When you watch golf on TV, there are a few things which stand out.

What About Iron Shot Height? - Questions and Answers

First, for most people, is the impressive distance that the average professional is able to hit the ball. Many of the players on the PGA Tour are able to hit the ball well over 300 yards with their driver, and those who don’t quite reach that distance are still in the 280 – 290 range most of the time. In addition to power, many pro players are able to hit their iron shots impressively high. The ball seems to hang in the air forever, only to eventually drop from the sky – often right next to the hole for an easy birdie.

How do they do it? In this article, we are going to talk about various strategies you can use to get more height on your iron shots. Right off the bat, we need to say that you shouldn’t necessarily expect to hit the ball as high as the typical pro. The players you see on TV are there for a reason – they are highly skilled, and among the best in the world at playing this game. However, even if you don’t manage to hit your irons as high as the pros, you can still strive to add a few yards of elevation to your standard iron shot.

Before we get started, we do want to mention that you shouldn’t sacrifice any of the good things you are doing in your swing just to hit the ball higher. In other words, don’t fall into any bad habits while trying to force yourself to hit higher shots. Yes, it is nice to hit the ball higher, but it is not necessarily essential in order to improve your game. If you find that you are having to try too hard to hit the ball higher – and maybe losing your balance or your tempo in the process – consider dialing back your efforts in order to maintain the good parts of your swing.

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.

Why Are High Iron Shots a Good Thing?

Why Are High Iron Shots a Good Thing?

You should always have a specific purpose in mind when you make any kind of change to your golf game. It isn’t a good idea to just change things for no apparent reason, as you’ll make it hard on yourself to develop any consistency from round to round, or even from shot to shot. So, as it relates to the topic at hand in this article, you need to know why you are trying to hit the ball higher with your irons. What do you stand to gain? Why would this help you shoot lower scores? In this section, we are going to highlight a few points which should serve as motivation to encourage you to work on this skill.

  • Stop the ball quickly. One of the main reasons to strive for higher iron shots is to be able to stop the ball as quickly as possible when it lands on the green. Golf is a target game, and most of the iron shots you play are hit with the intention of getting as close to the hole as possible. If you can stop the ball quickly after it comes down, it will be far easier to set yourself up with short birdie putts. This is particularly true when the greens are dry and firm, since lower approach shots will tend to take big bounces on hard greens. You can often get away with low approach shots when the greens are soft, but that same trajectory will lead to trouble as a course dries out and firms up. If you are tired of seeing the ball land near to the hole only to take a big bounce and wind up a long distance away, hitting higher iron shots will be a welcome change.
  • Add to your carry distance. You will almost certainly carry the ball a longer distance in the air when you hit your iron shots higher. A low iron shot might actually travel further in total, but some of that distance will be covered after an initial bounce. The ability to carry the ball farther in the air is one that comes in handy in a variety of situations. For example, imagine that you need to hit an approach shot to a hole location which is cut just over the edge of a bunker. The total distance of the shot is 160 yards, but you will need at least 150 in the air to get over the sand. Let’s say you and your playing partner are both facing this shot from the same place in the fairway. Your playing partner can hit a seven iron 160 yards, and 155 of those yards will be in the air. On the other hand, you can cover the same total distance of 160 with your seven iron, but you can only get 145 in the air before the ball will bounce and roll the rest of the way. Obviously, you have a problem here. Without the ability to carry the bunker, you will need to use more club – and you’ll almost certainly have to play past the hole as a result. While your playing partner will have a chance to stick the approach shot close, you will likely be facing a long putt. If you could hit the ball higher, your carry distance would improve, and you would have a better chance to produce a great approach.
  • Get over obstacles. This is a benefit that will pay off in a variety of situations. For instance, if you need to play an iron shot that will have to travel over a tree on its way to the target, hitting the ball high is an obvious advantage. Without a high trajectory, going over the tree might not be an option at all – and you would be forced to play around the side instead. You don’t want to be forced to hit iron shots over trees and other obstacles very often, but it is nice to know you have the option when the situation does arise.
  • Take advantage of a favorable wind. You won’t have the opportunity to use this point very often, but it can work out nicely when you do. If you are facing a long approach shot on a downwind hole, playing the ball high in the air will allow your shot to ‘ride’ the wind and gain extra distance. At the same time, your high trajectory should permit the ball to stop relatively quickly, which is not always something that happens when playing down wind. While it is always tempting to let your ball ride the breeze on a downwind hole, you should only opt for this plan when you need the extra distance to reach the green comfortably. If the shot at hand is a short one, you will usually be better off keeping the ball down and out of the wind as much as possible. Wind can be your friend on occasion, but it is a variable that is hard to quantify perfectly when planning your shots. Be open to the idea of letting the wind help you, but always look for ways to stay out of the wind in order to make your game more predictable overall.

