I hit three out of every four greens in 2014. I did the same thing last year, and for two seasons before that. So while Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie may bomb it past me, and Inbee Park will drop some big putts, I can beat the best because of my irons. When your approach shots land exactly where you planned them to, the game gets easy. Want proof? In my last 47 tournaments, I’ve won six times [including a major] and notched 33 top 10s, and I’ve done it with what I’d call “fair” distance and putting stats. But thanks to pinseeking approach shots, I’ve become the No. 1 player in ladies golf.
Iron play has always been my strength. My swing secret is simple: I keep the moving parts to a minimum. As my coach, Top 100 Teacher Joe Hallett, likes to say, “Hit the ball with minimal input to get maximum output.” On the following pages, I’ll help you eliminate your wasted swing motion so you can hone the moves that work. Hitting pure irons is easier than you think. Just use the five key positions that Joe and I practice every week and that anyone can handle. Follow our lead to catch every iron on the sweet spot. You’ll hit more greens and make more birdies. Soon you’ll be the No. 1 player in your world!
Photos by Angus Murray
Let Your Arms Hang Freely
Stand closer to the ball with dangling arms for a natural, athletic setup
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: A good iron swing starts at address. The key here is to remember that your irons are a lot shorter than your driver, so you need to stand much closer to the ball. I see a lot of weekend players stand too far away, reaching out to the ball with outstretched arms at address. You’re not going to stay balanced this way, and you need good balance to eliminate unwanted swing motion.
If you don’t feel comfortable at address, it’s important to make adjustments. Copy what you see here and you’ll not only feel relaxed at setup, you’ll be setting the stage to make an on-plane swing without even trying.
SYNC UP YOUR BACKSWING TRIO
Swing arms-shoulders-hips to feel smooth and maximize your coil
My coach Joe and I agree that if you achieve a sound position at the top, most of the swing work is done. There’s no doubt: The backswing is big! For me, it’s key to start the club back in a specific sequence so that all the moving parts “gather” at the top at the same time. This keeps the clubface square and the shaft on plane and eliminates many of the things that can go wrong in the downswing.
Get The Drop From The Top
In the downswing, let your arms move the club down, then swing toward the target
When your hips, shoulders and arms reach the top at the same time, you know exactly when to start down. This lets you make a smooth transition, and the smoother your transition, the better your impact will be. Why? When you’re smooth you won’t jerk the club off plane or lose your posture.
The trick is to refrain from doing too much at the start of your downswing. Try to feel as though your arms are falling straight down while the rest of your body stays in place. This is where weekend players get into trouble — they think that as soon as the backswing is over, the hips must immediately jump into action. Not true. The correct downswing sequence is much like your backswing sequence, with your arms leading the way.
Think about it: If the club goes to the right and then up in your backswing, it makes sense that it would go down before going left to get back to impact. Joe always tells me, “Get the club to your waist before turning.” It’s more feel than technique, but it’s a powerful swing thought. It reminds me to transition into my downswing by dropping my arms. And it stops me from moving my lower body too early, because if I move my waist, how can the club get to it before turning?
Make A Big Impact
Actually, I don’t think of impact as a “position.” Sure, it’s a moment in time, but it happens in milliseconds, and what happens right before and right after contact is just as important as the strike.
Once you reach the delivery zone — club at your waist — the next step is to keep swinging your arms, using their momentum to pull your body through the shot.
Make A Big Impact
Now the fun part: When the club is waist-high, pour on the body turn…and smash it!
As you strike the ball, it should feel like your upper and lower body are moving in unison. This sort of teamwork removes any “twist” in the club. This results in a face that stays square, leading to a thing of beauty: your ball flying right at the flag.
Strike A (Natural) Pose
Don’t rush your follow-through. Let it end on its own.
Your finish position should feel similar to your top position in that everything—club, hands, arms, shoulders and hips—should arrive at the end of your swing simultaneously. What’s a bad swing? One in which your body reaches the end first and the club has to catch up—or vice-versa.
If you’re leaning too far forward at the finish, you probably didn’t activate your torso power early enough through impact. And if you’re leaning back, you’ve used too much lower body. That’s why matching your arm swing with your torso turn through the ball is vital. Get that right and you’ll be striping it like a professional.