The sound of a good iron strike can be heard from around the course and the driving range as it echoes each and every time the ball is hit with precision and power.
The golf ball hit with an iron that has been struck with such precision shoots off the golf club face with a penetrating ball flight and offers unparalleled distance. The sound from a well struck iron can sound like a gun going off as all the energy moves from the golf club into the ball. To achieve this level of precision iron golf strikes, it is all down to how we impact the ball with the club face.
Fault - A weak impact position results in poor, inconsistent strikes with no real power or precision. A stronger impact position would create maximum force and power. Flicking the wrists at impact is a common mistake and can lead to poor impact with a very high launch angle, lack of power and distance.
Fix - To produce a better impact position, the key is to make sure you keep your hands in front of the golf ball at impact so that the shaft leans forwards towards the target when contact with the golf ball is made. This will help reduce the loft of the golf club to maximize distance and to reduce the height to improve penetration and reduce the initial launch angle. The drill or practice aid to help achieve this is an impact bag or an old pillow case filled with clothes/towels. Work on striking the soft impact aid with the hands and handle of the golf club in front of the club face when it strikes the bag. You should notice that the shaft is leaning forward towards the target when you do this correctly. Continue to move this on to hitting the golf ball in the same way to force the shaft to lean forward and reduce the loft. Whilst also working on this, it is key to also focus on striking the golf ball first then the turf after to maximize the quality of the strike.
Key tips - Work on striking the iron slightly on the way down to promote a descending blow into the back of the golf ball.
This will improve the strike and help you start striking irons like a real tour player.
How to Strike Golf Irons Like a Tour Pro
Do you ever wonder how the pros that you watch on TV are able to consistently produce such great scores? Despite playing on some of the longest and most-difficult courses on the world, and despite playing under tremendous pressure for large sums of money, the top pros are regularly able to post scores in the 60's and low 70's. To the average player, these scores seem impossible even on a local municipal course – let alone on a 7,000+ yard championship layout. While there are many skills required to post these kinds of impressive scores, the ability to strike iron shots cleanly time after time is one of the biggest keys to this kind of performance.
When you are able to strike your iron shots solidly time after time, you gain the ability to control your distances – and distance control is the number one skill in all of golf. Think about it – if you are able to control how far you hit the ball throughout a round of golf, you are almost certainly going to shoot a good score. Even if some of those shots are off line, you probably won't find too much trouble as long as the ball is going the right distance. It is usually when you hit the ball either too far or too short that you are going to find significant trouble. Learn how to control your distance and you will unlock the biggest 'secret' to lower scores.
Fortunately, there is nothing 'magical' about the way tour pros are able to hit their iron shots. Like anything else in golf, solid iron shots are all about good fundamentals and consistent execution. If you can learn the proper technique to hit your irons cleanly, and you can execute that technique over and over again on the course, you will be a good iron player. Even if you never quite possess the same power as your favorite tour player, you should still be able to play quality iron shots into the greens as long as your technique is sound.
Some of the fundamentals which are important to good iron play are relevant across the board for all of your clubs, while others are specific to just the iron game. As you are working on your game at the driving range, it is important that you understand exactly how your body and the club are supposed to work during the swing in order to produce a clean strike. Since you are usually going to be hitting your irons directly off the ground – except on the par threes – you will need to master the ability to hit the ball cleanly if you are going to get predictable distance out of your shots. Professional golfers are able to hit their iron shots cleanly more times than not, and you should be able to do the same after putting in some time and effort on the practice range.
All of the content below is written from the perspective of a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Basic Fundamentals for All Swings
In this section, we are going to look at some of the basic fundamentals that should be in place in your swing no matter which club you happen to be swinging. Whether you are holding a driver, a wedge, or anything in between, the fundamentals listed below should be near the top of your priority list. Once we highlight these general fundamentals we can move on to looking at keys that relate to the iron game specifically.
- Balance. You probably aren't surprised to see this point at the top of the list, as it is the number one fundamental in golf. If you aren't balanced, you aren't going to play good golf – it's just that simple. You should be focused on your balance both before and during the swing, as losing track of your center of gravity at any point can have disastrous consequences for your swing. Don't fall into the same trap as so many other amateur golfers by swinging so hard that you pull yourself off balance. There is nothing wrong with swinging hard, but only if you can do so while keeping yourself nicely balanced from start to finish.
