13 Ways to Fix Your Game: Iron Play

13 Ways to Fix Your Game: Iron Play

Fix Your Iron Play

Time your release

You need a well-timed release to produce accurate power, but nailing that timing can be difficult. Any time the clubhead starts to outpace your hands, you’ll be in a scooping position at impact, and that means plenty of ballflight misery.

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To hit more greens in regulation, keep your hands ahead of the clubhead through impact. Don’t let your clubhead lead the hands.

Lead with your hands

From the top, think about crushing a soda can under your right armpit. This will help you retain the angle between the shaft and your left forearm. Keep that angle intact until impact. Your club will then release at the bottom of your swing without you having to give it a thought.

Stick it like Stricker

If you want to make piles of birdies you have to hit piles of greens, and no one improved more in that category than Steve Stricker, who moved up 155 spots in the greens-in-regulation ranking.

“I knew I was hitting more greens this year! I have more confidence because I’m doing everything a little better. I’m playing smarter, going after the pins I feel comfortable going after and leaving the others alone. I put in a lot of time last winter at the indoor driving range my father-in-law owns in Madison, Wisc., and I started to work on a lot of little things in my swing. Plus, I’m getting it in the fairway more—my fairway percentage is up quite a bitfrom last year, and those two (fairways hit and GIR) kind of go hand-in-hand.”
-Steve Stricker

PGA Tour Most Improved Greens in Regulation (GIR)
Player 2005 GIR/Rank 2006 GIR/Rank Improvement/Rank
Steve Stricker 61.3%/179th 67.8%/24th +6.5%/+155
Stephen Ames 62%/169th 66.4%/51st +4.4%/+118
Skip Kendall 62.7%/153rd 67.2%/37th +4.5%/+116
Thomas Levet 61.3%/179th 65.9%/70th +4.6%/+109
PGA Tour Average: 64.6%

Fix Your Long Game

Adjust your swing plane

The longer clubs in your bag — including hybrids — have longer shafts and decreased lie angles that make a flatter swing plane a necessity so you can sweep the ball. As you take the club back, try to swing your hands under your shoulder plane. If you swing them above your shoulders like you would with a short-iron, your downswing will be too steep. You’ll hit down on the ball instead of sweeping it.

Be the (Olaza) ball

Jose Maria Olazabal has won one PGA Tour event since his triumph at Augusta in 1999, and no one will ever confuse him with John Daly off the tee. But he keeps cashing checks and picking up Ryder Cup points thanks to a spectacular longiron and fairway-wood game that only got better in 2006.

“It’s really been a combination of things, but it’s translated into me making fewer mistakes off the tee and hitting more greens, compared to the last two years.”
-Jose Maria Olazabal

PGA Tour Most Improved Greens in Regulation (GIR) from 200 yards or more
Player 2005 %/Rank 2006 %/Rank Improvement/Rank
Padraig Harrington 43.7%/100th 64.3%/1st +20.6%/+99
Jose Maria Olazabal 43.5%/106th 62.2%/2nd +18.7%/+104
John Cook 30.2%/202nd 43.7%/103rd +13.5%+99
Tim Clark 39.3%/170th 52.5/18th +13.2%/+152
PGA Tour Average: 44.2%

Success Story

Top 100 Teacher Mike Bender operates the Mike Bender Golf Academy at Timacuan G & CC in Lake Mary, Fla.

The power of muscle memory

Recently, a Swedish woman came to me to learn how to play golf. She didn’t speak English and had never even touched a club. I tried to use pictures and video to explain the swing, but since she only spoke Swedish she still couldn’t understand me.

Step One was to physically place her into a sound address position. Only when she had ingrained this position into her muscle memory was she allowed to make a backswing

Step Two was to physically take her up to the top of the backswing and pause her there.

Step Three was to hit the ball from her static top position. After each swing, I physically adjusted her into a proper finish position and made her hold it for a few counts. I did this for every swing, during every lesson, an hour a day for six days in a row. By the end of the sixth day she was hitting her 7-iron 130 yards with a nice, high draw. It was incredible to see how quickly muscle memory took over her swing. In just under a week she was able to feel if and when she was correct in each spot.

The key to this lesson was pausing at each position. This allowed her to feel what was correct. Most golfers never truly know if what they feel in their swings is right or wrong.