The 5 iron is now the longest iron found in the golf bags of most players. The introduction of hybrids and lofted woods has removed 3 and 4 irons. Some players even choose to replace their 5 iron with a hybrid, but if that's not for you, you want to know how to hit a 5 iron well.
The 5 iron is a versatile club and can be a useful tool to get the ball in play off the tee if your longer clubs are misbehaving. It is one of the clubs you use from 175 yards and out. This is such an important distance for high handicappers as it is where you can slash some shots from you score by getting the ball near to or on the green.
If you're reading this article, you either struggle with your 5 iron, or just want to get better at hitting this club. There is something really satisfying about pulling a 5 iron from your bag and just ripping it. Making solid contact with a long iron doesn't need to be a struggle. As you will see on my YouTube channel, I often recommend that players use a club like a 5 iron to form the backbone of their bag.
Let's look at some of the things you can do to make the 5 iron one of your go to clubs.
Why can't I hit a 5 iron? Ways to improve
- Learn to control the low point of your golf swing
- Trust the loft and don't hit UP on the ball to elevate it
- Pick a really small target
- Improve your ball striking from different lies
- Use your 5 iron from a tee peg on the tee
How To Hit A 5 Iron better step by step
Tip #1: Control the low point of your golf swing
Golf ball position is a really simple fundamental to fix as it's something you do in every golf shot, from hitting the driver to chipping and putting. I know this because my ball position slowly creeps back in my stance toward my back foot over time and I have to be really disciplined in maintaining a good golf ball position every time I swing.
Most amateur golfers struggle to control where the low point of their swing is so they hit the ground before the ball a lot of the time. It's one of the biggest differences between high handicap and low handicap players and you can improve it easily.
Having a consistent ball position with your 5 iron is going to help you have a more consistent strike point and encourage a better connection. You can take a divot or you can clip the grass or just skim the grass without much contact it doesn't matter.
The most important thing when hitting your long irons like your 5 iron is that your iron club head strikes the ball at the bottom of the arc. In the picture above, the bottom of my arc with this 5 iron is inside my left heel. The camera angle is not 100% square but my ideal ball position is about 1-2 inches inside my left heel.
A ball position too far back creates a steep angle into the golf ball at impact and encourages a hook. A ball position that is too far forward encourages a slice.
How do you find your correct ball position?
Go to a driving range, get a bucket but do not hit any balls yet. Get your 5 iron.
First start by hitting the ground with your normal swing. Don't try hit an imaginary ball. Just swing your swing and try to clip the bottom of a daisy stem right out the ground. Notice and pay attention to where the club head is striking the turf in relation to your stance. You'll find that it strikes the ground in roughly the same spot over and over.
THIS is your correct bottom or low point of your golf swing with the 5 iron. Place the ball at the position at start of the divot and begin to hit balls again. by trying to nip the daisy stem out of the ground. I bet you'll start hitting the ball crisply. Remember the point is to get your club head to swing, while the ball gets in the way of your natural arc.
Drill that ball position
For the 5 iron (which is most likely your longest iron) I would broadly say that the ball needs to be slightly further forward in your stance so that you can get your weight forward. Again, this will mean different things to different players, but get to a driving range, and do the daisy cutting routine above.
But once you know where your low point is, you must DRILL it into your body and your mind and your eyes. Once you're settled on the ball position you want, use alignment sticks to make a cross or a T-shape to know that every time you take a stance, you are in the correct position.
Pro tip: Get a friend or playing partner to take a photo of your ball position from time to time to check where it is. Or get a tripod to film yourself.
Tip #2: Trust the loft of the club to get the ball in the air
As the loft of the club face decreases, golfers do strange things to get the ball into the air. Some will put the ball by their front foot and then attempt to scoop the ball into the air using a very wristy swing and fall backwards onto their trail foot. This actually creates a big slice!
This isn't a very natural movement and could cause you to injure yourself. The 5 iron loft is around 21 to 24 degrees. The club has enough loft to get the ball in the air. You don't need to help it. In fact, you need to get to a good impact position where you actually compress the ball with your hands ahead of the club, like int he picture below.
I also see many high handicap golfers decelerate at the impact area. This isn't limited to the five iron, I have seen this happen throughout the bag. I believe that this is because golfers do not trust the loft of the club to get the ball into the air. They have probably also had bad experiences hitting the ball thin. A lot of golfers lack the confidence about their swing speed to trust they can hit the ball with enough power. This is mostly a fallacy.
All you need to make a committed swing with enough swing speed to get the ball airborne. It's just science. In years past, golf clubs were hard to hit but with modern technology and new features, getting the ball in the air has never been easier. You can swing it with enough speed to get a modern five iron in the air. The backspin on the shot and the loft of the club combined with the grooves on the face will elevate the ball and give you a ball flight which should allow you to stop the ball on the green.
