There's a lot of talk about ball position in the short game, and how different positions allow you to hit different shots. I think that's risky. Moving the ball around makes the big three—contact, trajectory and roll—less predictable. I like the ball in line with the toe of the back shoe, with the stance slightly open and the shaft angled so the grip points to the front hip (see photo). You can pick your own ball position, just make it the same every time.
SET IT FOR 12:30
Opening the clubface will help you slide the club along the ground at impact and avoid digging. In effect, you create a longer flat spot through impact, so you can make less-than-perfect contact and still get a good result. At address, picture a clockface on the ground so the club's leading edge would point to 12:00 when the clubface is square. Turn the face open slightly—halfway to 1:00—and then take your grip. Now you've set the club to hit just about any greenside shot.
As you swing back, keep your legs stable, with your knees holding their positions. This ensures that the low point of the swing stays forward so you hit the ball first, then the ground. If your knees sway back, it means your torso is twisting, which pulls the club inside and shifts the low point back. Result: chunks and skulls. So lean your knees forward, the front knee over the outside of the front foot and the back knee over the instep of the back foot (see photo), and keep them there.
PLAY A CUT SHOT
The best swing shape for solid contact is slightly outside the target line going back and slightly across the line going through. I call this move "swinging to your toe line" because you've taken an open stance (see photo). A lot of golfers are in the habit of "swinging to the clubface," or in the direction the face is pointing (from in to out if they use an open face). Remember the deal: The more in to out you swing, the greater the risk of hitting the ground before the ball. A little cut swing puts the club on the ball first. Make sure your knees, hips and shoulders match your stance—slightly open—then just swing along your toes.
LET THE HEEL LEAD
Most golfers fixate on the actual strike, but let's look at how clubface position through impact affects trajectory and roll. The face should stay open, with the club's heel leading the toe all the way through (see photo). This is critical because if the toe passes the heel, it's moving faster, so the ball comes off the face faster. That speed burst makes it difficult to predict the landing and roll-out. The feeling you want is that the ball comes off slowly so you can make an aggressive swing. That's what you get when the heel leads the toe.