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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Phil Mickelson on Shaping Iron Shots (Video)

We're going to focus on just a few seconds of this short video from Phil on how to shape iron shots. But first, watch the whole thing -- it's only four minutes long:

Now I have no doubt that many of you will get a lot from this video, but I want to focus on those of you who feel lost when it comes to shaping shots. Let's face it -- it's all well and good to talk about altering setup and changing face angles and such when you've got good control of your swing to begin with. Those players feel they can make such small changes.

But what about those of you who struggle just to get your ball in play? What if you'd be happy just to get your slice to calm down just a little so it would land in the fairway? Or for those with the other problem, suppose you'd just like to lessen that hook a bit?

Let's skip to the 2:05 mark and pay attention. Phil is talking about something he calls the "rounded hook." Don't worry about that for now; we're after something more basic than one specific shot here.

To play this shot, Phil says he wants to get a curve without adding hand or forearm action. He wants to use big muscles to create a curve. Why, you may ask? Because big muscles are easier to control.

His key is his lead elbow. Pay close attention here!
  • If his lead elbow floats away from his ribs, meaning that his lead arm is straight from shoulder to wrist as he moves into his finish, the clubface will tend to stay open.
  • If his lead elbow stays close (even against ) his ribs, meaning that his lead arm is dramatically bent as he hits the ball and moves into his finish, the clubface will tend to close.
You don't have to change anything else in your swing to get this result. Here's why:
When your lead elbow stays straight, your trailing hand can't catch up to your lead hand and go through impact together. Instead, your trail hand stays behind your lead hand and keeps the clubface from squaring up. But when your lead elbow bends, it effectively slows your lead hand down so your trail hand can catch up after all and the clubface closes more easily.
But there's more to it than that. You see...
  • When your lead elbow stays straight and moves away from your ribs, that slows down your body turn and makes your trail elbow stay closer to your body. As a result, your lead elbow gets even closer to the target than it was at setup. And...
  • When your lead elbow bends and stays closer to your ribs, it speeds up your body turn and allows your trail elbow to move away from your side and closer to the target. In doing so, it gets almost even with your lead elbow.
So where BOTH your elbows are at impact has a huge effect on whether the ball slices or hooks.
  • If your lead elbow drifts away from your ribs and the gap between your lead and trail elbows is large, the ball tends to slice. Specifically, a big gap makes a slice and a smaller gap makes a fade.
  • But if your trail elbow is close to your ribs and the gap between your lead and trail elbows is small, the ball tends to hook. Specifically, a small gap makes a straight ball or a draw, and if the gap is virtually nonexistent then the ball hooks.
I hope that gives you some idea of how you can start to change your shot shape without making a major change to your swing. Just by paying attention to where your elbows are when you make your regular swing can change the shape of your shots by making a lot of things happen automatically.

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