The Difference Between Driver and Iron Swing (Why it Matters)

To those who don’t play golf or those new to the sport, it seems that golfers swing every club the same way for every shot. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Every shot requires its own swing depending on the shape or type of shot required and the club being used. For example, your swing with the driver might be different than your swing with your irons.

Not only do you need to consider the trajectory of the ball you want to achieve but also where it is landing and if you need to produce spin or if you want the ball to run after it lands.

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Should Your Driver and Iron Swing Be The Same?

When switching between your driver and irons, you need to think about changing your swing as well. These clubs are designed for different purposes and therefore need to be swung completely differently.

The main difference between your driver and iron swings should be your angle of attack. Due to its low loft, you want to hit the ball on an upward swing with your driver to help get the ball up and away.

On the other hand, with your irons, you want to hit the ball with a downward swing. This may sound counter-intuitive but a downward swing will force the ball to roll up the clubface, using the grooves on the face to create backspin and push the ball up into the air.

The Differences Between the Driver Swing and Iron Swing

Here we are going to look at the main differences between your driver and iron swings. These should give you some idea of where you may be having issues and how to correct them.

Objective (What are you trying to do)

The driver is the ‘big’ club in your bag, designed for maximum distance off the tee – or fairway – if you’re feeling bold! The general aims for anyone hitting their driver are to get the ball as far as possible and as straight as possible.

Where irons are concerned, distance is less of an issue. When playing irons, you’re looking for control of the ball both in the air and on landing.

Keeping this in mind will help to see what we are achieving with the points to follow.

Angle of Attack

When we say ‘Angle of Attack,’ we mean the angle the club is in relation to the ball at the point of impact.

When hitting your driver, as we mentioned briefly before, you want to create an upward angle of attack. This means that the clubhead will be moving in an upward direction when you strike the ball. This is a major benefit as the upward angle will help to launch the ball from the tee – due to their low lofts, drivers need that extra help to get the ball in the air.

Also, contacting the ball slightly on the upswing with the driver helps to reduce spin. This means that you’ll be less likely to hit those pesky hooks and slices.

In contrast, when playing iron shots, you want to hit the ball at a downward angle. This will force the ball to roll up the clubface, using the grooves on the face to create backspin. The spin generated will launch the ball into the air and give it a steady trajectory with the added bonus of stopping quickly when it lands. This can be a massive help on the greens!

Stance

The first major component of your shot is your stance. This is the first step where we change between your driver and iron swings. An incorrect stance will throw off your swing later on so this is important to get right!

For your driver, you’re looking to generate maximum distance. To do this you want to get a powerful swing in to increase your range of motion and use the length of the driver to its full advantage (long club = faster clubhead speed).

The start of a powerful swing is a nice, steady base to work from. Ensure your feet are wider than shoulder-width so that you can swing big without losing balance. Ball placement is another crucial point here – for your driver, ensure the ball is just inside your left heel (right heel if you’re left-handed!). Having the ball further forward in your stance will ensure we get that connection on the upswing we are looking for.

For your iron swing, keep your feet shoulder-width apart as we are looking for control over power here. Ensure the ball is in the middle of your stance or slightly forward of center.

We want to make sure the ball is being struck before the ground. If you find you’re hitting your iron shots heavy (catching the ground first), move the ball further back in your stance until you start making clean contact.

Upper-Body Position

Body position plays a key role in your swing, although it is sometimes overlooked as we focus on hip rotation and weight transfer – which are still very important!

For your driver swing, your upper body should be tilted towards your back foot – don’t be drawn to leaning forward, as this will make you hit down on the ball! Leaning towards your back foot will set you up ready to swing up into the ball.

On your backswing, your upper body should stay behind the ball. This also has the advantage of opening your body up for a bigger swing to maximize the shoulder turn and increase your power output.

When playing iron shots, your chest should be back over the ball and stay there for your entire swing. Also, putting a fraction more weight on your front foot will force you to hit down onto the ball and get the desired strike.

Think of the weight split as 55% on your front foot and 45% on the back. This minor change will generate much better contact with the ball. Shifting your weight forward is particularly effective with wedge shots as you can generate much more spin around the greens.

Swing

Now that we have set up correctly and understand the main factors which differentiate between your driver and iron swings, we need to look at the difference in the swing motion itself.

When hitting your driver, as mentioned, we want to create a big swing to maximize power output at the point of contact. The best way to do this is to really reach back with your swing and pivot around your back leg.

This is called ‘loading the leg’ and at this point from your backswing up to the top of your swing, 80% of your weight should transfer into your back leg. All of this stored energy will unleash on the downswing and as the weight is coming from the back foot, will force the club up into the ball.

Your iron swing involves much more control and finesse. As your body and stance are more centralized, you won’t load the back leg as much as we want the weight slightly forward anyway. Don’t reach back or ‘overswing’ like we did with the driver, take a nice, controlled swing, and focus on hitting down onto the ball – aiming to hit the ground after contact.

The Takeaway… The Difference Between the Driver and Iron Swing

Your driver and irons have very different purposes. The driver is a big brute, ready to smash the ball as straight and far as it can. The irons are much more refined and are made for total control around the course.

Keep the following points in mind for your driver swing:

  • Widen your stance to create a stable base for a powerful swing.
  • Keep the ball inside your front heel.
  • Tilt your upper body back away from the ball.
  • Reach back on your backswing to create a big shoulder turn and load the back leg.

All of these points will help to strike the ball with an upward angle of attack to ensure a clean launch straight down the fairway. A final note to remember here; if you’re striking the ground before impact, try teeing the ball up higher!

For your iron swing, remember the following:

  • Feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Ball in the center, or just forward in your stance.
  • Keep your upper body over the ball throughout your swing, with your weight slightly forward.
  • Pivot around the center of your body rather than around your back leg.

For clean strikes and the desired control with your irons, it is important to hit the ball at a downward angle to use the club as designed – those grooves are there to generate spin, use them!

If you’re hitting the ground before the ball, move it further back in your stance and watch the difference in performance!

I hope these tips have helped to improve your swing with your driver, irons, or both! Good luck on the links!

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