How to Hit Down on the Golf Ball for Your Iron Shots

By Todd Kolb
June 11, 2019

Troubling Controlling Your Iron Shots? Learn How to Hit Down on the Golf Ball and Finally Start Hitting Stellar Shots Every Time.

If you want to be a good iron player, you need to know how to hit down on the golf ball.

You’ve probably already heard this before. It’s common advice. But knowing what you should do it and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. In fact, many golfers would tell you there’s a reason that the pros can hit down on the ball consistently while many amateur players cannot. These golfers would claim that it’s a challenging and nuanced skill—a skill that weekend warriors can’t easily learn.

I’m here to tell you that’s just not true. It’s easier than you think to learn how to hit down on the golf ball. In fact, all it takes is a few small adjustments in your setup and swing to start hitting down consistently.

I’m going to walk you through three simple changes you can make in your:

  • Ball position
  • Handle position
  • Transition

But first, I want to make sure we’re on the same page about what it actually means to hit down on the ball.

What Does it Mean to Hit Down on the Golf Ball?

To understand this concept, visualize the arc drawn by the clubhead as you swing your iron. The lowest point in that arc is what we call the low point of your swing. As you swing the iron toward the low point on your forward stroke, the clubhead moves in a descending motion. Once the clubhead passes through the low point, it arcs upward again.

Pretty simple, right? Before the low point, your clubhead is descending. After the low point, your clubhead is ascending.

When you’re hitting shots off the tee, you want hit your low point just before you make contact with the ball so that you’re catching the ball on an upward motion. (For more tips on adapting for driver shots, we have some great insights on that, too.)

But with irons, you want to make contact just before hitting the low point so you catch the ball on a descending blow.

Now, the moments we call “just before the low point,” “at the low point,” and “just past the low point” are all a fraction of a second apart. It’s no wonder hitting down on the ball feels like such an impossible feat to pull off consistently.

Here’s why it’s easier than you think.

How to Hit Down on the Golf Ball

Hitting down on your iron is not about timing. It’s not about changing your swing. It’s about positioning the low point of your swing slightly in front of the ball. And you can make that happen naturally with a few small adjustments.

Try these:

Ball Position

Your best bet for iron shots is to position the golf ball in the center of your stance.

Many golfers make the mistake of positioning the ball too far forward. This can be a great move for your driver. But when you want to hit down on the ball, a center placement helps ensure that you’ll make contact with the ball just before your swing reaches its natural low point.

Handle Position

Believe it or not, handle position has an effect on low point.

When the handle of your iron is behind the clubhead—meaning the shaft leans slightly away from the target—the low point also moves backwards. If you position the handle slightly in front of the clubhead—more towards the target—the low point moves forward.

As a result, you have a decent chance at getting a good iron shot if you move the handle just a little bit in front of the golf ball. This moves the low point forward, making it easier to make impact before hitting the low point.

In the Transition

This tip is a little less certain than the other two, but I’m going to offer it, anyway, because I find this advice to be true about 85% of the time. That is to say, it’s more than worth a shot.

When you make your transition to swing down, think about pulling the club with the lead hand rather than throwing the club out and down with the trail hand.

Pulling with the lead hand tends to move the low point forward, whereas accelerating down with the trail hand often has the opposite effect.

These may seem like too nuanced an adjustment to make without putting in a lot of practice time, but there’s actually an easy way to get the feel for the difference in your body. Here’s what you do:

As part of your pre-shot routine, take a few practice swings with your lead hand only. Your trail hand does nothing. It doesn’t touch the club at all. You’re just holding the club in your lead hand and giving that hand total control of your swing movement. Take a few swings like that before hitting your shot. Most likely, you’ll naturally allow the lead hand to pull the club just as it had to on the practice swings.

Hitting Down: A Condensed Guide

Hitting down on the ball is the key to better iron shots. Essentially, you want to make impact just before hitting the low point of your swing. This is achievable for even the most casual golfers if you make small adjustments to move the low point of your swing forward.

Try:

  • Positioning the ball in the center of your stance.
  • Moving the club handle slightly in front of the clubhead.
  • Pulling on the club with your lead hand in the transition.

Simple as they are, these changes will help you finally hit down on the ball each and every time. The result? More precision and control in your iron shots for your best-ever scorecard.

What Do You Think?

Do you have any difficulty hitting down? Do you have your own techniques to recommend? Any questions or debates you want to raise?

Whatever you’re thinking, let us know in the comments.

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26 Comments

  1. Got some good tips too try on my iron shots .Have tried some hints already and I have lowered my score by 9 shots already .

