Distance Control is the Key to Iron Play
The PGA Championship was a great illustration of the vital importance of distance control with your irons. A shot that came up way short for Y.E. Yang led to a three putt that could have cost him the championship, and a couple of shots that were long cost Tiger a chance at giving Yang a tougher go. Funny that most of the time Tiger is dead on with his distances.

I got an inquiry from one of our readers, Aaron W., about this very subject. Here’s what Aaron shared and then asked:
“Recently, I wanted to work on my GIR, so I decided to adjust my club selection based on distance. Instead of picking the club that would reach the desired distance with a full shot, I went up a club and played roughly a 75% shot with a slow smooth swing.

“In the first round with my new approach, I shot a 77 (on a par 70), and in the second round I shot a 77 (par 72). I hit a ton of greens, and both are all-time low scores for me.

“My question is....Is this the approach I should always use? Should I always try to use a 75% swing for 5 - 9 iron approach shots? Should the 75% shot be my normal swing?”
Well, Aaron, my first reaction is to let the results speak for themselves. It’s pretty obvious that the 75% swing is producing much more reliable distances for you. I’m personally a big fan of this approach to iron play. I interact with many golfers who tell me their iron distances and I’m often amazed at what they claim. We can hear of tour players hitting an 8-iron from 175 or a 5-iron from 210, but that’s not the norm by any means, even for them. And it certainly shouldn’t be for the rest of us.

As I often do, I’ll recall some wisdom from Ben Hogan, who listed his yardages with each iron as a normal/minimum/maximum. With each iron he had 20 yards “in reserve” for when he really needed it. Do you? I mean do you have what you consider your normal range with a 7-iron, and another 20 when you want? Or are your “maximum” and “normal” distances about the same?

What Aaron found out is that when he throttles back with his irons, his accuracy and distance control improved dramatically, and I would bet it would be the same for 95% of us. I suggest you relearn a more relaxed swing with your irons, and let the distances be what they are. My favorite analogy to swing speed is to relate it to driving. Drivers get freeway speed -- as fast as you can drive safely. Fairway woods and hybrids are a notch below that, as you don’t have the ball sitting on the tee. But when an iron is in my hands, I think “Drive 55”, the old country road speed limit. Fast enough to get where you’re going, but slow enough to stay between the lines on a two-lane road with no shoulder.

And I’m a big fan of gripping down on my irons most of the time, to gain even a little more control. Even a half inch or so down on an iron gives you more control than when you grip it to the end. And most golfers will be more accurate and consistent with a 7-iron gripped down and swung easy than with an 8-iron “ripped”.

There is no room in those little boxes on the score card for explanations, only for the numbers. And a shot to ten feet with a throttled-back 7-iron is always better than a nuked 8 that’s wide left or right, long or short.

It can even be fun to jack with your testosterone-pumped buddies who are standing on the par three tee deciding between and 8- and 9-iron, when you hit it close and answer their inquiry, “What’d you hit?”, with “A little 6-iron.”

As always, keep your questions coming and chime in.

