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How To Improve Your Iron Play In Golf

Updated on January 20, 2015

What is Iron Play?

An Iron is a type of club used in golf to propel the ball towards the hole. The head is made of either iron or steel and are the most common type of club. Iron play as a whole encompasses two types of shot: advancement shots, where on a long hole you play for position and scoing shots, where the flag is the focus of your attention.

This guide will offer some tips on how to improve the quality of your ball-striking with each iron.

1. Find Better Direction With An Intermediate Target

A good tip to start off with in your quest to improve your iron play is to find better direction with an intermediate target. In order for the golf ball to find the target, it is vital that the ball starts on the correct line. Rather than thinking about the ball's journey to the flag you may be better off focusing on the initial portion of the ball's flight. To make a start on improving the quality of your iron play, use a small bucket (or a similar sized object).

  1. Place your object roughly about 5 metres in front of you, along the ball to target line. Before you actually hit your first shot, aim the clubface directly at the object.
  2. As you swing, think of the golf ball flying directly over the object after it leaves the clubface. Practising in this way will improve your iron play.

2. Flex Your Knee To Add Resistance To Your Swing

For a lot of golfers, keeping the right knee flexed throughout the backswing prevents the hips from turning more than 45 degrees. This provides a point of resistance against which the upper body can "wind up". The following exercise will help you focus on maintaining your right knee flex.

  1. Pick up any iron and take your ordinary position. Then, flex your kneews, and push your buttocks out slightly. Your tummy will be pulled in slightly. Distribute your weight evenly over both your feet. Now take your left hand off the club.
  2. Rehearse a backswing. As you do this, shift your weight on to your right leg, keeping the knee braced. Your head should be over your flexed right knee. Repeat this movement a few times, focusing on shifting your weight on to your right knee.
  3. Once you have practised that movement a few times, put both hands on your club and try to replicate the same feelings in your actual backswing. If you find your knee is staightening in your backswing, you are most probably reverse pivoting, where your weight is moving onto your left side rather than your right side. Keep practising and these problems will eventually go away.

Maintaining the flex in your right knee will help you stay in your posture and deliver more speed at impact.

3. Use Your Shadow

A vital way in which you will improve your iron play is to use your shadow. Using your shadow will tell you a lot about your swing. It is not recommended that you use your shadow for actual shots as this exercise requires you to take your eyes off the ball, but is more of an exercise for your practise swings. You will also need some sunshine and so unfortunately you may only be able to practise this way during the Spring and Summer months!

  1. To start learning from your shadow, take up the address position so that your back is to the sun. Make sure the golf ball is right in the middle of your shadow. Using a long iron, swing to the top of your backswing. Your shadow should now move to your right, so that your golf ball is in direct sunlight. If this happens, it suggests that your weight has moved on to your right side, which is essential for a successful backswing.
  2. Have someone else place a club at the top of your shadow. Now address the golf ball again. As you swing back again, watch your shadow and see how your head behaves. In a very good swing, your head should always stay almost level, from address until impact. Keep using your shadow whilst practising to improve your iron play in this way.

4. Wait, Then Apply The Hit

Another way which will be beneficial for you in improving your iron play is to wait, and then apply the hit. The transition from backswing to downswing is a critical phase in your swing. In that split second when you change direction, you have two choices: you can make a great first move down and scuccessfully store the power in your swing, or you can just rush it and completely forget about producing a decent shot. The exercise below will ensure that your swing does the former and not the latter.

  1. Go to make a normal backswing but have someone hold the clubhead in position at the top. Go to initiate only your downswing by moving your weight onto your left side. With your helper holding the clubhead firmly in position, you should now feel somr pressure in your wrists, as the angle formed between your forearms and the club shaft becomes more acute.
  2. Now make some practice swings and try to recreate what you did in step 1. Don't forget, as you change direction, you should feel that the clubhead lags behind for a fraction of a second.

