The 2nd Key To Consistency: Set-Up Fundamentals

Everybody would like to play more consistent golf. And no wonder. The essence of consistency is reliability and predictability. When we have a swing we can rely on to produce predictable results, we play with more confidence, have more fun, and shoot lower scores.

But here’s a little secret: You can’t work on consistency directly.

That means you can’t go to the range and say “I’m going to work on my consistency today” the same way you’d say “I’m going to work on my balance or my or my swing plane.”

Here’s why: Consistency is an outcome.

Consistent golf is what results when you spend time working on a lot of little things that, taken together, add up to big improvements in reliability and predictability.

Now here’s your second big secret: You CAN break down the elements that contribute to consistency, and by improving your skill in these specific areas, you will develop a more reliable swing with more predictable results. In other words, consistency.

The previous newsletter kicked off a 5-part series on consistency and gave you the first key to consistency: a Pre-Shot Routine. Let’s continue with the second key to consistency – set-up fundamentals: Grip, Alignment, Stance, Posture (otherwise known as GASP).


Jack Nicklaus believed set-up fundamentals were so important that he started every season by having his coach review his grip, alignment, stance, and posture. After working with thousands of amateur golfers I estimate that fully 50% of all errors on the golf course are caused by mistakes in one of these areas. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that these set-up errors are far easier to fix than a golf swing. In fact, a good pre-shot routine will incorporate these set-up fundamentals automatically, ensuring that you are in the best position possible to hit a good shot, before you even initiate your swing. Here are the keys to solid set-up fundamentals:

Grip: One of the most common grip mistakes is positioning the right thumb (for right-handers) on top of the shaft, or at a 12:00 position. Having the right thumb at 12:00 leads to slices on the full swing and skull shots or fat shots around the green. Here are your grip checkpoints: Left thumb at 2:00, right thumb at 10:00, pad of the hand on top. You’ll know you have the correct grip when you can comfortably hinge and form a 90 degree angle between your forearm and the shaft.

Alignment: Everything in the stance is based on squaring up to the club face, so ensuring that the clubface is square to the target is critical. After conducting thousands of on-course lessons my experience is that mis-alignment is THE number one mistake on the course. I spend more time in my pre-shot routine on alignment than any other step, and I don’t know of any pros on the PGA Tour who go more than a couple of practice sessions without checking their alignment. Take time during your pre-shot routine to ensure your club face is square to the target. This single step alone will save you strokes immediately, so it is well worth your time to align correctly and automatically.

Stance: Once your club face is square, take a stance so that your feet are perpendicular to the grooves on the club. Keep your back foot square and open your front foot 20 degrees to the target to facilitate your pivot and allow you to finish with your hips facing the target. Stance width for irons should place your feet under your shoulders, and with the driver just outside the shoulders. Your stance should be wide enough so that you don’t sway or move laterally during the swing, but not so wide that you can’t complete a full weight shift to the front side on the finish.

Posture: The two most important points of posture are to keep the spine straight and to get athletically centered. Since most of your shoulder rotation comes from the thoracic area of the spine (middle/upper part of the spine), keeping the upper back straight will facilitate a bigger, freer turn and give you more distance. Learn to bend from the hips rather than the waist to keep the spine straight. Bending from the hips will also help keep your center of mass over the middle of your feet, getting your athletically centered. When you are athletically centered you should feel as though you could hop straight up and down. Better balance and posture will lead to better ball-striking and greater accuracy.

Now is the perfect time of year to re-evaluate your set-up fundamentals. Why not make an action plan to review GASP and work a few small changes into your routine. They’ll pay off in big dividends in your score.

Do you have a question about Set-Up Fundamentals? Post it in the box below.

Related Posts:

Play Consistent Golf Part 5: Tempo

Play Consistent Golf Part 4: Athletic Balance

Play Consistent Golf Part 3: Spine Angle

Play Consistent Golf Part 1: Pre-Shot Routine

9 Responses

  1. Frostman says:


    I’m having trouble understanding why my feet should be perpendicular to the grooves of the club. The grooves are perpendicular to the target/landing spot.

    I’d believe your toe line or heel line should be perpendicular, but the feet should be parallel (back foot) to the grooves and then rotate the front foot outward to the 20 degree position.

    Your thoughts?


    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Frostman – as for the feet perpendicular to the grooves – what I was really referring to was an imaginary line from toe to toe, pointing out toward the target. Your description is right on – back foot square to the target line, front foot turned out 20 degrees. EJ

  2. Jim Merwin says:

    Hi Eric:
    Once again I am amazed by the high quality of the insights you freely offer those of us lucky enough to know about you and your approach to teaching golf. Thank you!
    I have included my latest (of many!) efforts to come up with a pre-shot routine that works for all shots, is memorable enough to recall in the stress of the tee box environment, is short enough enough to be practical and also combines your set-up advice with your target focus approach. Here is my current iteration.

    Summary of Routines (10-29-11, ver. 4)

    Swing: 70%-80%
    1. See it. (Picture the target and shape of the shot.)
    2. Feel it. (Practice the swing looking at the target.)
    3. G.A.S.P. it. (Set grip, alignment, stance and posture.)
    4. Relax as you Confirm it. (Take a last look at target.)
    5. EnTrust it. (Entrust your body to execute the shot.)
    6. Do it! Take me There!

    1. See it.
    2. Feel it.
    3. G.A.S.P. it.
    4. Relax as you Confirm it.
    5. EnTrust it.
    6. Do it! Take me There!

    When is your book on practice due out? I can’t wait.

    Thanks again,

    Jim Merwin

  3. Will Goodnow says:

    One thing I have trouble with is remembering to align the clubface with my irons. I take my grip and align what I think is a square clubface. It seems when I raise the club to eye level the face is always closed.

    When I square it up and return the club to the address position it looks way too open. It is messing with my mind. HELP!!!!

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Will – I understand the challenge with proper alignment. It is the number one issue on the course. When you work on alignment there are actually THREE things to train: Your Eyes, Your Body, and Your Mind. First, you need to train your eyes to see the club face as square to the target. In my 5 Keys To Distance Training Program I have a drill using parallel clubs designed to do exactly that. Second, you need to train your body to take a square stance. That means feet, hips, and shoulders. Third, you need to train your mind to memorize the target in the correct position. It takes a good two weeks hitting every ball between parallel clubs to develop the habit of seeing the club face square, standing square, and swinging square to the line. But it is well worth the effort!

  4. Marion Esselink says:

    Would you mind tellling me how I would go about obtaining your other book that you mention in your 5 Keys to Distance book; the title is The Practice Effect: How to Groove A reliable, Automatic Swing You Can Trust?

    Thank you,
    Marion Esselink

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Marion – thanks for your interest in The Practice Effect. We are working on final edits and filming the various lessons. I’ll let you know as soon as it is released! EJ

  5. Alec Humphreys says:

    This is the second part. i believe I missed the first part. How can I get it?

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Alec, If you want to read past issues of the newsletters you can click on the navigation link under the banner on the site.