Hit Clean Iron Shots

August 19, 2011

When you want to punch the ball under a branch, it shoots up like a rocket. When you want to boom a towering approach shot, the ball barely gets airborne. What’s going on?

Irons are tricky to master because what your instincts feel is the right thing to do is really dead wrong. To hit irons solidly, which is the key to distance control, you need to hit down and compress the ball between the ground and the face of the club. This produces backspin which, added to the club’s loft, makes the ball rise. These tips should help take your iron game to new heights.

Learn from your divot
Good iron players hit the ball first, then the ground. Next time you’re at the range, press a tee into the ground about 1 inch from the ball outside your target line.

Hit the ball with your 7-iron. If you make ball-first contact, the divot will be on the target side of the tee. If the divot starts slightly behind the tee, you hit a little fat and sacrificed distance and accuracy. If the entire divot is behind the tee, you chunked it.

Practice goal: Hit 10 shots in a row with your divot starting on the target side of the tee.

Incorrect: Getting flippy

If you hit low-flying skulls, chances are your clubhead is whipping ahead of your hands as you try to scoop the ball into the air. That puts the leading edge of the club into contact with the ball. At impact, the back of your left hand should face the target an your right wrist should bend slightly away from the target.

Correct: Full Extension

To check your impact position and get a feel for hitting solid irons, hit a series of balls and stop the clubhead below the level of your waist. You’ll find it impossible to scoop at the ball and achieve this shortened finish. And don’t be afraid to shorten your follow-through if you mis-hit a few irons in the middle of your round.

The Drill:

Address a ball in the middle of your stance while holding a 5-iron. Bend your right knee, point your toe into the ground and hit the ball. By dropping your right foot back, away from the target — a classic reverse pivot — as you make your downswing. Instead, you will rotate around your left foot and make a descending blow on the back of the ball.