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[ comments ]
Tim Horan says:
Having read and put into practice your SCOR method with your patented Eidolon grips I have had my MP33s re-gripped with similar "graduated" grips. Using the same methods as for the Eidolon wedges throughout my iron set I have been able to control distance much better getting three distances for each club by gripping down set amounts but keeping the swing constant. I am afraid that I am not a very diciplined golfer and although every instinct and past experiment tells me the 75-80% swing will be more controlable. For all my best intentions I very quickly revert to type and hit everything 100%.
Banker85 says:
For 145yds i can hit a smooth 8I that is about 85% so if i take it down to 75% its about 135yds and 95% about 155yds. I was trying to just crush the ball as far as i can trying to keep up with this 17 year old kid who could hit his 9I 150... after mine went in the water i just played my game.
mjaber says:
I think the hardest part about this is doing it while playing with friends. There's almost a "peer pressure" factor that comes into play when your buddy can hit his 7i 200 yards into a par 3, and you're going to the tee with a long iron or a hybrid. It's hard to keep your mind just on your own game. The best 2 rounds I played, I went to the course by myself. It was easier to focus on what my yardages were, and what club I should use, when I didn't have to admit to anyone after my 130 yard shot that I had used a 7-iron, which is 2 clubs more than my friend would have used.
bducharm says:
I have learned that it really doesn't matter what the number on the bottom of the iron is - it is the result. I quit having an ego about which club to hit a LONG time ago. Maybe that is one reason I am a +2 handicap. If it takes 2 more clubs for me than the young guy I am playing with, so be it!!! The MOST important point is to understand how far you hit each iron - especially under pressure!!!
Lerxst says:
My 7 is also a 130 so don't feel bad or different. I've hit driver occasionally on par 3's
activesense says:
I am not a long hitter by any stretch, so I use the club I feel comfortable hitting considering the distance I need the ball to travel. I watch other golfers hit middle irons from the tee onto the green over a large body of water on #9 of my home course and I think to myself, 'one day'. Then I reach for my 5W which I know will produce the desired result of 153 yards to the center of the green. Don't get caught up with ego, and play your own game. Ultimately the contest is the golfer vs the course and only the number of strokes taken show on the card, not the clubs you hit or the lucky cart path bounce that helped you reach the green. Do whatever works for you ! ! !
Banker85 says:
When i play alone i can think a little more clearly on what i should do for the best outcome. I wont try and hit my 3W out of the rough 250 yds away hoping to get it close to green i will just pull a 7I and give myself a shot to get on in three (on a par 5) instead of making matters worse. i play more conservative which has saved me strokes.
aaronw409 says:
This was my question and in the past 7 rounds I've broken 80 3 times with my new approach. I have only broken 80 once before ealier this year. I wish I had started doing this much sooner.
aaronw409 says:
Oh yeah, Thanks Terry!!! I can't wait to get my wedge.
pvt4211 says:
I played a course with this guy who was 62, was playing with his granddaughter's clubs, with soft graphite shafts, and a ladies ball (at least it was white and not pick). He had the most easy swing I have seen. He was short by at least 50-60 yards on every drive, but shot 76 (on a par 72, 6400 yards) course, compared to my 88. Unbelieveable stuff, and I learned more in that one round of playing with him (about teeing up the ball right, judging breaks on putts, reading greens, and chipping close to the pin) than I have in my year of playing golf. Its not how hard but how pure you hit the ball that gets you distance.
Mookie says:
Aaron, thanx for the suggestion. I'm going to give your idea a shot this weekend. Well, I'm going to try. 75 % is a harsh mistress to hit on consistently.
DeepRough says:
I think the trap I fall into with playing the 75% shot, is that I will occasionally say 'easy'...as in, let's hit an 'easy' 6 iron into this green. That often results in a loose swing that might decelerate into the ball. You want 75%, but still aggressive into the ball. I find that works best for me, but as Mookie said...a harsh mistress to hit on consistently :)
BMcDonald says:
I started telling myself today "back slow and easy through" I got decent results hitting at about 80% or so. I'm going to continue trying this method till I can see results that prove it works(or that it doesn't).

My 7i is about 135-155-165. That's slow-normal-full, when I take a 100% swing I can kill the ball. But only god knows where it will end up :)

I tend to swing a LOT slower from 8-LW, and I carry four wedges(pw/sw/aw/lw). I hit my wedges 100-85-70-60 I rarely use my aw unless I want a lower ball flight than I get with my lob. All my wedges I feel my tempo is around 70% maybe lower.
Hoody005 says:
It is a great thing to swing slower. You most always hit it on the line you intended. I have actually learned that alot of times my 75% swing actually goes just as far as a 100% swing with 3-9 probably due to the fact that I get much more pure contact on the ball. However I do agree with the fact that when you play with your buddies everyone is looking for the OOOOOOHHHHHHH Damn that was smashed factor!!!!! and that is why we swing 120%... Nobody remebers my 77 they remember whats his nuts 350 drive on number 12 even though he shot a 93.
jrbizzle says:
DeepRough - absolutely - you have to practice the "easy" swing because most golfers (myself included, extremely included) will forget to sequence their lower body & chest turn on a 75% swing leading to lots of pulls and pushes.

Also - for those who have played with people hitting 150 yard 9 irons and the like, usually these players forward press at address or really lag the clubhead during their swing. So yes, they have a 9 iron in their hand, but if it's forward pressed 8 or 9 degrees extra, it just means they have a shorter shafted 7 iron. We all could try to do it, but it's not necessarily the right thing for everyone's "natural" swing.

Ater years of trying to hit the ball far and use a strong grip to prevent slices that came with it, I now set-up as neutral as possible and work on sequencing and accuracy. I've lost some yardage, but moved my handicap from a near 30 to a 24 or so in the last year.
onedollarwed says:
I know this isn't the exact place for this conversation, but with the issue being concerned with distance... When is it appropriate to play with yardage devices? I mean, it could lower your handicap right? I see people using them for casual rounds, but nobody is putting bushes and trees into a notebook. Is this something you could do for a future round of legitimate competition? And more so, what is the opinion of teir general use in non-competetive play?
(Are you allowed to go around a course before a competiton and create a notebook of landmarks with a yardage device?)
golfer97805 says:
For the 75% swing always be careful of to accelerate through the ball, too many people take it too far back and slow down to hit it 75%. Another good way is to have a red yellow and green light system for your clubs. Every weekend golfer goes for every pin instead of playing there game. Take 5 balls and hit each iron and if you can consistently hit it with the proper trajectory on target that is your green light, which is usually SW-8 iron. As Mr. Pennick said "Take Dead Aim" For your middle clubs that you hit well but not always perfect those are your yellow clubs usually 7-5 iron play conservative go for the larger part of the green not over the bunker right at the flag. For the rest of your clubs consider them red light and always hit towards safety, OB left aim right; OB left water right go with a shorter club. You have a better chance of making par from the safe side than in the bunker or in a hazard.
Lf Golf1 says:
Great advice, thanks, ill have to try it.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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