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Golf Instuction: Approach Shots

Billy Ho Knows: Nail Your Irons

February 2014

As a kid, I used to make a competition out of everything. I mean everything. Racing my brother to the car, throwing rocks—whatever. Playing sports was life or death. If I didn't win, something was wrong. Now I'm less intense, but when I have a chance to win on Sunday, I'm back to all or nothing.

At Bay Hill last year Tiger was busting me because I was on TV with my trainer doing box jumps, where you test your vertical leap. Tiger heard about it and told me I couldn't get any air, calling me "credit card" because that's all I could jump. So I see him later in the week warming up. He's got cameras all around him and 5,000 people watching. I see a cooler, so I get his attention. I'm going to jump up on this cooler and bounce right off. Well, I get in the air and notice the top is broken. When my feet hit, the top flies off, and I go down hard on my butt. Tiger was on his knees laughing for five minutes. The next day I see him again on the range, and I'm trying like anything to avoid him. Then I hear this tap-tap-tap. I look over, and he's tapping a cooler with his club. It was very funny. But hell yes, I want to show Tiger I can jump. That's my competitive side.

On the course, I still want to rip it by guys with the driver, but I've tempered my iron game, where precision is everything. I know I can hit more greens and make more birdies if I go for control over power. Scroll down, and I'll give you my tips for irons. Let's go closest to the pin.

GOING BACK

SWING BETWEEN YOUR FEET

Going Back

My setup is pretty standard, so I won't run you through all that. I will say overall I like to feel lively and athletic at address, with my weight 50/50 and the ball just ahead of center. As I swing back, I want to set a good tempo for the swing and keep my head in one place. My teacher, Todd Anderson, says I do a good job of "swinging between my feet." In other words, I keep my body basically centered as I turn to the top (above, left).

A big key for me on iron shots is to lean the shaft toward the target at impact. I sometimes get my hands too far back at address, which makes it harder to create that shaft lean. I think about starting with my hands forward so the butt of the club points at my front thigh (above, right). When the shaft leans toward the target like that, I have the feeling that I can push it forward even more at impact. That helps me compress the ball.

Coming Down

COMING DOWN

FIRE YOUR RIGHT SIDE THROUGH

To make good, crisp contact, you have to drive to your front side as you start down. I feel as if I'm rolling off my right foot so it angles toward my left (right, top). Like a lot of things in golf, this is a matter of degree. If I get too fast with my body, I can get out of sync and my hands have to catch the club up. So tempo is a huge deal for me: I need to drive forward, but if I do it too quickly, I don't hit the ball very well.

Todd and I talk a lot about rotating my right shoulder to the ball as I swing down (right, bottom). I'm not trying to create a lot of flash speed at impact. Just like on the backswing, I want to be aware of good tempo going through the ball. I don't want any "hang back" in my swing. If I hold something back, I'll get flippy with my hands at impact, which causes inconsistency. The best way to describe my feel coming down is, I shift to my front foot, then release my entire right side through the shot.

Billy Horschel had eight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2013, including his first win, at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He also tied for fourth at the U.S. Open.

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