“Boys, we're going back to basics.”

It's an oft-repeated phrase in sports, usually spoken by a coach whose team can't consistently execute fundamental tasks like blocking and tackling. It sounds boring, but it's the right move whenever a squad's performance is headed south.

Golf is no exception. When hitting the irons, many of us bounce between good shots and poor ones. We're puzzled by our uneven results, wondering why we can hit one shot so sweet, then follow it with an awful chunk or skull.

The answer is probably this simple: Your fundamentals are inconsistent. On your good shots, you set up and swing on balance, transfer your weight properly and keep your hands ahead of the ball. On your lousy shots… Not so much.

How to Correct Inconsistent Golf Iron Shots

When your iron game goes awry, get it back on track using this checklist:

  • Balance: Fact—You will never be a consistent ballstriker without good balance. If your weight is tipped too far forward, back, left or right at any point in the swing, you've got very little chance of making solid contact. Luckily, golf's best and easiest drill deals with this very issue. As a bonus, it will improve your tempo, too:
  • Feet-Together Drill
  • Posture: It's all too easy to fall into bad habits here. Maybe you tend to bend over too far at address, then raise up during the swing. Maybe you do the opposite, or lean to the right at setup. Two points on posture: 1) You must set up with correct posture, and 2) You must keep that posture throughout the swing.

Here are two great tips to help you achieve both goals:

  • Good Posture for Good Golf
  • Maintain Spine Angle
  • Hand position: Hit down to make the ball go up. That's the essence of iron play. Unless you're hitting the ball with a descending blow, you're losing distance, accuracy and backspin. Striking down on the ball begins – where else? – at address. Make sure your hands are slightly ahead of the ball, with the shaft leaning toward the target, before taking the club back.
  • Alignment: Hitting the ball solidly but spraying shots all over the course? Assess your alignment. Lining up off-target is an obvious flaw which causes a less-than-obvious problem. When your alignment is off, your body will make swing adjustments to hit the ball at the target. Next thing you know, you're coming over the top or casting the club.

Watch this video for a quick alignment fix:

Golf is a never-ending battle to become (and remain) consistent, and we're all prone to over-analysis when our game is off course. Before you get lost in technical details and minutiae, go back to basics. Chances are, that's where your trouble lies.

How to Correct Inconsistent Golf Iron Shots

How to Correct Inconsistent Golf Iron Shots

It is the goal of every golfer to become consistent. When you are consistent on the links, you are able to hit solid shots over and over again – and you are able to record good scores as a result. Most players can hit at least a few good shots during the course of a round. It is those players who can repeat the good shots with the greatest frequency who will rise to the top in the end. No golfer hits a good shot every time they swing the club, to always striving to improve on your consistency is a mindset that will serve you well as the years go by.

In this article, we are going to address the tricky topic of consistency. Specifically, we will be looking at how you can be more consistent with your iron shots. When it comes to consistency, most of the discussion is going to focus on things other than your physical technique – things like game planning, focus, etc. If you are open to improving your game in these areas, you should be able to find added consistency without making any significant changes to your mechanics.

It is important to remember that playing consistent golf has nothing to do with hitting great shots. Sure, everyone loves to hit a great shot from time to time, but you don't always need to be striving for such greatness. You can post excellent scores without hitting any great shots at all – as long as you are hitting plenty of good ones. Many amateur golfers make the mistake of trying to pull off amazing shots, when just a standard shot will get the job done. Do your best to resist the temptation to attempt incredible shots while prioritizing consistency and control above all else.

While this article is going to address the topic of consistency through avenues other than your technique, it is obviously important to fine tune your swing mechanics as well while striving to be a better player. Spending time on your technique is a worthwhile endeavor, as sharpening your mechanics will pay off with every club in the bag. Reliable and fundamentally-sound technique will allow you to play better under pressure, it will raise the ceiling of what is possible for you on the course, and yes, it will make you more consistent. If you do head to the range to work on your mechanics, always keep this goal in mind – you want to make your swing as simple as possible. Work on taking out movements that aren't going to help you hit better shots, so you are left with a swing that only uses motions which will help you strike the ball solidly.

All of the instruction in this article is written from the perspective of a right-handed player. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Causes of Inconsistency

Causes of Inconsistency

Golf is such a frustrating game in large part because of the inconsistency that plagues the average player. We all know the feeling – you hit a perfect tee shot on one hole with your driver, only to hook the ball into the woods on the next hole. Or, you hit a beautiful iron shot to set up a short birdie putt, only to follow that up with a shanked iron shot later in the round. How is that possible? How can the same golfer, with largely the same swing, come away with such widely-varied results from hole to hole? This kind of inconsistency is not usually seen in most other sports.

