So you're lined up on target, you've got the ball positioned correctly in your stance and your hands are in the right spot at address. Then why are you hitting your iron shots so low?
One possible cause is excess hook spin. This is created when the clubface is closed at impact in relation to the swing path, which de-lofts the club and imparts right-to-left sidespin (for a right-handed golfer) – a double whammy.
Again, assuming your alignment is fine, it sounds like your swing path is too inside-to-out, or that you're over-rotating the right forearm and wrist through impact.
First, check your swing path with this driving range drill:
Let's say your swing path checks out OK. You may need to fix an over-active release.
To make the hands more passive through the hitting area, practice keeping the back of your left hand pointing at the target through impact.
This will prevent the right hand from dominating and, hopefully, generate those gorgeous, soaring iron shots you covet.
Irons Flying Too Low with Hook Spin
When you hit an iron shot, you generally want it to do two things – fly high, and fly straight (or, at least, mostly straight). By matching up the combination of high and straight, you will have little trouble attacking the flag, no matter where the flag happens to be located. However, when you start to deviate from that high and straight trajectory, it will become more and more difficult to hit the ball close to the hole. As your shots get lower and have more curve, you will find that many of the approach shots you face simply can't be handled by your ball flight. With that in mind, this article is going to take a look at one particularly troublesome ball flight – the iron shot that flies low with hook spin.
A low, hooking iron shot is one that you are going to have a tough time 'living with' as you make your way around the course. There simply aren't a lot of good things to be said about this kind of ball flight. Since the ball is flying low, it is going to take big bounces when it lands, and it will probably roll out a considerable distance as well. Also, since there is hook spin on the shot, those bounces will be even more pronounced, as you will have a relatively low backspin rate on the ball as well. When you add it all up, the result is simple – you are going to struggle to position yourself for short birdie putts. In fact, you might even have a tough time making pars with this kind of trajectory. The sooner you can move your ball flight away from this pattern and closer to a high and straight path, the better off your game will be.
Unfortunately, hitting the ball low and with hook spin is a pattern that is relatively common across the game of golf at the amateur level. Believe it or not, this shot is a close relative of the slice, which is an issue that affects millions of players. While the shots look totally different in the air – and fly in two completely different directions – the low hook and the slice are actually more alike than they are different. If you can hit one, you can hit the other. The only way out of this pattern is to make real changes to the fundamentals that you use in your golf swing. By changing your swing technique to put both your body and the club in a better position, you should be able to get rid of this shot once and for all.
It is going to be hard to take your game to the next level if you never manage to learn how to hit the ball higher in the air. Hitting the ball high is advantageous because you will be able to stop your shots near to where the ball lands – making it easier to set up short putts. The majority of professional golfers play the game with the ball high up in the sky, and you should be trying to do something similar.
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.
As is always the case in golf, the first thing you need to do when trying to fix your ball flight is to figure out what is causing the problem in the first place. Too many golfers don't even bother to think about what it is they are doing wrong – or, if they do think about it, they assume they already know what the problem is, and they guess incorrectly. To successfully fix your swing and get your game back on track, you need to accurately identify the problems in your swing before even taking the first step toward improvement.
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to figure out what is going wrong in your swing when you have a pattern of hitting shots that fly low while hooking to the left. To hit this shot, you are almost certainly coming into the ball from a steep angle of attack with the club face dramatically closed to the target line. Let's look at each of those two pieces one at a time –
- Steep angle of attack. This is the mistake that is responsible for the ball flying so low to the ground. While it is true that you need to hit down on the ball in order for it to fly up into the air, you can't take that concept too far without running into trouble. When your swing plane becomes too steep, the club will de-loft at impact and the ball will fly very low to the ground as it makes its way toward the target. One of the biggest keys to your golf swing is managing to get your angle of attack just right – steep enough to impart backspin on the ball, but not so steep that you just wind up hitting line drives rather than high, beautiful shots.
