Learn how to hit your irons like a pro
2. On Plane
The second key ingredient in achieving pro contact is approaching the ball on the correct plane. The vast majority of players who struggle with impact swing over the plane from outside to in and make a very steep approach into the ball. This type of plane leads to a multitude of problems, including fat and thin shots, as well as a lot of slices and a lack of power. Another big mistake players make is swinging under the plane on too flat a trajectory. This type of approach into the ball produces smother hooks and pushes (depending on the angle of the clubface at impact) and also promotes a chicken wing in the finish. To create pro-style impact, you absolutely must develop an on-plane motion and combine it with the proper sequence of body movements.
3. Clubface Control
You’re not going to make pro contact if you can’t control the clubface through impact. In other words, to make the ball fly in the intended direction, the face must be square at contact. Most amateurs make the mistake of having the face of the club too open at impact, which once again leads to a glancing blow and a loss of contact and distance. It also creates slices and pushes. In the correct swing, the clubface should rotate from slightly open prior to impact to square at impact to slightly closed after impact. It’s the timing of this face rotation that separates the straight hitter from the not-so-straight hitter. Some pros rotate the clubface more quickly than others, but they all do it to some degree.
By placing a headcover behind the ball about a foot and slightly inside the target line, you can learn to strike the ball with a proper descending blow and achieve forward shaft lean. Start with practice swings without the ball, each time concentrating on hitting the turf on the target side of the headcover without making contact with the actual headcover. Once you feel comfortable with this move, place a ball in front of the headcover and try to hit some shots. You should quickly get the proper feel of a descending blow. If you swing with a scooping motion (hitting the ground before you make contact with the ball), you won’t be able to hit the ball without first hitting the headcover.
Controlling the clubface, aka, releasing the clubhead properly, is something that all good players do and most amateur players don’t. To learn to rotate the clubface properly through impact, concentrate on freeing your hand action in both the backswing and downswing. An image I find helpful is to think of hiding your left hand with your right hand as the clubhead passes through impact. With practice, you’ll soon ingrain the proper feel.
Place a tee in the ground on an angle similar to what you see in the accompanying picture. Practice driving the tee down into the ground on the same angle at which it rests at setup, and I guarantee you’ll develop forward shaft lean. If you try to accomplish this with the shaft of the club leaning backward in a scooping motion, the club will slide under the tee and flip it up in the air. Start with very small swings and slowly work your way up to a full motion. Practice this drill until you can do it consistently, and your technique will improve dramatically.
GT Senior Instruction Editor Chuck Winstead teaches at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La.
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