How to Practice Golf Shots: An Introduction to Shot Shaping

Find out how to properly practice your starting line in golf. This is the first step to becoming a great ball striker and will give you much more control of your golf game.

What makes a great ball striker?  Power?  Accuracy?  The ability to work the ball?  What about controlling your golf ball’s trajectory?

In order to be a GREAT ball striker, you need to be able to do all of these.  That’s where there seems to be a large void in golf instruction.

There is plenty of information on where and how to position your hands, how to grip the golf club, and even where to point your toes.

But when it comes down to actually working the ball and controlling your shot shape, there is little to no information.

Here is a great drill to introduce to you “shot shaping 101”:

The first piece of controlling your shot shape is strictly directional.  Can we get the ball to start to the right, and can we get the ball to start to the left?

First, you should not be worried about how far the ball starts to the right or the left.  With experience and some practice, this will come.  This article and its accompanying drill are designed to help you decide the perfect starting line for any shot.

Golf Practice for Shot Shaping - Tour Sticks
Tour Sticks are perfect for this drill.

The only equipment you will need are two golf alignment rods.  These are graphite sticks that are slightly sharpened on one end so that they can be placed into the ground at whatever angle you’d like.

We will need two of these:  One for your feet alignment and one as your shot shaping guide.

(Tour Sticks are the perfect alignment rods, and you can get them from our golf training aids store.)

Now that you’ve got your alignment rods, here’s how to set up your training station:

  1. Pick the target in the distance while on the driving range.
  2. Place a practice ball in the spot you’ll be hitting your shots.
  3. Now place your first alignment rod between the ball that will be hit and your feet.  Point this rod toward the target in the distance.  This will give you a frame of reference to help you line your feet parallel to the target.
  4. Now take your second rod and place it six or seven feet in front of the ball to be struck, directly in line with your target.  If placed properly, a dead straight shot toward the target will hit this rod.

Now it’s time for the fun part!

For the sake of this article, we will assume that there are two types of shots: shots that start to the right and shots that start to the left.

As mentioned before, we will not get into the details of how much to start the ball to the left or the right in this initial drill.  The first shot we will practice will start to the left.

To start a shot to the left of your target line, focus on the club head moving from right to left of the target line, if looking from the down-the-line view.

Ideally, you would like to have the face pointing the same direction the club is moving. Having the face slightly open or closed is fine for now and will only produce a slight fade or draw.

The goal is only to start the ball to the left of the stick placed in front of your ball.

To start a ball to the right, we will make the opposite motion.   We now want to swing from left to right through the ball (if looking from down the target line).

The more your club is moving toward the right, the farther it will start to the right of the alignment stick, all else equal.

So let’s get started with the drill.

I would like for you to set up with your feet parallel to the alignment rod on the ground.

Be sure you do not cheat and open or close your stance in order to start the ball to the left or right. Your feet, hips, and shoulders should all be aligned toward the target.

Now I want you to practice swinging to the left, so that when you contact the ball it will start left of the target stick and miss the alignment rod that you have stuck in the ground.  I want you to practice the shot until you hit one that misses the stick to the left.

Once you have done this, you’re going to switch to a shot that starts to the right of the target stick. It’s important to switch after every shot. This helps to re-create an on course scenario where every shot is different than the one before.

Keep your feet in the same alignment and hit a shot that starts to the right of the target stick.  Keep practicing until you hit a shot that starts to the right and misses the stick.

Continue to practice these drills, alternating from one shot shape to the next.  Once you have successfully started 10 balls to the right of your target stick and 10 balls to the left of your target stick, you have completed the drill.

Now you understand how to control the starting line of any golf shot.  You will have taken the first step toward becoming a great ball striker.

Check back on our blog for future articles on how to continually improve your ball striking.  In the future, we will go over not only the starting line, but curvature of the ball as it flies through the air.

We will also provide you with great drills on trajectory control and advanced shot shaping techniques.

If you would like to see more online golf instruction, including videos on how to draw and fade the golf ball, and over 180 total videos for all aspects of your golf game visit