- Closed club face. It is this part of the swing that is going to be responsible for the hook that you are putting on the ball. Most people think that they must be coming from inside-out through the hitting area in order to hit a hook, but that usually isn't the case with a low shot that curves left. Instead, you are probably attacking from outside-in, but the club face is so dramatically closed that you still hook the ball even with that outside-in path.
It should be no surprise that you are going to need to correct both of these errors if you would like to move your ball flight in the direction of a high and straight trajectory. It doesn't work to hit the ball with a closed club face and a steep angle of attack, so you should be trying to fix these issues as fast as possible. In the content below, we will offer up some tips on how you can move your swing out of these bad habits. It will take some time and effort, but you should be able to make progress after just a few focused practice sessions.
Fixing Your Address Position
The first thing you want to do when you find that you are hitting your irons low and with hook spin is to make sure you are addressing the ball correctly. A poor stance can cause many problems within your swing, and it can certainly make you more likely to hook the ball while hitting it low to the ground. Unfortunately, it is rather common for amateur golfers to make mistakes in the setup. Those players often don't even know they are making basic address position mistakes, so they never bother to check on this part of their technique and those mistakes simply continue on into the future. Take time now to check on the status of your stance so you can immediately fix anything that has gone wrong.
Following is a list of common setup problems, each of which has the potential to lead to a low and left ball flight.
- High right shoulder. One of the most common mistakes that is made at address is a high right shoulder. When you set up to make a full swing, you want to make sure that your shoulders are roughly level. If anything, you actually want to have your right shoulder slightly lower than your left, especially if you are swinging a driver or fairway wood. However, at the very least, your shoulders should be in a level position from side to side. When you let the right shoulder ride high at address, you will be setting yourself up for a steep swing – which is exactly what you need to avoid if you are going to get some air under your shots. Work on moving your right shoulder into a lower position at address and you will find that your club naturally takes a shallower plane into the ball. It may be that you only need to make this one simple adjustment in order to get your iron shots higher up into the sky.
- Check on ball position. If you have the ball played too far back in your stance for a standard iron shot, you may have trouble with the ball coming out low with hook spin. When the ball is back in your stance, you effectively take loft off of the club – meaning your shots are likely to come out lower. Also, that ball position is going to cause you to make contact earlier in your swing arc, when the club is likely still moving from inside-out. If you manage to close down the face of the club by impact while also striking the ball relatively far back in your stance, you will have created the perfect scenario for a hook. Try moving the ball up in your stance in order to both add height to the shot and to reduce the amount of hook spin.
- Standing too far from the ball. One of the subtle points in your stance that you need to pay attention to is the distance you are standing from the ball. When you stand too far away from the ball at address, you will wind up taking the club to the inside early in the takeaway – which sets you up for an over-the-top move and a steep angle of attack down through the hitting area. While standing too close is no better than standing too far away, you should work on locating a comfortable position that is just right for your swing. Standing the correct distance from the ball with each of your clubs will make it easier to swing back on the proper plane, greatly reducing the odds of winding up with a steep downswing and a low, hooking ball flight.
It isn't going to be particularly exciting to stand on the range while working on your stance, but this is a task that should be a top priority if you wish to improve your performance. Making sure you can put your body in a fundamentally sound stance time after time is critical to how well you are able to play. As added motivation to work on your stance, think about this point – if you are able to fix your stance, you might not even have to make any other changes to the rest of your game. It is very much possible that correcting your stance will get right to the heart of the problem, and you may see your low hooks go away without any other intervention required.
If the problem with your iron shots isn't found in the setup, it is more than likely going to be found in the backswing. The vast majority of swing issues can be corrected with a change to either the address position or the backswing, as rarely is it the downswing that is the true culprit of an unsuccessful swing. Just as we did in the previous section, we are going to list a few possible trouble spots during your backswing that could be leading to the low hook that you are experiencing with your irons.