  2. WOW! That is awesome, thanks for sharing your story. What suggestion did you find the most helpful?

  3. For a right handed golfer , which is the ” lead ” hand?

  4. Bruce,

    Good question, the lead hand for a right handed golfers is the left hand. Hope the information is helping your game!

  5. If I’m a left anchor player and try to pivot off my left hip so at impact, Im all the way to the left, how can I get the club to move to the left after impact and then swing to the left with back right toe in air?

  6. I already put the ball in the middle of my stance, and I set up with my hands ahead of the ball.
    I guess that I have to work on that transition thing.
    Thanks, I used to hit down on the ball years ago. Got old.

  7. Thanks for the question, can you expand on what you mean by “all the way to the left, how can I get the club to move to the left after impact and then swing to the left with back right toe in air?”

  8. I am a Lefty and my biggest fail is not getting off my back foot when swinging. This means I do not come through to my right side during the swing. The result topping the ball or worse leaving the club head open that results in a severe slice.

    I plan to use these tips on striking down on the ball as they have merit. My question, are there drills designed to help me getting off my back foot? Thank you.

  9. Robert, great post! You are not alone my friend…many, many golfers have difficulty getting to their lead side. Glad this information is helping your game…hope you joined our email list as we have more great content coming!

  10. Won’t hitting down drive the ball down into the grass?

  11. Mitch,

    This is a common belief with many golfers, the answer is no.

  12. That is the VERY best lesson ever on how to hit down on the ball. I’ve struggled with this forever, but your tips cured the problem. Thank you!!

  13. I find that aiming at the ground just past the ball rather than aiming at the ball thus hitting the ground just past the ball works to facilitate hitting down on my iron shots. I like your tips to have the shaft or handle slightly forward of the clubbed, plus pulling down with the left hand/arm to be helpful tips. However, my experience with placing the ball in the center of my stance seems to result in my clubbed being slightly open when contacting the ball thus causing me to push my shots right of my target line. What I have done through trial and error is move the ball at some point forward of center, the result being that I have greater success hitting toward my target. Comment?

  14. I can’t find greatgolftips.com There are several websites with similar addresses but nothing comes up but “Coming soon”.

  15. Another very useful video, thank you. Would you please address the left arm in the downswing? Should it be perfectly straight, slightly bent? During a lesson recently I discovered that if I keep the lead arm straight to last parallel, I keep nearly 100% of my wrist lag intact. To release the club my hands must be fast but what a difference in distance! Not much on the web about the left arm specifically in the downswing. Thanks for considering this request. All the best from Wisconsin!

  16. Gary,

    Appreciate those kind words…more great content coming.

  17. Robert,

    Solid points. When the ball moves back in the stance the tendency for many golfers is to open the clubface…why, I am not sure? However, over 25+ years of coaching, I see it all the time. Here is a great video that will provide clarity on that topic https://youtu.be/t0Dyp7qMa7s

  18. Rick,

    Great idea. I will be sure to pass this forward to the content team.

    Thanks for posting.

  19. Hi Todd, I received an email with a link to one of your videos about 6 months ago and I have been looking forward to them ever since. I am an 80 year-old golfer with a 9 handicap, and discovering your Vertical Line Swing was a great find for me. Using it, I am hitting the ball farther and higher than before. Thank you for all your online content and I plan to visit greatgolftips.com very soon for some tips on putting!!

  20. Thks for the advise concerning the lead arm pulling the club to hit down on the ball. I always have to watch myself for not casting with my right hand as I am stronger being righthanded and always have a tendancy to use it too much and hitting my irons a bit fat or in the teeth if my low point is to far in front.
    When I am pulling properly with my left hand my shots are solid and my short irons have lot more backspin on it. Thank you you helped me very much.

  21. Todd, you are the best, I love your instruction and how you teach the experienced golfer, I have the vertical line swing method, I have been watching all winter and swinging inside, Can’t wait for the weather to get nice so I can get on the range at my club. I watch all your swing videos.

  22. Alex,

    Thank you for those kind words, made our day! Appreciate your purchase. Hope you are finding success…bring on the season!

  23. Phillip,

    Thank you! Nothing better than helping our fellow golfer. Here is to our “experienced” golfers… more to come.

  24. Great videos. To hit the ball first or hit down on the ball, I focus on the front of the ball. This seems to prevent hitting fat which was a problem I needed to solve.

  25. Good job with your lessons, Todd. I appreciate every one and look forward to new ones. I will work harder on pulling down with my lead arm as you suggested. I have played golf for 60 years, and know that my game is a “work in progress.”

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