Why Long Irons Are So Hard To Hit And How To Improve
Long irons are the Bain of many golfer’s lives there is no doubt that they can cause big misses.
Lee Trevino said it best many years ago, “If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron.
Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”
Yes, even to this golfing great, a 1-iron was a difficult club to hit. Nowadays, 1-irons are rare and many have even got rid of long irons all together.
This article will explore why they can cause so many issues and how you can improve your skills to start hitting them well.
For me, the best long iron shot there has ever been is Tiger Wood’s stinger 2-iron. To behold this shot is to see one of the most famous golf shots of our generation.
This shot goes low and sits at a seemingly impossibly low height and hovers through the air before bounding down the fairway.
This is a shot that kids around the world tried to emulate. I still try to hit it and when it works it just looks so good.
Having seen Tiger hit one in the flesh, mine are clearly not as venomous but it still felt pretty good to emulate (sort of) my golfing hero and his famous shot.
What Exactly Is A Long Iron?
The long iron is everything below a 6-iron.
Usually people carry a 5-iron and maybe even a 4-iron but these days we rarely see even the 3-iron never mind the 2-iron or 1-iron.
Hybrids and driving irons have replaced many of these clubs as they are easier to hit for the average golfer.
Reasons Why Long Irons Are So Hard To Hit
Club Design – Length And Loft
There are two things that make a golf club more difficult increasing length and decreasing loft. That is why Bryson dechambeau hates his driver.
This is the issue with long irons though, the extra-length over a mid iron makes them much harder to control during the swing.
The lofts of long irons are also strong, especially in modern clubs where the lofts are even stronger, so that makes them far less forgiving.
You need more speed to use this reduced loft efficiently.
This is the age old story, golf keeps us humble and if we’re not practicing a skill it tends to let us know.
The long irons are often a club type that golfers neglect when they are practicing as they don’t hit them well in general.
It is a negative cycle as you avoid what you’re poor at.
Less Margin For Error
We hit our long irons when we are far from the green and trying to attack from a distance.
As the ball is coming from afar, small problems can become big issues when amplified over the distance of the shot.
This can mean that slightly errant strikes can end up in worse spots than mid-irons.
Hitting Long Irons Vs Short Irons
For this comparison I want to use the analogy of putting.
When you are just a foot or so from the hole, you can mishit the ball quite badly and still hole the putt.
The same goes for long iron shots and short iron shots. Your margin for error with a long iron is far smaller.
Short irons are easier to control, have a larger sweet spot and more loft which helps impart more spin on the ball.
You also tend to generate less side spin on a short iron thanks to the increased backspin, this helps you fly the ball straighter.
How Can I Hit My Long Irons Better?
First things first, work through the pain and practice them more.
Get a lesson and work on building strong technical fundamentals to give yourself a platform to hit these shots well.
You can also build confidence in these clubs by practicing them from a short tee on the range.
Working on good tempo and rhythm can help you improve your long game.
We often swing it a little harder when we are far away from a target and this can cause technique to breakdown.
Taking extra club and swinging smoother can really help you in this department.
How To Hit Long Irons Consistently
This one is definitely down to devoting time into these clubs during practice.
Leave your ego at home and work on these clubs, you will hit bad shots but it’s all part of a longer plan so it’s fine.
Work on getting your 6-iron really good, then work on the 5-iron and progress that way.
Your mindset can help you here too. Just approach these shots like you’re hitting a 7-iron.
Yes, it is a little over simplistic, however, mindset makes such a difference in golf that it can really help you out on these longer shots.
Mid-iron mentality can really help you here.
Drills For Hitting Long Irons
Hit The Tee
I’ve mentioned this drill a few times for various swing issues but it can be great for many problems.
Place a tee about a clubhead length in front of the ball and put it right into the ground.
Now hit shots trying to hit the tee. This helps you focus on good impact and helps the strike.
Swing Speed Drill
This one can help you right through the bag.
Take a 5-iron and swing it at 50% speed, with the next ball swing it at 60%, then 70% and all the way to full speed.
Notice how your strike changes as you speed up and find what speed works best for you, work on getting that speed consistently.
This one can be really powerful and it is incredibly simple.
Work on a really slow takeaway, get to the top of your swing and then attack the ball with a normal downswing.
This drill can get you into a better habit of not hurrying your swing and it should improve your ball striking.
Tips For Hitting Long Irons
Don’t Be A Hero
No-one cares if you hit a 5-iron, a 4-iron or a 3-iron.
