How To Hit Long Irons Like a Pro: 7 Tips For Better Ball Striking
Most golfers struggle hitting long irons.
As Lee Trevino famously said, “If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”
That popular golf saying is true – long irons are hard to hit, even for the best players in the world.
More scratch golfers and pros on the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are swapping out traditional long irons for easier to hit alternatives. It’s common to see hybrids, 7-woods, and driving irons instead of long irons that match the rest of your clubs.
But chances are you still have a 4 or 5 iron in your bag and need to learn how to hit them consistently. Keep reading to learn our best tips for hitting these clubs so you can swing with confidence and maximize your long game.
Related: Most Forgiving Irons
How to Hit Long Irons in Golf
To hit your long irons well, it’s time to overcome the fear and stigma of them. Most golfers struggle with these clubs because they act like they’re different from every other club in the bag.
But in reality, all you need to do is make a few simple adjustments and should be able to hit them well. Here are seven strategies to start improving your long iron performance.
1. Check Your Lie
Before sharing any long iron tips, start by making sure the lie allows you to hit a long iron. Hitting them off the tee is one thing but hitting a long iron from the fairway or rough is a bit different.
These clubs have minimal loft so you need a great lie to even attempt to use them. If you’re in thick rough, long irons aren’t usually the best strategy as the grass can rotate and shut the hosel. This can lead to some big misses left!
However, if the ball is in the fairway or light rough and there isn’t mud on your golf ball, keep reading.
2. Adjust Your Stance and Setup
The key to hitting long irons consistently is a solid setup position. Make sure your feet are wider than a short iron but more narrow than a fairway wood; shoulder width apart is ideal with feet slightly flared outward.
Next, make sure the ball is positioned correctly in your stance. The ideal ball position for long iron is in the front-middle of your stance.
If the ball is too far back in your stance, it’s easy to get too steep and chunk the shot. If it’s too far ahead in your stance, it’s easy to hit up on the ball and hit them thin.
Remember, you still want to make a descending blow with long irons. The only way to do that is with the correct ball position.
3. Keep Your Chin High
Another part of ball striking, with long irons or any club in the bag, is maintaining a consistent posture in your swing. Specifically, it’s important to keep your chin up so your shoulders can rotate underneath.
To hit long irons well, you need plenty of clearance to rotate your upper body and make a full turn. If you stand too close to the golf ball it can lead to lowering your chin and interfering with your backswing.
On the driving range, test out how far you stand from the golf ball to find your sweet spot.
4. Start Down Slow
One of the most important things to remember with long irons is to swing smoothly. You don’t need to kill it to make the ball fly high and launch off the clubface.
Specifically, make sure you don’t rush the transition. Here’s what Tiger Woods, one of the best long irons players in the history of golf, said in his book, How I Play Golf.
“You want your swing to gather speed gradually, so that everything works in sequence and the clubhead reaches its maximum speed at impact. If you start down suddenly, all your speed and power are gone by the time you reach impact.”
Don’t jerk the club on the way down. Instead, move your weight to start the downswing and let the rest of your upper body follow your lower body for perfect timing.
5. Accelerate Through the Finish
As you bring the clubhead down smoothly to meet the ball at impact, make sure you continue to accelerate. Don’t try to hit at the golf ball – swing through it!
So many golfers swing at the ball vs. through the ball. But the best ball strikers in the world swing as if the ball isn’t even there in the first place; they swing as if it merely “gets in the way” of their swing.
This thought should help you swing through the ball with plenty of acceleration and speed, which is needed for long irons. Finally, it should lead to a balanced follow through position.
If you’re struggling with long irons, notate your finished position as you can learn a lot from it. For example, if you’re off balance, take a wider stance. Don’t forget, the follow through of your swing can teach you a ton!
6. Stop Trying too Hard
Another long iron tip is from Greg Norman, who played in an era where long irons were very popular and common among professionals. As he said on his website, “The best advice I can give you is one of philosophy: Don’t try too hard.
Don’t try to hit the ball hard or high. In fact, don’t try to hit the ball at all – just make a smooth swing at it. Pretend the club in your hand is a 7-iron and the distance you have is 7-iron distance.”
As the Shark said, swing smooth and let the club do the work. So many golfers try to change their backswing speed or downswing weight shift and their ball striking suffers as a result.
Nothing needs to change with long irons other than setup and ball position. Having the “don’t try too hard” mentality will help you make your normal swing and not try to kill it.
