Are you standing too far away from ball? Payne Stewart had 1 easy way to check

Payne Stewart

Payne Stewart at the 1998 U.S. Open.

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With your left hand (if you’re a righty), hold your golf club behind the ball.

Then drop it backward, toward your left knee. 

That’s about it. 

That, Payne Stewart once said, is how to tell if you’re standing too far from the ball. Or too close. 

Or just right. 

He was speaking on an older video recently shared by the Golf Manual Instagram page, and it’s worth a watch before you continue on with this story, as are other videos with Stewart, as he was one of his generation’s fiercest ball-strikers and a talker, so you most always would walk away with something from the three-time major winner and colorful dresser. Notably, too, the Golf Manual video is especially good because it starts with Stewart saying he’d learned the tip from his dad, Bill. 

Bill Stewart was a player himself. A 1987 Sports Illustrated article written by Rick Reilly described the man, along with the father-son relationship (and you can — and should — read it here.) This part was particularly interesting: 

Golf, his father and he were an inseparable threesome. From the way he dressed, to the way he putted, to the way he lived his life, the son was the father. The two of them had been on the golf course together from the time Payne was six months old. He began taking lessons from his father at four, caddying for him at six, beating him at 16. Across the bosom of Ma Bell, throughout Payne’s Tour career, the two of them went meticulously over the day’s round, divot by divot.

“Then on number 4,” Payne would say, “I hit a good drive down the left side and blocked a six-iron right.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? Don’t get that darn hand turned over.”

“I know. I know.”

With that introduction, here is the tip. 

In the video, Stewart held a club with just his left hand, and he took a stance over a ball, with his club behind it. He dropped the club back, toward his left knee.

“A little tip that my father told me when I was a boy of how to check my ball position,” Stewart started on the video. “Whether I was too far away from it or too close, was when I release the club with my left hand and it falls down, if it hits right above my left knee, then I know I’m in the correct position.”

And how did Stewart know when he was too far away? Or too close? That was also easy for him to see.  

“If I’m too far away from the ball, the club will hit down here, below my knee,” he said on the video. “If I was too close to the ball, the club’s going to be hitting way up on my thigh. 

“So the tip I’m giving you is allow when you release the club with your left hand and it’s hitting just above you left knee, then you know you’re in the correct position to hit the golf ball.”

Editor’s note: To read additional instruction stories on, please click here.   

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