It is almost always better to take extra club and swing deliberately instead of trying to mash a shorter club to impress people. Think slow and easy, that will help you strike these shots better and will give you more margin for error.
Make It Easier
If you are in the market for new irons, think about going for a split set.
I use to play bladed irons but from my 5-iron I had cavity backs, This meant that it was easier for me to hit these clubs and I got the best of both worlds in terms of shot control and ease of use through the bag.
Give Yourself A Big Target
Don’t aim for the flag when you’re hitting long irons, even the pros don’t do this.
Pick a target in the middle of the largest spot on the green and aim for that.
This means that you have plenty of space either side for any sort of slight miss. This is just good practice in general.
How To Hit Long Irons Higher
That drill I mentioned earlier about hitting the tee that is beyond the ball will help you here.
One of the main reasons that people can’t get height on their shots is that they don’t use their clubs the way they are designed to be used.
The don’t efficiently generate backspin which gives height.
If you concentrate on compressing the ball into the ground rather than trying to lift the ball you will start seeing a really nice trajectory forming.
If you watch the best ball strikers in the world, they really compress the ball into the ground and it fizzes up into the air beautifully.
Why Am I Hitting The Long Irons So Low?
If you are not compressing the ball, as above, then you won’t be producing enough backspin to lift the ball into the air.
You may also be using a shaft that is too stiff for you and struggling to generate speed. Finally, it could be a swing fault causing you to hit the ball with a closed face.
Hitting Long Irons Off The Tee
Having the option of a long iron off the tee is really important for most golfers.
It can help you find the corner on a dogleg or just hit the fairway when you absolutely have too. One thing that is vital is to aim at something very specific and not to just aimlessly swipe at the ball.
Tee the ball low, pick your go-to iron, select a target and swing it easily.
Always remember that when you’re playing an iron from the tee you’re doing it for position and not for distance.
Always swing it nice and easy to maximise your chances of hitting it down the middle.
Hitting Long Irons Out Of The Rough
Things change a little when we are in the rough with a long iron.
First, don’t get greedy, use as much loft as you can as this will really make your life easier here.
To help the ball out, put the ball an inch further back in your stance to help you hit the ball with a steeper attack angle.
How Not To Hit Them Fat
This can often be caused by your ball position being too far back.
This produces that steeper attack angle, as above, but it is too much for normal shots and this can lead you to hit it fat.
Try moving the ball forward a bit and creating a flatter attack angle to your swing.
Why Am I Hitting Low Hooks With Long Irons?
If you have the correct shaft, make sure it’s not too stiff, then this issue could be caused by you “coming over the top” into impact. You will know that this could be the issue because those low hooks can often turn into wild slices and you have no idea where the ball is going to go.
Is A 5-Iron A Long Iron?
Not quite, it is the lowest mid-iron in the bag. Long irons are from the 1-iron up to the 4-iron.
The mid-irons go from the 5-iron up to the 7-iron then the 8- and 9-irons are your short irons.
Long Irons Vs Hybrids
Many golfers seek refuge from the terror of long irons by ditching them entirely and getting hybrids.
These irons are designed to help you get the ball in the air with optimal spin and with a larger sweet spot.
These clubs are far easier to hit and that’s why many love them.
If you are a good ball striker and you like to have more control over the ball then they may not be for you though.
Irons hit the ball lower than the equivalent hybrid which means that you may fair better on windy days.
Who Should Use Each And In What Situations?
Hybrids are the most versatile clubs in golf, they are great from the tee, off the fairway, out of the rough and even around the greens.
This is applicable for all golfers no matter what skill level. They are also much easier to use, in general, for less skilled golfers.
Irons are better for good ball strikers who want exquisite control over their ball, especially in terms of trajectory control.
Whilst many will see the need for a hybrid to give them more options, most skilled golfers like to carry both.
Our Favourite Long Irons
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Long irons can be scary to many golfers and because of that they tend to be avoided by many.
With some small changes to your set-up and maybe getting a lesson or two, you need not fear these clubs.
Why carry them around for 18 holes if you don’t use them?
By practicing with these clubs you will soon see that they can add a whole new dimension to your game from the tee and beyond into the fairway.
Don’t quit on your long irons, work at them and get yourself feeling confident with them.
Aidan Lehane here, I’m a Mid-low handicap golfer who has made tremendous progress in breaking 90 in just over 1 year of playing golf seriously.
I get out to the course or range as often as possible and review all the equipment I’ve come across on this blog.