You stand to significantly improve your golf game when you learn how to hit higher iron shots. Are you going to use these shots all the time? Of course not – you really shouldn’t use any of your golf shots in all situations. The shots you play need to be tailored to the situation at hand. Some approach shots will call for a high trajectory, while others will be better suited for a low flight. The goal is to have as many different weapons as possible in your golf arsenal. Adding high iron shots to the list of ball flights you can produce will take you another step closer to become a well-rounded player.

What Are Some Strategies?

What Are Some Strategies?

In this section, we are going to get down to the business of learning how to hit the ball higher. As we mentioned in the introduction, you don’t want to change your swing so dramatically that you start to have problems in other areas. The goal here is to adjust your technique just enough to hit the ball higher without negatively impacting the core of your swing mechanics.

The points below represent a few ideas which you may want to test out during your next visit to the driving range.

  • Move the ball forward slightly. This is likely the easiest change you can make in order to produce a higher ball flight. To cause the ball to fly a bit higher, simply move it forward in your stance by an inch or two. Many amateur golfers play their iron shots from a ball position which is too far back in the stance. With the ball too far back, you will produce a low launch angle and the shot will never fly as high as it could have if moved up a bit. The key here is to not take this tip too far. If you move the ball way up in your stance, your balance will be affected, and the quality of your ball striking will likely suffer. For most players, playing iron shots from just slightly forward of center is going to be the right spot. Experiment on the range with different ball positions until you find one that permits a high flight while still feeling comfortable and natural.
  • Stand a little closer to the ball. Just as with the previous tip, you need to be careful not to go too far with this advice. When we say you should stand a ‘little closer’ to the ball, we mean it. If you move in too close, you are going to struggle to make good swings. Try inching your way toward the ball just slightly, and your swing plane will become more upright as a result. That new swing plane should produce some extra backspin, and your shots should fly higher in the end. You do need to be aware that this adjustment is likely to change the shape of your shots somewhat as well, so pay attention on the range and adjust your aim on the course as necessary.
  • A little more right hand. You need to know right off the bat that this one can be tricky. Adding extra right-hand action to your swing through the hitting area is an advanced move, and you will need to be a relatively skilled player to even attempt this tip. However, if you think you have the skills to pull it off, this method can help you raise your ball flight significantly. The idea is simple enough – as the club approaches the ball on the way down, you use your right hand aggressively to accelerate the club into the back of the ball. This is going to ramp up your speed and also expose more of the loft of the club to the ball at impact. When done properly, the ball will climb high and probably travel farther than usual. However, and this point should not be overlooked, these types of shots are hard to pull off. You need to be very skilled, and you need to practice this technique regularly.
  • Open the face of the club at address. This is not a technique you will want to use regularly, but it is something that can pay off when pressed into action in certain situations. For instance, let’s imagine that you are facing a shot on the course where you need to get the ball up over a tree on the way to the green. You don’t think that your normal ball flight will clear the tree, so you know that an adjustment is required. By turning the face into an open position at address, you can effectively add loft to the club without having to actually club down. This means you can launch the ball higher while still enjoying the full swing speed generated by the club you are holding. If you were to club down in order to add loft, you would be using a shorter club that doesn’t produce the kind of speed you need to reach the target.

