Do you tend to hit your iron shots solidly, but a little lower than you’d like?
It’s certainly not the worst problem in golf, but it can hinder your scoring ability.
For example, you’ve got a 9-iron to a pin tucked just behind a bunker. But your low trajectory prevents you from attacking the flag with a high, soft-landing shot. You’re forced to play past the pin, conceding your chance to make birdie despite having a short iron approach.
Your problem may be a simple matter of hand position. That is, your hands are too far ahead of the ball at impact, de-lofting the clubface and, in essence, turning that 9-iron into an 8, maybe even a 7.
The first thing to check is your hand position at address. The club’s handle should point just inside your left (lead) hip – farther left and you need to shift the hands back toward the center of your stance.
Provided your ball position is correct, a slight move of the hands may be all you need to loft those short and mid-irons into tight flags.
How to Correct Your Irons Flying Too Low in Golf
When you picture a perfect iron shot heading toward the green, what do you see? Do you imagine it flying low to the ground, landing hard on the green and taking a big bounce toward the back of the putting surface? No, probably not. Instead, you likely imagine an iron shot that floats high into the air with plenty of backspin, lands softly on the green, and stops quickly near where it landed. A well-struck iron shot that flies high in the air is a thing of beauty, but it isn't always easy to achieve. You will need to have the right technique and mechanics present in your swing to make your vision of a perfect iron shot come to life.
If you are currently struggling with your iron shots flying too low, you likely have trouble reaching your scoring goals on the course. It is difficult to make enough pars and the occasional birdie when your iron shots are coming in low to the green and taking big bounces after they land. Golf is all about being able to control the ball as much as possible and stop it near your targets. When iron shots fly low and have little backspin to help them stop, you are mostly at the mercy of the course to determine where your ball will finally come to rest. This makes it hard to hits greens in regulation at all, let alone get the ball close to the hole.
In order to lower your scores and reach a level of play that you are happy with, you are going to need to learn how to hit the ball higher with your irons. While it would be nice to hit the ball high with all of the irons in your bag, at least getting your short irons up into the air is a good place to start. Hitting long irons high is a challenge for even an accomplished player, so you don't need to worry about that part much at this point. As long as your mid and short irons are climbing into the air nicely, you should have a much easier time scoring.
For the most part, the trajectory of your ball when struck by an iron comes down to two variables – the launch angle and the spin rate. The launch angle is determined by a number of conditions including how much loft is on the club that you are using, what angle you attacked the ball from, and even what kind of shaft is in the club itself. Spin rate is largely a reflection of your club head speed and angle of attack, but it also can be affected by the type of ball you are playing, the irons you are using, and the kind of lie you had in the grass. There are plenty of elements at play when establishing the eventual ball flight that you achieve, but all you need to worry about is making a technically sound swing that gives you the lift you need to hit a high and soft iron shot.
Before continuing, please note that all of the instructions written below are based on a right handed golfer. Left handed players will need to simply reverse the directions.
Why Your Irons Are Flying Too Low
Before you can correct the mistakes you are making in your swing and get the ball to fly higher, you have to learn what those mistakes are in the first place. While there are a number of different swing errors that can cause your irons shots to fly too low, some are more common than others. Following are a few of the swing problems that can lead to a low trajectory with your irons.
- Lack of speed. Quite simply, you might not be generating enough speed to put the amount of backspin on the ball necessary to send it high into the air. That isn't to say that you cant swing hard enough – just that you aren't doing so currently. The good news is that swing speed can be added quickly by fixing a few key fundamentals which allow power to be developed and used at just the right moment. You don't need raw strength and big muscles to swing a golf club fast – you just need to know what you are trying to do and then execute that technique.
- Trying to lift the ball. Golf is counter-intuitive in many ways, and the iron game is a perfect example of that fact. When you want the ball to go up high into the air, you actually need to hit down on it. Many amateur golfers, not understanding this fact, try to hit up into the ball to help it into the air. This is the exact opposite of what you should be doing, and it may be contributing to your low ball flight. Hitting up into the ball will drastically reduce the amount of backspin you can get on the shot, meaning the ball will never fly as high as you want it to. Also, you will have trouble getting your shots on line consistently, and you will likely make poor contact most of the time. If you are currently hitting up into the ball with your irons, this is the first mistake that you need to address.
