It can certainly be confusing knowing just how wide the golf stance should be. Most professionals will tell you that all things being equal the heels of the feet should be directly under the shoulders. This is considered a normal stance, but the question becomes, “should this be your stance distance on all shots”. There are advantages and disadvantages to wider and narrower stances, and as with most golf advice one size never fits all. We will examine what we can do with the stance width to take better advantage of certain situations.
The basic purpose of the stance is to provide a stable platform for the body. So it stands to reason that if you have balance issues or perhaps playing in extremely windy conditions you would want the wider stance to provide more stability. When your stance is wider you have a lower center of gravity. This will make your swing shorter, and therefore will be in better control. When it’s windy you will be less likely to be blown off-balance.
A wider stance also encourages your hips to stay level throughout the swing. If you have a tendency to tilt the hips when coming through the ball, this will be one way to keep them more stable. That hip tilt is something that many golfers suffer from and it can cause a lot of problems with miss-hit balls. If you do decide to try a wider stance, keep in mind a couple of things. First, it doesn’t have to be overly wide; in fact it should be at most just a little wider than the shoulders. Also, to get the correct angle of attack to the ball set the right knee slightly inward and keep it there at the top of your swing.
The one thing you will lose in the wider stance is better hip action. Being able to rotate the hips farther and faster will build up that centrifugal force needed for club head speed, and greater distance. The restriction in body movements of the wider stance will help stabilize the swing, but this stabilization will also reduce the amount of coiling needed for greater distance.
So what’s the answer? I think it depends on the clubs that you are using, but also has to do with issues that you naturally have in your golf swing. Since the driver and your fairway woods are longer clubs they are more difficult to control. Many people, especially those with balance issues could probably get a more controlled swing and make better contact with the wider stance. With the shorter clubs, and this is especially true for a pitching wedge or the chip shot, where the swing length is much shorter so normally loss of balance is never an issue. And if you do have problems with sway in your swing I would definitely consider the wider stance.