As you can see, you have plenty of options available when thinking about hitting higher iron shots. You probably know what we are going to say next – you need to practice these options on the range before you think about trying them on the course. Test these out for yourself and see which ones work, and which don’t match up with your game. With any luck, at least one or two of these methods will prove to be effective for you.

What About Selecting a Trajectory?

What About Selecting a Trajectory?

Learning how to hit high iron shots is a great step forward in your golf game. However, simply adding that skill to your toolbox isn’t going to automatically make you a better player, and it certainly isn’t going to automatically lead to lower scores. To actually convert your new skill into better results, you need to make smart decisions. In this section, we are going to talk about how you should go about selecting the right trajectory for a given iron shot.

For starters, the standard rule of thumb is to keep the ball down as close to the ground as possible. You might be surprised to read that tip in an article about hitting the ball higher, but it is true. So, the basic idea is that you are going to start your game planning on an approach shot with the idea that you will play a relatively low iron shot in toward the target. If that plan looks like it will work, you don’t need to go any farther. However, if you see reasons why you shouldn’t hit a low approach, you can start looking higher and higher until you settle on a shot that makes sense for the situation.

Let’s walk through a quick example to help you gain a better understanding of this concept. Picture your ball resting in the middle of the fairway, 150-yards from the hole. There is no wind blowing, so you don’t have to worry about that potential variable. Also, there is no elevation change to consider on this shot, and the greens are relatively soft, meaning they are accepting approach shots nicely. By almost every measure, this is a relatively easy approach, and you feel good about your chances to hit the green and set up a birdie putt.

As you walk up to the ball, you are first going to think about playing a low shot which will bounce a couple times before coming to rest. However, as you evaluate the path you need to take from your ball to the hole, you notice that there is a big ridge in the green, just short of the hole. If you take the low route, you’ll need to judge this ridge perfectly, which is never an easy task. Suddenly, the low route doesn’t look so appealing, and you start to look higher. If you play a high approach shot, that ridge should be taken out of play and you can land the ball up near the hole. Given the information we have provided in this scenario, the high shot will be the way to go.

To summarize, you are going to look toward the lower path first when planning approach shots, but don’t hesitate to look higher when the situation encourages you to do so. By making smart decisions one what type of trajectory to use for approach shots, you can put yourself in the best possible position for success.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

We want to wrap up our discussion on hitting higher iron shots by touching on a few final thoughts.

  • Watch your lie. Generally speaking, you are going to need a good lie in order to hit high iron shots. If you want to send the ball high up into the sky on a given shot, first make sure you have the necessary lie to hit such a shot. The ball should be sitting cleanly on the short grass, without anything behind the ball to get in the way. Also, you need to consider the slope of the ground under your feet. Playing from an upslope will make it easier to hit high shots, but any other kind of uneven lie will add to the overall difficulty of the task.
  • Equipment matters. The equipment you use will play a role in determining how high the ball is going to fly. A ball which offers plenty of spin is going to tend to fly higher than one with a low spin rate. Also, using the right shaft is important, as playing with a shaft that is too stiff for your swing will make it hard to get the ball up off the ground.
  • Learn from each shot. Every shot you hit on the golf course is an opportunity to learn. When you do hit a high shot, take note of how your swing felt and what you did that led you to be successful. One shot at a time, you will gradually build your experience and you will improve your abilities in this area of the game.

The ability to hit a high iron shot is not something that every amateur golfer possesses. It is certainly a useful tool, however, so you would be wise to spend some practice time working on this skill. Once you are confident in your ability to hit high iron shots, be sure to use those shots at the appropriate time on the course in order to enjoy the maximum benefit. Good luck!