What is the best way to control trajectory with your irons?

16 Professionals Contributed |
Controlling how high or low you hit your irons is something all golfers aspire to do. If you can master how the trajectory of your shot, then you can go over trees, under trees, and play in windy conditions. So here are some great ways that you can control your trajectory and start playing like tour pro from Texas.

Flighted vs Knockdown vs Punch

Flighted Irons – To “flight” your irons you would set up as normal, but swing with less clubhead speed. Therefore, to add height, you would set up normal but increase clubhead speed. Club speed is the number one way to effect change on trajectory. Of course you can also vary the setup to make the change more extreme, such as changing ball position, hand placement on the club, distance from the ball, width of stance, shoulder tilt, etc, but the primary variable of change remains club speed. The higher the ball goes, the further it goes, until it reaches a point that is too high of course. Most tour pros optimize their distance around 120 feet high, elite amateurs around 100 feet high, while the rest of the world is more around 80 feet high (regardless of club selection). If you are hitting lower than those marks, you are lower than optimum and thus losing distance, so you should work to increase club speed. When you “flight” your irons lower, that lower ball flight means the ball will not fly as far, so extra club will be required. So if you plan to reduce your club speed to lower the ball flight on a windy day, you must account for distance loss.

Knockdown Irons – “Knockdown” shots are fun to execute and really exciting to watch. Within this category you would also have the always appealing stinger. This type of shot requires high club speed but accomplishing a low trajectory through extra forward shaft lean at impact, great ability to stabilize the wrists immediately after impact, and a more held off follow through. This is the most challenging style of trajectory control for the average golfer, as it is difficult to rapidly stabilize the wrists and the clubhead immediately following impact with an abbreviated finish. The “flighted” style of reducing club speed is more recommended in most cases.

Punched Irons – The “punch” is the most extreme in terms of low trajectory as it requires less swing length and less club speed. This is more of a recovery shot if you need to escape trouble. Essentially you are hitting a pitch shot like you would around the greens but with an iron to travel a relatively short distance slightly above ground level. For this shot, you can set up with a narrow stance, close to the ball, and gripped lower on the club like a traditional pitch shot. Whereas the two categories above are useful on windy days, the “punch” is more to get back into position.

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Best way to control trajectory with irons

A combo of a couple of things will help to produce a lower flighted ball. First, swing slower and shorter maybe 70 percent of length and speed. Next make sure to have a nice impact position with shaft lean and a negative angle of attack. The ball wont go as far but will stay below the wind.

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Imagine Windows

There are 2 “Windows” of trajectory you should imagine as you determine and envision what shot to hit. In all conditions! But you have to start controlling trajectory if you want to sustain your ability to post low scores. Within the video, you’ll see my trajectory ladder, featured within the September/October 2022 edition of Golf Tips Magazine. My “Milestones” feature that month shows you how to go about envisioning and setting up to control your trajectories, within a “window”. As well as a bonus putting tip at the beginning of the video. Hope you enjoy!

John Hughes Golf
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Get a plastic hanger and gain better club face awareness for trajectory control.

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Control Iron Trajectory with Short Game Thoughts

Controlling the trajectory of iron shots can be tough especially if you have one speed or length of swing for every shot.

Let’s think short game for a minute, if you want to hit a low running chip shot you keep the club low on each side of the swing and that produces a low trajectory shot.

If you want to hit the ball higher you take the club above your belt on each side of the swing letting the height of the club drop on the ball and cause higher trajectory.

So to control height in your shots take a little extra club and feel a lower to lower motion in your swing taking a little steepness out of the strike and causing a lower shot.

Remember when talking length of swing, low to low will cause a low shot and high to high will cause a high shot! Sounds simple but work on these shots and don’t be afraid to change that swing length from time to time! Good luck!!

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Set up matters

The simplest way to affect trajectory would be moving the ball around in your stance. Typically for a right handed player the more the ball goes towards your right foot the lower the ball flight will be. Tempo can play a factor as well. For more skilled players taking more club and swinging will a slightly slower tempo can work to lower ball flight as well.

Canyon Springs Golf Course
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Assuming controlling trajectory usually means lowering ball flight. The simplest way is to take one or 2 more clubs and swing slower than normal. This brings down the ball speed and backspin rate.

There are also setup changes such as leaning more to target foot, playing the ball back in the stance. This tends to steepen the downswing which sometimes adds spin and causes “upshooters”. Experiment on the range to see what works best for you. I’m gonna continue to take more club and “swing with ease into the breeze”.

Rockville Links Club
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Watching speed is the key to trajectory control

There is no way to control trajectory without controlling the speed as well. If you want to flight a ball much lower, look to taking more club and swinging a bit easier. This will bring the flight down. Placing the ball more forward in your stance and swinging fully will launch the ball higher. If you just try to do it with the orientation of the shaft at impact, you’ll have a much tougher time than also adding the speed component!

