For golf fans, watching the tour pros make their amazing shots off the tee and incredible putts are perhaps the most exciting part of the action. For those who actively participate in the sport, and the pros themselves, there is just as much focus given to their short game – the golf approach shot.
Taking charge of that compressed little white ball and launching it down the fairway is a skill all its own, but unless the green is in reach from the tee (and you get there), the second shot golf requires may be the most important on any given hole.
Making it to the Green
A good putting game is certainly vital to keeping a lower score, but getting there is the challenge faced by most players. Pros achieve great golf iron shots through dedication to practice and attention to the basics:
- Grip – with every club in the bag, improper grip will lead to poor shots
- Stance – address the ball properly for golf iron shots
- Swing – study your swing – have someone knowledgeable watch – accept pointers graciously
- Pick the right club – know your range for each club – it’s not the same for everyone
- Know the environment – moisture, wind, and the lay of the land are considerations for every approach shot in golf
- Practice, practice, practice – the driving range is your friend – but not just for practicing drives – put your irons to work on the short game – approach shots and chipping
Practice or other fundamentals won’t solve the problem of a poor grip. Watch videos, look at pictures, or even ask the local pro to look at your grip to make sure you have this basic connection between you and your clubs down pat.
Michael Jacobs, a highly respected New York instructor, advises in his book Elements of the Swing that a proper grip can be achieved easily: “stick out your left hand and hold the club like you would a heavy suitcase.” Follow with the right hand palm up slightly, wrapping your fingers underneath. Your right hand little finger can either rest on your left hand forefinger, or interlock with the forefinger – whatever feels and works best for you.
Your body should lean slightly over the ball when making your second shot, rather than addressing the ball in a straight-up position. You’ll find this results in better contact with the ball. If you hang the club straight down from the middle of your chest, the club head should be just ahead of the ball’s position.
You hear the words “follow through” repeatedly from any golf instructor, and it’s advice well taken. This is another basic fundamental of the approach shot that many beginners or weekend golfers struggle with. If you’re one of the many players who look up prematurely or hesitate on the backswing, you may either hit behind the ball, or even worse, repeatedly top off the ball to your embarrassment. Have someone watch your swing until you consistently hit down on your iron shots and make solid contact between the ball and your club face.
3 Secrets for How to Hit an Iron Shot
Pros make their approach shots appear easy, but amateurs and weekenders can develop these skills as well, given a little coaching and awareness of the essentials:
- Rotate your shoulders through your swing. Take a lesson from the pros, observing how their body moves with the backswing. This provides improved distance and better ball contact.
If you practice your swing religiously, and still can’t get it where your pro or partner thinks it could be, try some exercises geared toward improvements in body motion and swing rotation.
- If you’re having problems with accuracy or hitting your iron shots straight, try this drill. Lay two irons on either side of the ball, about six or eight inches apart, forming a channel pointed to your target. Now try your swing, ensuring that it follows the channel from entry to exit point.
You’ll find this will help you straighten out your shot, with the club entering the channel slightly inside, making square contact with the ball, then returning to a slightly inside position as you swing through.
- To be sure, most amateurs will not hit their iron shots perfectly. Most will fall short of their intended yardage (in fact, as much as 95% of the time), falling far short of the cup, and even short of the green. To compensate, pick one club longer than you estimate the yardage to be. Chances are that you will land on the dance floor more often.
Improving Approach Shots – Improving Your Game
Golf can be an extremely enjoyable, but frustrating sport. Making the most of your golf approach shots will improve your entire game, and give you much more pleasure from your time on the links. And remember – there’s no substitute for practice, whether on the course or at the range.