Instruction about ball position should only be used as a guide. There are so many exceptions to the rule and with game experience golfers who trust their instinct will have the most success.
Guide: For shots off the ground, the clubhead position is in the middle of your stance (shoulder width) and the ball position is just in front of this, just forward to the target side. Off a tee, the position is toward the target foot.
There is no set or perfect position that suits all golfers (because swings differ), and conditions or lies change. It is a good idea to practice your ball position using alignment tools to guide you during a controlled setting on the range. You can learn a lot about your ball flight and what works for you during these sessions.
However, to really understand ball position, you need to understand what you are trying to accomplish. When striking the ball off the ground, you are trying to place the ball in a position which will allow the club to strike the ball just prior to reaching the bottom of the swing arc. (Fig 1.) When you are striking the ball off the tee with a driver, you’re trying to strike the ball when your swing arc has started upward. (Fig. 2.)
Figure 1 – The divot (bottom of the swing arc) for an iron shot will occur just in front of the ball.
Figure 2 – Note the club is starting to travel upward on the arc to meet the ball on the tee.
During a game, a proficient swinger will consider the lie, the length of grass, the slope of the ground and the shape or type the shot they are trying to produce. This golfer will not consciously think of this, as it would be exhausting. They rely on experience, feel and trust. I call this instinct.
To find the right ball position on the course, you need to trust your instinct to help you consider all the factors at play. To do this, take a simple little practice swing or two. You will be testing the feel of the slope, the swing type you need and seeing where the bottom of your swing arc is so you know where your ball position will be for each individual shot.
Understand your personal swing arc and the bottom of your swing determines your ball position. Do not force “the guide” to make all of your ball placement decisions on the course. Too often golfers are trying to be perfect by implementing the instruction or rules of ball position without considering their instinct.