The golf swing mechanics are a complicated set of movements that require great coordination of the upper body, lower body, arms, and head.
Although the driver and fairway woods have the longest shafts making them extremely difficult to master, the long irons are equally as difficult due to the smaller clubhead and impact areas on the clubface.
Woods have a larger head with weight distributed towards the back of the head, thus increasing the forgiveness and making it easier to get airborne.
To become a good golfer, it is crucial to understand how the long irons are designed to operate and how to hit long irons.
The technique differs from medium and short irons as the longer shafts require a flatter swing and thus add complexity to the swing mechanics.
How To Hit Your Long Irons Like A Pro
What is a Long Iron?
Long irons are generally defined as irons ranging from a 1-iron to a 4-iron and sometimes golfers include the 5-iron in the definition as it sits on the cusp between a long iron and a mid-iron.
A 1-iron has become near-extinct and will seldomly be found in the bag of an amateur golfer. Many manufacturers have driving irons available that come in a similar loft to a 2-iron. These are difficult to hit, and amateur golfers prefer to replace them with a #5 or #7 fairway wood.
3-irons were commonplace in most off-the-shelf sets but are found less frequently as part of the full set. It is often replaced by a #3 hybrid that can be acquired separately. This serves as an additional income stream for manufacturers.
Supplying a #4-iron and a #5-iron is still common practice in off-the-shelf packages, although it is highly recommended for high handicap golfers and beginners to replace these with hybrids.
A feature of long irons is that they generally have a flatter trajectory producing more distance than mid-to-short irons. Although hybrids of similar loft produce more distance than irons typically, they lack the control that an iron offer.
Setting Up For a Long Iron Shot
Ball positioning plays a great role in the result of the swing as it dictates where the impact zone is and the opposition of the clubface at impact.
Incorrect ball positioning could send a golfer on a wild goose chase searching for problems in their swing mechanics that do not exist.
Positioning the ball correctly enables the golfer to produce maximum compaction and control over the ball flight. Each club has a slightly different position depending on the swing path and impact zone.
Drivers require impact to occur on the upward path of the swing. Short irons and wedges need a steeper swing and move the impact zone backward; hence the ball positioning differs considerably between the driver and a sand wedge.
Ball position is not as straightforward as it may sound, as cognizance must be taken of the position relative to the feet, body, and shaft. The golf ball position will also have an impact on the ability to hit a draw or a fade.
The position of the golf ball is neglected by many golfers, yet once mastered enables them to show rapid improvement and lower their handicap. Furthermore, the swing path changes according to the positioning of the golf ball in the stance. The farther back the ball is in the stance, the steeper the angle of attack will be.
The stance at address is dictated by the positioning of the golf ball. For increased stability at relatively high swing speed, longer irons and woods require a wider stance than a wedge.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, golf swing mechanics are extremely complicated, and several factors play a significant role in producing long and accurate shots. Whether it be from the tee or a chip shot around the green.
Equipment configuration, purchasing new equipment, posture, swing mechanics, or ball position could be the cause of bad shots. Identifying the culprit may take some careful scrutiny. Fortunately, some indicators can highlight whether ball position is the root cause of poor shots. The indicators that are discussed below may be caused by other factors; they are indicators to evaluate ball position.
Hitting Behind The Ball
Long irons require the swing to sweep the ball off the turf at the bottom of the swing arc and maybe take a small divot. Hitting behind the ball may be a result of the ball being placed too far forward in the stance and the swing bottoming out before getting to the golf ball.
If the ball position is correct, this may be as a result of the golfer not transferring weight to the front foot on the downswing, thus leaving the bottom of the arc behind the golf ball.
Incorrect ball position can result in a steep attack angle or the golfer stretching to get to the golf ball. Either of these will result in poor contact with long irons.
Placing the ball too far away from the body could result in impact towards the toe of the clubface while placing the golf ball too close to the body could result in heel impact or even worse, the dreaded shank. Sorry, but it had to be mentioned by name.
Golf ball positioned too far forward in the stance generally results in golfers taking an open stance at address and impact is made while the clubface is moving from out-to-in thus pulling the ball.
Positioning the ball too far to the back of the stance generally results in a close stance and impact occurring while the swing path is in-to-out, thus increasing the chance of the golfer pushing the ball.
Calibrating The Golf Ball Position For Long Irons
There are some magnificent aids on the market in teaching ball positioning, but they can be calculated without the use of these aids. Although the ball position may vary only slightly between clubs, it is important to identify the differences for any chance of improving.
Golf Ball Position Relative To Feet
Long irons will not require log divots to be taken as the impact is expected to be ever so slightly before the bottom of a flat arc. This requires a swing that is not quite as steep as that of a short iron.
