My Golf Instructor

Iron Tips

Video Tips on Irons

I have trouble hitting clubs especially irons from the fairway. I hit fat and thin. I can hit fairly well from a tee though. Please help!
Should an average golfer ever mess with opening/closing a club face during a round of golf if they have a consistent miss?
With 100% being the hardest you can swing a club, what percent should a normal golf swing be of your maximum ability to swing? Is a "full swing" like 80%, 90% or maximum effort? Or much less?
What does trapping the ball mean?
It always seems like when I play a safe shot to lay up I end up hitting a terrible shot. What could be causing this?
How high should I tee the ball when using an iron?
What is the impact of choking down on a club? When should you choke down on a driver or iron?
What should the typical gap in distance between irons be? Sometimes I feel like I hit a 7 and 8 iron the same distance (not that big of a gap).
I don't take divots with my irons, but I've heard you are supposed to. Am I at a disadvantage?
Without wind, sometimes I hit my 9-iron 130 yards and other times, it goes 140. What must I work on to become more consistent with the distance of my irons?
From a 9 iron to a 3 iron, is there a common distance that the ball should be moved in my stance from back to front? Should it progressively move forward, if so, by how much?
How important is the backswing in my overall swing?

Premium Tips

(Click on Title or Image to View Larger Photos)

  • Keep Your Balance Centered

    Make sure that your balance stays in the center of your feet from address all the way through to the end of your swing. If you set up on the balls of your feet you will most likely fall forward and into the ball during the swing. This can cause pushed shots and even shanks. If you stay too far back on your heels you can have swing errors such as topping the ball. When you stand, you naturally stand in balance which is with your weight in your arches. Make it the same for your golf swing and keep your weight in the center of your feet.

  • If You Have the Shanks Don't Crowd the Ball

    Don't crowd the ball if you are shankng. If you stand too close to the ball and swing out at all you will find the hosel and this is the cause of shanking. To check yourself at set up, try to fit a fist or a fist and a thumb between your thigh and the butt end of the grip. If you can, that means you have given yourself plenty of room.

  • Sit Back to Avoid the Shanks

    If you are shanking, wiggle your toes when you set up to make sure you are not leaning in towards the balls of your feet. Getting your weight onto your toes moves you forward and increases your chances of hitting the hosel, which is the cause of a shank. If you can wiggle your toes inside your shoes that means your weight is centered on your feet where it is supposed to be. Focus on staying centered throughout the entire swing as it's easy to start one place and end up in another.

  • Counteract the Shanks by Striking on the Toe

    If you are shanking, the next time you are at the range, make some swings trying to strike the toe. This will get your swing to move away from the hosel of the club, which is the cause of a shank. I often have my students try to miss the ball completely on the inside to get out of the habit of swinging out too much towards the heel.

  • Let Your Arms Roll

    Make sure to let the club face release or turn over through the ball. This requires you to roll your arms. Holding the face open or trying to lag the club too much can cause you to lead too much with the heel into the ball. In most cases the arms don't release simply because the golfer won't let them. If you relax your arms and let them react to your pivot, they will roll over and square up the clubface.

  • If You Are Shanking Make Sure To Line Up With the Sweet Spot

    If you are shanking, check to make sure that when you set up the ball is exactly in the sweet spot and that you are not aligning it with the heel. You'd be surprised how many players actually start with the ball in the heel and don't realize it. Visually we can get used to doing something wrong very quickly and not even be aware of it. I always say our eyes are like any other muscle in our body and that we need to retrain them or get them back in shape when things start to go wrong.

  • Look at the Inside Quarter of the Ball

    Try to focus on and hit the inside back quarter of the golf ball. Most good players will tell you to look there as it facilitates and inside/out swing path. An inside/out path will help you to hit either straight shots or draws. Some players look at the ball as a whole and others actually look in front of the ball so that they will hit down and through it. If you are trying to overcome an over the top swing or an outside/in path through the ball however, looking at the back inside quarter of the ball will help.

  • Keep Your Cheek Parallel to the Ground After Impact

    To learn to stay down try watching the ball fly with your right cheek still facing the ground (for a right hander). This will help you retain your posture and keep your spine tilted forward throughout the swing. Skilled ball strikers will stay in this position all the way until the very end of the swing. If you find yourself watching your ball fly by standing up straight with your shoulders level to the ground, chances are you are coming out of the shot too soon.

  • Extend Your Arms Through Impact

    To make sure your arms aren't getting shorter through impact, try extending them through the shot and making them longer as you hit the ball. After impact they should be fully stretched out. It is important to keep rotating and pivoting through the shot so that your arms have room to extend. If you stop your pivot your body will get in your way and your arms will buckle.

