Correct Golf Ball Position for Irons

By Todd Kolb
July 13, 2020

Are You Using the Correct Ball Position for Irons? Find Out How a Simple Adjustment Could Radically Improve Your Game.

If you want to play your best, you have to know the correct ball position for irons.

True, ball position is one of the least thrilling aspects of the game. I’ll be the first to admit it’s way more fun to work on swing speed and distance. It’s also more interesting to discover the secrets of hitting a nice, high draw or a power fade.

But learning the proper golf ball position for irons could literally transform your game. Besides, you can’t really master accuracy and increase distance until you have the ball in the right place.

When you consider the potential benefits of correct ball position, it’s definitely worth taking a few minutes to get it right.

I’m about to walk you through everything you need to know for correct ball position for irons. This includes:

  • What we actually mean by “ball position.” (It’s not just what you think.)
  • Why ideal ball position varies whether you’re hitting your irons or hitting it off the tee.
  • How ball position affects everything from angle of attack to the quality of contact.
  • The process for setting up ball position.
  • A bonus tip for fixing your slice just by moving your golf ball.

Let’s jump right in.

The Importance of Ball Position for Irons

If you want to improve your golf skills, you have to correct your golf ball position. Fortunately, this is one of the simplest changes you can make to advance your game.

But you do have to know what you’re doing. As easy as it is to master ball position for irons, many golfers have a limited understanding of what it means to set up properly.

What We Mean When We Talk About Ball Position

When most people talk to you about ball position, they’re focusing on one thing:

Where the ball is relative to your feet. While this is an important aspect of ball placement, it’s not the only part of your setup you need to examine. You should actually have three checkpoints.

#1: Where is the Ball in Relation to Your Feet?

You may have had friends or instructors tell you the golf ball is too far forward or too far back in your golf stance.

“Forward in your stance” means the ball is closer to your lead foot.

“Back in your stance” means the ball is closer to your trail foot.

And of course, “centered” means the ball is directly between your lead and trail feet.

So, which one is correct? Well, it depends on your club. We’ll dig into that later. First, let’s cover the lesser known checkpoints for ball position.

#2: Where is the Ball in Relation to Your Body?

Your ball position for irons tells you something about your golf posture for irons . . . and vice versa.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Just because your ball is in the center of your stance, that doesn’t mean it’s centered in your body. You might tilt your upper body toward the target, away from the target, or not at all.

And that tilt could place the ball in alignment with your trail eye, your lead ear, or even your shoulder (though, hopefully it’s not that severe a tilt).

This relationship between ball position and body posture can affect your golf swing, club face orientation, and ball flight. A few common reference points for aligning the ball with your body include:

  • The zipper or buttons of your shirt
  • The logo on your shirt
  • An ear
  • An eye

Once again, the preferred checkpoint depends on your golf club.

#3: Where is the Ball in Relation to the Club Shaft?

This is a major consideration that influences your golf swing, angle of attack, and ball flight.

When you take your setup, where is the shaft of your golf club?

If the shaft is leaning slightly over the ball and towards the target, we’d say the shaft is in front of the ball.

If the shaft leans away from the target and the ball, then the shaft is behind the ball.

The shaft may also be in a neutral position, directly vertical.

Why Golf Ball Position Matters

My goal in this article is to teach you correct golf ball position for irons so you can do a quick review of these checkpoints before each shot. These three elements of ball position are clues that help you recognize why you might be struggling with your shot.

In fact, if you struggle more with your iron shots than you do hitting it off the tee, ball position may be the best way to fix that discrepancy.

You see, your angle of attack should be different depending on whether you’re hitting an iron or a driver. When you use a driver, you want to catch the ball on an ascending motion. But when it comes to irons, hitting down on the golf ball is key.

In order to hit down on the ball, you need the low point of your swing to happen after you make contact. To put it another way, the goal is to hit the ball before you hit the turf.

And correct ball position is the simplest way to make sure the low point of your golf swing happens at the right time.

Result of Improper Ball Position for Irons

Now, a lot happens in your golf swing. There are countless factors that affect launch angle, spin, and ball flight. How do you know for sure that golf ball position is the problem? Couldn’t it be your swing? Your new irons? Maybe you don’t have proper golf posture.

Fortunately, there are a few key signs that you might have your golf ball in the wrong spot. While these problems could point to other issues, they very often indicate improper ball position for irons.

Signs of Incorrect Golf Ball Position

If you struggle with any of these problems, you might have the ball in the wrong spot.

You Hit the Turf Too Early

Remember, when you’re hitting your irons, you should brush the turf after the moment of impact. If you’re regularly making contact with the ground before you connect with the golf ball, you probably have the ball in the wrong spot.

You Struggle with Poor Contact

Have you been having a hard time hitting it square in the center of the club face?

This is another common indicator of incorrect ball position for irons. Hosel rocketeers should especially take note. If you keep catching the golf ball on the toe or the heel, you may have a ball position problem.

Your Aim is Off

Has anyone ever told you your swing path aims too far to the left, or too “open”? This is another indicator of incorrect golf ball position. The fix for this one is fairly easy.

If you keep aiming too far left, or “open,” it means the ball is too far forward in your stance. (This assumes you’re right handed. If you’re a lefty, “open” means the ball aims too far to the right. The cause is the same; your ball is too far forward.)

On the other hand, if your aim is regularly too far to the right, or “closed,” the ball is too far back in your stance.

Start with Ball Position

As I mentioned above, there are a few different factors that could cause these problems. None of these signs is a sure indictor of incorrect ball position.

