How to Hit Better Irons Shots
Between the tee and the green is the fairway, and on the fairway irons are king. Occasionally a wood should be used (for a very long fairway shot), but irons are definitely the bread and butter of this part of the golf course.
Yes, irons are boring. They aren’t powerful like a driver or sensitive like your favorite putter. However, any golfer who wants to lower their score must improve their iron shots.
Here are five tips that anyone can use to hit better irons.
1. Don’t be afraid of divots. Yes, it’s a pain to find and replace the wayward hunk of turf. However, since the best iron shots are hit when the club face is descending, it’s normal for the bottom edge of the face to contact the ground as you complete your swing. Trying to avoid this will result either in “scooping” or in the bottom of your club face making contact with the ball at a higher point than desirable – producing a low shot without any backspin.
2. Avoid the tendency to swing for distance. While it makes sense to drive your tee shot with 100 percent of your power, trying to hit it as far down the fairway as possible, that’s not normally the objective with your fairway irons. You should swing comfortably and smoothly at around 75 percent power. Your main objective should be to maintain distance control. Whether you’re shooting for the green or leaving space for a chip, aim to nail the precise distance you want with each iron shot.
3. Know your typical yardage with each iron. This follows from Tip #2. You should have a good idea of how far you normally hit the ball with each numbered iron. Determine this by spending time on the practice range with your irons, watching where the balls fall in relation to the yardage markers. Combining this knowledge with the skill of estimating yardages on the course will tell you which iron to use for each and every shot.
4. Become familiar with the sound of a good iron shot. On the practice range, listen to the sound as the club face strikes the ball. You’ll become familiar with the sound of a good shot (when you hit the ball with the sweet spot) and the sounds of different types of bad iron shots. After you acquire that familiarity, consciously try to reproduce the good iron shot sound when you are taking your iron shots.
5. Know where the sweet spot is on your club face. This follows from Tip #4. While the sweet spot varies according to the particular design of each iron set. When you’re swinging, visualize striking the ball with the sweet spot.
Hitting good iron shots requires lots of baskets of balls on the practice range along with intense concentration on the course. However, if you can improve your iron shots, it will certainly have a significant effect on your scores.
Despite the fact that your golf bag probably has more irons in it than any other type of club, there is a good chance you spend far more practice time on other clubs – such as the driver and the putter – than you do the irons. Why is that? If you take a look around the next time you visit the practice range, you will probably have no trouble spotting people practicing their putting or their driving. However, those spending some serious practice time on their iron swing may be a little more difficult to locate.
If you would like to make some real progress with your golf game, however, that should change. The ability to hit quality iron shots is one of the biggest differences between golfers who have reached their goals, and those who are still struggling and frustrated with their level of play. It is great to hit a pretty drive right down the middle of the fairway, but it doesn’t do you a lot of good if you can’t capitalize on it with a solid iron shot. Placing the ball close to the hole on a regular basis is the only way to really improve your scores. Better iron play is within the reach of every golfer, as long as they use solid technique and spend enough time practicing.
Good golf iron shots might be some of the most rewarding shots you can hit on the course, because of the opportunity that they give you. Making a good golf iron swing that lands the ball close to the hole for an easy birdie putt is a feeling that you can enjoy throughout the walk from the fairway up to the green. Golf iron shots can take on a variety of different shapes and styles, but the only thing that matters, in the end, is how close the ball finishes to the hole. As you learn how to hit solid iron shots, you will quickly see how much room for improvement there is in your game once you are able to control the ball better off of your irons.
There are many important differences between hitting a driver and making a golf iron swing, and this article will get into those points. For example, the golf stance for irons is slightly different than it is for a driver – in fact, the overall golf setup irons require is unique and must be done correctly before you can make a quality, repeatable swing. Rather than taking the easy way out and just making the same exact swing with all of your clubs, take the time to learn why golf iron shots require a slightly different technique and you should be rewarded with better play almost immediately.
Every good golf shot starts from a stable foundation, and that goes double when hitting iron shots. Assuming you are hitting your iron shot off of the grass (and not a tee), there is going to be very little margin for error when you get down to the point of impact. If you are going to hit a solid shot time after time, you have to be able to deliver the club perfectly to the back of the ball. When you hit an iron shot just a little bit fat, it will come up short. Hit it a little thin, and you are likely to send the ball well over the green. Solid iron shots are key because they allow you to control your distance far more reliably.
So, what do you need to do in order to hit solid iron shots most of the time? Get your fundamentals down perfectly. While you will never be able to make a perfect golf swing each and every shot, there is no reason you can’t have your pre-shot fundamentals rehearsed to a point that they are reliable for every shot all round long. The more consistent you can be with your stance and posture prior to starting your swing, the easier it will be to achieve predictable results.
It all starts with a good stance. The golf stance for irons is similar to the stance you will use for your driver, except it should be a little more upright to accommodate the swing you are trying to make. It is important to understand that your iron swing should be more ‘upright’ than your driver swing – that is, your arms should swing higher up into the air on your backswing, rather than around you. To facilitate that upright swing, you want to take a stance that is slightly closer to the golf ball and has your back in a relatively upright position. If you find that you are hunched over your iron shots too much, try taking a small step closer to the ball and adding some flex in your knees. Those two slight adjustments should be all it takes to put you in a better golf stance for irons.
Hand position is another important element of hitting iron shots, although it is frequently overlooked. First, understand that when you reach impact, you need to have your hands in front of the ball (closer to the target). This provides you with the ability to make downward impact, which is key to hitting solid shots and getting some backspin on the ball. With that in mind, make sure your hands at address are slightly ahead of the ball – just like you want them to be at impact. By setting up this way before you ever start your swing, you will stand a much better chance of returning to this position later on.
The last of the basics that you should focus on prior to getting your swing started is the position of your back knee (right knee for a right-handed golfer). This knee is important to your golf iron swing because it has a lot to do with the balance you are able to maintain during the swing. When that trail knee is allowed to sway back away from the target, it can take a lot of your balance with it. Make an effort to keep that knee as stable as possible – while still making a full turn – and you will quickly see the quality of your iron shots improve. Side to side motion in a golf swing is never a good thing, so try anchoring your swing around a steady back knee.
In golf circles, the point of impact is often called the ‘moment of truth’, because that is when all the hard work that has gone into your golf swing really pays off. For all of the planning and practice that goes into making a good swing, the club only actually touches the ball for a fraction of a second. Of course, since it is doing so at high speed, you have to have everything just right at impact in order to achieve a quality ball flight. If you should have even one or two minor details out of place when the club hits the ball, you will end up with a shot that falls short of your expectations.
There are a number of elements that come together to make a good impact position for golf iron shots. If you are able to meet all of these points, you should be left with a golf shot that finishes close to your target.
- Hands in front of the ball. This one has already been mentioned above, but it bears repeating because it is so important. Getting your hands back to a position where they are in front of the ball at impact is crucial to your success, which is why the proper golf setup irons require can’t be overlooked. Get yourself into the right address position, and you should be able to get your hands back in front of the ball at impact.
- Weight on the front leg. Along with getting your hands in front of the ball, getting most of your weight onto your front leg at impact is another key in terms of creating downward contact with the ball. Those who are puzzled by how to hit solid iron shots and always seem to be miss-hitting the ball are likely ‘hanging back’ on their rear leg at impact. Focus on moving your weight aggressively toward the target during the downswing to promote that elusive downward hit.
- Eyes on the ball. You should have your eyes on the ball at impact for all of the shots you hit around the course, but it is especially important when playing an iron shot. Of all the great golf tips irons can use, this one is vital because it will help you to make good contact time after time. It becomes much harder to hit the ball square if you aren’t looking at it, so resist the temptation to look up early and keep your eyes down on the ball until after you have hit it.
- Complete conviction. The moment of impact is no time to get shy or nervous about your shot. You need to be fully committed to the shot and hit all the way through the ball and up into a full finish. If you ‘flinch’ at impact and give up on the shot, you can undo all of the good work you have done up until this point. By the time the club has gotten to impact, there isn’t enough time left to fix any errors you may have made – so it only makes sense to remain confident and hit through the shot. Hopefully, you will look up after impact and see the ball flying directly toward your intended target.
In reality, the impact position happens so fast that you really can’t analyze it in real speed. If you want to get a good look at your impact position, consider either taking a golf lesson or having someone record your swing on video so you can pause the recording and see for yourself how you are doing. Taking the time to fix all of the various parts of your impact position might seem like a lot of work, but the reward could be the best iron shots you have ever hit.
