Talking About Short Irons
I had a conversation with a golfer the other day about scoring and iron play. He wanted to explore the relationship between good iron play and scoring, and specifically how to be more effective with his short irons and full wedge shots. This guy is a pretty good player, carrying a high single digit handicap, and plays regularly enough to keep his skills sharp. But he was uneasy that he did not seem to hit his short irons close enough to the hole on a consistent basis to convert the birdies he thought he should make. So we had a conversation about his technique and objectives, his mindset and approach to short irons.

The first thing I did was ask him what he considered a “short iron”, to which he replied “anything from 8-iron on down”. I kind of grinned because you might remember I wrote a column a while back (2/3/08) called - "The Round Club Mindset."

So, after we determined that, I asked him how far he hit his 8-iron. Now, let me preface that this has gotten to be a very gray area unless you know what brand of irons a player has, as so many of the newer sets have jacked up the lofts of the short irons, because the cavity back design launches the ball so high. You end up getting “re-numbered” irons from the PW down to the middle irons, where the lofts again approach traditional. The end result is that the manufacturer has taken away your scoring clubs. Sheesh. Really. If I put a PW on the bottom of your 5-wood, does that really make it a wedge????

Sorry, but I get angry at that. So let’s get back to this guy.

He’s playing a reasonably traditional iron, and says he hits his 8-iron about 155. So then I asked, “How far CAN you hit it?” When he replied “about 160”, then I suggested that I would bet his trajectories were really high, to which he replied in the affirmative. That’s the problem with trying to hit short irons too hard, which is the most common error I see in players – and it really applies to all irons. Trying to hit short irons too hard achieves what?

These are clubs that you are counting on to score with. And generally, you’ll hit them many times better if you throttle back your entire swing speed and focus on a solid turn, keeping your body and arms leading the hands and club through impact. This is the only way to get the lower trajectories that are the key to distance control, the consistent contact that is crucial to spin management, and the grooved swing path that is the major element of directional accuracy.

Your short irons and wedges are where you will score a golf course, and any golfer can make them the strong part of your game – they HAVE to be if you are going to optimize your skills. No matter whether you are a scratch player or an 18 handicap . . . when you get into short iron range, that’s where you should “take it to the course”. That’s where you should be making some birdies, guaranteeing pars and practically eliminating any big numbers.

At this range, it’s all about precision -- precise directional control and precise distance control. And that only comes from a swing pace that lets you make solid contact and produce a tight, boring trajectory. So, here’s my advice for how to ensure improved short iron and full wedge play:

1. S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. Reduce your swing pace to about 80% of normal speed and power and watch what happens. I’ll bet you don’t lose more than a few yards, but your trajectories and directional control will improve dramatically.

2. Be Precise. Take dead aim, as Harvey Penick used to say. Pick out your target line on the safe side of the flag, and be very deliberate in your set up and alignment. Pay attention to exact ball position. Pay attention to grip, set up and then make a solid swing.

3. Open your stance. With a short iron, your body turn is a little restricted, so pull your front foot back just slightly from the target line. That allows you to get your body core through the ball more easily, so that you can stay ahead of the club.

4. Grip it lightly. Check your grip pressure before you take it back. Wanting to stick it can make you hold the club too tightly. A relaxed grip will help produce that slower tempo and lower ball flight you are seeking.

So, I’d like to hear from all of you with your tips to short iron play, and your feedback on my advice. As always, thanks for reading The Wedge Guy.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
aaronw409 says:
I see a lot of people playing the ball too far forward in their stance. Especially on short irons, try playing the ball an inch further back in your stance than you usually do and see if you make better contact.
9/18/09
 
aaronw409 says:
Oh and I agree with swinging slowly on every club except the driver. That works for me.
9/18/09
 
aaronm04 says:
You can also try to narrow your stance slightly too (put your feet closer together). Will help keep you from overswinging (it does for me anyway).
9/18/09
 
Rick.Surratt2 says:
Well, my opiion should be taken with a grain of salt due to the fact I'm a 14 HC. That being said, I find that when i slow my swing down with any of my clubs it improves my consistency dramatically. For me, placing the ball in the center to center back of my stance helps with contact, control, and consitency. I would take the phrase, "grip it lightly", to mean grip it lighter due to the fact that a lot of us rookies tend to have a strong grip that directly correlates with our attempted Mach 1 swing speed :)!! I feel I would need some one on one instruction to nail the "open stance" due to the fact that when I hit my shorter irons i tend to pull a smidgen. Lastly, as always, The Wedge Guy hits the nail on the head!
9/18/09
 
Rick.Surratt2 says:
It appears that i need to utilize spell check.... Sorry for the errors.
9/18/09
 
Tim Horan says:
I agree with most of what you guys are saying but IMO on shorter chips...if you have a wristy swing generally you may want to grip a little firmer. This will improve accuracy and distance control.
9/18/09
 
