3-time ma­jor cham­pion shows you how to play se­cond-shot golf.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By Ron Kaspriske

i feel like my ac­cu­racy stats with irons are a bit mis­lead­ing. I play fairly ag­gres­sively week to week and fire at a lot of pins. So I might miss more greens than other pros, but I’m still only a few yards from the hole when I do. That be­ing said, when I re­ally need to hit a green in reg­u­la­tion, I’m con­fi­dent in my swing. In win­ning my se­cond con­sec­u­tive U.S. Open, at Shin­necock Hills in June, only three other play­ers hit more greens in reg­u­la­tion than I did – and trust me when I say that hit­ting greens there was like try­ing to stop a mar­ble on a kitchen coun­ter­top. Here I’m go­ing to share some of my tips on hit­ting bet­ter se­cond-shot irons, a part of the game where I see a lot of golfers strug­gle. Let’s start with align­ment. Lately my coach, Claude Har­mon III, has me check­ing to make sure I’m not set­ting up open like you see here, with my feet aligned left of my tar­get. On the Mon­day of U.S. Open week, he was all over me say­ing, “Aim more right; aim more right.” I told him I couldn’t aim any more right. Then he put a club on the ground to check my align­ment. Wouldn’t you know it? I was still aim­ing left. The les­son is to make sure you’re set up to hit the shot you want. Here are some more of my tips.

dip your lead shoul­der

You drove the ball into the fair­way and have a real chance of a green in reg. Now what? As­sum­ing your align­ment is good, fo­cus on mak­ing a bet­ter back­swing. A lot of golfers take the club back with al­most no up­per-body ro­ta­tion — they’re all arms. And even when they do ro­tate back, it’s usu­ally on a flat shoul­der plane. If your shoul­ders turn back fairly level with the ground, it’s hard to swing down from in­side the tar­get line and hit an ac­cu­rate shot. You’ll prob­a­bly slice or pull it and miss the green. In­stead, turn so your left shoul­der moves back and down. See how mine is point­ing at the ball (right). Look at all that space I’ve cre­ated to swing down from in­side the tar­get line. Essen­tially, it al­lows you to swing on plane and hit it straighter.

govern your down­swing

A ques­tion I get asked a lot in pro-ams is how I’m able to swing the club as hard as I do. Hon­estly, I’m not swing­ing that hard. I’m us­ing about 75 per­cent of my max­i­mum ef­fort. If I swung any harder, I’d prob­a­bly spin right out of my golf pos­ture and miss the green big time. I bet when you swing your hard­est, your ac­cu­racy goes out the win­dow. That’s why I rec­om­mend you take one more club than you would from a par­tic­u­lar dis­tance — say, a 6-iron in­stead of a 7-iron from 150 yards—and make a swing at 75-per­cent ef­fort. You’ll know you’re do­ing it right if it feels like the club is trail­ing your body’s ro­ta­tion to­wards the tar­get like it is here (left). What you’ll find is, this syncs your swing and im­proves your chance of hit­ting it solidly.

get the dis­tance you ex­pect

It’s great if you’re able to hit your shots fairly straight, but when it comes to sec­ond­shot ac­cu­racy, that’s only half the equa­tion. Putting the ball on the green is a blend of hit­ting shots in the right di­rec­tion and the cor­rect dis­tance. The di­rec­tion part comes from con­trol­ling the club­face’s po­si­tion at im­pact in re­la­tion to the path. The dis­tance part comes from hit­ting down on the ball and com­press­ing it, get­ting that great sound and feel off the face. To flush iron shots, work on im­prov­ing what your dom­i­nant hand does as the club moves through im­pact. Here I’m show­ing that the right palm should never turn sky­ward (right). This al­lows you to strike the ball and keep the club­head mov­ing down­ward into the turf. Con­sis­tently do that, and the ball will fly a pre­dictable dis­tance.


fin­ish it off

I typ­i­cally opt for a fade when I’m hit­ting into greens. It’s just an eas­ier shot to con­trol. That’s why Claude keeps an eye on my align­ment to make sure I don’t aim too far left and over­cook my iron shots. I’m telling you this be­cause it re­lates to the photo you see here of my fin­ish po­si­tion (right). No­tice where my chest is point­ing in re­la­tion to where I’m look­ing. It ro­tated well past the green and is fac­ing al­most 90 de­grees left of it. The point is, I kept my body mov­ing as long as I could, which is a key to ac­cu­racy when con­trol­ling a shot’s curve. If I stop turn­ing my body sooner and the club keeps go­ing, I prob­a­bly would hook the shot. And if I stop turn­ing my body and club too soon and at the same time, my fade will turn into a nasty slice. That’s a move I see a lot from am­a­teurs. In the hopes of hit­ting it some­where to­ward the green, they don’t let the club­head close, and they stop the swing cold when their arms and club are fac­ing the tar­get. We call that steer­ing, and it rarely works. ▶ My ad­vice: Keep the body mov­ing to match the swing­ing of your arms and club. Whether you hit a draw or fade—or a straight ball if you’re one of the lucky ones—keep ev­ery­thing mov­ing un­til all the mo­men­tum is gone and the club’s shaft fin­ishes wrapped around your body, as you see here. If you swung at 75 per­cent of your max speed like I rec­om­mended, it’s easy to get into this tro­phy pose. Or should I say, your club-cham­pi­onship tro­phy pose?

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