There are many factors that separate low handicappers from high handicappers. But one thing that’s always a part of these differences is the ability to hit long irons. Better, more skilled golfers play long-iron shots as if long irons are the easiest golfs clubs in their bag. And you know, that may be true because there’s a science behind it.
How to hit with long irons is not such a challenging skill to learn. At such times, I always tell the golfers I’m coaching to not try very hard. Trying too hard is actually counterproductive. Don’t force it to happen, rather allow it to occur naturally by not hitting too high or hard. The trick is to execute a smooth golf swing – just pretend you’re hitting with your 7-iron!
I’ve come across many who wish to mimic the shots hit by pro-grade golfers with their 2-iron. And this is just not possible, for plenty of reasons. So let’s find out what they are below, so you can tweak your expectations and performance accordingly.
Table of Contents
- Hitting Long Irons – Why It Is So Difficult for Amateur Golfers?
- 1. Because Long Irons Are Indeed LONG Irons
- 2. Because Long Irons Are Low-Lofted
- 3. Because Long Irons Demand A Fast Clubhead Speed
- 4. Because Hitting Long Irons Harder Is Not the Solution
- 5. Because Long Irons Require More Body Movement
- 6. Because Long Irons Are Mainly Designed for Low Handicappers
- 7. Because of the De-Lofting of Golf Clubs
- Beginner’s Guide to Hitting Long Irons – Prepare for the Right Setup
- How to Hit Long Irons Pure and Straight
- Drills for Hitting Long Irons – How to Strike Long Irons
- Long Irons vs. Short Irons – How Different Is the Approach to Both?
- Long Irons vs. Hybrids – What Is Better?
- Slicing Long Irons – How to Fix This Common Problem
- The Final Decision
Hitting Long Irons – Why It Is So Difficult for Amateur Golfers?
3-iron and 4-iron, why are these so darn difficult to hit? If you’re not a conditioned player, it’s only natural to ask this question about long irons. I did too, which had me reaching for my hybrid all the time and hoping that the shot doesn’t travel too long. So why the struggle in the first place?
1. Because Long Irons Are Indeed LONG Irons
This is kind of an obvious one, isn’t it? Irons, by default, are extremely challenging to hit when they’re long. Take a 9-iron and 4-iron for example. The difference in length between these two is significant. The longer club certainly demands more effort in order to swing smoothly, seamlessly, and successfully.
This is why so many golfers choose single-length irons. In that case, the length of 4-iron and 9-iron is the same. These types of golf irons hand out greater control in comparison to that of low-lofted long irons. All thanks to the relatively shorter length.
The longer length of 3-iron or 4-iron means changing your swing mechanics. And if you’re new, this can be a difficult thing to do because then you have to change the way you stand, adjust the ball position, etc.
2. Because Long Irons Are Low-Lofted
In case you didn’t know, 3-iron, 4-iron, and 5-iron are not constructed with a high loft. And lower lofts tend to be more challenging to hit. The lowest loft being the most difficult of course. But then why do you need a higher loft anyway? So the golf ball gets airborne easily, plus you get to then control spin too.
This means low-lofted long irons require you to manipulate your swing in order to get the ball airborne. And if you don’t know how to do that the right way, it gives rise to poor golf swing mechanics, thus affecting the way the ball behaves.
A lower loft also produces more sidespin, which implies your missed 9-iron shots traveling right or left of the target. Misses with longer irons are definitely more extreme. So you end up 20-30 yards behind the green.
3. Because Long Irons Demand A Fast Clubhead Speed
With longer, lower-lofted golf clubs, your clubhead speed is supposed to be higher. Only then can you expect to make solid contact with the golf ball. Now you know why fast-swing and fast-speed professional players don’t struggle with hitting long irons like the 3-iron. With a faster clubhead speed, you can pick the golf ball cleanly off the fairway.
Golfers using Regular or Senior shaft flex, for this very reason, lack the required speed for solidly hitting long irons. That’s why they prefer using long-iron replacements, the hybrid. Even though hybrid golf clubs are also low-lofted and long, their overall weight is typically much, much lighter, hence easier to swing if your swing speed is below average.
