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Are you struggling to hit solid iron shots? Here’s a scenario that plays out all over the golfing world. You’re playing with your weekly group of buddies and then it happens… again… a topper. You think to yourself, “That’s a great ground ball to second base.” Then, one of the guys yells, “Keep your head down.” Another one says, “Don’t move around so much.”

Though this advice is well-meaning, it typically causes more damage than good to your game. Don’t listen to them. Try these 3 tips to hit solid iron shots instead.

Tip 1: Weight Forward

Weight forward

When you set up for an iron shot with your weight forward on your lead leg and foot, good things tend happen. This setup helps move the bottom of your swing forward, and finding the bottom of your swing is the No. 1 fundamental in golf. The expert player can hit the ground in the same spot every time because he or she is setting up with his or her weight forward.

Many struggling golfers bottom the club out early and behind the ball. This happens because their weight starts and stays on the back foot/leg, which generally leads to a slice. My most successful students say they hit the ball more solid when they consciously set up with their weight forward.

Tip 2: Handle Forward

Handle Fowrard

Now that you’re set up with your weight forward, the handle of your golf club needs to be leaned forward as well. Having both in sync will shift your path more to the right for the right-handed golfer, and it will do just the opposite for the left-handed golfer. This type of path makes it more likely that you’ll hit a draw.

When your handle leans backward, you are opening the club face to the path. That leads to a slice, and it’s also a much weaker motion that will not allow you to compress the golf ball at impact as well.

Tip 3: Arms Straight

arms-straight-e1503338082112

Keep your arms straight as you strike the ball, and keep them straight through your finish. Having straight arms at impact and keeping them straight through the ball allows the forward wrist to flatten and the trail wrist to bend. This important detail also generates pressure into the back of the golf ball. Keeping your arms straight through the ball is crucial if you want to hit your irons solid.

The majority of golfers coming to me for golf lessons have their arms pulling apart through and after impact. Losing structure in your arms causes all sorts of issues, including the “chicken wing.”

Bonus Tip: Raise Your Belt Buckle!

raise the belt

Raising your belt buckle means to allow your body extend. Many struggling golfer stay down as they swing. As soon as they make contact, they’re basically done with their swing. Don’t do this. It’s key to allow your body to naturally move with the motion of the golf swing.

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Jess Frank is a PGA Teaching Professional at Deer Creek Golf Club in Deerfield Beach, Florida. He's owner of the Jess Frank Golf Academy, and his passion is to help golfers play better and have more fun on the course. Students have described his instruction style as non-intimidating, friendly and easy to understand. Jess works with every level of golfer, and his lesson tee includes complete beginners and high-level golfers. Playing lessons are also a very important part of his lesson program. His greatest joy is seeing his students smile and get excited about playing golf! Please feel free to email him at pgapro@jessfrankgolf.com or contact him directly at 561-213-8579.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jess Frank

    Sep 17, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Hello Sam, thank you very much for reading my article and taking the time to make a comment on the post. You are correct in saying hitting the sweet spot is crucial and I often address this with my students. The majority of students I teach stay flexed over way too long and bend their arms way too much, especially the lead arm. So extending or raising the belt buckle and straightening the arm actually improves their arc or radius and makes hitting the ball more solid easier. Weight forward, arms straight and raising the belt buckle to the sky has helped golfers play better for sure:) Thanks again for your comments and have a great week!

    • sam

      Sep 18, 2017 at 2:26 am

      Hey, Jess …. you are responding to my comment below, namely:
      “The 3 tips will help duffers hit the ball but it still won’t be a solid hit because impact will still be all over the clubface. Only sweet spot hits will feel solid.”
      ———————-
      What most recreational golfers do is block their hips coming into impact because they cannot rotate their hips open and maintain the spinal tilt through impact. They block their hips in order to keep their balance because if they continued rotating their ‘belt buckle’ their Center of Pressure would move outside their feet area and they would topple over. Also they go erect coming into impact as a natural reflex to ‘hit hard’. It’s all so so wrong.

