“The biggest problem with irons? Poor rhythm. Don’t rush the swing.”
By Rafa Cabrera Bello
Photos by Dom Furore
I lost the Hong Kong Open in December by one shot, but I didn’t get beat because of my iron play. I led the field in greens in regulation that week, hitting 86 percent. My iron play has really been taking shape over the past two years, and it’s a big reason I got to No. 27 in the World Golf Ranking by the end of 2016. If you’re struggling with your irons or simply want to improve before your golf season gets going, some of the things I’m working on might help you, too. Try them, and you can make ball-striking the strength of your game. — With Ron Kaspriske
LOCK ON TO YOUR TARGET
Take your stance and alignment seriously every time you swing. It gives you peace of mind that you’re in position to hit a good shot.
I like to feel tall and relaxed at address. Good balance is very important—not just between your feet, also centered within each foot. You don’t want to feel weight in your toes. As far as alignment, check your feet, hips and shoulders, and try to be target-oriented. That means the last thing to do before you swing is take one more look at where you want the ball to go.
THINK SMOOTH AND WIDE
I’ve shortened the length of my backswing for better control of my irons, but two things haven’t changed: I think about going back smooth and wide. Rhythm always has been a strength of my swing, and it starts with an unrushed takeaway. That’s the smooth part. Wide comes from letting the body, arms and club turn back together as you see here. Make sure the hands don’t take over. How far back should you go? When your upper body feels coiled against your lower body, you’re done. Turn no farther.
REHEARSE YOUR BACKSWING
If you can’t make a good backswing, your ball-striking will suffer. Here’s a drill that can help: Place a club across your chest like I’m doing here and mimic a backswing. Your back should feel coiled and the shaft should be pointing toward the ground. That’s key. The left shoulder has to dip. If it stays level with your right shoulder, you’ll really struggle to compress the ball off the turf without some major adjustments on the downswing. Good iron play depends on getting in a quality position at the top.
SYNC THE THROUGH-SWING
Golfers talk about making a “one-piece takeaway” in the backswing, with everything moving together. But your downswing needs to be coordinated, too. I have to make sure my hips don’t rotate so fast that my hands are left behind and can’t square the club by impact. For amateurs, the opposite happens. The body stops, but the arms keep moving and the club squares too early. The key is to not rush down. Let the hips unwind unhurried, and the hand speed build so the club is moving its fastest through impact.
Cabrera Bello has two wins on the European Tour and finished T-5 in the Olympics for Spain.