Plus, hybrids are extremely forgiving in the way they’re built. So the results are bound to be favorable. Just don’t swing the golf club too fast and hard – it’s counterproductive! Speaking of which…
4. Because Hitting Long Irons Harder Is Not the Solution
With long irons, you may think swinging harder is the fix BUT that’s not the case. Think about it logically for a second – by swinging harder, aren’t you simply exaggerating your potential mistakes? Plus, it then becomes even harder to make sure your tempo and timing are accurate when you’re forcing a faster, harder swing. So just keep things consistent.
5. Because Long Irons Require More Body Movement
So what is this more body movement? Your driving swing is bigger in comparison to that of wedge or short iron. Have you noticed?
A bigger swing is only normal with a longer golf club, which demands you to turn the body more. This means a three-quarter or half swing with your long iron fails to square up that clubface. So make sure the shoulder turn is not an incomplete one. Backswing rotation, at such times, is crucial for getting the club into a parallel position.
At the same time, complete the turn and then finish high if you want to reach your full distance as well as performance potential with your long iron.
But then not every golfer knows how to go about this repeatedly, which makes hitting long irons difficult. On top of that, a larger swing means increased chances of error. And with the clubface further away, controlling the shot becomes even harder.
So it’s only natural that senior golfers struggle with this because rotating the body is not an easy task as you age.
6. Because Long Irons Are Mainly Designed for Low Handicappers
It’s only now that game improvement irons do not include 3-irons and even 4-irons. Golf club manufacturers have taken into account that most players now prefer hybrids instead of long irons. So why waste money, energy, and resources designing clubs the majority of golfers aren’t going to use, right?
But then this also means limited choices for those choosing golf irons, thus bringing into the limelight forged and blade irons for 3-irons and 4-irons. And forged and blade are precisely engineered for a lower golf handicap. That means you have to be a fast-speed golfer able to produce controlled, accurate swings for hitting long irons with max. consistency and speed.
So it’s most likely that a high handicapper is compelled to use players’ blade iron, which in itself is such a challenging task.
7. Because of the De-Lofting of Golf Clubs
Back in the days, pitching wedges had a loft of around 46 degrees. And now, the loft has been reduced to 42 degrees. So, at this point, you’re simply swinging a 9-iron with your pitching wedge and not exactly hitting the golf ball farther.
De-lofting of golf clubs like this works because of the lowered CG (center of gravity). So you can achieve an optimal ball flight even with a lower-lofted golf club.
Beginner’s Guide to Hitting Long Irons – Prepare for the Right Setup
1. Ball Position
Rookie mistake – positioning the golf ball either too far behind or too far ahead in your stance for your long irons. Whereas the ball is supposed to be just slightly forward in the center of your stance. Now don’t make yet another mistake of placing the golf ball almost inside your front heel – that only works with your driver stance.
Positioning the ball too far ahead messes with the swing arc (too shallow) only to produce upward contact as well as thin strikes. While positioning the golf ball too far behind leads to your arc coming down very steeply, thus making the clubhead take the downward path toward and into the turf. The result of which is chunky contact plus loss of distance.
So the moral of the story? Place your golf ball just slightly forward in the center of your stance.
Standard hybrid and long iron shots call for a widened stance where the golf ball is positioned just inside your left heel. But your feet should be placed more than just shoulder-width distance apart.
Longer golf clubs demand a wider stance indeed. Because if the stance is narrow, you can’t execute the shoulder turn fully. Plus, it increases the likelihood of swaying instead of rotating on your way back.
3. Angle Attack
The divot approach with long irons needs to be less prominent and shallower in comparison to shorter irons. Coming in excessively steep means losing momentum. On the other hand, a smooth, sweeping stroke seems like a wise decision as far as long irons are concerned. But the strike should still be downward.
So don’t make the common mistake of hitting up with your long iron just so that you can achieve a higher launch. Even though the angle of attack is shallower than 9-iron, you need to still aim for a downward stroke. This way, the loft does an excellent job of getting the golf ball airborne and sailing the most successfully.
Don’t try too hard when hitting your long irons – this can’t be said enough!
One of the most common errors amateur golfers make is swinging the golf club too fast and too hard. If you think that’s an effective approach, you’re wrong.
In case you’re a senior golfer and you happen to have a below-average swing speed, then consider switching to hybrids or these golf irons for seniors that are engineered to compensate for your weakness. Swinging fast enough isn’t going to solve the problem. Period.
Frantic swings inevitably generate inconsistent thin and fat shots. So it makes absolutely no sense to get snappy during the top part of your swing nor to transition too aggressively. This only results in your hips and arms losing the much-needed connection with each other.