  2. OX

    Sep 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    If you don’t match your shaft flex with your swing speed you will have impact feel problems.
    A slow speed swing and a stiff shaft will make impact feel dull and not satisfying. You will only get solid hits if your shaft tip flexes adequately to whipsnap the clubhead through impact. With a stiff shaft you are not releasing the clubhead through impact.

    • H-Pylori

      Sep 17, 2017 at 8:14 am

      Match your shaft flex for added moi right?

  3. Speedy

    Sep 13, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Good tips, Jess. You got me back on track with my irons.

    • sam

      Sep 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      The 3 tips will help duffers hit the ball but it still won’t be a solid hit because impact will still be all over the clubface. Only sweet spot hits will feel solid.

    • Jess Frank

      Sep 17, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Hey Speedy! Thanks for reading and great to hear!:) Please let me know if you have any more questions!

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Instruction

Stop Practicing, Start Training. Part 2: Putting

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This article is co-written with Zach Parker. Zach is the former director of golf at the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate golf academies. Zach is a golf coach, an expert in skill acquisition, and he has years of experience setting up effective training scenarios for golfers of varying abilities. 

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed in detail how and why we should shift our focus from practicing to training. Specifically, making training more “game like” by incorporating the following three principles

  • Spacing – adding time between training or learning tasks. Not hitting ball after ball with no break!
  • Variability – mixing up the tasks, combining driving with chipping for example
  • Challenge Point – making sure that you are firstly trying to achieve or complete a task, and secondly that the task is set an appropriate difficulty for you

For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

This is with the aim of avoiding the following frustrations that occur when training is performed poorly

  • Grinding on the putting green but not improving
  • Being unable to transfer performance from putting green to course
  • Finding practice boring
  • Plateaus in performance

Practice can be frustrating

In Part 1 we covered long game, and in Part 2 it’s time to address putting. Training this crucial part of the game is often overlooked and almost always performed poorly with very little intent. On course, we never hit putts from the same distance (unless you’re in the habit of missing two footers!), yet when practicing its common to repeatedly hit putts from the same place. Our length of stroke, reaction to speed and slope and time between putts are constantly changing on course, so it would make sense to replicate that in our training right?

In the practice circuit below we have incorporated spacing by leaving large gaps between putts, variability by mixing up the tasks and challenge point by introducing hurdle tasks that must be completed before moving on to the next station.

Station 1

Learning task: Three rehearsals with a specific focus, in this case, using the GravityFit TPro to bring awareness to posture and arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must make putt from 6 feet, downhill,  left to right-to-left break.

Station 2

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus; in this case posture for eye-line and using bands for arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30-40 feet, uphill. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

Station 3

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus again.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 20-30  ft, right to left break. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

You can either have a go at this circuit or create your own. There are no set rules, just make sure to include a mixture of tasks (variability) that are appropriate to your level of ability (challenge Point) with plenty of time between repetitions (spacing).

For more information on the featured GravityFit equipment, check out the website here

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Instruction

WATCH: What to do when you’re short sided

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney shows you how to avoid compounding a mistake when you’ve missed the ball on the wrong side of the green.

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Instruction

Why flaring your left foot out at address could be a big mistake

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In his book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” published in 1957, Ben Hogan recommended that golfers position their right foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line, and then position their left-foot a quarter of a turn outward at a 15-degree angle (Note: He was writing for right-handed golfers). The purpose of the left-foot foot position was to assist in the “clearing of the left hip,” which Hogan believed started his downswing.

Through this Hogan instruction book and the others he wrote through the years, there four categories that defined his advice;

  1. He accurately described what was occurring in his swing.
  2. He described a phantom move that never occurred.
  3. He described something that occurred but to a lesser degree than indicated.
  4. He inaccurately described what was happening in his swing.

