The biggest misconception average golfers have about their iron play, according to Collin Morikawa

collin morikawa swings irons

Collin Morikawa's approach game is a thing of beauty.

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Collin Morikawa might only be 23-years-old, but his iron play is already the stuff of legend. On the course, golf’s youngest major champion is not a bomber nor a thinker — he’s a tactician, his game an amalgam of precision and execution.

Upon entering the pro game in 2019, he immediately established himself as one of golf’s finest iron players. Through the early portion of the 2021 season, he ranks 11th on tour in Strokes Gained: Approach, which would be remarkably impressive for a player of Morikawa’s age and experience did it not equate to a nine-spot drop from his ranking in that metric from last season.

Morikawa’s irons are so good, a TrackMan testing session once revealed his dispersion pattern with a *6-iron* mirrored that of most elite players with a pitching wedge. While the rest of the golf world frenetically chases Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 PGA Championship winner speaks wistfully, but not pointedly, about distance. Sure, Morikawa figures, it’d be nice to add a couple yards, but he certainly doesn’t need it.

“I want to have another gear, of course,” Morikawa told GOLF.com. “I don’t think that [chasing distance] is going to help me that much, because I feel as confident from 190 yards as some guys might feel from 150. That’s just the nature of my game. I believe in my iron play and approach shots that the 10 or 20 yards I might be behind someone, I feel like I can still gain on my next shot.”

So, what can this machine-turned-golfer teach us about iron play? Evidently, that we’ve been looking at it the wrong the whole time.

Morikawa says the biggest misconception many golfers have is that PGA Tour players hit iron shots like arrows. The reality, he says, is quite the opposite; most pro golfers aren’t great at hitting the ball straight, in fact, most don’t even try to hit it straight.

Rather, what separates pros and amateurs is that pros know how to hit the ball the same way every time.

“I think [the biggest key] is just to understand your shot shape and what kind of shots you like to hit,” Morikawa said. “So many people just work on trying to straighten it out, but when you look at some of the best golfers, nobody’s really hitting that straight of a shot. Guys know how to hit a draw, guys know how to hit a fade and that’s what they’re sticking to a majority of the time.”

Ultimately, golf is a game of misses. Those who learn how to control their misses and minimize mistakes wind up carding low scores. Those who don’t? Well, that’s what post-round cocktails are for. So why do we commit so much time learning how to hit the ball straight, and so little time focusing on our misses?

What makes Morikawa great isn’t necessarily his capacity to hit his approach shots straight at the flag, and that’s because most of the time, he doesn’t even aim for the flag.

“I think for the average golfer, if you’re hitting a fade, if you’re hitting a draw, play it,” he said. “Don’t think you’re going to hit it straight. I rarely aim straight at the pin. [Pros] play our misses and we know how to miss better than other players.”

Morikawa’s secret for those looking to improve their iron play? Stop trying to change what’s wrong, and learn how to make it work for you.

“People just need to figure out their shot and trust it,” he said. “Trust that their ball is going to move that much, you’d save so many strokes if you actually try and commit to hitting that shot versus trying to hit the perfect straight shot there is in the world.”

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James Colgan

Golf.com Editor