By Collin Morikawa
Photo by Dom Furore
It’s easy to be seduced by distance, especially out here on tour. I see guys like Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm fire balls for miles and think, Yeah, I’d like some of that. But one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received since turning pro came from Justin Thomas.
He told me to know myself and stay true to that. I got to the PGA Tour by playing a certain way, and there’s no reason to make changes simply because the courses are longer and the competition is tougher.
The strength of my game is iron play.
Golf Digest asked me what’s my secret to stiffing iron shots, and I’m going to share a few things I do on the following pages to hit it close. Hopefully, they’ll help you play your game a little better. —WITH JOEL BEALL
When I was in college at Cal, they said my shot dispersion with a 6-iron was about the same as the average tour pro’s with a pitching wedge. I guess that’s a humble brag, but if you want to know why I think I hit my irons so straight, it’s tempo. Swinging with good tempo is one of the first things you’re taught as a golfer, but many players eventually forget its importance for accuracy and instead focus on club and body positions. To swing rhythmically, first focus on a good finish (above). Practice hitting shots at half speed and gradually swing faster as long as you can make a full swing back and through—no shortcuts!—and still create this poised-and-balanced finish. It’s the fastest way to improve your tempo and become a better ball-striker.
I have a bad tendency of letting my arms drift away from my torso in the takeaway, which makes my backswing too steep and off plane. If I can stay on plane back and down, I don’t need to make compensations to create an accurate and repeatable ball flight. To maintain a better connection between my arms and body and stay on plane, a drill I use is to stuff a glove under my left armpit and keep it there as I swing. If it falls, I know my arms are separating again (above). To try it, work through a progression: First keep the glove in until your club is halfway back, then go three quarters of the way back with it and finally all the way to the top. If you’re on the course, tucking your shirt into your left armpit is another way to stay connected.
I’m not a slave to TrackMan numbers. What’s more important is that the shape and trajectory of the iron shot I just hit are the same as what I visualised. Ideally, the ball is moving through a window I imagined in the sky as I stood over the ball. Try it. Instead of worrying about hitting the ball or controlling distance, make a swing that can produce the shot you see. You’d be surprised how your body reacts intuitively to make that happen. It frees you up.