- Light grip pressure. This is probably the golf fundamental that is most-often overlooked by the average player, but it is extremely important. You need to maintain a light but secure grip on the club throughout the swing if you are going to allow the club to tear through the hitting area properly. Many golfers hold on too tight as they swing, and they limit their potential for club head speed as a result. Work on using a light grip pressure on the driving range and you will find that your swing speed should quickly increase as a result. Also, when using a light grip, you will find that it becomes easier to hit the center of the club face at impact – a key when trying to become the best iron player possible.
- Eyes on the ball. This last tip might be a little bit cliché – after all, everyone knows that you are supposed to keep your eyes on the ball – however, it is still very important. By keeping your eyes down on the ball throughout the entire swing, you will be able to apply the club to the back of the ball more accurately time after time. It is hard to hit something you can't see, so remember to maintain visual contact with the ball from the start of your swing through impact. It is tempting to look up early to see where your ball is going to go, but that is only going to hurt your chances at a successful outcome. Be patient and keep your eyes down until the ball is on its way.
Most likely, the points on the list above are not much of a surprise to you. These are basic fundamentals, and even beginning golfers have probably already heard these points more than a few times. However, just because they are well-known does not make them any less important. You should always remain focused on the basics in this game because losing track of your basic fundamentals can have a major impact on the quality of your shots. Many golfers like to look for complicated fixes when their swing goes wrong, but usually the problems come back to one of these basic points.
Take some time to visit the driving range while focused on just the three keys above. Block everything else out of your mind during your next practice session other than these three swing fundamentals and you will likely be thrilled with the results. Once you are convinced that you are doing a good job of maintaining these keys in your swing, you can safely move on to the points below which are specifically aimed at your iron game.
Keys to a Great Iron Game
You need to have the three points from the previous section – balance, grip pressure, and eyes on the ball – under control if you are going to be a good ball striker. However, those points alone are not likely to be enough when it comes to playing iron shots. Striking irons beautifully from a fairway lie requires execution of a specific set of mechanics. The mechanics in question vary slightly from those you use with your woods, so make sure you understand how iron shots are supposed to work before you go out for your next practice session.
Before getting into a checklist of iron game points, we should make one thing perfectly clear – you need to hit down on your iron shots. If you only know one thing about the iron game, it is the fact that the club head should be moving down through the ball and into the turf at impact. Hitting down is important for a number of reasons, including the fact that it generates spin and allows you to maximize your power. If you don't hit down on your irons, it will be nearly impossible to strike them with the consistency that you need to play great golf.
With that point made clearly, we can now move on to the keys that will allow you to hit your irons properly. A good iron swing puts your body and the club in a position for an aggressive, downward strike through impact and beyond. As long as the points below are present in your iron swing, you should be in good shape to consistently improve as you go.
- Ball position. Using the correct ball position for the shot at hand is always important, but it is even more important when you are hitting your iron shots directly off of the ground. You need precision when playing these kinds of shots, and positioning the ball correctly in your stance is a big part of being precise. For most players, the best place to start figuring out ball position is playing wedge shots from the middle of the stance. Hit a few wedges with the ball positioned perfectly in the middle of your stance and see how it goes. From these, you can make any small adjustments necessary to get the ball into a position that feels natural for your swing. Once you know where you are going to positon the ball for wedge shots, you can then gradually move the ball farther and farther up in your stance (to the left) as the clubs get longer. Practice is the only way to find your ideal ball positions, so take your time to iron out this point on the range.
- Flat left wrist. This is one of the biggest keys that needs to be in place in your iron game if you are going to achieve that solid strike that is so common among professional golfers. At impact, your left wrist should be solid and flat, which will allow the club face to hold relatively steady through the ball. Many golfers fall into the habit of cupping that left wrist as impact approaches, which will do a number of bad things to the position and path of the club. Swing down into impact with a firm left wrist and you will suddenly start to feel what solid contact can do for your iron game. It might take some time to get comfortable with this kind of strike, but it will be highly effective in the end. In addition to helping with your full swing iron game, hitting shots with a firm and flat left wrist will be a great help to your short game as well.
- Great lower body action. More than anything else, your lower body needs to get started early in the downswing in order to move your body into the correct position. To make sure you can hit down on the ball, your lower body needs to be past the ball at impact – in other words, your lower body needs to be closer to the target than the ball. When that happens, you will almost have to hit down on the ball, which is a good thing. It is easy to be tempted to start the downswing with your hands going first, but it is actually the lower body that should initiate the action. Once your legs and hips have gotten started, you can then allow the club and your hands to fall into position on the way down. Getting this sequencing right is perhaps the biggest hurdle for most amateur players when it comes to hitting good iron shots.
