U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

Short Game

Footwork Fuels Good Iron Play

August 11, 2009

You shouldn't discount the importance of good footwork for solid iron play. All great ball-strikers have that trait in common. If you want to improve your iron play, begin with your feet, especially because a proper swing starts from the ground up.

Here's the correct sequence of lower-body motion essential to trapping the ball: (1) On the downswing, your lower body should shift forward a little as your weight transfers from your right heel to your left big toe. (2) That little bit of lateral movement helps you set your swing to the inside. (3) As your hips continue to turn, your weight transfers as well, shifting across the outside of your left foot and into your left heel. That's where you want it at impact so you hit down and through the shot.

Most high-handicappers struggle with their footwork. Some get up on their toes on the downswing, which most often causes a wicked slice or a pull hook. Others fall back on their heels, which causes similar problems.

My footwork has improved significantly since my knee surgery last year, and likewise, my iron play is really starting to come around.

Photo: J.D. Cuban


Keep your big muscles moving through impact

If you're having problems hitting those little spinners with your wedges, perhaps your ball position or technique is off.

I like to play the ball toward the middle of my stance on most irons, especially short irons. That helps me get my hands ahead of the ball through impact (above, middle), which is essential for spinning it. I prefer a three-quarter swing for trajectory and distance control. I also abbreviate my follow-through to match my backswing. The key to imparting backspin on the ball is clubhead speed through impact. The more speed you generate, the more spin you can produce.

Increased clubhead speed is created with the big muscles, not the wrists or hands, as I see so many amateurs attempting to do. They also get too steep on the backswing because they're trying to hit down on the ball to produce backspin. Keep your big muscles -- hips, chest, shoulders -- moving through impact, and you'll be able to spin it on command.



Q: In your mind, who is the best player in the history of the game?

-- Nate Crawford, Boston

__A:__Jack Nicklaus. He's got 18 majors -- more than anybody else. He set the bar, and now we're all chasing him.


__Q:__You said you won the Memorial because you were able to hit more practice balls. When did that start?

-- Ron Reynolds, Atlanta


A: I was able to put in two full post-round practice sessions at Quail Hollow in late April because my left knee was stronger, and it really helped. I also lengthened my practice sessions at home. I need reps to stay sharp, and it's great to be able to practice and play again like I did before I got hurt.


Q: I didn't see Hank Haney at the U.S. Open. Are you still working together?

*-- Jan Hjallstrom, Lodi, Calif. *

__A:__Absolutely. Hank and I worked hard before the Memorial, and again before the U.S. Open and the British Open. But he wasn't there for the tournament rounds. I have always strived to be able to fix my swing faults, and I'm getting closer every day.

Tiger Woods writes instruction articles only for Golf Digest. Ask Tiger a question.

Mark Soltau is a contributing editor to Golf Digest and the editor of TigerWoods.com.