Golf Development Complex
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Controlling trajectory

There’s a bit of irony in controlling your ball’s trajectory. Some of it has to do with you actually controlling the size of your swing both back and through. Like tossing a ball high or low , longer or shorter the size of your backswing and through swing will be shorter or longer back and lower or higher on the through swing. I don’t suggest moving the ball back to hit it lower in most cases. Use your normal ball position forward of your center and change the club depending on your circumstances. It’s a pretty simple model and sensible in most every situation. Good luck!

PGA Golf Professional
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Length of swing and ball position

Growing up in North Dakota and then years later working at a club on the ocean, I dealt with wind often. As a younger player I used to close the clubface down and try smother the ball, but had inconsistent results. As I developed as a player I learned to swing either 2/3’s, 3/4 or Full and create different trajectories by using a 6 iron with a 2/3 swing instead of a full swing 7 iron. Much easier to control. I will move it forward or back in stance to hit higher or lower also.

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Path, face, forward shaft lean

The longest players in the world tend to swing from the inside, approaching the ball from a shallow angle of attack. This requires the Clubface to be in a strong position. Getting the shaft to lean forward at impact in combination with a shallow path and a strong face are the best way is to control your trajectory. Most amateur’s launch of pitching wedge above 36° and the pros are floating below 28°.

Empire Ranch Golf Club
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Hit Down, Launch Up

Trajectory on your iron shots is achieved by hitting down on the back of the ball. Play the golf ball in the middle of your stance. Keep your grip pressure soft. Hinge your wrists early in your backswing. Keep your eye on the back of the golf ball and hit down on it! Don’t be afraid to make a divot, because good shots are impacted ball first, then the ground ground. The ground contact will be in front of the ball. Hitting down on the ball, by using your wrists and watching the back of the ball at impact makes the ball go launch upwards. Enjoy.

The Country Club of Virginia
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There were two ways that I was taught to control trajectory.

First is with ball position, you are basically dealing with 3different ball positions. Front of stance, middle of stance and back of stance. Higher trajectory is front of stance, mid-trajectory is middle of stance and lower trajectory is back of stance.

Secondly, I was taught if you want to hit it high, you need to finish high. If you want to hit it low you need to finish low. A great way to visualize this is to picture a park bench in front of you. If you wanted to launch the ball over the bench you would finish on the high side. If you want to keep the ball under the bench you would have a much lower finish.

Both of these have been pretty consistent over the years.

Flagler Golf Academy
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Controlling Iron shots

This is a fun topic, when I work with students I ask them at times “Do you know how to it a Punch Shot”? And the answer is a BIG FAT NO. I learned 2 ways playing a Game called One Club on the golf course. The other was on the driving range with a TOWEL trying to hit the golf ball on a LOWER trajectory with different clubs into the wind. So instead of taking a FULL Swing say with a 8 iron and you can hit 150 yards try hit from 140 to 120 it’s a challenge but it’s fun.

Fox Hollow Golf Club
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Small adjustments get good results

Unless you’re on the tour ,small adjustments can create lower and higher trajectories without risking miss-hits. To bring your ball flight up simply moving the ball forward( if the lie allows) should create some elevation; If you definitely need some more height and it’s necessary to “just get out of jail” opening the face some should suffice. To bring the ball flight down, taking a club more and choking up should create what you want without venturing down that path of swing manipulation which usually creates problems. Leave the extreme shots to Tiger&Co.

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Some of the ways I like to control my trajectory with irons

To control trajectory with irons meaning keeping it consistent, I monitor the ball position, and how much if any the shaft is leaning forward at address. I try to keep my angle of attack the same and the amount of shaft lean at impact consistent. To go higher or lower, I move the ball up for higher, or back for lower a small amount. I’ll have the weight little more forward for lower shots or back for higher shots at address. To really keep it low I’ll finish lower and to really hit it high I’ll finish higher up.

Links at Mariners Point
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TLDR: Here’s a quick summary of what our Backswing professionals have to say on controlling the trajectory of your iron shots:

  1. Ball Position: Adjusting the position of the ball in your stance can affect the trajectory of your iron shots. Moving the ball back in your stance can help produce a lower ball flight, while moving it forward can help produce a higher trajectory.
  2. Club Selection: Choosing the right club is crucial for controlling trajectory. Using a lower lofted club can help produce a lower ball flight, while using a higher lofted club can help produce a higher trajectory.
  3. Swing Speed: Controlling swing speed is important for controlling trajectory. Slowing down the swing can help produce a higher ball flight, while swinging faster can help produce a lower trajectory.
  4. Angle of Attack: The angle at which the clubhead strikes the ball can affect trajectory. A steeper angle of attack can help produce a higher ball flight, while a shallower angle of attack can help produce a lower trajectory.
  5. Wrist Action: The position of your wrists at impact can affect the trajectory of your shots. Keeping your wrists firm and not breaking them can help produce a lower ball flight, while releasing them through impact can help produce a higher trajectory.

Experimentation and practice are key to finding what works best for you. By adjusting various elements of your swing and paying attention to the results, you can develop the ability to control the trajectory of your iron shots more consistently.

The Professionals in this Roundup

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