10 Pro Golfers Share Their Top Tips on How to Hit a 3 Iron
Written by Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8

Updated on December 13, 2023

A 3-iron is my favorite golf club in the bag because it is a utility iron. That means I can use it in multiple scenarios.

That is not a statement you hear amateur golfers make. That is because they struggle to consistently launch the stronger lofted and longer shafted iron. In this article, I am sharing the tips from 10 Pro Golfers on how to hit a 3 iron.

This iron has fallen out of favor so much that manufacturers do not include them in most game improvement iron sets. It is a pity because a 3-iron produces low spin and launch, for optimal yardage.

There are several reasons why you may struggle to hit a 3-iron. These include excessively stiff or heavy shafts, an imbalance rhythm, or positioning the ball too far forward in your stance. Instead of dwelling on the problem, let’s see how the Pro’s suggest you solve it.


Tip #1: Shoulder Width Stance – Dave Myers Tour Academy TPC Sawgrass

PGA Tour Academy coach Dave Myers recommends setting up with your feet shoulder-width apart. This position maximizes your stability to help you optimize rotation and coil during your golf swing.

He further advises that you keep your head still during the swing. If you position the ball correctly and strike it cleanly, you enjoy superior control at the low point of the swing. Inducing clean contact.


Tip #2: Center Ball Position – Dave Myers

Myers finds the biggest mistake an average golfer makes with long irons is their ball position. The marginally longer shaft causes many amateurs to position the ball too forward in their stance.

Myers says he often sees the ball placed parallel to the front heel of a player. That gives you no chance of catching the ball cleanly off the clubface. When the ball is excessively forward, you will likely strike it low off the face leading to a low launch, loss of carry distance, and stinging hands.

He recommends setting up with the ball in the middle of your stance as if you were swinging a 6-iron or 8-iron. If you feel that is too far back, move it towards your front foot by no more than two balls.


Tip #3: Back Ball Position For A Low Shot – Billy Horschel

Billy Horschel was among the top ten best PGA Tour Players in 2021 and knows how to strike a long iron. The advice he shares pertains to your ball flight.

To hit a low launching 3-iron that gathers forward momentum and releases upon landing, position the ball further back in your stance than usual. Billy recommends placing your golf ball, a ball, and a half back.

Placing the ball back in his stance causes the clubface to catch the ball with less loft than usual, generating a low flying shot.

Horschel finds that this shot offers the most value off the tee when you need the ball to run on the fairway.


Tip #4: Forward Ball Position For High Shots – Billy Horschel

Billy also explains how you can increase your ball flight when striking a 3-iron. For starters, he says the golf ball should be placed half-a-ball to a ball forward from your usual setup.

Next, he advises that you get your hands to finish as high as possible on your follow-through. Striking the ball just before commencing your upswing enables you to weaken the loft of the face and produce high-flying shots.

This shot is ideal for playing long par 3s when you need to send the ball long and get it to land it quickly.

Horschel cautions that the average golfer may struggle with this shot if you position the ball excessively forward.


Tip #5: Ball Position – John Parry

European Tour Professional John Parry recommends placing the ball slightly forward of center in your stance to consistently launch a 3-iron. He says if you intend on hitting a consistent fade with the 3-iron, you will want to open your face at impact to generate left to right sidespin to encourage the cut.


Tip #6: Open Your Back Foot – Sean Foley

Sean Foley knows how to develop champions. Lydia Ko, Justin Rose, and Hunter Mahan are a few of the golfers he has guided to success. Foley recommends opening your back foot slightly so that your toes are pointed in the opposite direction of your target.

This position helps you maximize your rotation and build up immense energy at the top of your iron swing. Then transition your weight to your leading leg and shift the energy from the clubface to your ball. That results in a powerful launch and optimal distance.


Tip #7: Take It Back Low – Geoff Ogilvy

Ogilvy suggests that the secret to striking consistent 3-iron shots is to keep the club low on takeaway. He takes the club back low and slow for the first couple of feet, with the shaft aiming along your target line and the toe of the club halfway to the top of your swing.

Getting into this position enables you to produce a sweeping motion that catches the ball cleanly and lifts it off the ground.


Tip #8: Right Arm Straight On Takeaway – Annika Sorenstam

The number one all-time earner on the LPGA Career Money List suggests keeping your right arm relatively straight on takeaway. Sorenstam says that the straight arm encourages her to rotate her upper body and not lift the arms.

When she gets to the top of her backswing, she pushes off her right foot and shifts the weight to the left. When the weight is on her left, she clears her hips to allow the arms to drop the clubhead into place at impact.


Tip #9: Shorten Your Swing – Dave Myers

Sticking with the advice of Dave Myers, we turn to your swing. Often, when we swing our long irons, we take the clubhead back excessively to accelerate our clubhead speed. We fear that the ball will not get airborne, so we wind up, ready to accelerate on the downswing.

I know this feeling well and have been guilty of it. The truth is, the further back you take the club, the higher the possibility that it could veer off the path and wreak havoc to your long iron shot. The compact profile of these irons provides minimal forgiveness, which is why you need to get the face square at impact and strike it in the sweet spot.

Myers’ advice is to produce a compact backswing to produce consistent contact with the ball and optimize your rotation. The shorter your backswing is, the more it forces you to rely on coiling to maximize energy transition from the clubface to the ball at impact.


Tip #10: Sweeping Swing – Tom Watson

Adding to Geoff Ogilvy’s advice on a sweeping swing is Tour Champions legend, Tom Watson.

He says that you should position your ball slightly forward of center in your stance to sweep the ball into the air on the up.

To achieve this, Watson recommends employing a shallow swing arc. He also suggests employing this long iron drill on the range without a ball. Place a marker where your ball would be, and practice hitting the marker consistently to get used to the motion.


Tip #11: Pretend It Is A 7-Iron – Greg Norman

Greg “The Shark” Norman says the best advice for an amateur hitting a 3-iron is to picture it like a 7-iron. Then he says that you should envision that you are only a 7-iron from your target and make a smooth, easy swing. A smooth, controlled tempo will allow the rotation of your body to generate the power for a long iron shot.


Tip #12: Control The Attack Angle – Chris Ryan, Director Of Coaching At HIT Golf Academy

Chris Ryan finds that one of the main reasons amateurs struggle to launch long irons is because of their attack angle. He says that often students will set up to play a lofted club, the same way they would their short irons, leading to a steep angle of attack.

In the video, Chris uses a 2-iron, but the principle is practically the same as you would employ with your 3-iron.

Ryan recommends that you position the ball marginally towards your front foot, adding just over half of your weight to your lead leg. He says that setup prompts you to catch the ball on a descending angle, resulting in optimal compression, launch, and distance.


Tip #13: The Stinger – Tiger Woods

Before I relay Tiger’s advice on the stinger, I must say this shot is difficult to pull off. Therefore, I only recommend trying it in certain situations. However, if you know how to hit a 3 iron stinger, it can boost your game in windy conditions.

I learned to play the stinger while living in Cape Town for 10-years. I did not play one round where there was no wind. As a result, the stinger kept me in the game.

For starters, you need to place your golf ball, one ball back in your stance, to help strike it with precision.

Woods explains that this shot is all about the braking mechanism, post-impact to lower your flight. He achieves this by softening his arms and speeding up his hips to help stop his hands as soon as possible after impact. Ultimately, he brings his hands to a halt around shoulder height.


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Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years. Current Handicap: 8