- Sliding toward the target. A good golf swing is one that rotates mostly in place, rather than sliding from side to side. When you start to get your weight going from side to side, you lose the speed that you could have built by turning aggressively toward the target. Also, sliding during the downswing will shallow out your angle of attack, making it hard to hit down into the ball and create the backspin you need. Good golfers rotate and poor golfers slide – it really is that simple.
Obviously, there are more potential reasons for your low ball flight than just these three points. However, the three swing issues above are a great place to start and will cover the majority of golfers suffering from this problem. Think about your own swing and try to identify what it is that you believe is causing your irons to fly too low. Is your problem among the three listed above, or is it something else? Once you believe you have determined why the ball is staying so low to the ground, we can move on to getting it fixed.
The Ideal Impact Position
The moment of truth in golf is when the club actually strikes the ball, because that is when you find out if the work you did putting your swing together is going to pay off in the form of a good shot. Your impact position is important for every shot that you hit, but it is particularly crucial when it comes to hitting iron shots from the fairway. You need to be in just the right position in order to strike down through the ball aggressively and have it rise up into the air with plenty of spin. A poor impact position will make it almost impossible to achieve the kind of ball flight that you need to play your best.
There are three key pieces to a good impact position when playing an iron shot –
- Weight on your left side
- Hands in front of the ball
- Eyes looking down at the ball
That's it. If you can successfully manage to meet those three points with your iron swing at impact, you will be well on your way to a great-looking ball flight. Lets walk through each of those three to highlight why they are important and what you can do to make each of them happen within your swing.
Getting your weight onto your left side is important because it allows you to naturally swing on a downward plane through the ball. If you were to hang back on your right side during the downswing and through impact, it would be almost impossible to hit down on the ball correctly. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers hear this piece of advice and end up sliding instead of rotating in order to get their weight to the left.
This needs to be perfectly clear – you do not want to slide to your left during the downswing. That is poor technique, and will lead to poor shots. Instead, you want your lower body to be rotating toward the target, which will lead to you getting your weight over the left foot as a result. That rotation should start from the very top of the swing and continue all the way through impact. Where a sliding swing would lead to weak contact with the ball, a rotational swing can develop power and make it possible to create the backspin necessary for a high-flying shot.
To practice getting your weight in the right position at impact, put down your clubs and just make some practice swings only using body movements. Focus on the motion of your lower body and be sure that you are rotating in place on the downswing and not letting your left hip slide toward the target. By taking away the club, it will be easier to focus on what your body is doing. When you are confident that you have mastered the lower body motion you need, pick the club back up and hit a few shots to check your progress.
Moving on, getting your hands in front of the ball at impact is the next important point to tackle. This one goes right along with getting your weight on your left side. By having your hands in front of the ball at impact, you will almost be assured that you are hitting down through the shot. When you can combine both proper weight distribution and hand placement in the impact position, great shots become possible.
To get your hands in front of the ball properly at impact, you need to hold on to the angle that is created during your backswing for as long as possible. When you swing the club up to the top of your backswing, an angle is created between your left arm and the shaft of the club – usually around 90*. As the swing transitions down, it is your job to keep that angle for as long as possible before releasing the club head into the ball. If you are able to do that successfully, your hands will be ahead of the ball at impact and you should be able to hit down aggressively.
The final element that needs to be in place for a solid impact position on your iron shots is having your eyes looking down at the ball. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it makes it easier to achieve solid contact with the ball when you are actually looking at it. If your eyes were to move up toward the target prior to impact, you would have a harder time making contact on the sweet spot and the quality of your shots would suffer.
Additionally, moving your eyes early has a ripple effect on the rest of your swing. When your eyes come up early, your head and shoulders tend to follow along as well. That means that your whole upper body can quickly get out of position and cause poor contact when you actually arrive at impact. By training your eyes on the top of the ball and keeping them there until impact is completed you should be able to keep the rest of your upper body in position as well.