  • Stay Relaxed to Release

    One reason why the arms don't extend is because the player doesn't let them release or roll over. Make sure that your rear arm rolls over your front arm as you come through impact. As you pivot through the shot and create rotational speed the centrifugal force will throw your arms out and extend them through impact. As long as your arms are relaxed and you aren't trying to control or force the swing, they will return straight just like they were at address.

  • Keep Your Rear End Out

    Keep your rear end out and back to help keep you down through the shot. When your rear end comes in it forces your spine to straighten up. This is called a pelvic push or early extension. The result is usually a topped shot, thin shot or a push. When your rear end stays out, it helps you to maintain the posture that you established at address. This is critical for making pure and consistent contact.

  • Make Sure to Hit the Ground With Practice Swings

    Practice hitting the ground without a ball. Swing down and take a divot about the size of a dollar bill. If you hit the ground, then hit your shot. If you don't make contact with the ground keep trying to take a divot on your practice swing until you get one. Don't hold up play though!

  • Don't Practice Swinging at Air

    Don't practice swinging at air. You will get really good at it! Practice hitting something...the ground. When you are on the driving range try taking a divot and then start your next swing at the front of that divot and take another one going forward. Pretty soon you will have made a nice straight line of divots across the range. The superintendent will love you! This way, you will get comfortable with hitting the ground on every swing and hitting it at the right spot; in front of where the ball lies.

  • Address the Ball With Your Rear Side Lower

    When addressing the ball, make sure that your rear side sits lower at address just as your rear hand sits lower on the grip. Your hips and shoulders should run parallel to each other and tilt away from your target. This means your right hip and your right shoulder will sit lower than your left hip and left shoulder at address. Setting up in this manner facilitates and inside/out take away, so it's a great thing to double check if you are having problems swinging outside/in.

  • To Strike Down Move Your Weight Forward

    Make sure to have your weight over the ball at impact so you can hit the ball first and then the ground. If your head and sternum are leaning back too much your weight will be on your rear foot and you will strike the ball with an upward blow. This will usually result in a thin shot and no divot. To hit down on the ball and compress it, you need to be more on top of it.

  • Lag the Clubhead

    For all full swings keep the club head behind your hands as long as possible to make sure that you hit the ball first, then the ground. When you lag the club and let it release at the last possible moment you are storing your energy and maintaining control. Remember, as soon as the club catches up to your hands and starts to pass them you are no longer descending and no longer in control of the face.

  • Play Irons at the Bottom of Your Arc

    Play irons just forward of center. That way you will trap the ball at the bottom point in the arc if you are properly shifting your weight. It doesn't matter which iron you are hitting. If you are shifting your weight, the bottom of the arc will be forward of center. Remember, you need to hit down on irons to get the ball to pop back up in the air, so trapping it at the bottom point of the arc is crucial.

  • Shift Your Weight Through the Strike

    Make sure your head does not hang back or back up too much in the swing. It will cause you to swing on too much of an inside-out angle and push shots. To trap the ball and keep your swing on plane (on an arc) make sure that you are moving through the ball as you strike it and shifting your weight to your front foot. After impact your swing should come around on an arc rather than moving down the target line.

Iron Tips from the Ask Maria Archive

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
- Golf Questions
Golf instruction made simple
Golf Overview
Overall Game
- Getting Started
- Equipment
- Golf Fitness
- Junior Golf
- Mental Game
- Practice
- Rules of Golf
Short Game
- Bunkers
- Chipping
- Pitching
- Putting
Full Swing
- Pre-Swing Fundamentals
- Shot Making
- Diagnosing Problems
- Driving
- Hybrids and Woods
- Irons
Playing Golf
Ball Striking
- Fitness (78)
Basics
- Course Management (82)
- Getting Started in Golf (75)
- Practice (66)
Course Management
- Club Selection (66)
- Equipment (107)
Driving
- Driving (68)
Putting
- Putting (127)
Rules
- Golf Rules (69)
Short Game
- Bump and Run (72)
- Chipping (82)
Problems
Ball Striking
- Chunking (79)
- Distance Control (86)
- Fat Shots (92)
- Flipping (48)
- Poor Accuracy (118)
- Slicing (48)
- Thin Shots (85)
- Topped Shots (52)
Distance
- Lack of Distance (108)
Putting
- Putting Accuracy (72)
Swing Plane
- Blocking (50)
- Inside Out (56)
- Outside In (59)
- Over the Top (49)
- Pulling (54)
- Pushing (66)
- Releasing Early (47)
The Swing
Grip
- Grip (65)
Setup
- Alignment (55)
- Balance (50)
- Ball Position (80)
- Posture (77)
- Setup (117)
Swing Plane
- Backswing (84)
- Controlling Trajectory (47)
- Divot (48)
- Downswing (67)
- Impact (103)
- On Plane (85)
- Path (84)
- Power (71)
- Shaft Plane (63)
- Swing Plane (112)
- Weight Shift (79)