Your high, weak iron shots may have a very simple cause. Before making swing changes or deciding to take more club on every shot, check your ball position (more on this below). You might find that it’s too far forward in your stance, or toward the left foot for a right-handed golfer.
Many players set up with the ball stationed well left of center, believing it’s necessary to use every bit of the club’s loft to get shots airborne. They position the hands level with the ball, with the shaft perfectly vertical or tilted slightly to their right, and try to sweep or pick the ball off the ground.
Actually, the hands should be just ahead of the ball, the shaft angled 2-3° toward the target. This promotes a downward strike, compresses ball to clubface and generates a penetrating flight with ample height.
- Wedges – Ball in center of stance, directly between the feet
- 9-iron – Ball ½ inch left of center
- 8-iron – Ball 1 inch left of center
See the pattern? It’s ½ inch closer to the left (lead) foot with each longer club.
OK, so how do you know exactly where the ball is in your stance? Try this next time you’re on the driving range:
- With a ball on the turf and a target chosen, place a club perpendicular to the target line and the butt end pointed directly at the ball.
- Take your stance with the club aligned to the appropriate spot in your stance. If you’ve got a wedge in hand, it should be right in the middle.
While you can’t do this on the course (it’s against the rules), practice enough and you’ll gain a sense for the right positions without visual aid. Use the drill anytime you feel your ball position may be off.
Fix your ball position, make sure your hands are a touch in front of the clubhead at address, and focus on returning everything to this arrangement at impact. You’ll eliminate those feeble iron shots for good.
Irons Flying Too High – Ball Too Far Forward?
Controlling the ball flight you produce with your irons is one of the keys to posting low scores on a regular basis. Most amateur golfers fail to think about controlling the trajectory of their shots, instead focusing only on whether or not the ball if flying straight. Yes, it is important to hit the ball relatively straight, but it is also important to control the trajectory of its flight on the way to the target.
In this article, we are going to address the issue of the ball flight too high when struck with your irons. At first, you might not think of this as a bad thing. After all, plenty of golfers would love to be able to hit the ball higher, so sending iron shots high into the sky is often seen as a positive by the average player. However, when you hit the ball too high – with too much spin – you are going to have trouble successfully reaching your targets. Not only can you lose distance when you hit the ball too high, but you will also have trouble playing in adverse weather conditions.
Solving problems that pop up in your golf swing, such as hitting the ball too high with your irons, can be difficult all on your own. The typical golfer doesn’t have a professional coach available to fix their swing issues as soon as they come up. For that reason, you need to teach yourself as much as possible about the swing in order to be your own coach. When you are out on the course during the middle of a round, it is up to you alone to figure out how to get things back on track. Learning the ins and outs of your swing as much as possible during practice is going to help greatly when it comes to making on-course adjustments. For instance, if you are in the middle of a round when suddenly you start to hit your irons too high, it will be a great help to already know what adjustments need to be made to get back on track. If you don’t have the knowledge to make the right fix on the go, the rest of your round will be lost and you will wind up with a high score.
It seems to stand to reason that hitting your iron shots too high is a function of playing the ball too far forward in your stance. But is that true? We will get to the bottom of that question in this article. The answer, unfortunately, is not quite as clear cut as you might like to believe. As with anything else in golf, this is a complex issue, as there can be a number of reasons why your iron shots are flying too high up into the air. Use the content below along with your knowledge of your own swing to get to the heart of this problem as quickly as possible.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
How High is Too High?
The first topic to tackle in this discussion is determining when your ball flight has become too high for your own good. As mentioned above, it is generally considered a good thing to hit the ball high with your irons (and your driver, for that matter). You can go too far, however, which is what this article is all about. When your ball flight reaches the point where it is so high in the air that it becomes difficult to control, you will know there is a problem which needs to be addressed. If you fear that your ball flight has gotten too high recently, check on the following points for confirmation of those fears.
- You have started to lose distance. This is perhaps the leading indicator that something is wrong with your iron swing. If you are hitting the ball shorter than you did previously, and the ball is flying high in the air, you know that you are now hitting the ball too high. A shot that flies way up into the air is going to waste much of its energy going up – and it won’t have as much energy to move forward toward the target. Usually, but not always, it is excess spin that is the culprit in this case. Track your distances carefully on shots played from fairway lies and note any losses that you observe. For instance, if you used to hit a solid 7-iron shot around 160 yards in the air, and you are now hitting that same club 150 yards, there is a good chance that your technique needs to be corrected.
