RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links


Sweep the long irons

June 25, 2007

BALL FORWARD: If you're using a long iron, address the ball so it's a little closer to your front foot than to our back foot.

A golf writer once asked me to pick the best full shot I ever hit, and I didn't have to think twice. It was the 2-iron on the last hole at the 1983 British Open. I faced a 213-yard second shot into the wind on the longest par 4 at Royal Birkdale.

I needed a par and had a 10-minute wait that seemed like an hour. But I hit it flush—a little draw into a left-to-right wind—and it hung right at the hole. I knew I'd won my fifth British Open, a wonderful feeling. Two putts left me a stroke ahead of Hale Irwin and Andy Bean. All I was thinking on that 2-iron shot was smooth rhythm. And it worked.

I've always tried to sweep my long irons (like Jack Nicklaus and Byron Nelson did) rather than take much of a divot. To do that you must position the ball slightly forward of center in your stance. Then the swing arc must be shallow, not steep.

Practice this sweeping swing without a ball. Hit the turf just forward of the center at the bottom of your arc. Do it enough times to become consistent. Remember: sweep, don't dig.

Long irons are the hardest clubs to hit. If you don't swing at least 95 mph, replace your long irons with a hybrid club or two. I still use a 2-iron, but I have more difficulty getting shots to fly high as I get older. The hybrid is next for my set.


Your go-to trouble club

A safe carry over trouble for most players is a 5-iron. Especially if the lie is poor, go with your safety club.

Be realistic on long par 4s

Play long par 4s like par 5s. They're three-shot holes for average golfers—and they—re stroke holes on the card, so a one-putt par is like a birdie.