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Grouchy Golf Blog

Sunday, March 23, 2008 at 8:23 AM

Golf Tips - "Hit Down on the Ball" with Irons and Fairway Woods

My favorite part of golf is hitting irons. There's no better feeling than hitting that pured iron shot. I can spend all day at the range without hitting a wood and be perfectly content. Irons are the surgical instruments of golf. In the right hands, they can place a ball within 10 feet of a hole from 2 football fields away. If you think about it, that's pretty amazing. The U.S. military would love to have a weapon that accurate!

But mastering the irons is much easier said than done. To understand the concept of hitting irons properly, you must throw logic out of the window. Like most things in golf, your common sense will lead you down the wrong path. Most people look at a pitching wedge and assume that to get the ball in the air one must somehow get the club under the ball and hit it with an upward blow. In other words, people see the clubface and assume that the club must impact the ball perpendicular to its the loft. This is incorrect and the reason that most people have difficulty with irons.

In reality, an iron launches the ball into the air because it imparts massive amounts of backspin. This backspin combined with the dimples on the golf ball creates lift, known as the Magnus force. As a result, the spin rate directly influences how high the ball flies.

To impart this necessary backspin, the clubhead must impact the ball with a descending blow
. The swing advice, "hit down on the ball" is meant to convey this concept concisely. However, I find that this term can be somewhat misleading because it implies that the clubhead should impact the ball on a very steep angle. Better ball-striking will result from a shallow or slightly downward approach into the ball. Once I understood this concept, it truly was a golf epiphany. The key is to re-wire your brain.

It helps to see the physics in slow motion. Below is an impact sequence from the . A red dot marks the same point on the ferrule. Some important things to notice:
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But remember, "hitting down on the ball" only applies to irons, hybrids and fairway woods. For a teed driver, you should "" to maximize your distance. Are you confused yet?

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Anonymous Mizuno Jim said...

Haha! I have known this for a while and let me tell you: easier said than done! I play of hcp 18 and this is the part where I struggle the most. Drives are long (280+ yards), short game is pretty good and people tell me I putt like Tiger. I screw up in the fairway. I just can't hit it consistently. Usually I pick it off the turf clean, many times I hit it fat. Never do I hit the ball first and then take a nice divot. I have tried just about anything and PGA pros told me a plethora of issues; "an early release, but not much" or "not enough weight transfer to the left" or "keep your head still". The weird thing: on video my swing looks really good!

Anyway. I'll stop whining now. Great blog, keep up the good work and I have promised myself Mizuno blades the moment I can master this shot!  

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Blogger Golf Grouch said...

Jim,

Thanks for the comment! I'm no PGA instructor, but based on my own experience, the key to proper ball first contact with irons is lead wrist/forearm supination and maintaining weight on your forward foot through impact. Practice this action by hitting some half shots with short irons to get the proper feeling. It's very difficult to learn, but be patient and stick to it because it really is the secret to iron ball-striking. Good luck and let us know how it works for you!  

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Blogger Tony at TheGolfSpace.com said...

Yes. I hit down definitely on my irons, not woods. When I'm playing my best I'm "trapping" my iron shots...  

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Anonymous Todd Servick said...

This is an incredible concept. A lot easier said than done. I have spent a lot of time with past Master and British Champ Mark O’Meara working on my long game. It seems hitting down on the ball makes a huge difference in the trajectory and spin on the ball.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a little teaching aid that I found works good if you're trying to help a friend at the range hit down on the ball better - without scooping or thinning it.

Have him give you some change out of his pocket, then start placing a coin a few inches behind the ball on each of his irons shots. Before he goes broke, he'll start to learn to get that club down into the ball without moving the coin and donating it down range to the golf gods!  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This maybe the secret. Wemnt to the range with a " land ( on left side and rotate ( supinate ) and I am hitting great shots. You are the friggin' man. Your secret below...

Thanks for the comment! I'm no PGA instructor, but based on my own experience, the key to proper ball first contact with irons is lead wrist/forearm supination and maintaining weight on your forward foot through impact. Practice this action by hitting some half shots with short irons to get the proper feeling. It's very difficult to learn, but be patient and stick to it because it really is the secret to iron ball-striking. Good luck and let us know how it works for you!  

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Blogger Matthew said...

I have found that to get good supination, my grip is a huge key. I am a righty, and when I hold my irons very loosely with my right hand fingertips and cross my right thumb across the club (rather than down the shaft, which is how I use to hold the club), it helps with rotation through impact - I have been getting outstanding ball flight and distance when doing doing this (160 yds+ on my eight irin, which I use to only hit 145).  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW!!! i've never been able to get good consistent contact with my irons......until i read this post and tried it out at the range....made all the difference in the world. What i focused on was hitting down on the ball, like i was trying to hit the ball with the back of my left hand/wrist, i also made sure that my wrist was slightly supinated at impact....brilliant results!!!!

This simple tip produced better results than tens of lessons would have.

I also applied the same technique to my fairway woods, with the same results. Prior to this I always tried to hit my fairway woods with a sweeping upward swing (similar to my driver). Once i started hitting like my irons, and hitting down on it, it made an amazing difference.

Much Thanks!  

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Anonymous Gillis Golf said...

Creating club head lag by using your hips to start the downswing will also help.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always used to hit the ground before the ball and there fore was swinging up at the ball. I simply shifted all of my weight to my front foot as soon as I went into my down swing and this made all the difference in the world.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me and you in a best ball would kill it. My best part is irons.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had the same problem. In addition I have 3 herniated disc's and my right knee is bone to bone in the MC.
I have had to do the following to hit my irons, and even my hybrids better.
I used to lock my eye on the very back center of the golf ball and try to watch the club make impact. Too many top's and hardly ever a correct divot.
Now I look at the grass right in front of the ball, the side closest to the hole, and swing my club as if the ball is there. Now I hit the ball and if I remember to do a proper follow through I don't even feel the club striking the ball and take a proper divot.
I have also had to slow my back swing down tremendously, almost becomes a challenge to slow it down as far as I have. My down swing is also slow but not as slow as my back swing.
I have learned to snap my wrists through the 'hit' of the ball which gives me a bit more head speed and follow through is so important.
With out a proper follow through you, I, most players end up keeping their weight on their back leg which creates a slice almost every time.
I'm old, 61, and know I can't hit the ball 240 or even 220 every single time. But I can hit it 200 to 210 right down the center of the fairway with a very slight draw.
There are less than 3 percent of par four hols that are further than 420 to 440 on public courses. So I can hit to the green on my second shot or have a very very short chip to get on.
I shoot for bogie golf or better and play by the USGA rules exclusively. It's a game and it's for fun, but it helps to improve ones game to play by the rules.
Stephen  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have tried many tips through the years my advice is three part as follows:do not bow the left wrist (rightessss) #2 do not over swing (sway or try to swing tooooo long)# 3 and most important and least found advice is learn to use your feet the swing is not back leg to front leg ,it is back HEEL to front HEEL it takes time but shallowa the forward swing and produces ball first contact good Golfing hit some greens for me....OTS 2014  

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