Banker85 says:
What does he mean jacked up lofts? my PW is a 45* would that be considered jacked? Anyways i find when i take some off i to pull it a bit left so opening up the stance would make it worse. any tips on how to slow it down the right way because it just doesnt really work for my short irons. Now when i slow down the 3w 4w hybrid i get much better results than a 95-100% swing.
9/18/09
 
windowsurfer says:
RE: 2. Be Precise: Lately, I've had success by squaring the club face to the target with my hands ahead of the ball as a part of my pre-swing routine. This way, I'm aligned the way I should be if I make a proper swing w hands leading. It's been working - is this fundamentally sound?
9/18/09
 
joepro23 says:
45* is pretty standard for a cavity back PW nowadays which I'm guessing you have. Older cavity backs were closer to 47* for the PW, the loft that most blades still are. Clubs change in loft usually by 4* as you go through a set (my blades for example are 39*-43*-47* for 8-9-PW). If you get to 43* with the PW, then you are then really hitting a 9-iron with a "PW" on it.

If you want to hit your short irons better switch to blades with steel shafts. Much better feel for distance control and accuracy. If you are worried about hitting a long-iron blade, they have a million hybrids out there. Other than that, Terry's tips were great and are things I always try to focus on out there.
9/18/09
 
Banker85 says:
@joe: Dont get me wrong i hit the short irons pretty well, but i have been thinking about switching my irons. I have adams tight lies game improvement type irons (37* 41* 45* 8,9,PW) i am a 11 handicap and getting better. i have steel shafts but i am thinking about getting some type of blade with a steel stiff shaft. My problem seems to be when i try to hit 75% short iron shots.
9/19/09
 
activesense says:
@ windowsurfer - Your swing is not fundamentally sound if you take Hogan's 5 fundamentals book as 100% gospel. He talks of the difference between the backswing and downswing plane, with the latter being shallower and somewhat skewed due to the hip turn, leading you to impact in the hands leading position.

BUT... if it works for you then use it for now. If you seek advice from someone who knows what they are talking about (golf pro/pga instructor) and they suggest you setup and swing differently, then you have the choice to try to develop your swing according to their instruction, which is probably going to be more along Hogan's line of thought.
9/19/09
 
activesense says:
@ windowsurfer - I just re-read your post. I misinterpretted your question. I read it as you start your swing from the position you describe, where you actually just get your alignment from there. Please disregard my post if you find it to be of no use (and you probably will). - Mental note: read, read again, understand.
9/19/09
 
onedollarwed says:
I play most irons between center and right foot - in other words back in the stance. Often the lie requires an adjustment here, and besides I'm able to get a nice natural draw without getting into double-cross territory. It seems the more I grip down for short shots, the more the ball goes back in the stance, and the hands lead. There isn't a particular calculus to how much I grip down or how far back in the stance the ball goes. I don't ever use a range device, and I'm not sure they should be used at all - except by people marking the course. So, my regular max distance for my most lofted club is about 95-100 yds without any kind of over-swinging or de-lofting. Inside that It's pretty important to have visual confirmation of the spot you want to land (for this you've got to have some good knowledge of the firmness of the green/ greenside terrain, the slope, and any obstacles in order to guage high/low risk options).
9/21/09
 
onedollarwed says:
Depending on your eyesight (previous Wedgy column), it's almost like throwing a ball - you shouldn't necessarily need the exact yardage. I've never known the yardage of a particular sports throw - football, baseball, basketball. Golf courses can be designed to be visually illusory - (Donald Ross seemed to use this), and relying too much on visuals may break down. You can be blocked, or the hole may be designed with blind type shots. If it's 50 yds and in, I'll walk up and see, and find a landing spot. There's this kind of gray area - too long for crisp visual accuity, and too close for fullish club strokes (70-90yds). The other gray area is in that "quite-close" range - requiring what seems like a delicate shot, but still some distance (30-40yds). Still, getting the most vertical swing plane possible - by gripping down or using shortese available club - should yield the most dead-on line.
9/21/09
 
windowsurfer says:
Gotcha. Despite my bottom-dwelling GIR%, i am seeing improvement and this alignment routine is part of the reason. Have been moving ball back in stance too, on scoring irons. Resolve to *hit down on the ball* - that's 1/2 my swing thot (the first part is "coil like a spring") - is also part of recent good results. Some days, I coil more like bear stool, but that's life +50, right?
9/22/09
 
stsfo says:
Golf courses higher me to play golf and trim their trees along the fairway. Since my swing has me playing the rough. I went to my favorite sports fan shop and bought new clubs which didn't help. So, now I curl up under my sports throw blanket in front of the TV. I can't wave my old college banners at how I play the golf, but on the TV golf game, I am straight down the fairway now. stfos.com
7/7/11
 
stsfo says:
Golf courses higher me to play golf and trim their trees along the fairway. Since my swing has me playing the rough. I went to my favorite sports fan shop and bought new clubs which didn't help. So, now I curl up under my sports throw blanket in front of the TV. I can't wave my old college banners at how I play the golf, but on the TV golf game, I am straight down the fairway now. stfos.com
7/7/11
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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