There really isn't much more than you have to do beyond the basic swing fundamentals in order to hit good iron shots. Checking off all of the three points above – lower body action, ball position, and a flat left wrist – will lead to great iron play, when combined with the basic swing fundamentals listed earlier. Once you have all of the big keys in your mind for what makes a good iron swing, the only thing standing between you and great results is practice – put in the time at the range and beautifully struck iron shots should be coming your way in the near future.
Understanding the Lie of the Ball
When playing a driver from the tee, you don't have to worry about the lie of the ball before starting your shot. You have a perfect lie when the ball is sitting on a tee, meaning you can eliminate that potential variable from your list of concerns. Of course, that is not true if you are hitting an iron shot from the fairway, rough, or anywhere else away from the tee box. When the ball is sitting directly on the ground, the lie that you have drawn becomes a major player in the kind of shot you are going to hit.
There are a variety of lies that you can draw on the course, and some of the most-common are listed below along with some information on how they should be confronted.
- Fairway lie. Obviously, this is where you want to be. When your ball is sitting on the short grass in the fairway, you should have no trouble with your lie. There shouldn't be anything behind your ball to get in the way, and there shouldn't be any grass wrapping around the club at impact. When you have a clean lie in the fairway, you can just proceed with your 'normal' iron swing without thinking twice about what the lie is going to do to your shot.
- Rough lie. When your ball leaves the fairway and enters the rough, you are going to have to start to think about making some adjustments. The first goal you should have in mind when playing an iron shot from a lie in the rough is getting your ball back on the short grass as soon as possible. The amount of distance you will be able to get on this shot from the rough depends on the depth of the grass, as well as the thickness. Thick and deep grass will prevent you from hitting the ball even 100 yards, while rough that is short and thin won't present you with much trouble at all. Always use a bit of extra loft from the rough and expect your shot to come out low with very little backspin.
- Fairway bunker lie. If you hit your ball into a fairway bunker, you might need to hit a full iron shot from the sand – which is never an easy proposition. To conquer this challenge, the key is to keep your body as steady as possible throughout the swing. Take enough club to easily clear the lip of the bunker in front of you, and never try to swing too hard. As long as you are able to catch the ball cleanly you should get decent distance – at least enough to get back in play without doing too much damage to your scorecard.
In reality, there are countless different lies that you could encounter on the course, meaning you will need to gain experience over the years to learn how to deal with all of those various possibilities. With that said, you can do yourself well by having a game plan in mind for the common lies that you are going to see. Of course, the best plan of all is simply to put the ball in the short grass as often as possible – having a good lie in the fairway is one of the biggest keys to being a great iron player.
Striking Your Chip Shots Cleanly
Hitting your iron shots cleanly does not just apply to full swings – it is important for short shots as well. In fact, hitting your chip shots solidly might even be more important, as chipping the ball well will help you to save your score when your full swing isn't cooperating. As you already know, many amateur players struggle with the task of chipping the ball cleanly, and their struggles are reflected on the scorecard. Chip the ball better, and you will score better – there is no doubt as to that correlation.
Fortunately, many of the tips already provided in this article apply to the short game just as they apply to the long game. For instance, using a flat left wrist at impact is a key when chipping just as it is when hitting full shots. Also, using an appropriate ball position is crucial to your success, as is hitting down through impact. In fact, you can think of your chip and pitch shots as miniature versions of your full swing. By using the same fundamentals on a smaller scale, you will be able to execute shots cleanly time after time from a variety of lies around the green.
To master the art of striking your short game shots cleanly, you need to spend time hitting these shots in practice. It is one thing to understand the fundamentals involved, but it is another thing to actually put them into practice. Work on hitting a variety of different chip and pitch shots during each of your practice sessions and you will find that your performance on the course improves in short order. Many golfers overlook the short game during their practice sessions, and they struggle to improve their scores as a result.
Striking your irons like a pro golfer might seem like a lofty goal, but it is a goal that is actually within reach for players who are willing to put in the time and effort to improve their technique. Yes, striking clean iron shots is one of the most difficult parts of the game, but it is also one of the areas that has the biggest room for growth for the average player. You can move into uncharted scoring territory if you are able to transform your iron ball striking, so it would be wise to get down to work on this part of your game right away. Good luck!