As evidenced by today’s modern video, Hogan did not open up his left hip immediately as he described. This piece of advice would fall into the fourth category listed above — he inaccurately described what was happening in his swing. In reality, the first move in his downswing was a 10-12 inch shift of his left hip forward toward the target before his left hip ever turned open.

SPINNING OUT

Those amateur golfers who strictly adopted his philosophy, opening the left hip immediately, ended up“spinning out” and never getting to their left foot. The spin-out was made even worse by the 15-degree angle of the left foot Hogan offered. That said, based on Hogan’s stature in the golf world, his advice regarding the positioning of the feet was treated as if it were gospel and adopted by both players and teachers. Since that time his hip action has been debated, but the positioning of the left foot has remained unquestioned — until today.

THE FLARED FOOT POSITION

The flared position of his left foot may or may not have been of assistance in helping Hogan achieve the desired outcome in his swing. That really is not the point, but rather that over a half-century there has never been a voice that argued against the flared foot position he advocated.

The rest of the golf world accepted his advice without question. In my opinion, the left foot position advocated by Hogan has harmed countless golfers who slowly saw their swings fall apart and wondered why. His well-meaning advice was a poisoned pill, and once swallowed by golfers it served to eventually erode what was left of their left side.

DEAD WRONG

The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.

As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.

FOOT FLARE ISSUES

The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:

In the backswing, the flared left foot:

  1. Discourages a full left- hip turn;
  2. Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back
  3. Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.

In the downswing, the flared left foot: 

  1. Promotes a “spinning out” of the left hip.
  2. Does not allow for a solid post at impact.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

In working with my students, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most advantageous position for the left foot at address is straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The reason is not only because it encourages a positive moment of the player’s weight forward in the downswing, but it also improves the player’s chances of making a sound backswing.

THE POWER OF THE LEFT HEEL

There is an inherent advantage to placing the left-foot at a 90-degree to the target-line. It is the strongest physical position against which to hit the ball, as it provides a powerful post at impact that serves to increase both power and consistency.

JACK NICKLAUS

A number of years ago, Jack Nicklaus appeared on the cover of Golf Digest. The byline suggested that in studying Jack’s footwork, they had discovered something that up to that point was unknown. The “secret” they were describing was that after lifting his left heel in the backswing, he replanted it in the downswing with his heel closer to the target line than his toe. The intimation was that this might be a secret source of power in his swing.  This was hardly a “secret,” and something that Nicklaus was probably unaware of until it was pointed out to him, but it’s a demonstration of the fact that his natural instinct was to turn his foot inward, rather than outward, on the downswing.

THE DISCUS THROWER

The discus thrower whirls around in a circle as he prepares to throw. On the final pass, he plants his left toe slightly inward, relative to his heel, because this is the most powerful position from which to cast the discus. This position allows the thrower to draw energy from the ground while at the same time providing a strong post position from which additional torque can be applied. The point is that as the discus thrower makes the final spin in preparation for the throw, he does not turn the lead foot outward. Why? Because if it were turned outward, the potential draw of energy from the ground would be compromised.

The same is true when it comes to swinging a golf club for power, and you can test the two positions for yourself. After turning the left foot into a position that is 90 degrees to the target line, you will immediately note the ease with which you can now turn away from the target in addition to the strength of your left side post at the point of impact. Conversely, when you turn your left foot out, you will feel how it restricts your backswing and does not allow for a strong post position on the downswing.

REPAIRING YOUR SWING

Do you have trouble cutting across the ball? You might look to the position of your left foot and the action of the left hip. The first step would be to place your left foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The second step would be to turn you left hip around in a half circle as if tracing the inside of a barrel. The third step would be to feel that you left your left hip remains in the same position as you scissor your weight towards your left toe, and then your right heel, allowing the club to travel on the same path. The combination of these changes will encourage the club to swing in-to-out, improving the path of your swing.

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