While this might seem like a bit of a conundrum, it actually makes a good bit of sense when you stop and think about it for a second. In golf, the club head is moving at an incredibly high rate of speed through the hitting area. That speed alone is going to encourage inconsistency in your results. Also, the lie you face will change from shot to shot, unless you are playing from the tee. The ground under your feet may be sloped, the wind may be blowing, your hands could be sweaty – this list can go on and on. There are countless potential variables to deal with in golf, which is a big part of the reason why many golfers are never able to produce consistent results.

We touched on some of the many causes of inconsistency in the paragraph above, but the list below is going to get even further into this topic. Once you understand where inconsistency comes from, you should be able to work toward eliminating it more effectively.

  • Lost focus. One of the most common causes of inconsistent results in golf is simply losing focus prior to hitting a shot. Golf takes a long time to play, and it is easy to let your mind wander on the course. If you fail to focus in on the task at hand prior to starting your swing, the results of that swing are usually going to be disappointing. You don't need to be focused on golf for all 4+ hours that you are on the course, but you do need to make sure that you refocus yourself prior to hitting each shot. Players who are able to focus on every single shot from the first tee to the last green will always have an advantage over those who take a few shots off mentally from time to time.
  • Limited practice time. This is a tough one for many amateur golfers to conquer, because golf is not your full-time job. If you can't dedicate time to golf each and every day, it will always be hard to find consistency. However, you can build a practice schedule which should help you to play at a higher level more often than ever before. For example, if you can build your personal schedule to where you will be able to practice golf once per week, that may be enough to keep your swing in rhythm and working properly. Of course, trips to the driving range aren't the only option – you can find improved consistency by simply playing more rounds of golf as well.
  • Poor strategy. Making bad decisions on the golf course will often lead to inconsistent results. For most amateur players, this means being more aggressive than is necessary based on the design of the course. Golf courses are often designed in such a way that entices you to be aggressive – when playing it safe is really the better choice. Bad strategy can easily lead you to inconsistent play, as your risky decisions will work out some of the time, but they will fail a large percentage of the time as well. By learning how to play a more measured, intelligent game, you can iron out some of the inconsistency that may be present in your current results.

Perfect consistency is not something you can achieve in golf – and the game probably would get boring if you could. It is the varied results that make this game interesting, however you will go a long way toward improving your game if you can cut down on the number of bad shots you hit in an average round. Learn how to make a more reliable swing and use that swing in tandem with good strategy to become a more consistent golfer.

Planning a Great Iron Shot

Planning a Great Iron Shot

Consistency in your iron game comes down to careful planning. If you are willing to think through everything that is going to affect the upcoming shot, you will be able to expect a better result on most occasions. The average golfer fails to do much planning before hitting his or her shot, and the results speak for themselves.

As is always the case in golf, you will have to practice using your planning technique if you want to see great results on the course. During your next practice session, use this planning process before hitting your iron shots. While it might take a little while to work through this routine at first, you will get more and more comfortable with the routine as you accrue experience.

  • Evaluate the shot at a whole. You want to get started by taking a big picture look at the shot you are facing. On the course, this is easy – you will look for things like bunkers and water hazards which you need to avoid. On the range, you might have to use your imagination a bit to picture some hazards that will influence your shot selection. A good option when practicing on a 'plain' driving range is to picture one of the holes on your favorite course and use that mental image to practice your planning.
  • Read your lie. Once you have a big picture understanding for the shot you face, the next step is to take a look at the smaller picture. What is the lie like underneath and around the golf ball? If you have a good, clean lie, any shot will be possible based on your skills. On the other hand, a poor lie is going to severely limit what you are able to do with the shot. Accurately reading your lie takes experience and practice, so this skill should develop nicely as time goes by.
  • Pick a specific target. This is a step which is surprisingly skipped by most golfers. Instead of picking a smart target based on both the lie and the terrain between the ball and the green, many players just aim at the flag and swing away. You probably don't need to be told that this is a poor strategy – in fact, this really isn't a strategy at all. Don't take the lazy way out when planning your iron shots. Look around the green and decide where you should aim based on everything you know about the shot. If you are aggressive, what risks will you be incurring? If you play it safe, what kind of putt will you be leaving yourself? Before you actually hit the shot it is important that you have a very specific, logical target in mind.
  • Pick a club and swing away. The last thing you need to do is grab the right club for the job and hit the shot. Knowing that you have picked a smart target for the shot, you should be able to pick your club with tremendous confidence. As we mentioned earlier in the article, focus is always an important key to consistency, so be sure to focus on your job of making a quality swing once all of the prep work has been completed.

