Golf Instuction: Approach Shots
January 08, 2014

Billy Ho Knows: Nail Your Irons

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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

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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.

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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.