How to make good contact with 5 iron
If you struggle to get your five iron in the air, go to the range and make some swings off a tee. You can tee it high to start. You can work the height of the tee down. Eventually, you want to be clipping the grass or taking a divot, hitting the ball before the ground.
Swing hard not fast
Now there is a BIG different between hitting the ball hard and swinging fast. Some would argue that you can never have a swing speed which is too fast, but if you've ever seen a player whiff a shot after swinging out of their shoes, I'd argue that you can swing too fast.
What players confuse is speed and tempo. Have you ever seen a top professional hit the ball up close. It looks effortless, but they will be generating some serious swing speed and club head and ball speed. They are in control of their body and their swing and are able to hit the ball hard without making it look like they are. It's one of those secrets to get more distance with the longer irons.
Tiger Woods said "swing as hard as you can while guaranteeing a center strike on the clubface." I think too many golfers heard the "swing as hard as you can" bit and forgot about the perfect center strike part!
Tip #3: Pick a really small target to aim at
This is a concept I picked up from pro golfer Michelle Low in Malaysia.
Your target must be as tiny as possible. The tip of the flag, the leaf on a tree or a window in a house in the distance. You must not be able to reach it of course - the target should be far enough away to create a magical game inside your mind.
You hit to that impossible to reach target with a light heart because you know it's just a game. What you don't realize and I hope you will learn, is that by focusing on some impossible to reach target but trying anyway, you eliminate all the trouble in front of you.
Michelle told me to focus intensely on the smallest thing possible like an individual leaf or branch or window of a distant building. This narrow focus shuts out background noise and allows you to concentrate on the target. If you are struggling with your 5 iron dispersion, try this and it will help unconsciously focus your mind. It means you're not thinking about golf swing positions and technical mumbo jumbo. Just pick a target, swing and allow the the golf ball to get in the way of your golf club.
There is so much potential for your 5 iron to be one of the most consistent clubs in your bag.
Tip #4: Improve your ball striking from different lies
I have made a few videos about this on my YouTube channel and I think it's one of the most important things amateur golfers can improve to slash their scores. Pro and better golfers can read the lie and make the adjustments to hit quality shots. You might be able to hit a 5 iron from the matt at the driving range, but how many times have you come unstuck when faced with a fluffy lie with the ball below your feet?
Watch my YouTube video and be mindful of how the lie of the ball will affect the way your 5 iron will react. Then take this knowledge to the course or practice area and THINK before you hit your shot. It might be that the 5 iron isn't the right club for the lie you have or it could be that you must hit the 5 iron to punch the ball out from the trees.
Tip #5: Use your 5 iron from the tee
When things aren't going well with my driver or fairway wood, I will often pull the 5 iron to hit my tee shots with. The shorter shaft length and higher trajectory that the 5 iron creates pretty guarantees more accuracy but with less distance.
Depending on the weather conditions and ground conditions of the course you're playing, a 5 iron might actually be the perfect tee club. If it's really dry, you will get plenty of roll out from your long irons so your 185 yard carry turns into a monster 220 yard shot!
Hitting 5 iron from the tee build confidence. You're hitting off a tee peg and finding the fairway. You make better contact and learn how the ball will fly and this means that you can take these positive vibes with you when you next hit the 5 iron from the ground.
Why do I hit my 5 6 and 7 irons the same distance?
This is such a common issue for amateur and recreational golfers. They hit their 5, 6, and 7 irons the same distance no matter how hard they try. As irons get longer, players struggle to strike the golf ball with them consistently and end up losing distance. Here's why you might hit these three clubs a similar distance:
- You're scooping the ball in the air - I see so many players do this. They don't trust the loft of the club and try to "scoop" the ball into the air, hitting up with their irons. This generates lots of excess spin and kills distance. Try hitting down on the ball or moving it back in your stance. If in doubt, see a PGA pro for lessons!
- You don't generate enough swing speed - If you have a slow swing speed, you might not be able to get the ball airborne quick enough with the long irons. Consider using hybrids if this is the case as they are designed for this exact problem.
- You're playing the wrong type of clubs - Are you a high handicapper using muscleback blades? These clubs only really "work" when you strike them consistently out of the middle and compress the golf ball. Try some game improvement irons to see if this increases your distance with the long irons.
Final thoughts and more info on how to hit irons
A 5 iron can be your go to club off the tee and can help you to get in play on the golf course. If you struggle with a lower lofted iron, try a cavity back game improvement iron or consider a hybrid with over 21 degrees of loft. This could be the key to unlocking lower scores.
Here are some links to other articles I have written which will help you with your irons and other clubs.