All aboard the long iron express

Published 15/12/2010 07:24:00

The average player should replace his or her long irons with fairway woods. The design of modern fairway woods, as well as the newer hybrid clubs and iron-woods, make it easier to get the ball airborne on long shots from the fairway and rough. However, for more advanced players, long irons are necessary tools for going low.


Take, for instance, the Long Iron Express-a low, boring rocket that travels about three-quarters of the distance of a full-swing long iron. It's the perfect play on tight driving holes. It's also the shot of choice from underneath branches.


Whereas most recreational players have no other option but to chip back to safety, intrepid shotmakers can use the Long Iron Express to pound it low and onto the green. You don't have to be super-strong to hit the L.I.E., but you do need perfect technique.



It all starts with your address position, which for stability's sake should be wider than normal. Positioning the ball correctly in your stance solves that. Take your normal stance with the ball off your left cheek, then simply move your back foot a few inches to the right (for right-handed golfers) until the ball position moves to a point that's even with the logo of your shirt. The tendency is to play the ball too far forward and then slide forward on the downswing to get back to it. Big mistake-you can't slide and expect to hit this shot correctly.



The swing itself is simply a three-quarter motion with a big chest turn while you keep your knees flexed and level. The common error here is to straighten the back leg. This must be avoided in order to bring the clubhead to the ball on a shallow, rounded arc that will keep the shot low and hot. In the photo at left, notice how level my hips are at the top of my swing and how I've rotated them so that my belt buckle points well behind the ball with my left arm below my right shoulder.


Since you're using a three-quarter swing, the danger is to push off your back foot in an effort to generate extra power. That's a good way to hit the ball thin. Your back foot should remain on the ground even though your weight has transferred to your front hip. In the photo, observe that my trailing foot hasn't flipped up yet and I'm almost at impact. If you were standing behind me, you couldn't see my spikes. Also, note that the angle of the clubshaft and the angle of the right leg are almost identical. This indicates that I've stayed in the shot and guarantees that I'll catch the ball cleanly.


At impact, the rotation of my front hip has finally unplugged my back heel. See how my left arm is directly in line with the clubshaft. It achieves this position because I've kept everything moving. Any stopping or slowing of the chest, and your arms will flip the club over, causing a pull or, worse, a pull hook.



Big Key #1: Keep your arms below your shoulders, both at the top and at the finish of the swing. You should create symmetry between the backswing and your followthrough.


Big Key #2: Make sure your trailing arm is straight at the finish. The only way you can do this is if you keep rotating your chest.


Heads Up: This is a shot that can't be muscled. If you've chosen the right club, then you don't need the extra power.


With these keys, hop on board the train to lower scores. Used correctly, the Long Iron Express can make birdie out of a bogey situation every time.


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