The main difference between good iron play and poor iron play is quality of contact. Everyone that plays golf knows the difference. We all can hear the difference and we certainly can feel the difference. And while we all know that striking the ball with a descending blow is a must, most of us just can’t get it done consistently.
Poor iron players generally have what I call a one-two swing. This is an everything back, everything through type of motion that doesn’t lead to an efficient, powerful swing and doesn’t provide the opportunity to strike down and through the ball,_Ê which is a necessity in iron play. In contrast, the best, most efficient swings have a one-AND-two tempo. The AND is what’s missing from the poor iron player’s swing. This AND, or pause, occurs when the arms are near the top of the backswing and the lower body shifts and rotates before the arms and club begin their downswing motion.
This type of motion (also known to some as creating lag) allows many good things to happen. First of all, it gets your weight on your left side prior to impact. This is a must. Secondly, it allows for the narrowing of the bend in the right elbow and right wrist that we all need to deliver a powerful blow to the ball. This sequence of events allows your legs and hips to reach their maximum speed before your shoulders and arms reach their maximum speed. It also allows your shoulders and arms to reach their top speed well before your wrists and club do, maximizing the transfer of energy and overall power.
Good Vs. Bad Iron Shot
(See Photos Below) As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of bad results from a 1-2 swing, and at the photos below (top line) you can see several of them clearly illustrated. Since a 1-2 swing features a move that has everything (the entire body) moving together without the proper sequence, the club tends to get overly steep at the top of the swing as well as on the way down. You can see in the photos at the far left that the club is much flatter in the swing on the bottom, which was made with a 1-AND-2 swing. Because the 1-AND-2 swing is initiated by the lower-body pivot, the arms and club can lag behind and naturally become flatter and travel more on-plane.
In the bottom photos (below), you can see how much more on-top of the ball I am. My body has gotten out of the way by rotating and my right elbow is still flexed and able to deliver plenty of power. In the photos on top, my body is moving more laterally and my arms are being thrown at the ball independently of my lower body. There’s little transfer of power here, and it’s much more difficult to make clean, ball-first contact from this position.
At the near left, there’s a dramatic difference in my positions through impact. In the top photo, my body is completely stalled out and the club is popping out from my neck. In the bottom photo you can see my entire back and the club is coming out of the side of my shoulder. This is a solid swing!
Fat, thin and topped shots aren’t fun, and all are caused by a swing that doesn’t drive the clubhead down and through the ball. Only a 1-and-2 swing will get the job done.
This is a great drill for ingraining the feel of the 1-AND-2 swing and one that you can do just about anywhere. Simply grip an iron with only your right hand (left hand for lefties) and assume your normal setup position. Because it’s difficult to gather enough strength with only one arm to swing the club all the way through impact, you’ll be forced to power the club with the shift or pivot of the lower body rather than with the muscles in your hands and arms.
There are several things you want to feel here, but probably the most important thing is the bending of the right arm and wrist becoming greater (increasing) as the lower body rotates. Many people refer to this phenomenon as lag and you can see why. Notice in the picture (above, right) how the angle between my right forearm and upper arm as well as that between my wrist and the clubshaft actually become more severe as I move into the downswing. This is the AND in the swing you need to learn if you want to become a solid ballstriker.
If you’ve been making a 1-2 swing for a long time, learning the feel of the 1-AND-2 swing can be a bit of a challenge. The key is to try and forget what you normally do and concentrate on the drill. To practice the Step Drill, set up to the ball normally and move your left foot so it’s almost touching your right foot. Start swinging the club back until your left arm passes parallel to the ground, and then lift your left foot off the ground and start stepping toward the target. You should feel your left foot land on the ground before you finish your backswing, which will force your lower body to initiate the downswing. Go ahead and swing all the way through the ball and into the finish. Remember that hitting the ground with your left foot before you finish the backswing is the AND in the swing.
The toughest part of learning the 1-AND-2 swing is getting the feel of it at first. the step drill will allow you to get the proper sensation while also hitting the ball.
At one time or another we’ve all probably seen a player on the range making swings with a club across his or her chest. What that particular person was trying to achieve we can’t be sure, but I highly recommend using a very similar technique to work on your pivot. Begin by simply placing a club across your chest and assuming your normal address position. Turn your upper body away as if starting your backswing. Before you complete your backswing, shift your lower body onto your left foot and continue rotating to the finish. Make sure you begin rotating your lower body before you allow your shoulders to move into the downswing. If possible, try to begin shifting your lower body onto your left foot while your shoulders are still moving toward the top of your backswing. Do the drill slowly, and be sure to initiate the move into the downswing with your lower body.
GT Senior Instruction Editor Chuck Winstead teaches at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La.