Ask pros what their favourite lie is for hitting iron shots, and they’ll say, “The tighter, the better.” Ask a typical amateur, and they’ll probably describe that cushy cut of grass just off the fairway. Why? Many amateurs “cast” the clubhead down into the ball. It’s a term that comes from its resemblance to the action required to cast a fishing line into the water. The surest way to hit crappy irons is to start the downswing with this casting motion of the hands and arms. To compress the ball and squeeze it off the turf, you need your lower body to lead the way.

You’ll know if you’re casting by hitting some shots and confirming it on video. First, hit 10 6-iron shots off fairway-height grass and rate the quality of contact from 1 (poor) to 5 (great) for each shot. If you’re honest with your scores and can’t tally 35 or higher, you’re probably letting your hands and arms dominate the downswing. Ideally, you’d confirm this by videoing your swing with a smartphone. Note the position of your clubhead in relation to your body as it comes down into the ball: it should appear to be coming through last. Are your wrists releasing it downward as you get into your downswing? That’s a cast, for sure.

The clubhead path down to the ball should trail the movement of the feet, legs and hips, which push down and then rotate towards the target through impact. This trailing action is known as “lag”, and it’s the key to hitting pure iron shots. In fact, it’s the reason pros launch their 7-iron as far as you hit a hybrid or fairway wood. The lag delofts the clubface into impact and allows better players to pinch the ball off the ground for more distance.

To get a feel for how to properly order movement in the downswing – lower body first, then the upper body, then the arms and finally the clubhead – make a backswing with your wrists nicely hinged, your left arm pinned across your chest and your body fully wound up. From this spot, pump the club halfway down then back up a couple of times, focusing on your feet and knees leading the motion. This dynamic drill subconsciously trains you to get that lower-body activity going ahead of your arms and club. It’s key to putting you in position to compress your irons. You can even hit shots with this pump drill. When you go back to hitting balls normally, try to re-create that sequence of motion on the downswing.