- You are hopeless in the wind. What is your reaction when the wind up comes during a round of golf? If you feel like you have no chance to produce good shots when playing into the breeze, you are likely hitting the ball too high. Very few golfers actually like to play in the wind, but those with a low or moderate ball flight will be able to get around the course without too much trouble in a breeze. Players who hit the ball extremely high, however, are in big trouble when the wind comes up. You probably think first about hitting into the wind as being the big problem, but playing any high shots on a windy day is a tricky proposition. Hitting the ball high when playing downwind will make it hard to control your distance, and you will struggle to hit the target line accurately when hitting a cross-wind shot with a high ball flight. Simply put, high ball flights and windy conditions don’t match.
- Your wedges spin back to the front of the green. At first, you might be excited to see that you can spin your wedges backward on the green, as this is a ‘trick’ that most amateurs associate with pro golfers. However, there is a little secret that most average golfers are not aware of – pro golfers hate backspin. It is nearly impossible to control wedge shots when they are backing up on the green. The typical pro golfer would much rather hit a wedge shot that stops cold where it lands rather than spinning the ball back toward the front of the green. If your wedge approach shots regularly spin back toward the front of the green, your trajectory and spin rate are both too high. In order to hit controlled wedge shots that stop near the hole, you need to lower your ball flight and take some of the spin off the ball.
If you see the signs above showing themselves in your game, it is time to take a closer look at your iron trajectory. You don’t want to go on playing with an extra-high ball flight for any longer than necessary, as it is only going to get harder and harder to change your technique as you let this issue drag out. Confront the problem right away, bring your ball flight back down closer to the earth, and watch your game improve as a result.
There are plenty of misunderstandings in the world of golf, particularly with regard to why the ball flies the way it does. In order to fix your high ball flight once and for all, you need to have a clear understanding of why the ball is flying high in the first place. Generally speaking, the height of your shots is going to be determined by two factors – the loft of the club, and the spin on the golf ball. Of course, there are other elements at play as well, including the swing path that you use through the hitting area, but loft and spin are the two main players. If you learn how to control those two elements properly it is likely that you will gain control over your ball flight.
Despite what you might believe at the moment, spin is actually a bigger influence on the height of your shots than loft. It is the loft of the club at impact that is going to determine the initial launch height, but spin quickly takes over from there. A shot with a high rate of backspin is going to climb high into the air, while a shot with little spin will stay low to the ground. Backspin provides lift, with the air under the ball pushing it higher and higher into the sky. Ever wonder how it is possible to hit your driver high into the air, even though that club may only have 9 or 10-degrees of loft? That is the power of backspin at work.
So, knowing that it is backspin which is going to largely dictate the height of your shots, we can get back to the question which was posed in the title of this article. Is a ball position which is too far forward in your stance the culprit for your high ball flight? No – probably not. Most likely, it is a high spin rate, rather than your ball position, which is causing your extra-high iron shots. With a high spin rate, you can play the ball in the middle of your stance and still hit the ball with a high trajectory. Sure, a ball position which is forward in your stance may add to the height of those iron shots slightly, but it is unlikely that ball position is the biggest problem.
In fact, you might find that your ball flight comes down if you move the ball forward in your stance. Backspin with iron shots is generated by hitting down through impact, which is hard to do when you have the ball up near your left foot. So, in other words, moving the ball up in your stance may lower your spin rate – which could, in turn, lower your ball flight. It won’t work that way for every player, but it is possible that the solution to your high shots is actually to move the ball up in your stance. That sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.
When you play the ball near the front of your stance, it is likely that you will produce a shot which launches high but has a lower overall spin rate. The high launch will come from the loft that you have effectively added to the club by moving the ball position forward – you will be contacting the ball past the bottom of your swing, meaning the club will have more effective loft than it would have at the bottom of your arc. However, since you aren’t really hitting down on the ball when it is up in your stance, the spin rate you produce will be lower. In the end, you are left with a shot that launches high, but flies relatively low and flat thanks to a decreased spin rate.
