The search a more solid iron strike continues. Now that the vacation is over, I’m back to working on my irons on the practice range again.
Last summer, I was able to hit everything at least a club further with much less effort. Over the winter, it seems my golf set-up slowly changed so my hands are much weaker and the face more square at address. As well, I’ve had trouble making solid contact with my irons and my scores are slipping modestly but still in the bogey range thanks mostly on a solid driver and better short game than last summer.
Stronger grip. First, I’ve been re-experimenting with a stronger grip. I went away from it late last season because I was having too many OB hooks but when I watch videos of my swing this season and check my swing on Skypro, I see my half-back take-away position has the face wide open [in red] (compared to maybe too hooded in blue). Also, my “blue” swing last season went around 80-mph versus in the low to mid 70s this season so far.
I figure somewhere in between these two extreme would work and decided to return to a slightly stronger grip. My club face would point to 11 o’clock instead of 12 noon with I pick the club off the ground but it’d be in a much better half back position in between the above two swing.
The other thing I’ve been trying to do is work on a more connected right elbow, not extending it straight before impact and produce the flippy high ball flight swing. To do this, I’ve been working on Nick Faldo/David Leadbetter pre-set drill to get to a proper top of the backswing and impact.
A few things I learned when trying this drill:
- Don’t swing like this at full speed unless you want to unnecessarily scare your neighbour senseless in the next stall!
- If I activate my hands at all, I will hit it very, very fat. Maybe 6+ inches behind the ball on the mat.
- If I catch the ball clean, I don’t have much directional control at first.
- Since the backswing has been “pre-started”, I felt very little need to further use hands to manipulate the club back behind me like I usually want to do.
- I felt my right elbow way being more connected all the way to the top. Something I can’t find with my regular old backswing.
After some really ugly hosel rockets and hooks, I added some structure to this.
- Hip pocket to hip pocket. It took me maybe 15 balls before I can even make solid ball first contact doing a small “chip” punch shot from the pre-set position. I’m just trying to make solid ball contact and didn’t care where the ball went.
- 9 o’clock to 9 o’clock at 50-60% speed- more like a punch shot. I needed to slow down to continue to make solid contact. The ball sometimes went way left of the target whenever I flip and hit ground first. In between shots, I took swipes at the rubber tee with practice swings, trying to catch tee first before the mat. On good hits, the ball flighted out lower with surprising “pop” and distance.
- 9 o’clock to 9 o’clock at “full speed” of 80%. I started seeing some results. I’d say this “9 o’clock” swing is close to full distance. Much stronger flight, a small push or a slight draw. Much more like what I was seeing last summer.
- My misses are still hitting the ground first, resulting in a closed face hook. So I moved the ball way up to my left toe and tried a few shots. This would make ground hits super obvious but surprisingly, I was still able to pick a few off fairly clean. I had to really drive my weight way forward to a point where I did a Gary Player walkover move after the hit. Really, I was trying hard not to fall over after the hit!
- I still had some pushes and hooks. I tried to relax my hands and arms more, take the tension out of it and was still able to hit it but sometimes abit too thin. I experimented with grip pressure abit- I needed enough pressure to keep the club stable in my hands and that seem to helped make the ball move more towards my target.
Here’s another excellent video of the preset drill from Mark Crossfield. Check out where his right elbow is during the downswing.
I’ve hit 3 buckets so far and my ball flight with the irons are much stronger, much more in line with how I was playing last season. I think with a super strong grip last season, I had no choice but to turn my body aggressively through the shot to sub-consciously (and sometimes unsuccessfully) avoid hooks. What this drill seemed to show me is why the hook was happening, and that it’s more about keeping the hands passive more and having the arms more connected in front of the body than working a super aggressive turn. In the meantime, I hopeful that the swing is falling back into shape for the season again.