In golf, as in life, quitters never win. No, we're not talking about those who give up the game entirely. We're referring to golfers who tend to “quit” on their shots.
To quit on a shot means to slow down or decelerate the swing before impact, rather than accelerating into and past the ball. Deceleration can happen with any club, driver to putter, but it's especially harmful with an iron in hand.
- Hit through the ball, not at it: True, once the club contacts the ball your job is essentially done. But if you see the ball as the club's final destination, you'll naturally slow down on the approach. Instead, imagine crushing a spot two inches beyond the ball to keep the club accelerating through impact.
- Extend the right arm: Look at any pro golfer in the post-impact position and you'll see that his right arm has completely straightened. Focus on driving your right arm through the shot, extending it as far as possible into the finish.
- Short backswing, long follow-through: On the range, take a wedge and hit shots by making a very short backswing – stop when your left arm is parallel to the ground. Now hit the ball and continue into a full follow-through, as if you had made a complete backswing. It's the same concept applied in this anti-deceleration putting drill.
- Take less club than called for: Sometimes, deceleration happens when we're afraid to hit the ball too far. Any time you fear going long, take less club – a 9-iron instead of an 8-iron, for example – and make a firm, full swing. Unless you accelerate through the shot, you're bound to come up short.
- Practice hitting an impact bag: An impact bag is a pillow-like cushion that can work wonders for your swing. By swinging a club into the bag with the goal of delivering a loud wallop, you'll develop clubhead lag and a powerful, accelerating downswing. A large pillow or beanbag chair will work, too.
- Try the “whoosh drill”: A classic practice technique that can be done at home, the “whoosh drill” is easy. Just turn a club upside down, grip the shaft just below the clubhead, and swing. The goal is to make the loudest “whoosh” through the impact zone, which means you're accelerating correctly.
How to Stop Decelerating with Your Irons
The concept of hitting through the ball is one of the most important in the game of golf. As your club head approaches the ball, it should be gaining speed rather than slowing down. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers decelerate the club head on the way through impact, leading to a loss of distance, poor contact, and inconsistent results. If you want your ball striking to live up to its potential, accelerating the club through the hitting area is one of the key fundamentals that you will need to master.
Timing is critical in golf, and it is the timing of the swing that most players get completely wrong. In fact, most amateur golfers are already creating enough speed in the swing to hit the ball a good distance, but they waste that speed prior to reaching impact. Instead of hitting the ball when the club is moving at its fastest, they instead max out their swing speed early in the downswing, only to gradually slow down as impact approaches. Obviously, this is less than ideal, and shots struck with this kind of swing won't have the distance they could have had with better swing technique. Adding distance to your shots isn't a matter of building muscles or buying new clubs – it is simply an issue of putting the right mechanics into place in your swing, and using those mechanics in the correct order.
In order to stop decelerating your iron swing prior to impact, you will need to learn how to sequence your swing properly. Even if you make all the right moves within your swing, you still will fall short of the mark if you don't make those moves in the right order. Each part of the swing builds on the part before, so getting even one piece of the puzzle out of order is going to cause serious problems. It can be a challenge to learn how to swing in the right sequence, but the reward for mastering this part of the swing will be the most powerful golf shots of your life.
Have you ever noticed how professional golfers are able to hit the ball incredible distances while making swings that look easy and relaxed? How do they do it? It all comes down to sequencing. The pros know how to sequence their swings in a way that allows them to accelerate through the hitting area each and every time. Rather than slowing down through the ball, the club head is speeding up until it reaches maximum velocity right at the bottom of the swing. The only part of the swing that needs to be fast is the moment of impact, and professional golfers understand this point clearly. Teach yourself to get everything in the right sequence and you can make a swing that looks effortless while still bringing plenty of power to the table.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
There are plenty of technical points that need to be made in this article in order for you to have a complete understanding of how to accelerate the club through the hitting area. However, before getting into the mechanics of the swing, it is important to talk about the commitment that is required to make a great golf swing. Without commitment, your technique will be useless, because you will fail to produce quality swings when you actually get out on the course.
Commitment and confidence are close to the same thing in the golf world. You have to be confident to be committed to your shots, so you can't really have one without the other. Commitment in the golf swing means swinging all the way through the finish without any feelings of doubt running through your body. When you are committed to a swing, you are absolutely sure that you are going to achieve a positive result. Of course, most golfers don't play this way. Instead, they play scared, simply hoping to hit the ball in a place where they can find it and hit it again. If you are going to quit decelerating and start moving the club through the hitting area with aggression, you are going to have to find the confidence within yourself to play with full commitment to the process of hitting shots.
