Setting up to the golf ball correctly is essential to hitting straight, powerful, consistent shots.
But while a lot of focus is placed on things like positioning the ball correctly in your stance – which we’ve explained in detail in another article – an equally important element that is often neglected is how the clubhead should be positioned behind the ball at address.
A common question many amateur golfers have is: should the toe of the golf club be up at address?
The answer is yes: the golf club should sit toe up at address. When you swing a golf club, the centrifugal forces used to create power and speed will cause your hands and clubhead to be slightly more upright at impact than they were at address. Setting the toe up at address caters for this natural movement, and ensures the clubhead is flat at impact.
If you set your clubhead square with the turf at address – with the toe sitting flush with the surface – it’s likely your hands and clubhead will steepen too much when taking a swing, causing the toe to dig into the ground at impact and causing dreaded toe-hooks, fat shots and inconsistent strikes, in general.
But, it’s important not to set the club with the toe too far up at address, as this will cause a myriad of other problems.
Similarly, the only time you don’t want to set the clubhead with the toe up is when using a putter (keep reading to find out why).
In this article, I’ll explain exactly how to correctly set the club to give you the best possible chance of hitting it flush every time you take a swing.
What is the toe of the golf club?
The toe of the golf club is the outermost part of the clubhead, located at the opposite end to the hosel on the other side of the ‘sweet spot’. It is the section of the golf club that is farthest away from the golfer when addressing the ball.
Mis-hits that strike the toe of the golf club will often cause a ‘rattling’ sensation that travels up the club shaft and can be felt in the golfer’s hands and arms, and often produce a draw or even hook ball flight.
What does toe up mean in golf?
Addressing the golf ball ‘toe up’ is when the golfer places the clubhead behind the ball with the toe slightly off the ground. Doing this allows the club to arrive back to the ball square with the turf, as the shaft will naturally be slightly more upright at impact than address due to the forces being placed on the club throughout the swing.
Setting the club with the correct amount of ‘toe up’ will prevent the toe or heel of the club digging into the ground at impact, and allow the clubhead to interact with the surface in the most efficient way.
So, how much ‘toe up’ is the right amount? Well, it’s actually really easy to figure out, and replicate. Let’s take a look.
How should a golf club lie on the ground?
The golf club should address the ball with the toe set a few millimetres in the air – the clubhead should never sit flat on the turf. You should be able to fit a small coin under the toe of the club at address, with the heel remaining in contact with the ground.
If the coin cannot fit underneath the toe of the clubhead at address, it means you are setting up with the club too upright.
Similarly, if you can fit the coin under the toe too easily, it means you are setting the toe too far up at address.
While it’s important to make sure the toe sits a few millimetres above ground level, having it too far in the air will likely cause the heel to dig into the turf at impact – causing inconsistent strikes and, worse case, even dreaded shanks.
The video below provides an excellent visual demonstration on how the club should be set at address:
What happens if the golf club is too upright at address?
If your golf club is too upright at address, it can lead to the toe of the club digging into the turf at impact. This is because during the golf swing, your hands – and hence the club shaft – naturally become more upright due to the forces created. This will negatively affect your ball-striking.
If you set your club behind the ball in an upright position – with the clubhead laying flat, rather than slightly toe up – by the time you make your swing, the club will have become far too steep by the time you arrive at impact.
The result is inconsistent strikes, and poor contact – neither of which are a recipe for playing good golf.
Should I get my golf clubs fitted for lie angle?
Yes, getting your golf clubs custom-fitted with the correct lie angle can improve your ball-striking significantly. Some players naturally strike the golf ball with the toe or heel slightly raised, and adjusting the lie angle ensures the club sits flat and square at impact without needing to significantly change your golf swing.
This is particularly important with your irons, as a raised toe or heel at impact can cause the club to dig into the turf and negatively affect the quality of your shots, including reduced accuracy and consistency.
I’ve written more about the benefits of club fittings here.
Should I have the toe up at address with irons?
Yes. When hitting irons, you should always address the golf ball with the toe of the club slightly up. This will ensure the clubhead arrives at the ball square at impact and will lead to better interaction with the turf, resulting in straighter shots.
Should I have the toe up at address with driver?
Yes, when hitting driver you should address the ball with the toe of the club slightly up. While your driver doesn’t leave a divot like an iron would, the centrifugal force produced during the swing will cause your hands – and the club shaft – to become more upright at impact than at address. Setting the clubhead with toe up helps ensure it arrives square at impact.
Should I have the toe up at address with putter?
No, the toe of your putter should not be up at address, nor should the heel be up. Your putter should sit flat behind the ball. Unlike a full golf swing, there isn’t enough force created during the putting stroke that would cause your hands and club shaft to become more upright at impact, meaning there is no reason to set the toe up at address to counteract this motion.
It should be clear now why it’s important to address the ball with the toe of your golf club slightly up when hitting irons or driver, but not with your putter.
Implementing this small, but significant change to your set-up position before taking a swing (if you aren’t already doing so) can create dramatic improvements in the quality of your ball-striking.
If you’d like to read more about What The Golf Swing Should Feel Like, I’ve written an extensive guide that explores everything from grip pressure, perfect takeaway and initiating the downswing, which I definitely recommend you read.