I’ll forewarn that the longer irons are difficult clubs for most players to strike consistently with appropriate trajectory…meaning, they’re tough clubs to get the ball up in the air. For most beginners, I recommend more forgiving and easier to manage hybrid clubs as replacements for your longest irons.
Long irons are intended to hit the ball a reasonably long distance, therefore our setup involves a stance that is at least shoulder width. The ball is typically positioned forward in our stance, perhaps a couple inches inside of our left heel, depending on the club being used, the intended shot, and the circumstances of the lie.
Step one is to assess the lie. Only experience will tell you what kind of lies are easier or more difficult to handle. If the ball is sitting down, with grass around the ball, or limited access to the back of the ball, we may want to consider using a shorter, more lofted club. At minimum, with a less than ideal lie, we should choke down on the club and push the ball slightly back in our stance from what is considered normal for a particular club. Choking down on the club will provide more control of the club head and increase our chances of solid contact. Moving the ball slightly back in our stance from what is normal will promote a slightly more descending blow and cleaner contact out of tougher lies. If the lie is good, you can set up normally with the ball forward in your stance and perhaps play the shot with a more aggressive game plan if the situation permits.
Be sure that your weight is centered and you are aligned squarely as a tendency exists for many players to shift weight left, and to open shoulders in the set up position whenever we move ball position to the left. Make sure that the club face is square, our body is aligned, and our posture is athletic and balanced.
There is small margin for error with long irons, especially when there is not a tee involved, so it’s important to swing with good rhythm and balance. We turn our body away from the ball in one piece and load onto the inside of our right leg with back facing the target. From here, starting from the ground up we shift targetward, approach impact from the inside, strike the ball in a slightly descending motion just prior to the swing bottoming out. Allow the loft of the club to get the ball airborne, we don’t want to hit up on these shots. Although you are hoping to hit the ball a considerable distance, accelerate the club smoothly and fight the urge to over swing. We finish in good balance on our left side, with belt buckle facing the target and right heel completely off the ground.
In summary, with long irons, we want a sufficiently wide and athletic stance to accommodate our swing – shoulder width is fine. The ball is normally positioned an inch or two inside of our left heel depending on the club being used and circumstances. We need to assess the quality of our lie and make necessary adjustments in our setup. As experience will tell you, with a bad lie it’s often a good idea to switch to a more lofted, shorter club. Setup adjustments with a tough lie include choking down on the club and moving the ball an inch or two back from normal. Be sure that your body weight remains centered and your shoulders stay square at setup, as a tendency exists in many players to lean left and to open shoulders to the left. Make a smooth, rhythmic swing striking the ball then the turf in a slightly descending angle of attack.