Instead, try to produce a more controlled and smoother swing. Pause slightly at the top, so you can transition from backswing to downswing in the right manner. This also paves the way for a tension-free, complete follow-through movement that lets the shaft of the iron rest on the dominant shoulder after the full turn.
I highly recommend, since golf is more of a mind game, making yourself believe you’re hitting an 8-iron. Just make sure the attack angle and ball position are on point to avoid coming down too steep as well as to prevent chunky ball contact.
How to Hit Long Irons Pure and Straight
Golf clubs designed with the combination of a longer length and lower loft i.e. long irons are indeed very difficult to hit with a troubled, mostly high golf handicap. But there is a way to achieve your target distance while also controlling the direction of your shot.
At this point, two very common mistakes come to mind that amateur golfers usually make in the process or struggle of hitting their long irons pure and straight.
- Error #1 – Hitting your long iron (2-iron) as if it’s a short iron (8-iron or 9-iron). When you do that, the ball flight produced is low (due to a too steep approach angle) and thus the shot hits the ground sooner.
- Error #2 – Then another faulty pattern is where the golf ball ends up rolling along the turf within just 50-60 yards (due to a too shallow approach angle).
So it’s mainly the approach or attack angle that determines the success of your long iron shots. Controlling THAT seems like a more promising solution when it comes to hitting long irons pure and straight consistently. Now, how does one go about controlling the attack angle?
Here’s the Director of Coaching at HIT Golf Academy, Chris Ryan’s demonstration of how to PURE your long irons…
How to Hit Long Irons Pure?
I have talked about what the correct ball position and stance are for long iron shots. So now let’s move on to your grip as well as hand position. Avoid excessive forward press with a long iron because this particular golf club is lower lofted in comparison to wedges and short irons.
Instead, your hands should be placed slightly further than the golf ball, and then allow the left wrist to match accordingly.
Another approach to hitting your long irons pure – address the length of the backswing. Don’t use the driver method even though long irons are only slightly longer than mid irons. An 80-percent backswing is more like it for the most satisfactory results.
How to Hit Long Irons Straight?
I have 3 words for you – Long Iron Drill. It consists of using an extra golf club or alignment stick for the sole purpose of visual representation. Meaning let the club or stick represent where you ought to be swinging while on your way down.
For hitting your long iron straight, swing down that line without going off by even a few degrees.
Many who struggle with hitting their long irons straight also minus one inch off the club. So the long iron becomes slightly shorter, therefore is much easier in terms of control. And that certainly helps a great deal, especially in windy conditions.
How to Hit Long Irons Consistently?
Why you lose consistency has a lot to do with trying too hard from unfavorable or bad lies. When more skilled golfers also find it a struggle to hit from rough, then it’s certainly not going to be any easier for amateurs, right? You simply can’t expect to hit your low-lofted long iron pure and consistently from deep rough.
Those kinds of results are instead more achievable with a hybrid or with a slightly open long iron clubface. The point is to go slightly steeper for creating solid contact with the golf ball.
Drills for Hitting Long Irons – How to Strike Long Irons
PGA professional, Rick Shiels walks you through the most effective drills for striking long irons the most successfully. His simple explanation is sure to make a HUGE difference. And you’ll finally be able to hit your 2-iron, 3-iron, and 4-iron more triumphantly.
Long Irons vs. Short Irons – How Different Is the Approach to Both?
Not all irons are hit in the same manner. Different lengths demand a different approach.
First off, your long irons are numbered 4, 3, 2, and 1. These are lower lofted, okay? The short irons include pitching wedge, 9-iron, and 8-iron. They have a comparatively higher loft. And then the 7-iron, 6-iron, and 5-iron are mid-irons.
Now let’s talk about how to hit long irons vs. short irons. This has a lot to do with ball positioning. With short irons, the golf ball is placed in the middle of the stance. That means centered between the feet with the lead foot toward your target and trail foot away from it – an equal distance of course.
Moving on to the shaft of the golf club, it ought to be slightly ahead of the golf ball.
With long irons, since your attack or approach angle doesn’t need to be so steep, place the ball only slightly forward in the center. But not too far ahead. Meaning the lead foot that steps toward your target, make sure that foot takes a slightly smaller step than the short iron. While the trail foot takes a slightly bigger step away from that target.