The proper impact position for an iron shot is really pretty simple. As long as you can manage these three elements successfully – weight over your left foot, hands past the ball, and eyes on the ball – the rest of your swing will usually fall into place. It might take some practice to achieve these three points if you have been struggling with them in the past, but your effort will be rewarded with a greatly improved ball flight.
Using Your New Ball Flight
Once you are able to start hitting higher iron shots on a regular basis, it will be important to learn how to use that new trajectory to get your ball close to the hole. It is fun to hit great-looking iron shots high into the sky, but it will only help your score if they actually come down near the target. This transition might be a little more challenging that you would expect, but it shouldn't take too much time before you are using your new flight expertly.
One of the first things you need to do after changing your ball flight is learn how far you can hit the ball with each of your irons. Your distances almost certainly will change when you hit the ball higher, so it will take a little practice on the course to recalibrate how far you expect to hit each club. Most likely, they will be flying in the air farther, but also stopping quicker once they land. The carry distance is the important part that you should be concerned with – know exactly how far you can carry each club in the air so you can pick the right one for any given shot.
Another adjustment you need to make has to do with dealing with the wind. When you hit the ball higher, it obviously stays in the air longer, but it has more spin as well. Both of these things make the shot more-susceptible to windy conditions. With your previous ball flight that stayed low to the ground, you probably didn't have to factor the wind into your shot planning. Now you will need to. Pay attention to the wind conditions prior to each shot and make adjustments as necessary. When playing into the wind, use extra club to counteract the loss of distance that you will experience. Downwind, be sure to take less club and swing softer so that the ball doesn't sail long beyond the target.
One other change in your game that relates to your ball flight is your ability to aim at targets that you might have previously avoided. For example, if the hole is located at the front of the green barely beyond a water hazard, your new high ball flight may enable you to get close to that hole where previously you would have had to play for the back of the green to be safe. That is an exciting change, and one that can lead to better scores. However, you need to be careful with this power and not become too aggressive. If you start aiming at every flag no matter what dangers lurk nearby, you might start to accumulate penalty shots and undo any benefit to hitting the ball higher in the first place. Good decisions making is crucial on the golf course, no matter what kind of ball flight you have.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Hitting iron shots high into the air is great because you can stop them quickly and get close the hole more often. However, it is possible to start hitting your iron shots too high, leading to a loss of distance and a spin rate that is hard to control. Ideally you will find a nice balance between the two extremes. So what should you do if you start to hit your irons too high? Rather than making a mechanical adjustment, the proper fix is likely found in your equipment.
Usually, golfers who are hitting their irons shots too high are using a shaft in their irons that is too soft for the swing they are making. This commonly occurs when a golfer gradually gets better over time. The clubs that you start out with when you pick up the game might be perfect for your swing at the time, but as you improve and start to swing faster, they may no longer be able to keep up. Most beginner golf sets include shafts that are relatively soft, and you will likely need to increase the stiffness as you improve your swing.
To correct this issue, try going to your local golf store for a club fitting session. They should be able to test your current clubs, evaluate the results, and then offer options for new clubs that would be able to create an ideal ball flight for your swing. You can choose to purchase a whole new set of irons, or you could opt to have new shafts put in your current iron heads if you wish to keep using them. A club fitting is a pretty simple process to go through, but it can have a profound effect on your game.
Deciding how high is too high to hit your irons is a matter of personal preference. Some players like to launch the ball way into the air, while others prefer a more-controlled shot lower to the ground. There is no right answer, so think about the type of golf you want to play and then make sure your equipment is helping you toward that goal. Also, consider the conditions that you play in on a regular basis. If you live in a windy area, using irons that hit the ball high into the air probably isn't your best choice.
Hopefully the content above will help you solve the problem of your irons flying too low to the ground. This is a common issue for many amateur players, and it can be solved with a combination of improved technique and the right equipment for your swing. There is no magic formula in terms of hitting quality iron shots – it all comes down to fundamentals and proper mechanics. Once you understand the technique you need, all that is left to do is head to the driving range and get to work. By following the guidelines included in the content above, you could enjoy a higher ball flight after just a couple short practice sessions.