The Importance of Aim and Alignment

Poor aim and alignment is easily one of the most common mistakes in the set up. Watch any elite player and notice how they pay attention to little details such as the direction they are aimed. Rarely do you see a PGA or LPGA player line their body to the right or left of their target, unless they are trying to shape the shot. If you watch them practice, they routinely place a club, umbrella or stick parallel to their target line. This reinforces little details such as the correct alignment. Over ninety percent of the golfing population routinely slices the golf ball. Yet many aim their body to the right of the target. This forces them to hit the shot to the right of their target or manipulate the swing path so they hit the ball toward the target. aim-1

Aim is known as the direction you are attempting to hit the golf ball. A golfer will aim at their target. Therefore, if a player is attempting to hit the ball straight the club face is square to the target line. Note the golfer pictured on the left has placed a stick on the ground to help reinforce proper alignment. A club will work just as well.

Alignment is the direction the body is lined up in relation to the target. If a player is attempting to hit the ball straight their feet, knees, hips and shoulders should all be lined up parallel to the target line. In addition, the club face should point toward the target. Think of the target line as an imaginary line that runs through the golf ball toward the target.
Altering alignment is an easy way to promote a draw, hook, fade or slice. Produce a draw by aiming the clubface down the target line. Position the feet, knees, hips and shoulders to point slightly to the right of the target line. This is called a closed stance and can be seen at right. From this set up position, make a normal swing. The clubface will be slightly closed at impact causing the ball to curve from right to left. If the club face is significantly closed at impact the result will be a hook. A hook turns much more severe with a right to left ball flight.

A fade is produced by setting up opposite of a draw. Aim the club face down the target line. However, the feet, knees, hips and shoulders will be lined up slightly to the left of the target line. This is called an open stance and can be seen below. You will make your normal swing and impact should result with a slightly open clubface. The ball should start left and curve back to the right. A slice will have a much more severe left to right ball flight.
Observe any elite player and notice their pre-shot routine. Typically they pick their target and proceed to line up from behind the ball. Your vision can also alter your set up and alignment. Everyone is either left eye or right eye dominant. If you line up from the side of the golf ball, it is easy to line up incorrectly right or left of the target. Therefore, in your pre-shot routine, it is extremely important to pick a target and line up from behind the golf ball. Approaching from behind improves your vision and success rate of lining up correctly.

Matt Keller is a PGA Golf Professional with over 15 years of experience. Matt is a graduate of the Penn State PGM Program. Throughout his career he has worked at courses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. Matt has conducted thousands of golf lessons to players of all ages and ability levels. Currently, he is a PGA Professional at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club located near Bethany Beach, DE.

A Short Trip for A Great Round at Hoot’s

The Fourth of July back in 2002 probably arrived with its own celebrations and excitement, but for the folks at Country Creek and the golfers that frequent their golf complex, that day held intense interest for other reasons. Hoot’s Hollow, the newest eighteen hole creation of Jeff McKee’s opened and began hosting golfers willing to take on its many challenges. The Rock and The Quarry, the other courses at the Country Creek complex, have long been known as the “Best Value” in Kansas City Golf by many metro golfers. However, Hoot’s added new features and a different kind of layout to create a unique and challenging golf experience. The course features a unique Scottish links-style double green (shared by number 9 and 18, an unforgettable island green, a number of blind shots, and several doglegs that, unless properly negotiated, could lead a ball directly to water. club_house_sm

Designed by Jeff McKee, the course features rolling Zoysia fairways, fescue rough, and Dominant Plus bent grass greens. Set near Pleasant Hill, Missouri, the course sprawls across what was once cornfields and farmland. That meant the architect had plenty of natural terrain to work with, resulting in wide-open fairways, deep roughs, and most importantly, some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. A short drive south on either 71 highway or 291 Highway (depending on your origin) will land you in the middle of the Country Creek golf complex and put you on the path to Hoot’s Hollow. Contrary to what some metro-area golfers may believe, the trip to Pleasant Hill is a quick one and nowhere near the images of a long trek halfway to Oklahoma.

Perhaps a favorite part of the course is the overall design and layout, with something unique in store for golfers on each hole. There are no overly long forced water carries or a lot of sand to worry about and most trouble can be negotiated safely. During the summer months, tall prairie grass will swallow up a wayward ball, but most holes provide a good shot at an open fairway. The open layout also brings the wind into play on many holes and, as typical in summer months, the prevailing southerly winds need to be heeded when selecting a club or start line.

Hoot’s Hollow’s signature hole is the par 4 sixteenth. From the tips, the hole is 409 yards, but a strong south wind can add a good 50 yards to an already difficult hole. Two fingers of a lake come into play on both the drive and second shot. Three mounds along the left side of the fairway can make for some uneven lies and difficulty reaching the green. A drive that goes right leaves a long second shot into a green that is perched above a rock wall with a lake in front and a peninsula landing area. An over-sized green punishes those golfers who bring a shaky putting game and find themselves with a lengthy lag to get close. The hole is certainly challenging, but also picturesque. Enjoy the view as you make your way past the sixteenth’s trouble.

To provide a little more detail as to what you can expect at Hoot’s Hollow, here is a bit of a hole-by-hole summary:

#1 – The first hole is a 393-yard Par 4 downhill that allows the golfer to get some confidence early in the round. The hole plays completely downhill and the golfer is not punished for an errant drive. A bunker in the front right provides some protection, but it didn’t come into play on our trip as the hole was cut back left. Chances of making par or better are very good regardless of position of the tee.

