December 10, 2013
People always talk about the golf swing in segments—backswing, transition, downswing—but I don't look at it that way. I think of it as being one fluid motion. Sure, the backswing is slow and deliberate, and the downswing is fast and dynamic. But they should blend together smoothly. It's easier to do this with a driver, because you're not trying to hit the ball a specific distance or to a precise target. There's a flow to it. But when you get an iron in your hands, you find yourself making different swings for different situations and focusing on parts of the overall movement to try to create certain shots. That's when your swing can really get out of whack. If you want to hit your irons better, you've got to stay smooth from the moment you take the club back until the ball is gone. Practice hitting 100-yard shots with every iron in your bag. Making slower swings like this will help you build good rhythm and an awareness of how your body and club are moving. In the following photos I'll break down the swing—but remember, it's one continuous motion. Soon you'll be hitting your irons sweeter than ever.
PREPARING FOR IT
Get every iron shot off to a good start with a few setup keys. I do some things you might not have thought of. The first is, I stand a little wider than many golfers do. Staying balanced is a big part of swinging smoothly. I also play the ball slightly farther back in my stance—just ahead of center. This helps me swing down on a steeper angle and from inside the target line so I can hit a draw, which is my stock shot. With the ball back, you have a better chance of striking it before the club hits the turf. That's how you compress it.
GETTING THINGS STARTED
The first three feet of the backswing really set up the whole motion. If you move too fast off the ball, your swing is going to be out of sync. So go as slowly as you can. I feel like my shoulders and upper body start the club back together. My arms are just along for the ride. Swinging the club this way helps you feel as if your body and arms are working in unison to complete the backswing. Once your body stops turning away from the target, you're at the top.
MOVING BACK DOWN
Here's where you need to be your smoothest. Assuming you got to the top nice and slow, you're probably ready to smash the ball. My advice? Don't rush it. Take your time as you start down, and let your swing speed build gradually. As a first move, you need to shift to your front side before the club gets anywhere near the ball. The key for me is to get my left hip over my left foot. I do this by pushing off the instep of my right foot. This forward shift clears some room so the club can come down into the ball from inside the target line. It also moves the bottom of the swing arc where it needs to be for great iron shots—in front of the ball.
SMACKING THE BALL
This is the time for maximum speed—right at impact. If you accomplish that, you'll transfer all that energy you created to the hitting area. Everything dissipates after that. I'm not saying stop your swing right after impact. I just think the days of the huge wraparound finish, over-rotating your hips and shoulders, are over. You want your speed to go down into the ball. A big finish doesn't add any power at impact. Zero. Your best shots will come when you focus on the motions, not the mechanics. Trust me, if you stay smooth, you'll stripe your irons.