Five Fundamentals Of Iron Play
Improve your scoring by refreshing yourself with the must-know components of the iron swing
We admit, blasting a huge drive is a ton of fun. Nothing beats splitting the fairway with every ounce of swing speed you have, watching the ball soar for what seems like miles in the air and basking in the success of the result. But whats a 300-yard drive if you cant hit the green on your second shot? Worthless!
No matter how sexy driving the golf ball can be, your mammoth drives dont mean squat unless you have the skills to follow them up with solid iron play. The same goes for putting—you cant score if you cant putt well, and part of making more putts has to do with how close you can hit your approaches to the hole. Put it this way: Scoring well requires a series of chain reactions. Great drives stage easier approach shots, and better approach shots lead to shorter putts, which likely lead to lower scores. Invariably and frequently, these links are going to weaken most often with the big stick and flatstick, making it all the more critical that you keep your iron game in top form.
Bend from the waist, not from your back, for better posture.
Take the club back with the arms, not wrists, during the takeaway.
Frankly, a poor setup is downright inexcusable—you dont even have to hit a golf ball to get it right.
Begin by understanding the difference between a good setup and a flawed one. Think of a baseball player or basketball player. They flex at the knees, stand firmly on the balls and heels of their feet and do so with solid posture. Think rock and roll to remind you that your feet serve as a rock through your backswing and roll through the downswing. The back retains straightness, but not necessarily rigidity. The spine should tilt toward the ball, and in a correct stance and swing, this tilt remains well through impact. More importantly, the tilt occurs in the hips (solid image at left), not the waist (ghosted image). Your weight should be balanced evenly over both feet. The hands should always be above or in front of the ball and never behind (think of your left arm as an extension of the shaft).
Now, on to ball position, the most overlooked aspect of iron setup. The ball should be played no farther back than your sternum and no farther forward than your left armpit. Most golfers tend to play the ball too far forward, causing a slew of miserable contacts. Try this: Hold a golf ball at your sternum while making a regular stance over a ball. Drop the ball from your sternum and note where it hits the ground. If it lands in front of the addressed ball in relation to the target, then youre playing the ball too far back.
How you take the club back during the onset of the backswing determines what route the rest of your swing will follow, making it crucial you get this step right. Lets look at the 2-8-12 rule. During the first two inches of your takeaway, the club should travel straight back. This necessitates that your arms, hands and shoulders move in unison and as a single unit (hence the term one-piece takeaway). From the second inch to the eighth inch, the club routes its way up, but the wrists have yet to break. This is simply a natural continuation of the one-piece move. From the eighth inch to the 12th inch is when the wrists break, positioning the clubshaft parallel to the ground and your target line. The full cock of the wrists occurs when the hands are shoulder high. Also, notice how I keep my rear shoulder slightly lower than the one closer to the target. This prevents me from hanging on my front side during the takeaway. If your forward shoulder drops, then your weight isnt going to shift properly to your back foot during the backswing.
When you find yourself in the rough, invariably youre going to need a steeper takeaway to get your swing moving on the right arc. As the club begins moving back, the wrists should already begin to hinge and not twist, thus allowing for a steeper and shorter backswing to follow. The wrists should already be fully cocked by the time the hands reach hip high on the backswing. You should retain this wrist cock as long as you can.