#2 – The 420-yard Par 4 second comes back uphill towards the clubhouse, which makes it play a bit longer than the yardage indicates. Mounds on both the left and right come into play on a drive off the fairway. As the golfers approach the hole, they are greeted by a deep undulating green with a pot bunker on the right. Chances of making par or better are increased with a drive on the left side of the fairway.hhmap

#3 – The 415-yard Par 4 third plays back down the hill and is fairly similar to hole #1. However, a lake surrounded by tall prairie grass on the left will punish a drive that strays too far off the left fairway. A bowl on the right side of the green will punish an approach shot that drifts too far off course leaving a tough chip. Two bunkers in front of the green protect the putting surface. Best chance for par or better is a drive right down the middle of the fairway.

#4 – The first par 5 of the course comes in the form of the 559-yard Par 5 fourth and this is the hole where the character of Hoot’s Hollow comes out. Water is in play off the tee, but with the south wind it is rarely an issue. Three mounds on the right take going for the green in two out of the question for a drive that is off the right side of the fairway. A pot bunker on the left is the least of a golfer’s problem as the most difficult green of the course awaits with a menacing gathering area punishing an approach shot that is far from the hole. Best chance for par or better is a drive on the left side of the fairway. The south wind helps those golfers daring enough to go for the green in two.

#5 – The 355-yard Par 4 fifth is a tricky dogleg featuring water all along the right side, mounds on the left and a peninsula green. A drive that is errant on the right will find the water as the fairway slopes towards the lake. Best chance for par or better is a drive in the right middle of the fairway.

#6- The sixth hole is a 207-yard Par 3, and is the first Par 3 of Hoot’s Hollow. The South wind makes the hole longer by a few yards and a bunker on the right protects the green that slopes to the left.

#7 – The 446-yard Par 4 seventh features a blind tee shot that lands in a fairway that slopes towards the water on the right side. Golfers are greeted with a two-tiered green after doglegging around the lake. Best chance for par or better is a drive that is on the left side of the fairway.

#8 – The eighth hole is a 152-yard Par 3 seventh playing about 20 to 30 yards longer than the scorecard indicates depending on the ever-present South wind. Nestled along a lake and hitting into a huge green with several undulations, a golfer could get into trouble if the proper club is not selected.

#9- The 485-yard Par 5 ninth is reachable in two with a good drive off the tee. OB is in play if a golfer is trying to cut the corner and three mounds attempt to pursued a golfer to take the safe route. A rocky ditch on the right can cost strokes if the approach sails right. Also, a golfer could find their ball on the wrong side of this huge double green that serves as the green for both 9 and 18. Par or better is attainable on this hole, but the drive must be on the left side of the fairway. A drive that sails right will increase the distance of the hole.

#10 – The backside starts off with a 588-yard Par 5 that forces heavy hitters to leave the driver in the bag off the tee because of a small pond waiting 300 yards off the tee. The second shot goes back up the hill towards a green that is sloped front to back. The whole is wide open, so the only trouble would be to put a tee shot into the water. Best chance for par or better is the middle of the fairway.

#11 – The 440-yard Par 4 eleventh features mounds on the left and 2 traps on the front left of the green. The elevated tee box allows the hole to play shorter than the yardage dictates, but the south wind can push tee shot into a bit of trouble. Trees hinder an approach shot that follows an errant tee shot that sailed right. Best chance for Par or better is a drive on the left side of the fairway.

#12 – The 369-yard Par 4 twelfth is a dogleg left that features mounds on the left side and two traps that surround the green. A slightly elevated tee shot is counteracted by an uphill approach leaving a partially blind shot into the green. Best chance for par or better is middle of the fairway off the tee.

#13 –The 397-yard Par 4 thirteenth forces the golfer to hit a straight tee shot. Mounds on both sides and two trees in front of the green reward precision and punish inaccurate tee and approach shots. The undulating green sits in a valley. Best chance for par or better is in the middle of the fairway off the tee.

#14 – The 510-yard Par 5 fourteenth is a gentle dogleg right with trees pinching both sides of the fairway. The green is narrow and deep and surrounded by OB in back and a pot bunker on the right. With the help of the South wind, the putting surface is reachable in two. Best chance for par or better is a tee shot to the left side of the fairway.

#15 – The 192-yard Par 3 fifteenth features a lake behind a green that slopes back to front. The southerly wind pushes the tee shot to the left of the hole.

#16 – The 409-yard Par 4 sixteenth is the signature hole of Hoot’s Hollow. It is a difficult hole when the south wind is blowing. The second finger of the lake fronts the large green. Best chance for par is a drive to the right side of the fairway and avoiding both fingers of the lake on either the drive or the approach.golf_water_sm

#17 – The 172-yard Par 3 seventeenth is an island green ringed with huge rocks. A long approach to the huge two-tiered green can make for a big score unless a golfer confidently sends a ball to the proper tier.

#18 – The 379-yard Par 4 eighteenth features a rocky ditch along the left side and mounds on the right. The green is a familiar site as it shares the surface with the ninth hole, but has more undulations for the golfer finishing up their round.

The nineteenth hole features a deck to sit out and watch other golfers finish up their front nine or their round while enjoying a beverage of their choice and a delicious sandwich from the snack bar located inside the Beautiful Clubhouse of Hoot’s Hollow.