Firmer, Faster Fairways
How To Hit Better Irons From Tight Lies
I've always been a huge believer in the browning out of golf courses. It's better for the environment--less watering--and average golfers really benefit because they get 15, 20, 25 extra yards of run on the ball. As a designer and lover of true links, I'm all for getting the turf firm and fast. My only misgiving is that these conditions mean tighter lies. Most players want the ball sitting up on a tuft of grass, but golf doesn't give you great lies all the time. More and more courses are being set up to play dry and fast, so if you want to score, you'll have to learn how to hit iron shots from hard, thin lies. Here I'll show you what you need to do.
Try my 'knockdown draw' For consistency
When you have a tight lie, it's hard to hit a medium or long iron high and get the ball to land softly without playing it way up in your stance and thereby risking a fat shot. A higher-percentage play is my knockdown draw: a lower-trajectory, right-to-left shot that lets the ball release when it lands. Aim right of your target, make a three-quarter swing and try to trap the ball against the turf. This shot is more forgiving because to draw the ball, you have to swing down from inside the target line on a shallower path than normal. If you don't quite catch the ball first, the club isn't going to ricochet off the turf the way it would with a steeper approach into hard ground. Instead, your clubhead will skim along the turf, so you might turn a mediocre swing into a good shot.
Setup is crucial for solid contact
You can see here (above right) that I'm playing the ball farther back in my stance from a tight lie than I do when the fairway is lush (above left). I'm also favoring my left side. This helps ensure ball-first contact. The shaft of your iron should be leaning a good bit toward the target as you set up to the ball. Also, take one club longer than normal, and grip down on it about half an inch. Gripping down will help with control, and the longer club will make up for the yardage you'll lose from playing a lower shot. Plan for the ball to fly shorter than you're used to and roll out to your target.
Shallow your swing for forgiveness
The best part about playing my knockdown draw is that the shallow angle of approach gives you more room for error, especially on tight lies. You don't have to hit the ball perfectly to execute a decent shot because the club stays down longer in the impact zone.
To put yourself in position for a shallow, inside-out downswing, take the club back more inside than normal as I'm doing here (above right). You can even drop your trailing foot back an inch at address to help set up this inside path. By starting inside, you'll make room for the club to swing down from the inside without your body being in the way.