My Golf Instructor

Stripe your Irons
How to Hit it Pure

Comparing tour pros to the average golfer is easy. All you have to do is watch them bomb drives 300 yards and sink every putt they look at and you can easily see why they are the best in the world. What is the difference though, between tour players and top amateurs, teaching pros and those struggling on the mini tours? Of course, driving, putting and short game all play a role in creating the gap, but approach shots and precise iron play into the greens is what I've experienced to cause the great divide.

Precise Iron Play is What Sets Tour Players Apart

As a young teaching professional I was fortunate enough to qualify for or be exempted into a handful of LPGA tour events including one major. What surprised me is that even though I'm quite the pip-squeak, I was either even with or past all the tour players I competed against from the tee, with the exception of Val Skinner and her big hooking long ball. For the most part I was a much better putter, because for a decade I was on fire and would have gone up against any player in the world. My weakness however, was iron play. I've always said you can win a golf tournament if you drive, putt and chip well. I know, because I've done it. Those are my strengths. To be great consistently though, rather than just have the occasional win, you need to stripe your irons. There was a great difference between the shots of the tour members into the green and those of myself and my peers. It seemed that from a 5 iron on down, the tour players were able to get the ball easily within 1 putt range. While that was not too tough from say a 9 iron and in, it was those mid irons that plagued me.

If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron. - Lee Trevino

Long Irons are More Difficult to Hit

As irons get longer, they get more difficult to hit. The heads get smaller, the loft decreases and the shaft gets longer. All of these factors make striking long irons consistently more difficult. This doesn't make shorter irons easy to hit, just easier. There are common factors that need to come together for all irons though, so that you can make solid contact.

To hit crisp, solid irons, among other things you need to have:

  • Good balance and rhythm
  • A descending blow
    Learn hot to hit solid, consistent ironsHitting Irons Pure
  • A proper release with the club head trailing your hands on the way down
  • A forward leaning shaft at impact
  • An on plane swing
  • A proper coil and kinematic sequence
  • A square club face

You can look at the list and say "so basically, I just need to have a good golf swing." That statement is true, but because hitting off a tee can be more forgiving and fairway woods and hybrids are designed to prevent digging and fat shots, irons can be a bit more challenging. Iron play, especially with mid to long irons is where we need to be precise especially with our impact.

The Situation:

You want to learn how to hit your irons pure.

The Solution:

To hit irons pure obviously you need to have an all around solid swing. The area of the swing that you need to focus on more closely with irons though, is impact. Let's explore the following 4 parts of your swing to see if we can get you to a proper impact position for hitting solid irons.

Ball Position - Assuming you have good posture and an overall good set up, let's just talk about ball position. To hit irons correctly you need to hit down on them and take a divot. Focus on CBG. That stands for club, ball, ground impact. The ball should be contacted cleanly with no grass or dirt between the club face and the ball. After the ball leaves the face, the head of the club should go down into the grown making a divot after impact. So where you place the ball in your stance can have a huge effect on whether or not you can hit down on the ball and take a divot. Playing it too far forward in your stance for instance can cause you to catch the ball on the upswing rather than the down swing making it almost impossible to take a divot. You need play the ball exactly where your club will bottom out hitting the bottom of the arc. If you are correctly shifting your weight to your front foot, the bottom of the arc should be forward of the center of your stance.

Instinct - Go against your instinct. It is natural to want to try to help the ball in the air by swinging up or scooping. After all, iron shots should go high. The opposite is true however. To hit them solid, you need to compress or squish the ball between the club face and the ground. That means you must learn to trust the loft on the club and swing down, not up. To take a divot you need to let gravity work for you and "let" the club go down. No need to force it, just let it go down and get the feeling that you "dump" it in the ground.

Transition - Make your transition smooth so that you maintain the angles you establish in your rear elbow and wrist at the top of the swing. Overacceleration from the top will make you un-hinge your rear wrist and elbow too soon making you cast the club. As a result, all acceleration will be spent before you get to the ball. The club head will also catch up to your hands too soon and pass them before impact. When your club head passes your hands it is ascending and the shaft will lean back away from the target so this makes it impossible to hit down and take a divot. If you transition smoothly and maintain your angles, you will be able to release at impact achieving maximum power, compression and spin.

Impact - Having everything line up correctly at impact is the icing on the cake. When all your body parts and the club shaft and face arrive at the ball in not only the correct time, but in the ideal positions, the result can't help but be pure. Firing body parts in the right order (kinematic sequence) allows the club to arrive at impact in perfect alignment. When starting down your hips should fire first and as they slow then the shoulders fire. When the shoulders start to slow, the arms, hands and then club will fire through the ball. When at impact as our picture indicates, things should look like this: hips are open to the target line (with the weight being on the target side foot by this point), shoulders are square to the target line and arms have just caught up and are back down in front of the body where they started. The club shaft should have a slight lean towards the target and be more forward of where it started. This will result in a de-lofted club face making the ball start out low and climb as appropriate spin is imparted on the ball. The leaning shaft causes a descending blow and a nice dollar bill size divot will be taken after the ball leaves the face. Compression will take place if all this happens as it should and your ball will rebound off the face at higher velocity.

Checking these four areas of your swing is a great start to understanding the efficiency of your iron swing. On MyGolfInstructor.com, we offer numerous tips, drills and information to help you stripe your irons.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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