Hitting Higher with Long Irons
To hit or launch higher, positioning the golf ball slightly forward in the center of your stance is very important indeed. Also, make sure the clubface is open in the backswing because a closed clubface with long irons tends to produce horrible duck-hooks.
Hitting Lower with Long Irons
For a lower shot, on the other hand, place the golf ball slightly back in the stance. At the same time, it shouldn’t be too far behind. And then depending on distance control, keep your backswing shorter or longer while allowing the follow-through motion to become parallel.
This way, your shot remains sneakily low in the case of pesky branches shrouding your shot.
Long Irons vs. Hybrids – What Is Better?
Many have chosen hybrids as their long-iron alternatives simply because the former, despite the lower loft and longer length, is extremely forgiving. But then you can’t expect a hybrid golf club to give you the same range as long iron shots.
The upper hand that long irons enjoy is that you can hit them low or high. This implies great shots that are produced low around the trees or great shots out of bunkers.
Hybrids, quite disparagingly, because of their super-forgiving structure, promote consistency. On the downside, they can’t shape low shots around the trees or into the wind. Hybrids are merely designed for getting the golf ball airborne the most easily.
So what is better actually depends on what type of golfer you are. If you’re a relatively fit golfer with a decent or average swing speed, you’d be better off with both long irons and hybrids in your golfing arsenal.
Slicing Long Irons – How to Fix This Common Problem
Firstly, the most prevalent cause of a golf slice is your club being farther away from you, which produces an outside-in swing path. At the same time, the clubface is open, which seems like the most logical thing to do in order to compensate for the outside-in swing path.
So how do you fix the problem of slicing your long irons? Just follow these 7 simple yet effective remedies to hit your long irons straighter…
Never Aim Left
Instead of purposely aiming left to prevent the golf ball from slicing and then feeling compelled to continuously reinforce the same bad habit or intended mistake, try aiming straight. Unless you’re a professional player who prefers to produce fades. Otherwise, hit dead straight, even though that may give rise to a little bit of fade.
Position the Golf Ball Properly
It’s kind of an obvious one!
Placing the golf ball too ahead in your stance is inevitably going to generate slices. So move that ball slightly behind, which should allow you to swing more naturally.
Check Your Divot
Is your divot after hitting a long iron shot pointing toward the left of the target? Once you take note of this, you can easily recognize the cause of your slice. Consider your divots as performance markers that help you achieve consistency when it comes to producing straighter shots down the fairway.
And once these divots start pointing closer to your target, you know your swing mechanics and habits are getting better.
Correct Your Grip
Never underestimate the power of a proper golf grip. It’s one of the most effective yet neglected ways for gaining more control over all kinds of shots, including long iron shots.
You’re most likely slicing the ball because your left hand (if you’re a right-handed golfer) is placed far below the club. Thus, the clubface inevitably opens and creates a slice.
Instead, rotate (clockwise) the left hand. You should be able to see 3 knuckles. This is indicative of a stronger grip able to produce the correct clubface position through impact.
You can also use a specialized molded golf training grip for your practice swings at home.
Tuck In Your Elbow During Backswing
By fixing the backswing, you’re actually eliminating the possibility of slicing the ball. And the way to go about it is by focusing on the right elbow (or the left one if you’re a left-handed golfer).
When the right elbow just flares out during the backswing, you’re surely going to want to pull that back during the downswing, right? And thus the generation of spin on the golf ball from the left to the right. At the same time, the extremely steep downswing sends the ball higher. This means jeopardizing both distance and control.
So try keeping the right elbow close to the body as much as you can. Agreed that it may feel uncomfortable at first but at least your backswing’s path will then pave the way for straight swing mechanics on both the downswing as well as follow-through.
To help with that, here’s the widely popular Golf Slice Towel Drill…
Or you could use a very productive tool, swing path trainer for instant feedback. Combine both the towel drill and swing path trainer for hitting straight in no time.
Transfer Your Weight Correctly
You may be transferring your weight, but are you doing it in the right manner?
The correct way involves shifting the weight more toward the back foot when swinging back and then returning the weight to the front foot during your downswing. Anything else is just wrong or counterproductive.
Don’t leave the weight on the back foot because that opens up the clubface, which is just what is needed for producing a huge slice.
Release the Golf Club Before Impact
By release, I mean rotate your forearms during impact. Unknowingly, we all rotate the right arm, wrist, and hand over the left. After all, completing the follow-through movement without this is impossible. But the problem arises when it’s done too late upon striking the golf ball.
