While much focus and attention are drawn to the position of the head during the golf swing or golf stroke and keeping it down, where the eyes’ focus can be just as important as well.
The most common place to look on the golf ball when swinging is the back of the ball, even down to a specific dimple on the back of the ball.
However there are a few thoughts around where to look at golf ball during the golf swing. Some coaches and PGA players advocate where to look at golf ball, some behind the ball, and some in front of the ball, but this also depends on what stroke you are making at the time.
The question of where your eyes should be has several answers so let’s take a look at some of the ideas around where your eyes should be and why, as well as some of the ball striking issues that could be fixed by looking in front of the golf ball.
Why The Head Position Is Critical In The Golf Swing
Even though we are discussing the position of the eyes, no discussion around this can be complete without a brief look at the role of the head in the swing or stroke. The head is the heaviest part of the body, and as such, if it is moving or positioned poorly, this can adversely affect the golf swing.
Not only does it need to be still at impact, but it also needs to move with the swing through the golf ball to finish looking up. Keeping the head down right through the swing is as detrimental to the result as lifting it.
So your head should be still through the swing until impact and then follow the shoulders and the body down the line of the swing to follow through.
Look In Front Of The Golf Ball If You Hit Fat Shots
The discussion below concerns swinging irons as they need to be hitting down and through the ball to achieve compression on impact.
Hitting the ground before the golf ball is a very common problem with high handicap players, known as hitting the ball fat. If you have this problem, then shifting your eyes’ focus to the front or target side of the ball can actually help you hit better shots.
This is because by shifting your eyes in front of the golf ball, you shift your gravity ever-so-slightly forward, and this promotes the club reaching its swing apex at the ball instead of behind it.
Why Looking In Front Of The Ball Makes Sense
Former women’s world No 1 and probably the greatest female golfer of all time, Annika Sorenstam, is a proponent of having the eyes fixed in front of the ball, and it makes sense as well.
When making her swing, she preferred having her face turned toward the target, and although this is not the most common eye position, it is not at all rare on the tour as there are quite a few other players that do this.
Having your eyes ahead of the ball helps to swing through the target rather than at the ball, which tends to cause a poor ball strike. Many players struggle to achieve power and speed as they tend to ‘stop’ as they anticipate the impact.
If you consider watching a martial artist break a wooden board with their hands or feet, they don’t strike AT the surface of the target; they strike BEYOND the target to ensure they achieve speed, acceleration, and power through impact to break the board.
The same is true in the golf swing. By looking in front of the golf ball, you won’t be tempted to hit ‘at the ball, but rather through it, and this will stop you slowing down on impact and give you better acceleration and smash on impact.
By having your eyes focused on the target side of the ball, you will tend to hit down and through at impact, which can only result in better quality ball striking.
Look Behind The Ball If You Are Hitting Thin Shots
Conversely, if your ball striking issue is that you hit thin shots, then perhaps you are looking too far ahead of the ball and need to shift your eyes to the back of the ball. This will move your center of gravity that little bit further back.
Having said that, you may find that looking in front of the ball, even if you are thinning it, could help you swing down and through, so either way, give it a go!
Seeing The Ball At Impact
It is best to keep your eye on the ball long enough that the club strikes the ball while you are still watching it for each golf shot. This helps keep your body centered and your posture correct at impact ensuring your best swing plane on each golf ball contact.
A common bad shot result is when we take our eyes off the ball during the swing arc and then when hitting make poor contact. The ball can head off in crazy directions when our eyes are not focused.
Losing Sight Of The Ball During The Backswing
This can be a common problem when your swing arc is over extended in the back of your swing and you aren’t flexible enough to keep your eye on the ball. If you find this happening to you, it can be difficult to make sure your club strikes the ball where and how you want it to.
Shortening your back swing arc is the best way to counteract this. Extending your back swing just to the limit of where you can still see that specific dimple on the ball you are watching. Keeping the entire ball in your vision.
Where Do Most Players Look When Swinging
The great Jack Nicklaus, arguably one of the best ever, focuses on the entire ball as a whole and not forward or back. This is how most of the players position their eyes when hitting their irons.
Remember that to achieve good quality ball-striking; your eyes need to follow the line of the ball and the club through impact, which means allowing your head to move with the swing.
Practicing Your Eye Position For Your Golf Swing
Once you have decided where you want to have your eye position, spend a practice session on the driving range hitting golf balls to groove in that position. Take some practice swings in which you envision the ball perfectly where you would be looking at it.
Then spend some time on the golf course hitting shots at your target to dial in that experience. Play golf, hitting tee shots, iron shots and short game shots while working on it.
This time spent on your golf game will be huge in adding the eye position to your golf game.
Eye Position For Bunker Shots
When hitting a shot from a greenside bunker as part of your short game it is best to keep your eyes on the sand directly behind your ball. This helps you make contact with that spot, rather than direct contact with the ball. You want the club face to “hit the ball” by going through the sand to find the ball.
However, when hitting from a fairway bunker you want to keep your eyes on the location you would for normal shots. Your swing arc should be slightly more shallow than from the grass to make sure you strike the ball before the sand for each fairway bunker golf shot.
Where To Look At Golf Ball When Putting
As per the discussion above, many high handicap players struggle with quality striking on their putters as well, and much of this can be attributed to ‘wanting to see where the ball goes’ and lifting the head too soon after impact.
If you watch the pros, they will contact the ball and only let the eyes follow the putt after the ball has started traveling on the line. Lifting your head too soon will have the same results as putting as with iron play.
Focusing on the front of the ball could help you commit to the shot and not slow down or pull out of the stroke too early. It will also allow your eyes to follow the ball easier than if your focus is behind or on the ball at impact.
By looking at the front of the ball, you will tend to make better contact and get the ball rolling better, with less chance of pulling or pushing the putt as your head moves through the stroke.
While many tour players may look at the ball rather than in front of it, there is still a good case for you to look in front of the ball when hitting irons or putting, and who can argue with Annika’s record and her great ball striking and putting!
So the next time you are playing or practicing, focus consciously on looking ahead of the ball ever so slightly and see if that helps you hit better shots! After all, golf, like football, is a game of inches and if moving your eyes forward is all you need to play better – then do it!