A lot of golfers think they must hit the green every time with an 8 iron. Some people might think you should hit the green at least 75% of the time from 8 iron distance! WRONG!
The truth is that even the professionals do not hit the green 75% of the time. According to the PGA Tour statistics, from 150-175 yards which is the 8 iron range of the pros, they hit the green 64% of the time on average with the 8 iron. Of course, we hit the ball shorter than the pros so let's compare.
Often double digit handicap golfers hit a good drive which leaves 130-160 yards approach to the green - which is often an 8 iron. They think they do not know how to hit an 8 iron. With an over expectation, the pressure thinking that you need to hit 3 out of 4 greens with your 8 iron, plus low confidence, many things can happen:
- Chunk the shot
- Pull the shot
- Slice the shot
- Thin the shot
- Hit it short or long because you don't know the average distance of your 8 iron
Hitting the 8 iron is easier than you think. The six simple tips below will help you hit a solid shot that goes where you need it. You'll hit it the correct distance and with a consistent result on or near the green. If you miss the green, you can even chip with your 8 iron.
How To Hit An 8 Iron: 6 Easy Fixes
You're a good golfer already you just need to work on a few things:
Taking a good divot
Knowing your shot shape
Selecting the best aiming spot in front of the ball
Knowing your 8 iron carry distance
Trust the loft of your 8 iron
Chip with your 8 iron more
Guide To Hitting An 8 Iron: 7 Quick Tips
Fix 1: Take a good divot
It doesn't matter if it's the 8 iron, a 5 iron or a sand wedge, the first important tip is to be able to control where the iron contacts the ground and takes a divot. When you take a divot, you create solid contact and more consistent distances with your 8 iron. The difference between low and high handicap golfers comes down to pure iron strikes.
The high handicap golfer struggles to take divots out of fear of messing up the fairway or fear of chunking the ball. You must banish the fear of hitting a fat shot and PRACTICE TAKING DIVOTS.
How to hit a divot with your 8 iron
- Find a piece of grass anywhere that you don't mind messing up
- Start by hitting the ground without a ball and take divots. You can swing and take a satisfying divot over and over as many times as necessary
- Use a wiffle ball and hit shots with the wiffle ball, focusing on the front of the ball - the part of the golf ball closest to the target. Try start your divot on the target side of the ball.
- On the golf course: Take practice swings in the rough when no one is hitting. Before your shot, practice swings should take a shallow divot before your real shot.
If you are can't control the low point where the divot starts, try put 60% of your weight on your front leg. Keep that head from swaying and hit a divot.
Fix 2: Know your shot shape or curve on the ball
Knowing the shape your ball makes in the air is so important but so overlooked by golfers. A lot of higher handicappers will aim for the phantom straight shot. This shot appears once per round and never when you want it.
Instead, learn your shot shape over time. Perhaps you think you hit a two way miss. Write down which side you miss the most. Be honest with yourself and your golf shot shape. A lot of golfers fall into the trap of being embarrassed about hitting a fade. Do not be. Top pro's on the PGA Tour prefer a fade.
The simplest way to understand your shot shape is to play practice rounds by yourself on a golf course. Hit multiple balls and note which way the ball flies with a fade or with a draw. A fade moves left to right while the draw moves right to left.
Whichever is your shot shape, accept it and play it. It will help you in Fix #3 where you must aim the club face correctly according to your shot shape. Without proper alignment suited to your shot shape, you cannot hit good iron shots.
After you know which shot shape you hit, you must aim your club to something on your TARGET line. You will learn your target line by taking into account your shot shape above. If you fade the ball 10 yards, aim 10 yards left. If you draw the ball 5 yard, aim 5 yards to the right of your target.
But the most important is to aim your club face to account for that.
- Find something in front of your ball on the ground. It could be a leaf, or a divot or a piece of grass.
- Check that it is on your target line taking into account your shape so the ball curves to the target
- The thing you align to must be 1-3 feet in front of the ball
- Pick a target beyond the pin or the green. You can select a tree branch or something high up behind your target. This will clear your mind of the trouble in front of you.
- If you align your 8 iron club face to the spot in front of the ball and then just before hitting, you glance at your spot in the distance, you will hit better 8 iron shots
Through the gate alignment drill
- Set up an alignment stick down your target line about 12-15 feet in front of you.
- Put a second alignment stick 2-4 feet right of the first alignment stick.
- Using your plastic or foam ball, try hit the ball through the gate.
- If you have a driving range that lets you do this, use real golf balls.