5. Hit Shots With The Ball Above Your feet

Improve your iron play even more by hitting shots with the golf ball above your feet. Swinging the club into your golf ball on an inside path is one of the hardest things to do in golf. If you are finding that some of your shots curve from left to right through the air, you are not swinging your clubhead into impact on the correct (inside) path.

Swing Paths:

There are three basic swing paths through the hitting zone: inside-to-outside, outside-to-inside and inside-to-square-to-inside. To hit a straight shot, inside-to-square-to-inside is the correct path, where the clubhead approaches the ball from inside the target line.

Practise by hitting shots with the ball above your feet to correct this problem and also to give your swing a better shape generally.

  1. Firstly find a sloping lie that allows you to set up with your golf ball noticeably above the level of your feet. A good 12 inches would be perfect. Use a 6-iron to hit shots from this position. This immediately establishes a more rounded backswing and encourages a better body-turn. The Graphite clubs like the ones below are also ideal for getting distance.
  2. When you have hit roughly 12 shots from this sloping lie, find a flat area of ground, and see if you can replicate the swing sensations you just went through in step 1.

6. Practice With A Rope

One particular golf teacher, Jim Christine, is an advocate of the benefits of swinging a rope to practice as this will improve the quality of your iron play. What the rope will enable you to achieve is to improve the rhythm and efficiency of your swing. This will enable you to create more clubhead speed with a lot less effort.

  1. Hold a length of rope about 3ft long and assume your normal position like your about to take a shot.
  2. Swing your arms upwards together with your upper-body turn. The rope should go gently around your shoulder.
  3. As you slowly start to swing down, building up speed, the rope will catch up with you and straighten out in the hitting area.

7. Squeeze Your Elbows & Throw A Football

Another brilliant way to improve your iron play is to also try to develop better synchronization in your swing to ensure your body parts are almost multi-tasking effectively, rather than moving independently from each other. Squeezing your elbows against a ball examines the relationship between your arm-swing and body-turn in your backswing, which can become a tad disjointed. This exercise will smooth things out.

  1. Place a football, basketball or a similar sized object between your elbows. Now address you golf ball as you would normally. As you go into your backswing, stop once your club is horizontal with the ground.
  2. Now make a backswing, squeezing your elbows together to prevent the ball from falling.

Throwing a football recreates the hand movements needed to release the clubhead through the hitting zone.

  1. Hold a football and stand in a posture similar to the one needed for a mid-iron shot. Move your hands and arms back to hip height.
  2. Swing the ball through the hitting zone and spin it 30 degrees to the left of ball-to-target line. To do this, cross your right hand over your left in the impact zone. If the ball goes straight ahead of you, your club release will be incorrect. Keep practising.

8. Play Shots With Your Feet Together

The golf swing is a complicated action that consists of separate moving parts working together. However the two main elements are arm-swing and body-turn. Arm-swing is too often neglected. This is because many golfers tend to rely on the bigger muscles in their shoulders and torso. Complete this exercise several times so that your arms are playing the active role they should be playing in your swing.

  1. Take a 6-iron and address a golf ball with your feet about 6 inches apart. Do not grip the club too tightly.
  2. Swish your golf ball away with a free-flowing swing of the club. Make an attempt at swinging so that you feel your arms are doing much more work than your body.
  3. If you lose your balance, your body is doing too much and your arms not enough. Just keep doing it until you no longer lose your balance.
  4. Then punctuate your practice sessions with spells of hitting 10 or so shots with your feet together. Doing this will remind you of the role of your arms in your swing and will therefore greatly improve the quality of your overall iron play. As an added bonus it will also promote a free swing of the club through the hitting area, which will then add speed to your swing just where it is needed most.

For More Tips on Improving Your Golf Play:

See the spiral book below for some brilliant tips on how to improve your over all play. This spiral book is ideal to carry around with you when you are actually on the golf course. It is ideal for beginners and/or low handicap players.

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