If you’re like most amateur golfers, you’ve probably already mastered the low flying “worm burner” shot... whether you’ve meant to or not. But getting your ball high off the ground and over those tall trees that stand between you and the green is a bit of a trickier undertaking.
Being able to get more height with your irons, when and where you need it, opens up a whole new world of shot options in your game. Whether it’s sticking a shot tight to the pin on a firm green, or carrying the ball over a seemingly endless water hazard, getting more height on your irons is a relatively simple way to add more dynamic firepower to your arsenal of shot options.
Hitting a high ball (the golf shot, not the cocktail) is also a solid substitute for the majority of golfers out there who are unable to generate backspin (also referred to as “bite” or “english”) on their ball, especially with lower irons. Being able to hit your low irons high gives you the height, precision and distance you may require on certain shots throughout your round.
Once you get comfortable with the mechanics of hitting the ball higher, there will be no shortage of opportunities to use your new found skill set out on the course. Below is a short list of simple adjustments you can make to your existing swing, that will help your iron shots reach new heights (... see what we did there?).
Shoot for the Stars… Literally.
A general approach to shooting the ball higher is to adjust your stance as if you were trying to shoot the ball high - not far - or as if you were setting up your stance to hit the ball off a steep incline.
If you can effectively envision this, you should naturally want to move the ball further up in your stance (towards your front foot) and tilt the top of your shaft towards your back foot, so that your hands are over (or closer to) your clubhead. Then lower your back shoulder and lean down and away from your target. If you’re able to maintain this position, the clubhead will impact the ball with greater loft and drive it skyward.
Finally, make sure that your head and eyes follow the trajectory you would like your ball to travel. As you connect with the ball, tilt your head to look up as you swing through (perhaps the only time you don’t have to kick yourself for not keeping your head down!).
Keep Weight on Your Back Foot
This next tip is much easier said than done, but once you get a feel for it, it should be easy enough to recreate whenever you need to send your ball into orbit. The key here is all about transference (or lack thereof) of weight during your swing.
In your normal swing, you typically would start with your weight evenly dispersed between your two feet, transfer it to your back foot in your backswing, then as you swing through, push your weight forward onto your front foot to generate maximum momentum and clubhead speed.
However, when you’re looking to hit a high ball, you need to keep the weight on your back foot as you swing through. You can move a little weight to your front left heel (don’t lean on your toes) but the remainder of the movement in your swing should come from the rotation of your hips, shoulders and arms as you swing through/up, while the whip of your club will provide added velocity. Make sure that you keep your shoulder leaning back (as per above) and try not to swing too fast/far backwards so you don’t lose your balance.
Lastly, you’ve likely been conditioned to “hit down” with your irons, but try to swing through the impact plane more flat with your clubhead and with the club shaft angled more backwards than normal, similar to how you might hit your driver or a pitching wedge from in close.
Launch a Fast & Shallow Attack
The final piece of the high ball puzzle is the speed of your clubhead and angle of attack as you swing through the ball.
A general rule of thumb is that the faster the swing, the higher the shot potential, as your club will get under the ball with more ease (less ground resistance) and can then leverage the true loft of the clubface.
When we say shallow attack, we’re referring to how steep (vertical) or shallow (horizontal) your clubhead is in relation to the ball as you make contact. If you impact the ball with a steep attack (the club is more over your head in your backswing) the clubface is angled towards the ground, which will decrease the loft and hit the ball down.
To create a shallow attack in your swing, try bending your back knee a bit further than normal and then swing back and out in your backswing, so your follow through will be on a more horizontal plane. This will help you get under the ball faster, leverage the true loft of your club and then direct the trajectory of your club and the ball up and out. Keeping your back arm straighter can also help create a more shallow swing.
Once you master shooting your irons with a controlled arc, you’ll find that hazards are less scary, firm greens and tight pin positions are more manageable and those beautiful (read: pesky) trees that are scattered throughout the course are no longer as intimidating as they once were - now, get out there and start practicing the art of hitting your irons high and hard!
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