All great iron players take a divot. It means they're compressing the ball, maximizing their distance, and hitting shots on the correct trajectory. They do this by hitting down at impact, striking the ball first and then letting the club descend into the ground in front of it. Ideally, you want to take a thin strip of grass—think piece of bacon, not filet—and the divot you create should be pointing at your target or curved slightly to the left. This shows that you swung through impact on a path that came from the inside and went inside again after the strike. Follow this checklist to hit better iron shots.
Take Some Turf
Why a good divot means a good shot
1. FAVOR YOUR FRONT FOOT
Set up with the ball in the middle of your stance, and place a little more weight on your front foot. This forward lean will help you catch the ball on the downswing.
2. TURN YOUR UPPER BODY
Make a three-quarter backswing, and allow your body pivot to drive the action. A big, handsy swing makes it a lot more difficult to hit down on the ball correctly.
3. LEAD WITH YOUR HANDS
Rotate your chest toward the target, and make sure your hands lead the clubhead down. Your chest and hands should be in front of the ball when the club makes contact. This allows you to swing down and through and hit the ball first.
4. EXTEND YOUR ARMS
Stay down on the shot, and extend your arms toward the target, resisting the temptation to scoop the ball into the air. Picture yourself driving a tent stake into the ground at the same angle the clubhead is descending on. You'll hit it flush.
David Leadbetter is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional.