else you might be standing too close.

Also check on video to see if you are backing away or standing up in your downswing to make extra space, in which case the first thing you should check is your distance from the ball.

RELATED: Should You Take A Divot In Golf

Are You Standing Too Close To The Golf Ball With Putter?

Standing Too Close With The Putter

The eye line outside the golf ball is a good indicator that you are standing too close to the golf ball. You can use the Eyeline Putting Mirror to verify eye position.

RELATED: Most Forgiving Putters

The putter is the hardest club to stand too close with, as naturally you are going to play it very close and have a controlled swing so it is very easy for your body motion to override the physics of the club. It’s for this reason you will see the most variety in stances for good putters.

Fortunately, the putter is the easiest club to see and feel where you are striking the ball. If you are consistently striking it too far out of the heel, the first thing to do is check if you are standing too close to the ball. 

RELATED: Pelz Putting Tutor Review

One thing to keep in mind is that you can match your putting grip style to your distance from the golf ball. By understanding your own game and matching the components together, you can make your game for for you!

RELATED: Best Center Shafted Putters

What Is The Correct Distance To Stand From The Golf Ball?

Standing the proper distance from the golf ball

There are ways to be successful by matching up your body movements to your distance from the ball, but some are definitely easier and more common to achieve than others.

A good rule of thumb is to stand straight up and down, hold the club straight out from your sternum, then bend the knees and relax the shoulders and back to get into an athletic “ready” position. From here simply bend forward at the waist slowly and let the arms move with the body until the club naturally reaches the ground.

The arms should be relatively straight, but soft and not locked. Do this without a ball and then add the ball after you find this position. This will give you the correct distance to stand from the golf ball with any club.

A good benchmark to check for on videos, which we discussed earlier, is to draw a vertical line from your armpits through your feet. If that line goes through the balls of your feet, you are in a great setup position. 

What Is The Correct Distance To Stand From The Golf Ball With Driver?

Correct Distance From The Ball With Driver

The driver is the club with which you are going to stand the farthest away. If you are not standing farther away than you do with your irons, you are too close. This will happen naturally because of the lie angle and length of the club.

Another thing to check is that most players will have their arms hanging straight down from their shoulders and with a driver the lie angle of the club will have the hands slightly farther away from the body, with the butt of the club around 2 “fists” away from the belt buckle as a neutral position. 

What Is The Correct Distance To Stand From The Golf Ball With Irons?

Setup with Short, MId, and Long Irons

This image shows how the setup position changes based on the length of the iron you are hitting

The correct distance from the ball with your irons is going to be determined by exactly which iron you are swinging, and should get slightly farther away (by less than an inch) each time you go to a longer iron.

You don’t have to memorize this - it will happen automatically due to the length of the club and the lie angle progressively changing. A good way to check that you are at least in the ballpark is that with a mid-iron you will have between 1 and 2 “fists” of space between the butt of the club and your belt buckle, and that the club is properly soled flat on the ground, as it was built to be played.

To achieve this position let the arms hang straight down from the shoulders while in an athletic position with the knees and waist slightly bent, and the arms fairly straight but with soft elbows (not locked out). 

RELATED: Men's vs Women's Golf Clubs

What Is The Correct Distance To Stand From The Golf Ball With Putter?

Proper Putting Setup with Eyes Over The Golf Ball

The easiest way to tell if you are set up properly with the putter is to check if your eyes are directly over the golf ball, like this!

With a putter most people let the size and shape of their putter determine how far away they stand. Which is partially correct, but by far the best way to determine the correct distance to stand from the golf ball while putting is going to depend a lot on how you see the line.

RELATED: How To Putt Better

Everyone’s eyes and perception of vision is configured differently. However, the general rule of thumb is to get your eyes directly over the golf ball. Once you have found your sweet spot, you should get your putter length and lie angle adjusted to match this setup, instead of matching your setup to a random putter size and shape.

Your setup may look completely different than anyone else you know based on your size, build and comfortable positions.

RELATED: Best Putting Drills

Which Is Worse In Golf; Standing Too Close To Or Too Far Away From The Ball?

Standing Too Far From The Golf Ball

A lot of famous pros and coaches (Harvey Penick, Johnny Miller, and Byron Nelson to name a few) have made comments along the lines of “you can never stand too close to the ball.” Like many one-liners from elite golfers and coaches, that is a qualified response that needs some context.

In reality, standing too close or too far could be equally bad, and it depends on how exactly your body reacts to having too much or too little space between you and the ball. This advice is true for golfers whose natural or learned reaction to standing too close is to create space and clear their hips out without standing up or backing out of the shot, which *can* lead to a very reliable rotational golf swing that creates a lot of compression, but most amateurs automatically compensate in ways that make contact very difficult.

There are some very good ways to compensate for standing too close to the ball, although you almost never see amateur golfers pull them off. One of the more unorthodox ways is how Jim Furyk creates space by pulling his trail arm almost behind him in the downswing to compensate for standing extremely close to the ball, but he is limited in the amount of power he can create by doing this.

Another one is Bubba Watson who stands very close to the golf ball, makes no compensations, and famously favors a big cut shot, especially with his driver.

Finally you’ll see some players create a lot of space dynamically by driving their lead hip away from the golf ball at the start of the downswing which creates a very good swing pattern promoting good sequencing, rotation, and shaft lean at impact. However you’ll rarely see amateurs naturally doing any of these things or owning their cut shot as well as Bubba Watson does, and their compensations will almost always be swing-killers when standing too close to the golf ball.

Ultimately if you are too far away from the ball you have less options, but it has to be fairly extreme. There are a lot of golfers who stand very far away from the ball as well. You have to be able to reach the ball without throwing the club head at it or falling towards the ball in your swing.

How To Stop Standing Too Close To The Golf Ball

Club In Front Posture Drill

The best way to stop standing too close to the golf ball is to practice your setup position by standing straight up and down, then relax the knees into an athletic position. Next, while pointing the club straight out in front of you from the sternum with the arms fully extended but not locked, slowly bend at the waist while the upper body and club move together until the club is naturally soled on the ground.

From there, you can start to memorize this position with each club, and use alignment sticks to build a practice station marking exactly where to stand until it becomes second nature. With one less variable to worry about, you will give yourself the best chance to become a consistent ball striker.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Chipping vs Pitching

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of “death moves” in golf, and while it’s not impossible to play golf while standing too close to the ball, it sets you up for the tendency to cycle between almost all of the swing faults that amateurs struggle with the most. Over the top, hooks, slices, chunks and hosel rockets are all in play if you start creeping too close and don’t have an athletic move to create more space dynamically in the downswing.

RELATED: Learning To Play Golf At 50, 60 Even 70

Because of this, it’s good to learn a proper setup that leaves a fist or two of space between the belt buckle and the butt of the club, depending on the club, and then check it often either by using a mirror, video feedback, or marking your positions on the ground with tape or alignment sticks and repeatedly getting comfortable with the proper distance from the ball.

Pair this fundamental with the proper golf grip, and you will be well on your way to bringing your handicap to an all time low!

Photo of author

Michael VanDerLaan

Michael is an Associate Editor here at Golf Gear Advisor. He is a playing professional with a passion for finding the best equipment through product testing and evaluation. He has an intimate knowledge of the golf swing and a very effective way of communicating his knowledge to those that are interested in learning more. As an Associate Editor at Golf Gear Advisor, Michael shares his knowledge about the golf swing, fitness and finding the right equipment for your game.

Leave a Comment