- Active hands during the takeaway. One of the biggest mistakes that is seen in the swings of amateur golfers, and one of the reasons that the low hook is such a common miss, is overactive hands during the takeaway. Ideally, you want your hands and wrists to remain quiet in the takeaway while the arms and shoulders do all of the work. However, many players miss the mark on this point. Instead of using their shoulders to drive the early parts of the backswing, many golfers will use their hands to turn the club away, which forces it to the inside of the proper swing plane. As a result, the club is inside when it gets to the top, meaning it has to move over-the-top to the outside during the transition. From there, two outcomes are possible – a slice, or a low hook. If you are hitting a low hook, be sure to consider the possibility that the root cause is a poor takeaway well to the inside of the line.
- Losing lower body flex. This is a mistake that is often overlooked in the golf swing, but it can cause serious damage to your game if it goes uncorrected. As you swing back toward the top of your swing, you need to make sure that you keep your knees flexed just as they were at address. Of course, that means that they need to have been flexed at address, so be sure to check that point off of your to-do list first. With your knees flexed as you stand over the ball, swing up toward the top of your backswing and hold the angle in your knees without straightening up at all. Players who stand up out of their stance will be prone to making steep downswings, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid. If necessary, use a mirror to check on the progress of your lower body throughout the swing, and be sure that you are doing a good job of holding your flex before moving on to other points.
- Leaning to the left. You should already know that balance is a crucial part of the game of golf. Staying balanced during your backswing is essential to your success, and it is essential to your ability to avoid the low hook. If you find that you are moving your weight toward the target and onto your left foot during the backswing, you are likely to wind up with trouble later on that could result in the low, hooking ball flight. As you swing back, your weight shouldn't actually be moving to the left or to the right – it should stay centered as you rotate. Work on your backswing balance and you will be in a much better position to strike the ball when you come back down to impact.
When the two previous sections are combined, you will find a total of six points that can cause problems in your swing which will lead to a low, hooking trajectory. Most likely, if you are hitting a low hook with your irons at this time, you are guilty of at least one of these six errors – if not more. The only way you are going to get your game back on track is by working through each of these points one by one until you figure out which ones are really giving your trouble. That process is going to take a bit of time and effort to be sure, but your game will be much improved in the end when you have done the work necessary to correct your ball flight.
It would be a mistake to overlook the possibility that your equipment has something to do with the ball flight problems that you are having with your irons. Anytime the ball is flying lower or higher than expected, you should always take a quick look at your equipment to see if it is part of the problem. Specifically, you want to look at the shafts that you are using in your irons. If your shafts are too stiff for the dynamics of your swing, the ball will come out low and you will have very little chance to improve on that trajectory – even if you make changes to your swing. You can't always buy new clubs in order to fix part of your game, but in some cases, getting new equipment is exactly what is needed to get on track.
The best way to determine whether or not it is your equipment that is guilty of producing a low hook is to visit a local club fitting professional. Most golf facilities that sell equipment will have a club fitter on staff who can help you with this process. They may charge a small fee for their services, but consider that fee an investment in your game going forward. In fact, if you decide to buy some new clubs from the facility where you have the fitting completed, the fee for the service may be waved.
To get started, tell the club fitter about the patterns that you have been seeing in your game. Once they have a basic idea of what your issues are at the moment, a good club fitter will be able to get down to work on testing out your equipment as it relates to your swing. Once the computers have a chance to analyze both your swing and your gear, the club fitting pro will likely have some recommendations for you. It is possible that they will tell you the equipment you are already using is a good match, but it is more likely that they will suggest some kind of tweak in your set. Fortunately, these tweaks don't always have to be expensive. You might just need new shafts, which is less-expensive than buying a whole new set, and the problem might be with just a few clubs instead of every stick in the bag. Work together with the club fitter to design a plan that will help you move forward, and you may be able to leave the low hook in the past once and for all.
It is hard to play good golf when hitting a low hook with your irons. Not only will you struggle to post good scores, you probably won't have much fun along the way. In order to ensure that you keep having fun on the course for years to come, consider working on a solution to this problem right away. Whether the proper correction comes in the form of an equipment tweak or a mechanical adjustment to your swing, getting back on track will allow you to enjoy your time on the course once again.