Finding a Happy Medium
Ultimately, you want to get to a place where you can hit solid iron shots which have a high – but not too high – trajectory. So how do you get from here to there? The first step is to work on controlling your spin rate effectively. You are never going to be happy with your game as long as your spin rate is sky-high, so bringing that number down to a reasonable level is your first challenge. The following points are places to look for improved control over the spin rate in your iron game.
- Hitting down too steeply. As mentioned above, hitting down on the ball with your irons is the action that is going to produce spin. If you hit down too steeply – particularly with your long irons – you are going to run the risk of creating a high spin rate. Work on shallowing out your angle of attack through the hitting area. You do want to be hitting down, but only slightly. A good way to judge your angle of attack is to check on the divots that you are taking out of the turf. If you are digging way down into the turf with each iron swing, you will know for sure that your angle of attack is too steep. The ideal divot is a long but shallow strip of grass and dirt. Think about peeling a thin strip of grass off of the course each time you swing through impact with an iron. If you can successfully shallow out your move through the ball, you will be well on your way to a lower spin rate.
- Too much hand action. Amateur golfers are known to often use too much hand action in the swing. If you are guilty of such a mistake, you are going to add loft and spin to the ball at impact. A proper golf swing allows the club to release through impact thanks to body rotation rather than hand action. Rotate your body through the hitting area without using too much hand action and you will be on the right track. Pay attention to the back of your left wrist at impact – it should be flat and solid. If you can take the excess hand action out of your swing you should find that your ball flight quickly comes down nicely.
- Wrong golf ball. This is a point that is often overlooked as golfers try to pin down the right trajectory. If you are using the wrong golf ball for your swing, it is possible that you will wind up with a high trajectory with far too much spin – even if your golf swing is just fine. Most likely, if you are hitting high shots with a good swing, it is because you are using a golf ball which is too soft for your swing speed. Some golf balls, such as those designed for ladies and seniors, are softer than others. Those softer golf balls are easier to spin, which is a great thing for players who have a relatively low swing speed. It is not such a great thing, however, for players you already have enough speed to spin a harder ball. Make sure you are using a golf ball which has been designed specifically for someone like yourself. Check on the specs of your ball and find a model which will perform properly at the swing speed that you create.
There is a lot of trial and error involved with finding the right trajectory for your irons. You need to experiment with different golf balls to see which works best for your swing. You need to work through various swing paths and ball positions to locate a sweet spot for optimum performance. Spending time on the driving range is really the only way to sort out this issue, as you are going to have to ‘dig up’ the right solution for your needs. Use the tips above to point yourself in the right direction, and it shouldn’t be long until you find a ball flight that will work.
Learning to Play a Lower Flight
At this point, we are going to assume that you have found a way to bring your ball flight down to an acceptable height. Of course, that process probably won’t be easy, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes many practice sessions before you manage to create a ball flight that you like.
When that does happen, however, you are going to need a plan for how to take that new ball flight out onto the course. Even though your previous ball flight was too high, you still learned how to use it over the years. Now that you are hitting the ball lower, with less spin, there are some adjustments that need to be made if you are going to score your best. Keep the following adjustments in mind during your first few rounds with this new trajectory.
- Play for a bounce. With the ball coming into the green on a lower trajectory, you should expect a bounce forward before the ball comes to a stop. Previously, your ball probably stopped almost immediately upon landing, since it was coming down from so high up in the sky. This shouldn’t be a difficult adjustment to make, you are just going to need to keep it in mind when picking your targets. Rather than trying to fly the ball all the way back to a rear hole location, for instance, you can land the ball near the middle of the green and let it bounce back to the cup.
- Less wind impact. If you are playing on a breezy day, you will no longer have to give the wind so much ‘credit’ when picking a club. The wind is still going to have an impact on your ball, of course, but that impact will not be as significant as it was when you hit the ball much higher. Do your best to play a couple rounds on windy days early in the process to see how your ball flight has changed your ability to hit shots through the breeze.
- Added distance. In all likelihood, you are now going to hit the ball farther than you did with your extra-high ball flight. Without that excess spin to send your ball way up into the sky, your trajectory will be flatter and the ball will carry a longer distance. Remember this fact when picking clubs and do your best to select the right iron for the shot at hand based on your new distance capabilities.
Most likely, you are not hitting the ball too high because of a forward ball position. While that might play a minor role, it is far more likely that you are hitting high iron shots due to excess spin. Use the advice contained in this article to bring your spin rate down, and your trajectory should follow along. Good luck!