Golf’s Great Optical Illusion

Probably the greatest fault that everyone who doesn’t play golf for a living makes is aligning themselves incorrectly.  Before we’ve tried to make any move on the ball, we are lined up in a way that makes it extra hard for our body to make a good golf swing, no matter how much we’ve worked on our form or technique.  That may sound crazy, but if you watch the greatest pros when they practice on the range, they almost all lay down a club or alignment stick… not because they’re forgetful or idiots, but because there is an optical illusion in golf that is really hard to make your brain believe.

One of the easiest ways to see it is to find a relatively straight section of cart path, and stand on one side of the cart path—left side if you are right handed, right side if you are left.  Now, imagine that you are holding a monster long driver that would reach across the cart path, and your ball was teed up on the other side of the path from you.  If you take a look down the cart path, your intended target would be on the line of the other side of the cart path.  If you are right-handed, that would look out to your right.  If you imagine taking a swing with that monster driver, and trying to get the ball started on the line of the other side of the path, you’ll see what I mean.  You will feel like you would really have to swing out to the right to get it going online.  It’s the same thing with your actual clubs.

So, on the course, it’s a really good idea to get directly behind your ball when you are looking at a shot, and pick out a couple of targets inline between your ball and your target.  I like to try to pick out something in the 5 to 10 foot range in front of my target, and then maybe something 30 yards out.  When I then take my practice swings, I try to do that behind the ball, swinging out to the right (it will feel like swinging out to an imaginary second baseman) towards those intermediate targets I have picked out.  I then set up to the ball, with my feet parallel left of the target line, give those intermediate targets a glance, glance at the target and start my takeaway.

For me, the times I get in the most trouble with loss of height, distance and accuracy with all of my clubs, and even my chipping, is when I don’t setup to swing out to my right, but somehow try to swing towards a target that is on my toe line.  This leads to a pull across the ball every time.  And so, I try to work on this every time I’m at the range or playing; and I hope this idea can help you too.


Written by Wade Baynham
Single-digit handicap, who learned golf in his early 20′s from my former father-in-law, a long time PGA tour and Champions tour player. I enjoy studying the golf swing and occasionally give golf lessons.