The mental side of the game is a huge component to your success or failure on the course. Many players neglect to think about thinks like planning their iron shots, and those players struggle to improve as a result. Don't always blame your failures on the course on a faulty swing – it may be that your mental game simply isn't up to the task of playing at a higher level. Work on your mental game just as hard as your physical game if you want to see real improvement.

Mastering the Art of Golf Focus

Mastering the Art of Golf Focus

In other sports, it is relatively easy to focus. In baseball, for instance, you are almost certain to be focused when you walk up to the plate to hit – because if you aren't focused, you might wind up getting hit with a fastball. The same goes for football, as there is physical fear and danger involved in the sport. Simply stepping onto the football field should be more than enough to grab your attention. Obviously, golf is different. You aren't worried about getting tackled or hit with a fastball, so it is pretty easy to let your guard down. And, in fact, it is actually okay to let your guard down – as long as you know how to do it properly.

The first thing you should know about focus on the golf course is that you don't need to be focused for the entire round. It would actually be a mistake to attempt to focus for the whole day, as a round of golf is simply too long for the human brain to stay trained on one activity. Most 18-hole rounds take well in excess of four hours – can you remain focused on one single task for that entire length of time? Probably not. So, right of the bat, it is clear that the plan needs to be learning how to come in and out of focus at just the right time.

It should be pretty easy to determine the periods of time on the course when you can afford to let your focus drift away. For instance, when you are walking up the fairway to find your ball, it is perfectly acceptable to chat with your playing partners about things other than golf. Or, if you are waiting on the tee for the group in front of you to finish, you can talk just to pass the time. The key here is knowing how to snap back into 'golf mode' when the time does come to hit your shot.

If you find that you struggle with this part of the game, you may be able to improve through the use of a pre-shot routine. A pre-shot routine is a process that you use prior to every shot you hit on the course. This routine can include any number of different elements, as long as it doesn't take too long to complete. The great thing about a routine is the fact that it can serve as a trigger for your brain to switch back to golf mode. Even if you have been chatting and laughing about other things, the start of your routine should engage your focus and allow you to perform at your highest level.

You don't have to go in and out of your focus throughout the entire round. If you prefer to stay focused and avoid conversation between some shots, that is completely up to you. However, it is recommended that you avoid trying to focus completely on golf for the entire day, as that is simply a tough task to accomplish. Let your mind wander from time to time, even if you are playing alone, and return to the job at hand when your pre-shot routine begins.

Other Miscellaneous Tips

Other Miscellaneous Tips

For a topic is wide-ranging as consistency in your iron game, there are sure to be a variety of tips which can benefit you on the course. In this last section of the article, we are going to highlight a few tips which weren't mentioned previously. Keep these points in mind while you continue working toward a more consistent version of yourself on the course.

  • It's okay to hit a bad shot. To improve your consistency, you actually need to accept the fact that you are going to hit some poor shots from time to time. Golf is an incredibly hard game, and every golfer misses the mark on occasion. Why is it important to accept this as a fact of life on the links? It's all about your attitude. If you expect perfection, you are quickly going to get frustrated and you may decide to change things about your swing just because of a few poor shots. In most cases, that would be a mistake. By taking a big picture view and understanding that poor shots are going to come along once in a while, you can take some pressure off of yourself and simply give your best effort on each swing.
  • Exercise all of your irons. When you visit the driving range, make it a point to hit all of your irons at least once or twice, if possible. It is common for golfers to ignore some of the irons they don't like, only to hit shots over and over again with their favorite clubs. This is a pointless method, of course, as it is going to leave holes in your game which are sure to be exposed during an upcoming round. To be more consistent when you play, you need to be better prepared throughout your bag. Be disciplined during practice and work on your weaknesses more than your strengths. This philosophy has served many golfers well over the years, and it can help you too.
  • Respect the lie of the ball. We did hit on this topic briefly earlier in the article, but we need to do so again here because of its importance. The lie of the ball in the grass (or sand) is going to have a huge influence on what shots you can hit. If you try to do more than will be allowed by the lie, you are going to run into trouble. The best way to avoid issues stemming from a bad lie is to play it safe anytime you have concerns about how the ball will react. Even if you don't have a terrible lie, it is still smart to hit a safe shot and keep your ball somewhere in play. Don't gamble with an aggressive decision only to be burned by the lie. There will be plenty of time later for being aggressive when you do have a good lie – play it safe for now and keep your score on track.

Consistency has always been elusive in this game, and it is going to remain that way for as long as people are playing golf. With regard to your iron play specifically, we hope the advice provided in this article will help you hit good shots a higher percentage of the time. No golfer is perfect, so don't beat yourself up for the occasional poor swing. With the right mental approach and a healthy amount of practice, your game can become more consistent than ever before. And, of course, that improved consistency is almost certainly going to lead to lower scores. Good luck!