To achieve a sweeping motion with minimum turf impact requires the ball to be slightly ahead of center in the space between the feet. To achieve the optimal position, start with the feet together and then placing the ball in the center of the two feet.
Place the front foot towards the target and the rear foot away from the target. The step with the front foot needs to be slightly shorter than the step with the back foot.
Golf Ball Position Relative To Body
It is often mentioned that woods and long irons may require a slight tilt in the body with the trailing shoulder ever so slightly below the leading shoulder. This can lead to some alignment concerns as long irons require the golf ball to be positioned in line with the logo on the golf shirt or the leading ear.
Any deviation from that indicates an incorrect ball position or a body that is tilted too far back. The relative ball position compared to the body could impact the golf swing, impact area, and ball trajectory.
When the body is tilted at address, measuring the ball position to the middle of the sipper of the pants would be the better indication of correct positioning.
Golf Ball Position Relative To The Shaft
Create a forward lean with the golf shaft ensuring that the grip is slightly ahead of the ball. This will promote ball contact first, thus enable good compaction for increased distance. A grip that is too far forward or behind the ball will reduce the quality of contact.
For a good indication of whether the ball position is correct, place the clubhead behind the golf ball and allow the grip end to lie on the front knee. If it doesn’t rest on the knee, the ball position is too far away or too close to the body or positioned too far back or too far forward of the ideal position.
If the ball position does not have a positive impact on ball striking, there is a different area to consider for improving.
Following the above alignment checks will improve the consistency of strikes and distance control. This may require adopting a new pre-shot routine to be developed but worthwhile in the quest to play better golf.
Difference Between Hitting a Long vs Short Iron
The most significant difference between a long and a short iron is the swing path at the point of impact.
Short irons require a steeper swing patch with a higher angle of attack, thus striking the golf ball with much more of a downward path thus creating more spin for a higher trajectory and more stopping power.
Long irons require a sweeping motion off the turf, reducing the amount of spin, lower trajectory, and more roll out once the ball returns to the turf after being airborne. The lower spin reduces the stopping power on the green, which has to be taken into consideration when calculating the overall distance of the shot.
How do you hit long irons consistently?
Consistency is key to better golf. Many golfers concentrate on hotting long drives and short irons. However, long par 4’s and par 5’s require good long irons to be used for the approach shot.
Ball position was discussed in-depth earlier in this article, and it remains a key part of hitting long irons consistently.
Another area of the golf swing that requires consistency for pure impact and distance control is weight shift during the backswing as well as the downswing. Leaving weight on the backfoot during the downswing frequently results in poor contact as a result of thinning the golf ball or fat shots that result in contact behind the golf ball.
Keeping a solid base and posture throughout the swing results in more consistent shots. Many golfers tend to stand up in the swing by lifting their head and chest up too early. this is often the result of a golfer trying to scoop the ball into the air rather than allowing the loft of the club to do its work.
This results in the bottom of the swing arc becoming higher and generally topping the golf ball.
To counter standing up requires a solid base and the swing to rotate around the spine while driving weight forward during the downswing. Keeping the leading shoulder down until after impact generates a feeling of covering the ball.
Why do I struggle to hit long irons?
Poor ball striking with long irons can often be ascribed to a lack of confidence. This is due to golfers not practicing often enough but rather concentrate on hitting a driver and short irons on the driving range. The lack of practice also puts uncertainty in the golfers’ minds regarding the distance control of longer clubs.
When struggling with long irons, it is highly recommended that practice is started with a short swing and widening the arc as confidence and ball striking improves
The availability of hybrids has made it much easier for the average golfer. However, the feeling of control and pride when striking a long iron solidly will last long after the round is completed.
Why do I hit my irons short?
Lack of distance can be ascribed to fat shots and the lack of compression due to the shaft leaning too far back in the impact zone.
Another major distance killer is generating speed too early in the swing by casting the clubhead on the way down. Maximum speed in the impact zone will improve ball speed and distance.
Long irons remain the bane of many a golfer resulting in a lack of confidence leading to these clubs remaining unused.
Learning to hit a long iron solidly like a professional golfer requires a substantial amount of effort and practice. Once mastered, a golfer will enjoy the pride and control that a solidly struck long iron gives.
Ball position and swing mechanics play a significant role in producing solid shots.
There is no need to swing harder with a long iron. Retain the swing tempo used in all other clubs, sweep the ball off the turf, and trust on the loft on the club to get the golf ball airborne and generate distance. Hitting harder and trying to scoop the ball off the turf will not accomplish what is sought.
Hopefully, this article has laid down the groundwork for identifying areas that can enable better ball striking and more confidence in hitting long irons.
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