By Paul Myers

When you are able to pull your nine iron out of the bag to hit an approach shot, you should be thinking about only one thing – getting the ball as close to the hole as possible. There is plenty of strategy involved in working your way around the golf course, but most of that goes out the window when you are close enough to hit a nine iron. At this point, it is all about taking dead aim and executing a great swing.

Fortunately, your nine iron is one of the easiest clubs in the bag to hit (along with your wedges). You don’t need to generate a ton of speed in order to get the ball up into the air with a nine iron, and it is relatively easy to get nine iron shots on line as well. As long as you can stick with your basic fundamentals and repeat your swing time after time, good shots should be a regular occurrence when the nine iron comes out of the bag.

To sharpen your performance with the nine iron, consider the three keys below.

Key #1 – Head over the Ball

You want to hit down through your short iron shots so that you can put plenty of backspin on the ball as it leaves the clubface. With that in mind, work on keeping your head over the position of the ball throughout your swing with the nine iron (and your other short irons). You don’t need to make a huge swing in order to hit quality shots with a nine iron, so your focus should be all on balance and control. Maintain your head position from the takeaway on through to the finish and clean ball striking will be a much easier task.

Key #2 – Hands Ahead at Impact

Another way to ensure the downward contact that you are looking for from your nine iron is to get your hands past the ball at impact. As you are swinging down, keep your hands moving and work hard to get them in front of the ball when contact is made. This might be an uncomfortable feeling for you at first – especially if you are used to ‘throwing’ your hands down at the shot. Keep your body turning left throughout the downswing and you should have a much easier time getting your hands past the ball.

Key #3 – Never Hit It Flat-Out

Try to avoid ever hitting your nine iron with 100% effort. Since shots played with a nine iron are focused on control, you should be swinging with something less than full power so you can make clean contact and get the shot on line. If you feel like you need to give it everything you have in order to reach the target, simply opt for an eight iron so you can make a comfortable and relaxed swing.

As your skills continue to improve with your nine iron, you should find that you have more and more opportunities for birdies or easy pars. Keep the three points above in mind when you are practicing your nine iron swing and the ball will hopefully begin to settle closer to the hole in your very next round.