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Instruction

10 rules for sticking your irons

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By Johnny Miller
A Golf Digest Article
With Guy Yocom
Photo By Joey Terrill

01 Play more than you practice.
Shortly after I turned 14, in 1961, I became the first junior member (whose father was not a member) at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Playing Olympic day in and day out made me the good iron player I turned out to be. You never seem to get a level lie at Olympic. You’re required to hit a lot of awkward shots, such as playing a fade with the ball above your feet. You can’t work on shots like that on the practice tee, which is why I always played more than I practiced. A lot of things I learned on Olympic defied conventional teaching. For example, from a sidehill lie with the ball below you, the tendency is to pull it dead left—not slice it, as most instructors say—because you straighten your right arm to reach the ball, and you swing over the top. Don’t be one of those driving-range superstars: players who can make their irons sing on the practice tee but are only so-so on the course. Get out and play.

02 Don’t fall in love on demo day.
In 1974, I got a set of old Tommy Armour irons with no chrome on them. These dull-gray clubs had a soft feel to them that was just exquisite. The irons were 25 years old, but after I sawed down the hosels and added some lead tape here and there, they were like magic. I got on the hottest streak of my career. I won eight times on the PGA Tour in 1974, knocking down flags every week. The following year I signed an equipment contract and had to put the Tommy Armours in the garage. Big mistake. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make the new clubs perform like the old ones. If you’ve got a set of irons you really like, think twice before switching to a new set. There are a lot of great new irons out there, and you might fall in love with how well you hit them on demo day. But when you get on the course and face funny lies and try to hit shots, like a high draw or a low fade, you might find they’re completely different.

03 Listen to your shots.
In the winters when I was a kid, my dad had me practice in the basement of our house. I’d hit balls for hours into a canvas tarp tacked to the ceiling. Because I couldn’t see the ball flight, I relied on two kinds of feedback: how the shots felt and how they sounded. Thin shots, balls struck on the toe, and shots hit a shade fat have distinctive sounds. You’re always looking for that crisp thwack at impact. Even from the TV booth, I can usually tell immediately if an iron shot is mis-hit and if it will come up short or not have enough spin to hold. Sound can definitely give you clues as to how well you hit the shot.

04 Distance trumps direction.
If you’ve ever wondered what magic threshold you must cross to become a first-rate player, it’s simple: You must control distance with your irons. I’ve always been obsessed with distance control. When I felt my iron game was at its peak, I’d sometimes ask my caddie for the distance to half a yard. You control distance by hitting the ball solidly and varying the length and speed of your swing. If you do that well, you become more precise, which rubs off on your direction, too. The week I won the 1974 Tucson Open, I hit hole or the flagstick 10 times.

05 Get down on it at impact.
I’m a swing-sequence junkie. I love poring over sequence photos of the best players. The feature all great iron players have in common is that their heads are lower at impact than when they were standing tall at address. They really go down after the ball, not by bending at the hips or dropping their head but by increasing the flex in their knees. They sag their knees down and toward the target at the same time, moving on a downward diagonal line. Now, you’d think this would make you hit the ball fat. But if you lean the club forward, toward the target, so that the shaft is angled ahead of the left arm, you’ll absolutely pure it. Which leads to the next rule.

06 Keep the angle in your right wrist.
Through impact, the hands lead a trailing clubhead. That delofts the clubface and makes it possible to hit down on the ball and squash it against the face. If you’ve ever wondered how good iron players make their shots bore through the air, this is it. Every effective iron player maintains the semi-cocked position in the right wrist through impact, the right palm facing down. Every bad ball-striker has the palm up. As I said only half-jokingly on a telecast last summer, if you want to be a terrible iron player and avoid getting to single digits, just flip that right wrist so the clubhead scoops and passes your hands.

07 Don’t sweat every detail.
Because iron play is all about precision, there’s a tendency to focus on details that are irrelevant or uncontrollable. For instance, a slightly wet clubface won’t affect distance. And you can’t predict how a small glob of mud on your ball will influence ball flight, so don’t stress about it. A light breeze won’t affect distance much if you hit the ball solidly. Concentrate on things that matter: alignment, rhythm and solid contact. Perform those well, and the small things won’t really come into play.

08 “Photograph” impact.
During one of my nice streaks in the mid- 1970s, Jack Nicklaus stopped me on the range one day and asked what I was working on. I told him I was concentrating on impact, trying to “freeze frame” that fraction of a second. “You can actually see that?” asked Jack. When I told him I could after months of training my eyes to take a “photograph” of impact, Jack said, “You’re crazy; the club is moving too fast.” But, as I said to him, it’s not only possible, it’s one of my secrets for hitting great iron shots. When I took the picture, so to speak, I checked that the clubface was square and delofted slightly, and that I was making crisp contact. Satisfy those impact conditions, and you’ll start chasing flags.

09 Identify the sweet spot on your irons.
I’ll bet that if you asked the typical 15-handicapper to point to the sweet spot, he’d point to a spot too high on the face. Remember, all perimeter-weighted irons have the majority of their mass around the sole of the club, to help you get the ball in the air. That means the sweet spot is below the center of the face. This really comes into play on par 3s, where you’re allowed to tee up. Your objective should be to tee the ball so your “lie” is slightly better than a perfect fairway lie. And even with perimeter weighting, because of the design of the clubhead, the sweet spot is going to be slightly closer to the hosel than the toe.

10 Speed kills.
I can see wanting 10 more yards with the driver, but squeezing extra distance out of your irons is the kiss of death. In my prime, my standard distance for the 9-iron was 125 yards. I hit my 6-iron 160, and my 4-iron 185. I didn’t want to be long with my irons, only smooth. Reining in my swing speed was key to distance control and accuracy. If you can resist the tendency to swing more than 75 percent, you’ll have better balance and rhythm. Your mechanics will be better, and you’ll find the sweet spot more often. You don’t need a crazy swing speed to spin the ball, either: Pure backspin comes from good contact more than anything else.

Read More http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2009-01/millerrules#ixzz1fd6UL9UZ

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. rehcuagflog

    Dec 28, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I apologize for my english writing, I’m a french speaker so…. Simpicity, balance teaching, kind of ABC you should work all day long… like blopar, we need more this kind of inside, particulary Golfdigest need to reconsider the serious of some articles, like who is the hottest golfer…? who care…

  2. MK

    Dec 19, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Fantastic tips, gives me something to think about when I go out this week.

  3. blopar

    Dec 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    there is more great advice packed in these 10 tips than there is in a years’ worth of golf digest, golf, and golf tips combined

  4. Mizunate!

    Dec 5, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Invaluable tips from a true legend. Thanks!

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Instruction

Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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Instruction

Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Instruction

Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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