Learn from 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood, whose top 10 iron play tips will help you learn how to hit really good approach shots.
Aim for more accuracy over more distance
Everyone is trying to hit it further off the tee, but in my world, with a choice of 280 yards in the fairway or 290 yards in the rough, I’d take the former. Why don’t amateurs think the same? For the best chance of hitting greens, make more of an effort to find the fairway first – that’s your first step to better irons shots.
Nail your alignment
I don’t think too much about anything at address – except for alignment. I struggle a lot with that, whether being too open or too shut. So I have to keep an eye on it. I try to get my path as square as I can because I can get ‘in to out’, therefore getting too much right-to-left shape on it.
Everyone should always be trying to stay with the parameters of where they play their best and that is mine. So I set up as neutral as possible and then try to get my divots as straight as possible, then I know I am playing OK.
Learn from your divots
Divots tell you pretty much everything, they always have done. Every shot I take on the course I always have a look at my divot to make sure it’s just a good shot. It can be too deep and you’re too steep, or if you haven’t made a divot you haven’t squeezed the ball out properly. If it’s going left, you’ve come over the top, if it’s going right you’ve come inside too much. In this age of Trackman, I still don’t think you can beat looking at your divot and your ball flight.
Grip down for control
I grip down the club a little bit anyway, but if a ball is above my feet, I’d grip down a little bit further. I will feel the weight go on my heels a little bit more than usual too. You feel as if the ball is going to go left but what often happens is that as a result you hold off it and end up hitting it right.
If the ball is below my feet, I just squat a little bit more into it. Again, you feel as if it is going to go right but what often happens is you flip your wrists and end up hitting it left. That’s what I always do! Be careful not to counteract too much.
On a downslope...
The ball on a downward slope is a difficult one for most people… but it actually helps my swing because I can’t get ‘in to out’ as much on that sort of lie. I’ll have a little more weight on my left side, and probably a stance that is a little wider so I am grounded. I’ll think about keeping my weight on the left side. However the key thing is you have to trust that the ball will get in the air – it doesn’t feel like it will, but it will. Just focus on taking the ball first.
On an upslope...
The ball on an upslope looks inviting. It’s a great natural launching pad… but it always goes left when I hit it – I am still working that lie out! But as a rule you need to take half a club more as it is going to fly higher through the air. This is obviously especially true into the wind when it is even more worthwhile taking that extra half club and hitting it a little more softly. An extra club is a good tactic in any scenario and in any conditions to be honest. Everybody gets caught up in swing speed and hitting it too hard, but a smoother strike will reap greater rewards. You’ve heard it before, but it is a truism, trust me.
I like to feel my right palm facing down through impact. It means my right arm covers my left arm through the hitting zone. That helps to squeeze it out properly. If the right hand gets underneath it is going to go right or you have to manipulate it and end up flipping it left. With the right hand on top, you can play from there.
Slow things down
I struggle with spinning my lower half too much… I think I have the fastest legs in the world. So I have to work on slowing it down. From the top, I press into my left foot a little bit and then I can turn through the shot. But be careful you don’t overdo it as I can sometimes; I spin a bit too quickly now and again and then I have nothing to hit against.
People often advise a three-quarter swing for control. I am not a big fan of that tactic, because I struggle (surprisingly as I grew up playing Southport’s links) with keeping the ball down and taking pace off it. I can keep it down, but I still have to hit it hard. But for amateurs it can be a great tactic in the wind. To hit those controlled shots, generally you should be gripping down a little, play the ball a touch further back in the stance and swing more smoothly.
Find the sweetspot
The sweetspot on an iron is a bit lower than people think. It is in the bottom couple of grooves you know. Think about that the next time you are trying to lift the ball in the air. Here’s another comforting thought; you can get away with mishits with the irons of today. I’ve used Nike irons since I was 13, and I love them. At the moment it is a VR Pro Combo 3-iron and a set of VR Pro from 5 to 9-iron. New irons are getting better all the time. I’ve been to the Oven [Nike HQ], spoken to the technicians and it is amazing what they can do. It’s very impressive what goes into a new iron.