▶ My standard ball flight is about as high as anyone’s on tour – from driver right down to my wedges. That gives me a huge advantage in carrying hazards, flying it over trees and holding greens. It certainly helped me win the Players Championship last year. In the opening round when I shot nine-under par 63, I hit 15 greens in regulation. You can’t do that at TPC Sawgrass with a low ball flight.
▶ There are a number of reasons I can send one into orbit:
(1) Hip action and clubhead speed play a big role. My hips actually stop rotating in the downswing and check back a little, which might seem bizarre, but this creates a whip-like action with my arms and club. Fast swings mean higher shots. I know Rory and Dustin do this, too.
(2) My angle of attack into the ball is very shallow – that’s really important if you want to get the ball up.
(3) My right arm is pretty straight at impact. If it were bent like some players, I’d struggle to get the height I do.(4) I load onto my right side in the backswing. Guys who don’t shift as much might compress the ball, but they don’t carry it as far.
▶ Now that you know all of this, realise that I’m not expecting you to copy my swing if you want to hit it higher. Some of the things you could easily copy, I’m sure. But a lot of it would require more work than you’re probably willing – or able – to endure. Remember, I’ve been swinging like this for more than 20 years. That’s why my coach, Col Swatton, and I put our heads together to come up with four drills that anyone can do to hit their irons higher. These don’t require you to swing faster or have the hip action of a tour pro. They don’t even mean you have to sacrifice time with your kids to grind it out on the range. Just try the things I’m going to demonstrate in this article when you have a little extra time, and see if your ball flight doesn’t have a little more of an arc when you play. It’s a great feeling knowing you don’t have to chase your 6-iron through an opening at the front of the green just to have a chance at a two-putt par. Now you’ll be able to fly one in there.
– with Ron Kaspriske
1. Load Before You Go
If you feel a lot of weight in your left foot as your backswing ends, there’s a good chance you’ll hit a line drive. You need to get your body behind the ball, as they say. Try this: step on the shaft of a club with your right foot and pin another across your chest as I’m doing here. Now turn back [below]. Feel all your weight move into your right leg, but notice how the club on the ground serves as a backstop so you don’t sway from the target with your body.
The club pinned across your chest should be pointing well behind the ball when you complete your turn, and your head should be behind the ball, too. If you can get to the top of your swing in a similar position when you play, you’re ready to fire off your right side when you start the downswing. That’s good weight shift. It’s a lot like how baseball pitchers wind up and then push off their back leg to throw a fastball.
2. Tee It High & Let It Fly
You’ve probably been told to sweep the ball with your driver and hit down on it with your irons. Truth is, if you want to hit your irons higher, you shouldn’t hit down on it all that much. To learn what a shallower approach feels like, try this: tee a ball two to three inches off the ground like you’ve pulled your driver from the bag, but instead you’re going to use a 6-iron. Try to hit this ball as high and far as you can. Notice how your spine has to tilt away from the target and your right arm straightens to launch the ball [below]?
Spine tilt is really important. If your spine is straight up and down, or leaning towards the target at impact, you’ll swing under the ball and probably sky it in the air. Weight shift also matters. Swing off your back foot, and you’ll blade it. Once you’re routinely hitting it great with this drill, see if you can get similar results by making the same swing when the ball is not teed up.
3. Hit The Slopes
Find a spot where you can attempt iron shots from an uphill lie [below]. The slope shouldn’t be too severe, but you want to feel like gravity is pulling you away from the target a little when you address the ball.
If you can hit it solid and high from here, you’ve got the proper feeling for a high-ball swing from a flat lie. The slope forces you to shift your weight forward and shallow your downswing. If you leave weight on your back foot, because of gravity or the notion that this will help you hit it higher, you might lose your balance, airswing or skull the ball into the next state. And if you swing down too steeply, the club will crash into the turf. It’s just physics. Instead, do like Col says and “follow the earth with your clubhead”. Shift your weight towards the target, swing up the slope, and you’ll hit it high and far. The hill acts like a launching pad if you do it right.
4. Turn, Shift, Rotate
This drill puts all the elements you’ve learned so far into one fluid motion. Stick an alignment rod a few inches off your right hip and another the same distance off your left hip. Wind up like in drill No.1 without swaying into the rod next to your right hip. Then start down by letting your left hip bump the rod that’s next to it. Your spine angle should shift as it does in drill No.2. Sense your weight moving into the left heel as you do this [below].
If you feel it in your toes, you’re out of position. Finally, after the bump, rotate your hips towards the target and let the club swing along the ground as in drill No.3. You can work on this in three parts, but the goal is to blend it:
(1) Turn and post up on your right side;
(2) shift your
lower body towards the target;
(3) rotate your hips and finish the swing.
This will really help you get the ball sailing. Greens in reg will become routine.