- If you have access to a golf studio with a hitting bay, try hit the bullseye they may paint on the white screen. Take that feeling to the course
Most low handicap golfers could do 15 out of 20 but if you are struggling, just work up from your number whatever it is. You want to create a visual in your mind to take to the course and a feeling. Remember your process and thought when you do any drills so it converts to the golf course.
Here's a secret: All the distances you see people claiming in forums and Reddit are nonsense. The average PGA Tour pro hits a ball 295 yards. The average PGA Tour pro hits his 8 iron 160 to 180 yards. No amateur playing off a handicap over 10 can claim those distances with a straight face.
Why do I tell you this? Because it DOES NOT MATTER what distance others hit the ball. It only matters how far you hit your 8 iron. The distance is neither good nor bad. It is only that you KNOW for a fact YOUR distance with the 8 iron.
Do not claim that 8 iron that you hit 178 yards as your average. Resist the ego driven distance bragging. You will be a great golfer if you know exactly your distance of the 8 iron and play to it. You will beat everyone who claims their max distance is their average.
How to know your distances with the 8 iron?
- Home launch monitor like a Flightscope MeVo
- Voice Caddie Swing Caddie SC300
- Renting a bay at a Trackman studio for an hour and getting the report emailed to you (cheap option)
- GPS watch like the Garmin S40
- Using a rangefinder and then working out the difference between your target and where your ball finished
You can use this information for your shots and know if you can carry the hazards, stay short of the hazards or hit the middle of the green. This is HUGE. The most important thing anyone can do when learning how to hit their irons is to KNOW their CARRY distance.
Fix 5: Trust the 8 iron loft
A lot of high handicap golfers and beginners think you need to help the ball into the air by adding loft or 'getting underneath' the golf ball when they hit short irons like 8 iron, 9 iron or PW. The truth is, you actually deloft the iron at impact. The backspin that you impart on the ball will create the lift that you need.
This is VERY KEY: TRUST THE LOFT OF THE GOLF CLUB - THE MANUFACTURERS KNOW MORE THAN YOU ABOUT BALL FLIGHT DYNAMICS
The easiest way to stop trying to lift the ball with this club is to consciously NOT fall back with your weight onto the back foot. You must keep 60% of your weight on the front foot
When you hit DOWN on the golf ball, you compress it and that creates speed and spin. There is something very important you want to get right to be able to compress the ball. Impact position is critical.
Here is the impact position you want. Click the image or HERE for the Youtube video lesson on impact.
Fix 6 (bonus): Hit chips with your 8 iron
You can file this one under pro tips. When you find a chance to hit some chip shots, practice with your 8 iron. You can make small swings to practice club face control to understand hitting the sweet spot. You can learn how it feels to hit it solid by avoiding the full swing to practice impact position.
Stand about 2 yards off the green and chip the golf ball to a flag about 11-12 yards away from you. Try land the ball on a specific spot. Play the ball off your back foot to understand you don't need to help lift the ball in the air. Just imagine you are using your pitching wedge.
You can learn more about how chipping works in golf. Just make decent contact with the golf ball and hit 100 balls if you can. You'll come away feeling much better.
Fix 7 (Bonus tip): Use FORGIVING irons!
8 iron technical information
What loft is an 8 iron?
An 8 iron loft is between 35 and 39 degrees. Newer golf clubs have lower loft while older clubs have higher loft. The higher the loft, the less distance you will get with the same swing. In modern irons like the TaylorMade STEALTH, the loft of the mid irons is now comparable to those that were traditionally long irons. It's always good to know the difference between lofts in your clubs from pitching wedge to nine iron to 8 iron.
What is the length of an 8 iron?
The length of the average 8 iron is between 36 and 37 inches. The length will depend on your height and your swing. If you are fitted for clubs, the club fitter will adjust the length, the lie and the loft according to your game. You can find some irons to help you lower your handicap with the right characteristics.
8 iron swing speed chart
The average 8 iron distance depends on your swing speed, loft, golf ball and skill. For the average loft of 36 degrees, here are the averages for different golfers:
8 iron distance
PGA Tour professional
Low to mid handicappers
High handicappers and beginners
Now that you know how to execute an 8 iron shot and perform better with this club, it's time to practice a lot. You can practice at the range, on the golf course, or into a net. Just get that feeling of making good contact.
I highly recommend a lesson but if not, just keep hitting balls. You will get it. One more BONUS tip is to LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. You are not on the PGA Tour, you are not Tiger Woods. You just need to relax and enjoy hitting the 8 iron at the driving range, on the practice green, and in your mind!