Hit More Greens

Make Consistent Contact With Your Irons

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UNLIKE WITH THE DRIVER OR EVEN SOME OF YOUR FAIRWAY WOODS, you don’t necessarily want to hit every shot with your irons as far as you possibly could. In a given round, you’re probably just as likely to have as many in-between distances as you will distances that set up well for a particular iron in your bag.

A great way to practice and to get a feel for different distances is to practice hitting each iron in your bag three different distances. Start with three balls, and with your first shot, hit with your average swing speed, which should be somewhere around 80 percent full power. Then, with the second ball, dial it back to 70 percent and monitor the difference. Then, with the last ball, take a swing at 100 percent and, again, track the difference in distance.

Once you get a better idea of how far you can hit a single iron at three different swing speeds, you’ll likely see that some of your distances overlap from iron to iron, which essentially fills any distance holes in your set.

Also, becoming more versatile with each iron, you’ll get a better sense of what type of shot a particular hole requires, especially in relation to trajectory and spin (typically the faster you swing, the higher the launch and greater the spin).

Do this for every iron in your bag and take the guesswork out of choosing the right club once and for all.

DON'T GO OVER THE TOP. Speaking of swinging over the top (as the wall-check drill alluded to), an outside-in swing path is one of the worst and, sadly, more common mistakes amateurs make. It not only produces a weak and inconsistent shot, but also causes slices and duck hooks, both of which we all could do without. The opposite problem is a swing that’s too inside-to-outside the target line, which causes pushes, hooks and even the likely shanked shot. That’s just as bad.

To make sure you swing more squarely, try hitting a few shots with something along the outside of the golf ball. In my case, I have an OB stake, but I suggest you try using something softer, like a headcover. Set it as close to the ball as you can without touching it at address. The goal, obviously, is to avoid contact with your headcover through the entire swing. If you’re too outside-to-inside, you’ll hit it. If you’re too inside-to-outside, you’ll still hit it. The right amount is to swing inside-to-inside the target line, straight toward the target. Practice this often and you’ll hit straighter shots.

JUST BECAUSE IT'S NOT YOUR DRIVER, that’s not enough of an excuse to quit on your swing and not make a solid rotation. For even the most delicate of shots, whether it be a 100-yard pitch or an easy 7-iron, you always want to finish on your forward leg. If you don’t, you run the risk of not making a full rotation, releasing the club too soon, and, well, you can guess what types of shots will ensue.

As you practice, work on finishing on your forward leg, even with shorter-iron shots, punch shots, 3⁄4 shots or what have you. In this photo, I’m hitting an easy 6-iron. Even though my finish is abbreviated, my weight shift is anything but. I’m fully rotated, and my weight is solidly placed over my left leg.

Some of the best players in the world have said they don’t think about anything in the golf shot other than how they finish. Give that a try and, no doubt, you too will see how a finish-focused swing will help the rest of your motions fall in sequence automatically.

Jeff Johnson is currently the director of instruction at the beautiful Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, Calif. To learn more and to book a lesson, visit www.ojairesort.com.


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