The secret to finding commitment within your swing can be found on the driving range. If you spend enough time on the range, you can slowly build up confidence in yourself as you hit shot after shot. Seeing the ball sail down the range does great things for your mindset when you are swinging the club. While you are bound to be more nervous on the course than you would ever be on the range, the experience of making good swings will be a huge help when you are trying to find the confidence to make a great swing when facing a tough shot on the course. The practice range is certainly valuable in learning how to make the right moves in your swing, but it can be even more helpful in terms of building the confidence that is crucial to improving your performance.
Decelerating the club through the hitting area is a mistake that is partially technical, and partially mental. If you are slowing down through impact, you might be making mechanical mistakes in your swing – we will cover those in the sections to follow. However, it is also possible that you are making a technically-sound swing that you are simply quitting on before you hit the ball. If you 'pull up' short of impact and attempt to guide the ball toward the target, you won't achieve optimum results. This is why total commitment is so important in the golf swing – you have to be sure you are committed before any mechanical adjustments are going to make a difference. If you are fully dedicated to each swing and you still feel like you are decelerating through the shot, then you can be sure there is a technical flaw which needs to be discovered.
The lesson of commitment in your game goes far beyond the problem of decelerating into the ball. Being committed to all of your shots will have a positive effect on each shot that you hit, and you will be in a better frame of mind for the entire round. There is plenty of trouble to find out on the golf course, so you need to be able to block out all of the bad outcomes and focus only on the good results that you expect to see. Learn how to be committed to your game from the first hole to the last and you will find that everything gets a little bit easier.
The Proper Sequence
With the mental side of the equation out of the way, we can now turn our attention to the mechanics necessary to accelerate your irons through impact. Specifically, the task at hand is getting your mechanics in the right order so that you can save your maximum swing speed for the moment when the club contacts the ball. If you use your speed before or after that moment, you will have wasted an opportunity for power. Most amateur golfers are at least slightly out of order when it comes to the sequence of their swing, so there is a good chance you will be able to improve your iron shots by working on this part of your game.
The following step-by-step instructions cover the correct sequence for the golf swing when hitting iron shots. By following this order properly in your swing, you should be able to stop decelerating the club through impact almost immediately.
- Move the club away from the ball. Obviously, the whole thing gets started when you move the club head back away from the ball. This is known as the takeaway in golf circles, and you should spend time working on your takeaway just as you would any other part of the game. While you could read an entire article (or book) on how to make a good takeaway, the two key points are keeping your hands quiet and your eyes on the ball. If you can get those two points right, you will be off to a good start.
- Stable lower body through the downswing. One of the keys to getting the sequencing right later in your swing is doing everything correct early on in the swing. If you can keep your legs stable during the backswing, for example, they will be ready to do their job properly from the top. If your legs move too much in the backswing, however, they will have a hard time performing correctly during the downswing – meaning your entire sequence could be thrown off. When you arrive at the top of the swing, you lower body should be in a position that closely resembles the position you were in at address.
- The transition. This is where the magic happens. Your swing can either go right or wrong from this point, and there is very little in between. Getting the sequencing in your swing correct from the top is crucial, and the downswing happens too fast for you to make any adjustments prior to impact. Whatever motion you start from the top of the swing is what you are going to have to live with all the way through to the finish. The key to a good transition is starting the move toward the target with your lower body. Your hands and the club should 'hang back' at the top of the swing while you lower body starts rotating left. This is the point that most amateur golfers get wrong. They start down with the hands first and they never have a chance to get sequenced correctly. Make sure it is your lower body leading the way and you will be on a path toward a successful swing.
- Moving toward impact. Once you have successfully started your downswing with the lower body, most of the hard work will be done. However, you could still create problems for yourself prior to reaching impact. Specifically, trying to force your hands to get involved in the swing prematurely is a sure way to wind up with a decelerating swing at the bottom. When your hands release the club head by rolling over toward the target, you will be using up your maximum swing speed. If that happens early in the downswing, you will be left to drag the club through the ball with something less than maximum power. You can avoid that fate by keeping your hands out of the downswing while your lower body continues to turn everything toward the target. Your legs and hips really are the engine of the swing, so allow them to do their job while your hands simply hold on for the ride.
