Stare Down The Flag
If you're in the fairway swinging a 7-iron or less, you're in great position to attack the pin. But instead of hitting a standard short-iron shot, which can be hard to carry the right distance, try my lower-trajectory option. In most cases, it really improves your chance of knocking the ball close. It's easier to control distance and direction when you bring the flight down. We hit this shot all the time on the PGA Tour, and it's pretty simple to learn. Follow along.
The farther back in your stance you play the ball, the easier it is to deloft the shot. But the law of diminishing returns applies here: If you play it too far back, you'll struggle to square the clubface at impact. Remember, the shot you want flies lower and straighter. Address the ball no farther back than the center of your stance. You should also take one more club than you normally would, and grip down a little. So if you're 130 yards out and you usually fly an 8-iron that distance, use a 7-iron instead. Gripping down will reduce how far you hit it, and the lower-lofted club will keep the ball flight down.
I've heard people call this a punch shot or a knockdown, but that puts you in the wrong frame of mind. The biggest swing key is to not feel like you're hitting the ball hard. Faster swing speeds add more backspin and, therefore, more elevation.
Make a smooth, abbreviated swing on both sides of the ball. You can see here that my finish looks, well, unfinished. That's because I didn't let the club wrap around my body. I still made a full turn back and through. Look how much my hips and chest have rotated toward the target. When I say "abbreviated swing," I mean limit the movement of the hands and arms. Feel like you hit the shot with your body turn: full back, full through. Do that, and you'll start getting some real birdie chances.
Chris Kirk has three PGA Tour wins, including two last season (the McGladrey Classic and Deutsche Bank Championship). He was sixth on tour in total birdies in 2014.