We’re often asked what’s the quickest way to lower a golf handicap? The quickest way to lower a golf handicap is to improve chipping and putting. Good chipping and good putting are critical to scoring well. Good iron is also critical to scoring well. You can’t break 80 consistently if your iron play isn’t up to snuff. That’s why you often see Tour players at the practice range hitting their irons and getting golf tips from their teachers while at the range. These golfers know the importance of good iron play.
Of course, wanting to improve iron play is easier said than done. It takes patience and hard work. But the rewards include lower scores, more birdies, and increased confidence. The first step to curing iron ills is properly diagnosing the problems. Common problems we see in students taking our golf lessons are heel/toe hits, poor divots, and the inability to hit long irons. All three problems can stem from defects in your downswing, defects that you may not even realize you have.
Down And Out
Unlike most other sports, golf requires you to make constant adjustments to your equip-ment. If you compare the lie angles of short irons and long irons when the clubs are soled, you’ll see why. Short irons are more upright while long irons are flatter. So if you have a downswing that’s more upright, you’ll hit your short irons better, while flatter downswings work better with long irons.
Shorter irons are easier to hit because they allow you to come “more inside” on your swing. Thus you can swing the club closer to your body. Longer irons don’t allow you to come too far inside on your downswing. If your swing is too close to your body with the-se irons, you’ll make poor contact. Problems ensue when golfers fail to adjust to the dif-ferences in clubs.
Shoulder Turn Speed Also Key
Another mechanic that impedes iron play is shoulder turn speed. If your shoulders turn at a faster rate than your arms swing down, you’ll make poor contact. This movement leads to an overly steep swing. It’s something we see a lot of in our golf lessons. The impact position that results moves across the ball, leading to a lot of toe hits. Golfers with this swing flaw have trouble hitting long irons and take deep divots, thanks to the swing’s steepness.
Conversely, if you reverse the sequence—your arms swing down faster than your shoul-ders turn—your club will approach impact too much inside. If this sounds like you, then you probably have a lot of heel hits and you create shallow divots. This type of swing works well with the longer irons but not so well with the shorter ones.
When you marry the right turn shoulder speed with the right arm swing speed in the downswing, you make solid contact. That’s because you’re able to get the club on the right swing plane—the key to a good golf swing and good iron play. A good checkpoint for this is to see where your hands are when they reach waist-high. You’ve synced up shoulder turn speed and arm turn speed when the butt of your clubshaft points at the ball when the club reaches waist high.
Below is a drill used in many golf instruction sessions to help players learn to synchronize the movements of the lower body, upper body, and club during the downswing.
Use a 7-iron for this drill. From your address position, swing the club back stopping at the top of your backstroke. Be sure at this stage to check that your weight is balanced. Hold this position for a few seconds. Next, complete the swing. Trigger a perfect chain reaction by rotating your hips and legs smoothly, but powerfully, toward your target.
Improved putting and chipping cuts strokes from your golf handicap. But to break 80 consistently, you must play well with your irons. The key to doing that is adjusting to the physical differences between the short irons and the long irons. Our golf tips should help you overcome this challenge and enable you to make the right adjustments.