- Turning it loose. When you get to the bottom of the swing is when you can finally use your hands to turn the club loose into the ball. Your lower body should be 'clear' through the hitting area, and your upper body should be positioned nicely over the ball for an aggressive strike. As you get the bottom of the swing, your hands can release through the shot, which will square up the club face and allow you to use all of your potential energy. It is the timing of this release that gives many players trouble, but it actually can happen automatically when you use the rest of your body correctly. If you are able to turn hard through the swing with your legs, your hands will naturally release the club head through impact as a result of the force that you have created.
The golf swing happens very fast, so everything that was outlined in the steps above will be over in just a second or two. Obviously, you don't have time to think through the swing step by step while you are doing it, so it is important that you learn these techniques on the practice range before trying them on the course. A properly sequenced swing will be incredibly powerful while also leading to accurate shots that fly directly at the target.
How to Practice
When you get out to the driving range to work on the sequencing of your swing, which you will need to do if you want to get rid of your deceleration on iron swings, you should have a plan in mind for the practice session. Simply showing up and hitting a bunch of shots isn't going to do you very much good – instead, you should know specifically what you are going to work on from the first shot to the last. Golf practice is only beneficial if it has a purpose – otherwise, it is just exercise.
The best way to practice your swing sequencing is to start small and slow. Hit some short shots of only 40 or 50 yards so that you don't need a full swing to send the ball on the way. Even when hitting these short shots, focus on the acceleration of the club through the hitting area and the sequencing of your swing. Although you won't need to much leg and hip action to move the club through the ball, you can still use your lower body to initiate the downswing. As you gain confidence and a level of comfort with this type of swing, start to hit longer and longer shots with longer and longer clubs. It shouldn't take long for you to work your way down from the wedges into your long irons.
Throughout your entire practice session, you should be searching for a feeling of speed at the bottom of the swing. Instead of feeling like you are dragging the club through impact, you should feel like the club is exploding through the ball and rushing up into your finish position. It is easier to focus on the feelings of your swing on the range than it is out on the course where you are more worried about where the ball is going to go. If you are doing everything in the right order from the start of your swing down to impact, you should have no trouble feeling the speed come up through the shaft of the club and into your hands. A technically-sound swing feels quick at the bottom, whereas a faulty golf swing will feel heavy and slow.
As you are hitting balls, be sure to pay close attention to your ball flight and any changes that might be taking place in that area of your game. If you are successfully creating more speed at the bottom by leading with your lower body, you may find that the pattern of your ball flight changes as a result. This is usually a good thing, but you need to be aware of it so that you can respond properly on the course. For example, if you used to hit a weak fade but are now hitting a powerful draw, you will want to adjust your aim on the course in order to hit shots that finish close to your target.
The Role of Tempo
Tempo is important in golf no matter what you are working on in your swing, but it is especially crucial if you want to accelerate your irons through the hitting area. It is actually a faulty tempo that leads many players to release the club early, which is the root cause of deceleration. By using a steady tempo from the start of your swing to the end, you will have a much better chance of avoiding the deceleration problem that plagues so many players.
What is a good tempo? It is a steady pace that you can repeat over and over again, all throughout the round. You don't have to swing at any one particular speed – instead, you should pace your swing in a way that feels comfortable to you. There are plenty of golfers who play great with a slow tempo, and there are also plenty of players who excel moving through the swing quickly. It isn't a matter of fast vs. slow when it comes to picking a tempo. Rather, it is a case of finding a speed that works for you personally, and then sticking with that rhythm swing after swing.
Mastering your own tempo comes down to sticking with what feels right and ignoring what other golfers are doing around you. It is tempting to copy everything about the swing of another player, including the speed with which they work through the swing. However, you are never going to truly 'own' your swing if you copy the moves of someone else. Instead, swing in a way that feels natural and comfortable to you, and then tweak your mechanics as you go to improve your results.
When you are able to swing within your own tempo on a regular basis, you might notice that the urge to release the club from the top of the swing is gone. That is because you are waiting to accumulate speed all the way through the downswing until you release the power into the back of the ball. This is exactly how the swing should be executed, and it gets far easier when you are able to use a great tempo in your game.
There is no way around it – decelerating with your iron shots is a bad thing. You aren't going to hit quality shots very often when you decelerate through impact, and the loss of power is going to mean that you have to hit longer clubs into the greens than most of the other players in your group. Use the content above to turn your deceleration into acceleration, and your ball striking should quickly improve as a result of the change.