PGA Tour players dazzle crowds at tournaments with their ability to control the trajectory and spin of their iron shots. Pros hit crisp irons because they fully compress their golf ball between the clubface and the ground. When the ball compresses against the club’s grooves it picks up spin, and the ball to jumps off the face like a tennis ball bouncing off the court. According to instructor Steve Atherton, to achieve full compression you need to strike the ball with the club shaft leaning toward the target so you can hit the ball first, then take a divot.
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Swing the club around your body on a shallow backswing plane. Tiger Woods says that a shallow backswing plane encourages a shallower path back to the ball on the forward swing, producing a long, thin divot in front of the ball, which is a sign of full compression.
Hinge your wrists in the backswing so a 90-degree angle forms between your club shaft and your forearms at the top of the swing. On the downswing, your club needs to lag behind your arms and hands until impact to get the shaft leaning toward the target. Hinging the wrists on the backswing will help make that lag possible.
Lead your downswing by shifting your weight to your left leg and pivoting your hips so your belt buckle turns toward the target. Your shoulders and arms will follow your lower body, bringing the club into the ball last with your hands ahead.
Resist the pull of your lower body against your upper body at the start of the downswing. That will increase the lag in your downswing, producing more compression at impact.
Turn the knuckles of your left hand down toward the ground at impact. According to Woods, when you turn your knuckles down at impact, you can fully compress the ball and take a shallow divot in front of the ball.
Hit 50- to 60-yard pitch shots to work on the feel of making contact with the shaft leaning toward the target. Hinge your wrists on the backswing and lead the downswing with your lower body. Abbreviate your follow through to enhance the sensation of your hands leading the club at impact.
Make one handed swings with the dominant hand in your swing. If you feel better swinging with your right hand, Atherton suggests trying to get your right palm pointing toward the ground at impact. If you’re more comfortable with your left hand, hit balls with the back of your left hand bowed and pointing slightly downward.
Practice chipping balls out of a bunker, hitting the ball first then taking a divot in the sand. This will teach you the type of impact you need to completely compress the ball with your irons.