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Typically mid- to high- handicappers feel anxious about hitting long-irons – so the 3-, 4- and 5-irons. However, they’re not nearly as hard to hit if you start follow some simple principles.
I encourage my students to remove the tension... think of ‘loose arms’ at address. Not only can this help fight that tension and anxiety, but it’ll also encourage you to complete the backswing and produce a smooth action. When we talk about the perfect grip - we often focus on how the hands need to be positioned on the club but your grip tension is just as important, especially when you are hitting long irons.
When it comes to how to swing a golf club, making a full turn in the backswing is a must, not only to build the power but to help deliver a flatter swing. Long irons do not respond to an 'over the top' steep and across the ball action.
I also think club golfers get carried away with the idea that a big stance is a powerful stance. If it's too wide it will restrict your ability to turn and inhibit the free flowing action required for the longer swing. Balance is crucial with any golf shot but particularly the longer clubs. Try a slightly narrower stance - it can help every aspect.
Many golfers appreciate the fact that they need to get the ball forward in the stance – but go easy. I like to get club players to move it to just forward of centre. With a long-iron, the swing arc is bigger, so the movement of mass will be slightly greater, especially forward.
Having the ball position just left of centre helps accommodate this. Too far forward in the stance, however, and you can end up 'reaching' or 'chasing' for the ball, which typically means catching the ground too early or the club flipping closed as it passes the player. You may also want to try lightening your grip pressure and give the club a 'waggle', which can relax your whole body.
Because it’s a long-iron, the temptation is to think, ‘I have to hit it long’, and that often means club golfers don’t complete the backswing in an anxious attempt to hit it hard. It’s a long arc, so you have to finish your backswing, which means going to the maximum of your turn – whatever that is for you – but, crucially, without swaying, just turning your torso.
This weight distribution in the golf swing helps complete the arc and gives you a chance of getting back to the golf ball with smooth power into a committed and full follow through.
'Collect' The Ball
The ball is a point on the swing arc and is just collected along the way. Of course, you're committed to hitting it, but not at it. Sweep it away with a smooth action.
The flow of the golf swing is essential and with the harder clubs to hit this can be more difficult to produce. If you have in mind to keep things fluid, you should be able to improve the way you hit your long irons.
Location: Golfsmart International, Hertfordshire
Keith has worked with Golf Monthly for over 20 years. He's Director of Instruction for The Faldo Series and has coached multiple Tour winners, including Sir Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros. His academy, Golfsmart International, can be found in Hitchin, and coaching is still at the forefront of what he does.
Students learn best when...
They are secure and comfortable with their environment including you, the instructor. We need to listen to the player, establish their goals and break down their fears and barriers to change, establishing trust and confidence. Communication is everything and the use of today's technology is essential, especially visually, as it helps enormously to get our message across.
Advice for practice:
Hit less balls in shorter sessions and have a plan. Why are you practicing? (purpose). Whether it's a technical swing change or a drill, try and measure the outcome. It could be visually, target and result driven, but above all, don't be afraid to experiment in your practice sessions. You'll be amazed what you can discover on your own and have great fun doing it.
A typical lesson:
There is no typical lesson but I would like to think that I am a good listener and communicator. I want to establish what the student knows and wants to achieve as I assess the priorities of their improvement. I choose my words carefully as its about clear communication, so that the player understands my reasons behind any suggestions given. One commonality of my sessions would be that the player is fully immersed in the session; it's not about me telling them to do something but the player discovering how to improve with my help.
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