I look at golfers, even professional golfers to a certain degree, as being more proficient at only one part of the game and average at the other part. For example, Fred Funk is one of the straightest drivers in the game. So, why does he struggle with his irons?
This holds true for amateurs as well. Most amateurs are very good with their short irons and very bad with their driver. Why is this?
Golfers can generally be classified as being pickers or diggers. Pickers generally take no turf when they hit and diggers take a healthy amount of turf. Generally, this is because the picker has a very shallow, inside-out swing and usually an early release of the club in the hitting area.
The picker tends to hit hooks, pushes, fat shots and thin shots because the path of his club is approaching from such a shallow, inside approach angle that he catches the ball slightly on the upswing. The picker never gets much weight to his left side at impact. Usually, his weight is 50 percent on the right leg and 50 percent on the left at impact. The picker is generally a good driver and a poor short iron player because he hits the ball too much on the upswing.
If this sounds like you, you might want to take some irons out of your bag and carry more utility woods. Some mechanical changes you could make to improve your iron play might be to:
• Play the ball back farther in your stance.
• Address the ball with your head more centered and 60 percent of the weight on the left side.
• Stand closer to the ball so you can get your swing a little higher at the top .
• Lead the downswing with a weight transfer of the lower body and not an arm swing.
• Feel like you are cutting across the ball through impact.
If you leave the practice tee with huge holes in the turf and the divots are going to the left of the target that's a tip-off that you're a digger.
Superintendents do not like diggers. Diggers generally like to practice with their short irons because the curvature is not as severe with them. Diggers are not good drivers because their swing is too steep. If this is the case for you the following are some tips to make you a better driver of the ball:
• Set up with 60 percent of your weight on your right leg with your head behind the ball.
• Put your ball more forward off your left heel so you will catch it on the upswing.
• Close up your shoulders and feet because the alignment of the shoulders controls the path of the swing.
• Stand farther away from the ball.
• Flatten or lower your swingplane at the ball as this willgive you a shallower more inside approach to the ball.
• Swing your arms down from the inside and don't unwind your shoulders from the top of your swing. Feel like you are swinging between first and second base. Try and make that divot go to the right.
If you are trying to become a better driver, try to shallow out your swing by lowering your swing. If you are trying to improve your iron play, try to steepen your swing by getting it higher at the top.
Dr. Jim Suttie, the 2000 PGA Teacher of the Year, is director of instruction at The Club at TwinEagles in North Naples and at Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont, Ill. His new book is "Your Perfect Swing" and is available at bookstores and at amazon.com. He also is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher and rated No. 15 by Golf Digest. Suttie coaches the FGCU men's golf team. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.