Your first objective when working on your iron game should be to simply develop your ability to make solid contact, and hit a repeatable ball flight shot after shot. It doesn’t much matter what ball flight that is – draw, fade, etc. – as long as it is repeatable and you can rely on it. However, if you wish to take your game to another level and lower your scores even further, you will want to develop your ability to craft a variety of different ball flights depending on the shot you are facing. For example, when faced with a hole location that is on the far left-hand side of the green, hitting a fade into the target probably won’t work very well (for a right-handed golfer). To access that hole location and give yourself a chance at birdie, you want to have the ability to hit a draw to match the layout of the hole you are facing. Many golfers think they aren’t good enough to shape shots in different directions, but it might not be quite as hard as you think.
The first thing that you need to understand about shot shaping is that the ball is going to head in the direction that the club face is pointing. Many of the golf tips irons players use fail to point out the importance of the position of the clubface at impact. When you are thinking about controlling the club face to generate a certain ball flight, remember that everything is in reference to the path that the club is swinging on. So, to make the ball draw to the left (again, for RH golfer), you will need to swing through impact with the club face pointing to the left as compared to the swing path. If the face is pointing to the right at impact, a fade or slice is the likely result. If you hope to gain control over your ball flights with your iron game, controlling the club face is your first job.
So what shots should you work on hitting with your irons? There are three shots that you should be able to call on when you need them to conquer almost all of the challenges you will face in your iron game.
1. The punch shot. Being able to hit a punch shot with your irons should be a required skill for any serious golfer. A punch shot is simply a low iron shot that is usually hit with less than a full swing. This is a handy shot to be able to hit because it can help you keep the ball out of the wind, make it easier to bounce the ball to a back hole location, and more. To play this shot, start by choking down on the grip of the club and moving the ball position back in your stance.
2. The high draw/fade. Ideally, you will be able to hit the ball high while curving it in both directions. This is important because a high shot will usually stop quicker, meaning you can attack more hole locations without risking your ball bouncing off the green and into trouble. Without a doubt, this is going to be your biggest challenge within the iron game – most players can hit a high iron shot in one direction, but it takes skill and practice to be able to turn it both ways. However, if you can put in the practice time to make it happen, your game will improve dramatically as a result.
3. The go-to shot. Above all else, you should have one iron shot that you know you can count on when you need it most. This is the ball flight that you go to when you are nervous or are facing a particularly difficult shot. It might not be the perfect choice for the hole in front of you, but it is the one you are most confident in. Having this security blanket will give you a shot to pick when you are unsure of what your best option might be.
One of the best things you can do for your iron game is simply to experiment on the practice tee. When just hitting some balls on the driving range, you don’t have to worry about hitting a few bad shots – so go ahead and try to create some different ball flights. You will quickly find that some are easier for you to hit than others. As you gain experience, you should be able to add more and more shots to your repertoire. Once you gain confidence in those new shots, it will be time to try them out for real
With all of the hard work behind you, it is time to take your newfound iron game and head out onto the golf course. It is one thing to be able to hit some pretty looking iron shots on the practice tee, but it is another thing altogether to be able to reproduce them when it counts. Only when you are able to count on your iron shots to perform under pressure will you know that you have truly changed your game.
The big key when it comes to using your iron game on the golf course is picking the right shot for the right situation. One rule that most accomplished golfers live by is that you should never be hurt by a straight shot. What does that mean? Basically, you don’t want to aim your shot in a direction that will lead to a bad result if you hit the ball straight instead of curve it. So, if you are planning to hit a draw, you should try to find a target line that will allow for your draw – but also keep you safe in case the ball flies straight.
When it comes to iron shots, the best way to handle this challenge is to aim your shots for the center of the green and try to curve them out to the edges. Imagine you are facing an iron shot from 150 yards with the hole located on the right side of the green (and you are a right-handed golfer). The ideal path would be to aim your shot for the middle of the green and use your fade to get the ball close to the hole. If the fade comes off perfectly, you should end up right next to the target. But, if the ball flies straight, you will still be safely in the middle of the green. This approach to course management provides you with protection from bad shots while still giving you a chance to make birdies.
The other important note on an iron play is knowing when to take your medicine and give the course the respect it deserves. It is possible to hit an iron shot from 200 yards over water to a hole location that is only a couple steps onto the green. Sure – it’s possible. Is it likely to pull this shot off? Probably not. Rather, play it safe and aim away from the water so you can avoid a penalty shot being added to your score. Even if you are highly confident in your new iron game, it is still smart to play it safe when the course presents you with a serious challenge.