The ‘secret’ to pure ball-first contact? It begins with these 4 swing keys

iron at impact

There's nothing sweeter than a well compressed iron shot.

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The “secret to pure ball-striking isn’t all that complicated: The key is contacting the ball first with a descending, forward angle of attack.

To do this, you must produce consistent center hits both with high clubhead speed and ball speed. Two other essentials: forward shaft lean and proper transference of body mass with correct use of ground forces.

Below, I’ve laid out how players of every ability can become more consistent iron players while generating more power and better distance with every iron in the bag. Follow these steps and you’ll also enjoy much improved trajectory control and accuracy.

There are no mystical riddles or magic acts in what I am about to tell you. The secret to pure ball-striking begins with…

1. Your setup

When you stand over a shot, roughly 65% of your weight and foot pressure should be on your left side (for right-handed golfers) with the ball just off the left edge of your nose or under your left eye. This starting position will set you up for a downward and forward hitting action at the critical moment of impact. Empirical evidence has taught us that the club strikes the ground where the nose and sternum are at impact, and at least 80% of our weight must be on our left side when the club meets the ball. Proper setup will help get you in position to achieve this.  

The proper weight distribution at address. Don Sargent, Jr.

2. Your backswing

As you begin your backswing with your nose over the ball, you should keep your nose in this position until you’ve reached the top of your swing. Do not shift, slide or sway while turning to the top of your swing. Good players create power by pivoting/turning their right hip inside the right foot. Turning your right hip back over the right heel and not getting outside of the right heel will create tremendous torque and power. You should feel pressure on the inside of the right foot (photo, below).

Resisting the temptation to shift your head to the right will help your body wind and turn in the backswing. This pivoting will ensure the bottom of your swing arc will be in the correct place, because of your centered head position and your nose staying over the ball.

At the top of your backswing, you should feel pressure on the inside of the right foot. Don Sargent, Jr.

3. Your downswing  

For decades, golfers have been taught to begin their downswings by twisting their hips along the target or toe line. I have a different theory: Begin your downswing not with your hips but with the inside of your right foot pushing forward. This diagonal ground force generated by your feet — from the inside of your right foot to the ball of the left foot — will correctly move your weight onto your left side. The movement of this ground force toward the target and along the target line will push your trail side forward and move your nose on top of the ball. This forward pressure will make your contact spot at or forward of the ball, ensuring that you strike the ball first and with the ideal downward and forward angle of attack. 

Downward. forward pressure will ensure you make contact at or forward of the ball. Don Sargent, Jr.

4. Your head position

The proper fundamentals above will allow you to keep your head not still but in the same position throughout your swing. Keeping your head centered and your nose on top of — not behind — the ball at impact will result in powerful compression, correct ground force, forward shaft lean at the ideal impact position and, ultimately, a clean strike.

Forward shaft lean at impact is essential. Don Sargent, Jr.

Final checkpoint

You’ll know your fundamentals are sound by the finish position of your follow-through. If you’ve swung through the ball fully and properly, your swing will culminate with your right shoulder directly on top of your left foot. Your spine angle should be straight up and down or near a 180-degree angle.

Your swing should finish with your right shoulder directly on top of your left foot. Don Sargent, Jr.

Try these 2 simple drills for consistent ball striking

1. Straw drill. Hit practice shots with a straw or another soft material 3” to 4″ inches behind the ball. If you hit shots without striking the straw, your club is coming into the ball at the proper attack angle.

2. Gary Player drill. Hit shots with your entire right side (right foot, knee, hip, shoulder, torso) stepping through the swing as the clubhead and the ball simultaneously make impact. This movement will help engrain the feeling of properly shifting your weight through your swing.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

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