However, I recommend looking at your golf ball position and golf setup as first steps in the troubleshooting process. These issues are so easy to address.

Not to mention, it can be extremely frustrating to spend hours fine-tuning your transition only to learn that all you had to do to fix your golf swing was move the ball a couple inches.

Steps to Calibrate Ball Position for Irons

You know how to recognize a potential ball position issue. Now let’s talk about how you can fix it.

When I work on ball position with my students, I like to use the Rimer Short Game Trainer. You don’t need the Short Game Trainer to master ball position, but it is extremely helpful. This training aid is essentially an alignment ruler with a slider. You align the ball with the slider to train the eye to recognize perfect positioning.

Whether you work with the Rimer or not, I’m going to walk you through the three checkpoints for ball position. I’m also going to differentiate between proper set up for long irons vs. short irons. There isn’t much difference, but the difference matters quite a bit.

Ball Position for Short Irons

When you use a pitching wedge, sand wedge, 8-iron, or 9-iron, review these three checkpoints.

Golf Ball Position in Relation to Feet

Ultimately, you want the golf ball in the center of your stance. If you’re using a Rimer, finding the center is easy. Just position the slider in the center of the ruler. Then position your feet at either end of the Rimer and align the golf ball with the slider.

Without the Short Game Trainer, find center this way:

  1. Stand with your feet together.
  2. Align the golf ball with the space between your feet.
  3. Step your lead foot towards the target.
  4. Step your trail foot away from the target by an equal distance.
  5. The golf ball should now be in the center of your stance.

Golf Ball Position in Relation to Body

Once you have the ball centered in your stance, check your posture in relation to the ball. You want the golf ball aligned with the center of your body or maybe just slightly forward of center. Try shifting as needed so the ball lines up with one of the following:

  • The zipper or buttons on your shirt
  • The inner corner of your lead eye
  • Just barely forward of your nose

Golf Ball Position in Relation to Golf Club Shaft

Now that your body and feet are in the right place, check your golf club. Where is the shaft?

For iron shots, you want the shaft slightly in front of the ball. As I mentioned before, “in front of the ball” means the club shaft leans forward, toward the target.

Ball Position for Long Irons

Now, what about your longer irons? For a 2-iron or 4-iron, your checkpoints are slightly different.

Golf Ball Position in Relation to Feet

You still want catch the golf ball on a descending blow, but you don’t want the angle of attack to be quite as steep as it would be for your shorter irons. This means the ball should be ever so slightly forward of center.

Here’s how you find the perfect spot.

  1. Stand with your feet together.
  2. Align the golf ball with the space between your feet.
  3. Step your lead foot towards the target, but take a slightly smaller step than you would if you were centering the ball.
  4. Take a slightly larger step away from the target with your trail foot.
  5. The golf ball should be just barely forward of center.

Golf Ball Position in Relation to Body

This time, tilt your upper body as needed to align the golf ball with:

  • The logo on your shirt
  • Your lead ear

Golf Ball Position in Relation to Golf Club Shaft

Again, give the shaft a slight forward tilt so it’s in front of the ball.

Make these adjustments to your ball position for irons, and you’ll start flushing your irons every single time. Or if you don’t see improvement, you’ll at least know the problem isn’t ball position.

How to Keep Your Ball Position Consistent with Irons

If you’ve been following our articles, you know we like to give you the drills you need to put our swing tips into practice. The same is true when we teach ball position.  Simply understanding ball position is not enough to transform your game. You need to develop new habits.

I’m going to share a quick and easy checklist you can bring with you on your next round. Use this checklist a regular reference for finding perfect ball position for irons until the checklist becomes a habitual routine.

I also have a final tip on ball position for anyone struggling to get rid of their slice.

Ball Position Checklist

The next time you prepare for an iron shot, review these key checkpoints.

Short Irons

  • Is the golf ball centered in your stance?
  • Is the golf ball aligned with the buttons or zipper on your shirt, the inner corner of your lead eye, or just forward of your nose?
  • Is the shaft of your golf club in front of the ball?

Long Irons

  • Is the golf ball slightly forward of center in your stance?
  • Is the golf all aligned with the logo on your shirt or your lead ear?
  • Is the shaft of your golf club in front of the ball?

Bonus Tip: Ball Position for Fixing the Slice

Fixing the slice is a huge topic here at USGolfTV . . . and throughout the entire world of golf. There is no question that this nightmare shot plagues countless golfers. If you want to dive deep on the topic of the slice, we have several articles and even a free ebook.

For now, I’ll keep it simple.

Fixing the slice can often be done by promoting a slight rightward aim and hitting down on the ball a bit more.

And you can accomplish both of these things by moving the ball back in your stance. You don’t want to position the ball too far back . . . slightly behind center will do.

Try it a few times. Then come back here and let us know if it worked.

Questions? Comments?

Whatever is on your mind, we’d love to hear from you. Join us in the comments to ask questions, share your thoughts, or let us know if you disagree with any of my advice.

For more in-depth golf tips, visit us at GreatGolfTipsNow.com. This golf instruction is completely free and packed with detailed advice to help you play better golf!

2 Comments

  1. Gentlemen, my problem is that when I swing, my club face tops the ball if the ball isn’t even or behind my rear foot. That is for all clubs. I have attempted to change my swing arc but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions?

  2. John, thanks for asking. There could be a variety of things causing this, however here is a great place to start https://youtu.be/F_QBdBOfhYw

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