Making an impact on your iron play

As a coach I’m continually trying to improve my student’s ball flight. This always leads me straight to their impact position. We all know, even though it last for only a fraction of a second, how important the point of impact is. In fact, in a way it’s the only thing that matters. You can have a great set up or top of the back swing position, but if it doesn’t lead to an effective impact your wasting your time. Conversely a lot of your action can be slightly off, but if you arrive at impact with all the right ingredients you’re gonna’ be cooking. I never change someone’s swing if they’ve got a functioning impact zone, and you’d be surprised at how many tour pro’s have great impacts encased in less than perfect swings.

The funny thing is a lot of my students have most of the elements of a decent impact position already somewhere in their swing---Just not at the point when the club meets the ball! What I spend most of my time doing with them is moving the vital elements to the vital moment -- impact!

So, what are the elements of a great impact and how do you feel them?

SQUARE CLUBFACE AND FLAT LEFT WRIST.

This is the biggy, to hit halfway decent shots consistently the face of the club must be looking at the target at impact, and the left wrist must be in a reasonably solid position.  This is one of the biggest elements I see lacking in people’s impact positions.

Most people can set up with a reasonably square club face. To experience what it feels like to have a square face and solid left wrist at impact, hit into an impact bag and hold you position for a few seconds. If you can’t get your hands on an impact bag just push the club face squarely against the edge of a doormat, relax and repeat a few times.

FULL EXTENSION

At impact ideally your left arm is ideally still being swung straight by the weight and momentum of the club, and you right arm is about to straighten. This is a key part of maintaining a consistent measurement between you and the golf ball, and leads to solid, and central contact on the club face.

Many players have reasonable width and extension in the first part of their downswing, generated by the change of direction. However, as they approach impact they pull their arms in, possibly trying to avoid fat shots, or because they’re hitting at the ball.  

Move this vital element of your swing further down the chain to impact by swinging a weighted club (or two clubs together) and feel your arms being pulled straight just past impact before they relax and fold later in the follow through.

After you’ve got this sensation, take you five iron and find a tree or bush. Measure off a spot where, a couple of feet past impact, you’d just clip the leaves if your arms were straight. Have some swings making sure you hear the club contact the leaves as you swing through. ( No one’s proven conclusively that plants have feelings!)

The important thing here is not to force the arms straight with tension. Swing them straight with the momentum of the club.

HIPS TURNING AND WEIGHT MOVING INTO LEFT SIDE

The one universal in all sports that involve a hitting or throwing motion is the lower body working slightly ahead of the upper. You confine yourself to a lifetime of weak, slappy hits at the ball if your body stops turning through the shot, the wrists have to release early for the club to reach the ball, leading to tops, pulls, fat shots and no power.

Accompanying this the body weight usually stays too far back. The trick is your hips only have to work slightly ahead of your shoulders, you don’t want them spinning out of control.

A lot of my students have a solid impact relationship between their hips and shoulders, but the place it occurs is at the top of their back swing. Shoulders roughly turned around ninety degrees, hips roughly around forty five. But they lose it on the way down, shoulders catching up to and often out turning their hips before impact. Keeping this relationship constant means if your shoulders are close to parallel at impact the hips will be slightly open to them, ideal.

Feel it by going back to the club face against the doormat drill. This time as you push against the mat, point your belt buckle on the same angle as your slightly turned out left foot, keep your shoulders square. Incidentally, feel how it accentuates the feeling of that powerful flat left wrist?

Integrate this move dynamically into your impact position.

Hit some shots with a seven iron, turning your hips smoothly to point your belt buckle at your left foot as you strike the ball. Word of warning, feel it as a smooth turn not a fast spin or clearing.

These drills and sensations will give you the basic ingredients of a good impact. Solid well struck shots, that fly straight with a rising flight are an indication that you're on the right track -- enjoy!