Aside from the putter and wedge, the short irons are the most important clubs we gals can carry. Since they are used for short distances (anywhere from 100 yards out to the green), these are your birdie or scoring clubs—the clubs that will card your 90s, 85s and 80s. And the secret of these clubs is that they are made for women.
When you use your short irons, forget about power. Strike the word from your golf vocabulary. The short irons can be used to their best advantage when the golfer thinks of each shot only in terms of accuracy. The correct grip and stance, a delicate but firm stroke, and your ball should be within a radius of 15 feet from the pin. When you can bring off your short-iron shots so that pleasant situation is consistent, you've got it made!
In using the seven-, eight- and nine-irons, almost all of the important action takes place through the hands and wrists. For years women have felt inadequate about their golf game because they've felt that they haven't enough strength in their wrists and hands. Not so. Actually, women have a great deal of strength there, and, in addition, they have a precision—almost a delicacy—that men don't have that will bring them out ahead.
Let's get down to some of the basics in swinging these short irons. Remember first that a short iron demands a simple swing. It's what I call a one-piece swing, with the hands, arms and clubhead all moving together, backed by a conscious control of your weight. This last factor brings in footwork and action through the legs—an area in which women are particularly limber and adroit.
In this swing I'm talking about, the movement is from shoulder to shoulder—a rocking motion of great fluidity, not a push. Instead, you should feel as though your arm sockets were oiled. This encourages the authority that is so necessary in the three-quarter swing I'm discussing. Why three-quarter? Because your backswing is never quite as extended as it is with the mid- and long irons and, if your swing is executed properly, you don't wind up with the club wrapped around your neck. Always, you control the motion; it does not control you.
Here I'll pass on a tip that has helped my own game immeasurably. Keep the ball on a line with your nose. It's that simple. This means, your ball is centered. Now line your feet up a little on the open side, which means that your hips and shoulders will be looser, too. Actually, this alignment automatically restricts your swing to that three-quarter version I've mentioned before.
There's very little body action involved, but the hands are really lively with short irons. At the address they are set slightly ahead of the ball, with the left hand leading the shot from start to finish. The ball is hit with a descending blow, without any element of hurry. Never rush your swing and—most important—on every shot with your short irons let both hands go out toward the hole.
I've done a lot of talking about the hands and the importance of wrist action in using the short irons. The punch shot is a shot that will strengthen those hands and wrists while you're practicing and it will increase your flexibility immeasurably. I use this on the course when I'm playing low and into the wind. To start, choke the club down from the end of your grip—about an inch and a half—and take only a half-swing. I don't cock my wrists until my hands are past my right knee, and from there I cock them very abruptly. My hands are ahead of the clubhead, with the left hand leading from start to finish. The clubhead is square on this shot, on the closed side at the address, the ball back a little toward my right foot. My weight is more on the left side. The shot is hit a definite descending blow; the hands do not turn over at all until the ball is on its way.
SHORT IRONS FOR HILLY LIES
The short irons also make your life easier for the hilly lies, and even the best of us find plenty of those. To begin with, in a situation where the feet are at a lower level than the ball you must first counteract this by assuming a square stance and choking down on the club about an inch and a half. Since it's easy to whip or roll around because of the contour of the ground, I open the face of the club (say a seven) slightly to offset any small roll or hook, and, in addition, I aim a little to the right of the pin. Now when I come down, I'm going to pull through strongly with my left hand—and both hands will very definitely be leading the clubhead. I'll check my finish past waist or shoulder height, whichever can be accomplished without losing my balance.