So when is the right time? Just in that split second of forearm release. Needless to say, a properly timed forearm release is achieved through lots of practice. So keep at it until it becomes an effortless task.
How to Hit 5-Iron Better?
It’s the longest one in the iron set carried by amateurs. In that case, it better be of highly versatile use to you, right? All the more reason to know how to hit with it consistently!
First and foremost, I’ll tell you what to not do with your 5-iron – don’t be too frantic with the transition. Rather start slowly and then accelerate through impact. Your tempo and timing are of the utmost importance here. So build energy across your swing to maximize speed during impact. That’s how one can hit 5-iron more consistently.
How to Hit Long Irons for Beginners?
Not the easiest to hit for beginners, long irons allow you to play in windy conditions. And when hit solidly, they feel genuinely pure. So how can beginners make it easier? Let’s cover some basic ground in the most concise manner…
- Play your slice, play your draw – the ultimate goal is to be able to produce more consistent long iron shots, whatever they may be, and then use that unique shot shape you often create to aim for the target.
- A wider stance for your setup is a must. Wider than shoulder-width distance, so you can turn fully. With the golf ball placed slightly ahead in the center of your stance for easier, more solid ball contact. Not too forward though, keep this in mind.
- Don’t go for the infamous “death grip” because that just messes with factors like control and distance. Nevertheless, grip your long iron firmly and then allow it and your body to do the rest.
- Turn your attention to the takeaway. This is when the clubhead moves back and low. Then it stays out wide, unlike in the case of wedges where it goes up along a steep path.
- With long irons, use an 80-percent backswing. The reason? Long irons, since they’re more down into the golf ball, require more control in comparison to fairway wood or driver. And this control is something you can achieve with a full turn marked by an 80-percent backswing.
- Don’t neglect your downswing part of the golf swing. Unlike what you’ve read or heard so much out there, a harder and/or faster swing doesn’t yield greater distance. On the contrary, a more controlled, slower swing makes great, solid contact with the ball than a high, wild swing speed.
Make sure you hit down on the golf ball. First hit that ball, then take a divot, and then let the long iron do the rest for you.
- Strike the golf pose in the end in order to control the body and maintain balance after every swing. A well-balanced swing, no doubt, maximizes your performance potential in every aspect. And the best way to go about it is to strike the golf pose. Hold your golf club in that end position for 1-2 seconds and watch your shot.
How to Swing Long Irons?
Long story short, long irons are extremely difficult to hit. But with some basic setup and swing guidelines, you can start crushing your long iron shots in no time.
A wider swing arc is the best since it makes more time for acceleration within the clubhead. At the same time, your stance should be wider too to create a more stable, solid, and well-balanced foundation for your swing.
With a longer iron, the clubhead generates an arcing effect toward your target line. So what you ought to be doing is playing the golf ball farther down that target toward the left foot. This provides sufficient time for the rotation of the clubhead, so it moves along your line of target. The result of which is the clubface directed down toward that target line.
Also, the ball should be placed an inch within the left heel. When addressing the golf ball, keep the shoulders, hips, knees, and toes parallel to your target line. With the head either to the right of or slightly behind the ball. And hands need to be over the golf ball for preventing the knees, hips, and shoulders from veering off your target during address.
As for your weight, make sure it’s slightly placed on the right foot to promote a sort of a flatter swing, which tends to create a gentler, shallower approach angle and downswing. The outcome? The golf ball clips cleanly and easily off the ground.
Here’s a very useful, quick, and simple video demonstration by TaylorMade…
What Is the Longest Iron I Should Have?
More often than not, 5-iron seems like a very fitting choice since it’s comparatively easier to hit. But then if you’re a single-digit golfer, your longest iron can be 3-iron or 4-iron.
The Final Decision
There’s no denying that long irons have been waning in terms of their popularity, usefulness, and function in general. However, Tour-level golfers and some scratch golfers too still carry them. And it’s these types of players that prefer long irons over hybrids. After all, long irons do help in shaping shots, unlike hybrids that are just easier to hit.
But then be it a 2-iron or 5-iron, the most important thing is to be able to make solid contact with the golf ball. And the way you can do that is by executing a smooth, more rounded, and effortless swing. Only then can and should you expect to hit your long irons consistently and fearlessly.