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 SwingVision of Tiger Woods hitting an iron off a tee. A red dot marks the same point on the ferrule. Some important things to notice:
- The club strikes the ball on a slightly descending angle of attack
- At impact the ball compresses and then leaves the clubface with backspin
- The club strikes the ball first and then takes a divot out of the turf
But remember, "hitting down on the ball" only applies to irons, hybrids and fairway woods. For a teed driver, you should "hit up on the ball" to maximize your distance. Are you confused yet?
Labels: Swing Tips