Master Your Iron Play

Hit Better Iron Shots With These Simple Keys

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Swivel, THEN release. You’ve probably heard a lot about releasing the hands, and you may have heard how better players are able to release their hands faster than average players. Hmm, too bad that isn’t true! Touring professionals and low handicappers alike don’t release their hands as soon as you might think. The reality is, they know how to SWIVEL their hands through impact BEFORE they release their hands.

What’s a “swivel”? Simply put, it’s the rotation of the hands through impact. Look at the sequence on the opposite page. I’ve swiveled my hands before releasing them (releasing my hands means allowing my forearms to cross like you see on this page). By swivelling first, I can maintain a better extension of my arms, which usually indicates more power and control. If you try to release the club too soon, you’ll likely hit a lot more fat and thin shots, not to mention shots that veer left or right.

Practice in slow motion and swivel the hands to square the clubface at impact before you release, which should happen once the arms reach waist high on the followthrough. If you do this, you’ll not only learn how your swing should look, but also feel a sense of power and consistency you probably haven’t had before.

Stay on plane, before and after. Some players, like Jim Furyk and Fred Couples, can get away with having extremely upright backswing positions, only to reroute the clubshaft back on plane at the peak of the backswing and into the downswing. But, for most of us, we’re much better off trying to keep on plane during the backswing and forwardswing. To get on plane, check your position at two-thirds of the way into your backswing and see if the shaft points toward the ball. If it points away from the ball, you’re too flat. If it points between you and the ball, you’re too upright. Get the butt of the grip pointing toward the ball (it doesn’t have to be precise), and concentrate on keeping this plane consistent by avoiding any extra droop or bend in the arms and hands.

A quick drill to learn how to swivel. Are you still reeling over my advice on swivelling before you release? If so, try this simple drill. Position a stick or a club to your side, as I’ve done above, and practice some knee-high to knee-high swings, focusing on squaring the clubface with your body rotating as it should and also by swivelling your hands. As the body rotates and the hands swivel, you’ll see there’s less need to try to force the hands to release and flip over.

In fact, flipping the hands too soon is a common problem for better players who either stop rotating the body or who don’t swivel their hands. As you pitch the ball forward, let the club nick the shaft or stick you have in the ground. Check to see where your clubhead is facing (it should be square or slightly closed, and your body should be rotated as mine is). The shaft in the ground marks the point where I should release the hands. Also, watch how the best players in the world can extend and release with such vigor. Next time you tune in to an event on TV, watch Tiger (as if you aren’t doing that already), and pause your DVR after he hits. His arms extend as well as anyone’s, further proving he swivels before he releases.

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