The most common frustration of our new students is inconsistency with their irons. They aren't producing many shots that go the distance and direction they expect. There are plenty of reasons for that, but of all the variables GolfTEC measures, we've found the biggest indicator of ball-striking quality with irons comes from how a player's hips move (see chart).
Better players consistently position their hips closer to the target at the top of the backswing (blue golfer, above). This makes it easier to swing an iron on a shallower angle of attack and a slightly inside-out direction—key to producing good shots.
Many amateurs sway from the target as the club reaches the top of the swing (red golfer, above). You might do this because you've been told that, to generate more clubhead speed, you should "move off the ball" or "shift away from the target" during the backswing. For most, this directive to make a lateral move manifests into a big sway, followed by a struggle in the downswing to shift back toward the target in time to hit a solid shot.
If you're swaying, do the opposite when you hit shots. Move your hips slightly toward the target during the backswing, and keep them there when you swing down.
To train this move, place an alignment stick in the ground next to your lead hip and bump it as you take the club back. Your head should remain relatively still. If you can repeat this move on the course, you're going to start getting the results you want with your iron shots. —With Matthew Rudy
GolfTEC's SwingTRU motion study measured 40,000 people and found that better players are closer to the target at the top of the backswing than higher-handicap golfers. The difference might seem small—in many cases less than an inch—but that distance is significant in terms of getting the club to bottom out in front of the ball the way it should in a good iron swing.
Patrick Nuber is GolfTEC's Director of Teaching Quality. He's based in Centennial, Colo.