Jack Nicklaus explains the key to a proper setup: Flashback Jack

Hitting a golf ball is an inherently unnatural motion. There are a number of components that go into the golf swing to make it appear comfortable and instinctive, and an infinite number of issues that can cause problems in achieving that goal. But even after all the time and commitment that goes into making the action of a great golf swing, your stance and position while inactive can contribute to the same issues caused by a bad swing.

In this week’s Flashback Jack, Nicklaus pulls back the curtain on the laws of proper setup, an endeavor he says begins with one crucial aspect — ball position.

“Ball position is one of those fundamental elements that must be done correctly if you want to consistently hit good golf shots,” Nicklaus says. “I say the ball should be played off just inside the left heel.”

Ball position is all about finding a specific moment in the swing. In the Golden Bear’s reasoning, the first part of that moment is when the club is square with the body.

“As the body turns and the club comes back opens to the line of the target,” he says. “It then comes back to the ball and at one point during the swing, the club is relatively square to the target, then passes through and closes.”

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The second part of that moment, according to Nicklaus? When the club is the proper distance above the ground.

“The second element is that the club comes up in the air as it comes on the backswing and at one point on the swing, the club reaches the bottom of its arc,” Nicklaus says. “Just prior to the bottom of the arc is when you want to make impact with the golf ball.”

For every golfer, ball position should be reflective of the intersection of those two points in the swing. Nicklaus says for most golfers, that intersection can be found just behind the left heel.

“So it’s the convergence of those two elements which dictate where you want the ball in your stance,” Nicklaus says. “For most people, as you try to move your left side, that position will occur just inside your left heel.”

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James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.