7. Keep Practicing
Once you master the fundamentals of hitting long irons, the next step is extra practice time. A lot of times golfers struggle with these clubs because they rarely use them during practice sessions. Anytime you fear a shot, whether it’s a long iron or bunker shot, avoiding them won’t fix the issue.
Instead, spend portions of your driving range sessions dedicated to your long irons so you can overcome any doubts. Test out different ball positions, shot shapes, and swing thoughts to see what feels and performs the best. Once you hit them enough with enough repetition, your fears should go away so you can swing with confidence on the golf course.
However, if the fears only increase with practice, chances are you need to swap these clubs for something is more forgiving.
Alternatives to Long Irons
While the tips above should help you make better contact with long irons, they aren’t the best clubs for the majority of players. Instead, we suggest using one of the three alternatives to make better contact from long range.
If you’re the type of golfer that likes irons more than woods or hybrids, swap out the 3 or 4-iron and use utility irons instead. Driving irons (also called utility irons) are a great alternative as they look very similar to an iron but are significantly easier to hit.
The clubhead is slightly bigger than long irons in your set and still perform similarly. But they are designed to increase launch, distance, and are much more forgiving.
Not to mention, a lot of them have graphite shafts in them as well. Thanks to the bigger clubhead and lighter shaft, these are much more friendly for the everyday golfer. You can use them off the tee on long par 3s, to get into position on short par 4s, or to hit into the green on par 4s or 5s.
While utility irons are easier to hit than long irons in your set, they are better suited for advanced golfers. If you’re a mid to high handicap golfer, opt for hybrids instead.
Hybrids are a “hybrid” between an iron and fairway wood. These clubs are longer than irons, have a bigger clubhead, and are even more forgiving than utility irons. They also come in a variety of lofts, clubhead sizes, and shaft options so it’s easy to find the perfect 1-2 for your bag.
The final alternative to irons are high lofted fairway woods – typically a 7, 9, or heavenwood. These clubs are even more forgiving thanks to the larger clubhead. But they are longer too which can lead to some accuracy issues for some players.
Top Questions About Hitting Long Irons
Do you have additional questions about hitting those hard to hit long irons? If you want even more tips, keep scrolling to improve your long game.
What is considered a long iron?
A long iron is typically anything longer than a 6-iron. Most iron sets now only come with a 4 or 5-iron as the longest iron in the bag. But in the past, it was common for iron sets to have a 3-iron.
Why do I struggle to hit my long irons?
Most golfers, even single digit handicaps, struggle to hit long irons consistently. These clubs are long, heavy, unforgiving, and have minimal loft. Not to mention easier to hit off a tee vs. in the fairway.
All of these factors make them some of the hardest shots to hit in golf. So if you’re struggling with them, just know you’re not alone.
Oftentimes the right move is swapping them for hybrids or fairway woods. If you don’t have a ton of time to play/practice and want a club that is more forgiving, these easy to hit alternatives are the way to go.
Do you swing harder with long irons?
You don’t need to swing harder with long irons but unfortunately, most golfers do. When a lot of golfers try to swing hard this leads to an incorrect sequence in the golf swing.
For example, a lot of people try to “swing hard” and end up leading the downswing with their upper body, not their lower body. This leads to an overly steep downswing plane without proper timing.
If you do choose to play long irons in your set of clubs, you need to have patience with your swing. Do not try to rush the downswing as it will make it nearly impossible to make solid contact with the golf ball.
Do pros use tees with irons?
Yes, professional golfers tee up irons, even short irons.
Teeing the ball up is an advantage, regardless of which club you’re hitting, so don’t just throw it down on the tee box. Always tee it up to ensure you make better contact with the golf ball.
Should you take a divot with long irons?
You should take a very small divot with long irons, even if you’re hitting them off a tee. Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to divots – the bigger the divot, the shorter the club. You should have a much bigger divot with a wedge than a long iron.
But it’s common to have more of a “brushing the grass” motion with long irons vs. big divots. The turf conditions also play a factor as well – if it’s wet, you’re likely to have a much larger divot too.
Overall, hitting long irons isn’t very different from hitting mid-irons. The key is to make the setup adjustments mentioned above and work on them in practice so you can overcome any fears and swing with confidence on the course.
But no matter how good your swing is, long irons aren’t the best options for most golfers. Due to the low loft and small, unforgiving clubhead, they aren’t easy to hit, even with a perfect swing.
Instead, we suggest having a mix of utility irons, hybrids, and/or high-lofted fairway woods as they are the easiest way to improve ball striking from long range. Don’t make golf more difficult by using the wrong equipment!
Do you play long irons or have some of the alternatives listed above?
Let us know in the comments below.