It has been a couple of years since I have written my article on compressing the golf ball, and it still shows up as one of the more popular articles on Shank City Golf. So I figured I would follow-up with some additional thoughts on the subject.
This is me hitting an 8 iron off the turf, notice the ball goes before the grass flies up.
So let’s say you do play golf quite a bit, and you know the basic mechanics of the swing, and you make pretty good contact, but just can’t seem to get your irons fly as far as your playing partners. Then this article is for you.
When we start playing golf, most of us are better with one type of club over the other. When I was a kid playing with my uncle, I was always much better with a driver or 3 wood than I was with an iron. Golf irons always baffled me, and I never seemed to get the results out of them that I thought I should. I have been playing serious golf now for about 10 years, and it has only been in the last two years that I finally feel like I know what to do with all my irons. Now I am not saying it will take you 8 years to get good at them, I was playing good golf all along and my handicap was steadily coming down all that time, but confidence and looking forward to iron shots. In other words, feeling as good about my irons as I always have about my woods.
I am happy to say that I am over 50 and I can hit an iron further today than I have ever been able to, and it is not because of a new set of irons or golf ball. Although those are getting better all the time. There are just three things I do now that give me that confidence and help me compress the ball.
First, to prevent hitting it fat, or grass first, I pick different hitting zones on the ball for different irons. Now I know that I actually hit the ball on the back, but this visualization works for me. In my last article I talked about a drill I use on the range where I look at a bit of grass right in front of the ball, and look at that all the way through the swing. I only use that drill on the range with a short tee, but when I am playing and hitting shots off the grass, I use a different technique. The best way to describe it is with a graphic.
I slice the ball into target zones and work my way from the front of the ball to the back. Looking at the front part of the ball with a wedge, helps me have a steeper angle of attack at the ball, and keeps me from hanging on my back foot and going under the ball. Wedges are where your strike down on the ball is most aggressive. With a 9 iron I aim more to the middle front of the ball, and so on until my 4 iron is close to the back of the ball. So that is what I do for visualization, and it has helped me make better contact with the ball.
The second key for me is weight shift. I find it very important to get more weight onto my front foot at contact. I think it is Hunter Mahan who says he feels like he is pushing down on a button under his left foot as hard as he can. Now he is a pro, and that works for him, but I just try to feel like 60-70% of my weight is on my left foot at contact. Doing that keeps me from doing the one thing that was absolutely killing my distance with irons, and that is hanging back on my right foot. Staying back on my right foot was and is something I have to guard against constantly.
The way I do it is to not let too much of my weight get on to my right side during my backswing, I try to feel like I get no more than half of my weight on my right side at any time during the swing. This also helps with the fat shot because I had a tendency when I got back on my right foot to let my shoulder angle change and my right shoulder to go lower. Coming down I would have no where to go but down behind the ball, and a fat shot was more than likely the outcome.
Getting more weight on my front foot has helps me keep my chest over the ball longer too, so I find the bottom of my swing lands in the same spot more often. The other cool side effect of this for me, is that I picked up and additional 15 yards with my sand wedge, and it spins back more.
The next thing, and this is my last big key with irons, is to pull the handle down first from the backswing. Now there are a bunch of things I do, like only swing back until my left shoulder is even with the ball, and keep my hands away from my head, etc. But leading the downswing by pulling the handle straight down has given me real power with my irons. This one took me a while to realize I was doing it, since I don’t take lessons and it was subtle, I just didn’t see it. So what do I mean? Well, as we drawn the club back in our backswings, most of us load our wrists late in the process. That was me and I also logically followed a similar sequence going down. I tended to unload my wrists early in the downswing and in effect uncoiling all the power I had stored in my wrists before I struck the ball. As a result my power was leaked away before I had a chance to let it go at the ball. Now I focus on hinging my wrists earlier in the backswing and leading with the butt end of the club coming down, which keeps my wrists from unloading too soon.
So these are my keys to compression with irons, look at different parts of the ball, get more weight on my front foot, and lead down with the handle first. 1, 2, 3! Doing this I have picked up yardage across all of my irons, but most importantly, I love my irons now and look forward to hitting a 7 iron off the turf from 156 yards out.