“Yanked it!” “Man, pulled that one. Went straight, but way left.”
Is this you? Are you the guy in the middle of the fairway aiming to the right-side bunker hoping your inevitable pull will land on the green?
If yes, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll discuss and explain the most common causes of pulled iron shots and deliver simple techniques you can start using immediately to stop pulling the golf ball.
So, what exactly causes pulled iron shots?
There exists only one reason why golfers pull their iron shots like baseball players smacking an inside fastball down the third-base line: they strike the outside cover of the golf ball.
When this happens, the ball is launched with little-to-no spin on a straight path across their bodies and winds up either way left or way right of their intended target, depending on if they are a left or right-handed golfer.
With that in mind, here are a few reasons why you might be pulling the golf ball:
- Positioning the ball too far forward, or “up” in your stance.
- Swinging the club from outside the target line.
- Having a strong or tight grip.
- Misaligning your body to the intended target.
Let’s take a look at each of these factors in a little more detail!
Why You’re Pulling the Golf Ball
The Ball is Too Far Forward, or “Up” in Your Stance
Examining your ball position should be the first thing you address if you are pulling your irons.
This is a common mistake amongst almost every golfer who has ever teed it up. The club you pull out of your bag indicates where the ball should sit in relation to your stance.
I learned to keep the tee shots on my front heel, have my wedges split my body, and place my irons somewhere in between. Golf instructor Chris Ryan shows an excellent example of the proper ball position for each club in this video:
As a general rule, if the ball is too far forward in your stance, you’ll more than likely hit it with your club face closed. Even though you may feel as if you are making square contact, the launch angle will be well off line due to that iron striking the ball with a closed face.
Swinging the Club from Outside the Target Line
As previously mentioned, pulled iron shots are a direct result of making impact with the outside cover of the golf ball. Occasionally, this occurs when a players’ swing is coming from “over the top.”
Instead of letting the hands naturally fall back down the same plane as the backswing, improper rotation of the shoulders at the top of the backswing forces the downswing to “loop” around to the outside of the natural target line.
If it’s not the shoulders’ fault, often times the blame can be placed on your wrists. Coming over the top presents the opportunity for your dominant wrist to straighten out too soon. This also forces the toe of the club to become closed through impact.
In either case, what’s the result?
An automatic yank, which I can guarantee we have all been guilty of committing!
Having a Strong or Tight Grip
Golfer’s who handle their clubs with a “strong” grip are generally holding the club too tight. More often than not, such a tight grip will cause the club face to close during the downswing and through impact.
This naturally forces the club face to roll forward ever so slightly and make contact with the outside cover of the golf ball. As a result, the ball is yanked on a tight rope across the body and well off line with your desired target.
Misaligning Your Body to the Intended Target
It’s one of the most common, yet ignored, reasons why all of us hit a shot not where “it was supposed to go”: misalignment. Every time I misfire a shot that was yanked left, I instantly stare at the ground.
In part, I hang my head because I’m upset with myself and irrationally praying no one else watched me, but mainly, it’s because I’m checking my toes. I, like I’m sure most amateurs, misalign every once in a while and begin searching my bag for my sand wedge instead of my putter.
Lastly, a common issue as to why you are pulling your iron shots may be entirely out of your control. If you ever find yourself with an approach shot laying on the side of a hill and above your feet, physics will run its course and increase your chances of pulling your shot.
Elevated lies are difficult to play through, but we’ll spare those tips for another time.
So, now that you have a better idea of what causes pulled iron shots, how do you fix them?
How to Stop Pulling Your Iron Shots
Here are some tips and techniques you can add to your practice routine the next time you make it to the range:
Correct Your Alignment
Before you make an attempt to completely disassemble your swing, you should first see if your pulled iron shots are a result of bad alignment. It’s important to develop a pre-shot routine prior to pulling back the club.
Using alignment sticks at the driving range will provide instant feedback as to whether you are simply misaligning yourself or not. These inexpensive tools will help ensure your feet, hips, torso and shoulders are all parallel to the ball and in line with your desired target. Be sure you give yourself enough room between the sticks and the ball in order to stand a comfortable distance from the ball.
Move the Ball Back In Your Stance
When the golf ball is too far forward in your stance, the club face has more time to release before impact, causing a closed club face at the point of contact and a pulled shot.
An easy fix to this issue is to address the ball how you normally would, and then move it back in your stance an inch or two, no matter how uncomfortable this might feel.
By moving the ball back in your stance, the natural distribution of your weight should straighten out your shot. Practice this by placing every mid-iron shot in the middle of your stance.
Altering Your Swing Shape
In some cases, pulled iron shots have nothing to do with poor alignment or improper ball positioning. If this is you, you may have a “loud” upper body as you begin your downswing. Typically, this correlates with swinging over the top.
To “quiet” your upper body, emphasize turning your lead hip first to initiate the downswing. Over time, this simple movement will allow the club to be in a better position when making impact with the ball.
If you have a tendency to throw your shoulders outside the swing plane, an easy way to slow them down is by tucking your dominant shoulder in as you drop your hands through impact. This helps keep the club face square and not closed on impact.
Ultimately, the best solution to reduce unnecessary upper body movement is to merely slow the tempo of your swing. When you hold your backswing for a millisecond longer, you’ll be able to feel if your shoulders are folding over or if your arms are leading your hips through the downswing. It’s difficult to know what exactly is happening at the top of your swing if you’re too quick, jerky and abrupt.
Break out a can of oil, relax your torso and steadily drop the club down the same path it came up.
Connect With the Inside Part of the Golf Ball
Tom Anderson of Golf Digest has an easy and quick fix to help with hitting the inside quadrant of the golf ball.
To keep the club face square, hit practice shots with your dominant palm open behind the shaft of your club pointing directly at the inside cover of the ball. With this technique, obviously, these shots won’t travel nearly as far as a full golf shot, but this practice technique will train your hands and wrists to get a better feel of making successful impact and hitting the ball on target.
Fix Your Club Angle
Upon addressing the ball, if the toe of your club face points up, you’ll increase your chances of connecting with the outer-cover and pulling the golf ball. To correct this, ensure that the heel of your club face lays flat on the grass. This will help reduce holding the club too upright yielding a higher frequency of pulled shots.
Unless you have been properly fitted for a set of irons that perfectly matches your natural swing and stance, figure out the proper angle of your club shaft every time you address the ball.
The Takeaway – What Causes Pulled Iron Shots in Golf?
Pulled iron shots result from the club face making impact with the outside part of the golf ball. Common factors that cause pulled iron shots include bad alignment, poor ball positioning, and swinging over the top. Some of the easiest ways to help prevent pulling your irons are to:
- Correcting your alignment.
- Move the ball back in your stance.
- Alter your swing shape.
- Connect with the inside part of the golf ball.
- Fixing your club angle.
I hope you’ll be able to finally say goodbye to those dreaded p