How to Tee Off with an Iron

Learning How to Tee Off with an Iron isn’t Easy.

That being said, some tee shots require a long iron (or even a wedge), so learning how to tee off with an iron is a skill worth mastering. 

Developing a proficiency with your irons will improve your golf score significantly. It will also give you better club options are you approach a par 3 or a tricky par 4.

Without seeing your swing or tendencies, it’s tough for me to give specific advice. However, the basics that I highlight below are really important habits that will serve most golfers well as they look to tee off with an iron.

So without further adieu…

How to Tee Off with an Iron Infographic

Tip #1 – Tee the golf ball about 1/4″ off of the ground.

If you’re a beginner or amateur golfer, you may not realize the importance of tee height. 

When you use a driver or a fairway wood, you’ll tee the ball up high.

When you use an iron from the tee box, you want the ball position to be just slightly off the ground — about ¼” to be exact. 

Why, you ask?

The face of an iron is designed to give your ball loft, so there is no reason to tee the ball any higher than 1/4″. Teeing the ball up higher increases your odds of getting under the ball or hitting the ball off-center. You want the ball to hit the sweet spot of the club face.

Some golfers may wonder: “When I’m hitting with an iron, why should I tee the ball in the first place?” 

That’s a great question. 

The goal here is to give yourself the perfect lie. If you set the tee a 1/4″ off the ground, you’re creating the lie you would hope for on a fairway.

Some quick golf course etiquette: You’re not allowed to use a golf tee in the fairway (you have to play the ball “as it lies”, but you are allowed to use a tee whenever you’re in the tee box.

Tip #2 – Pay Attention to Your Stance & Movement

If you’re struggling to hit an iron off the tee, it’s time to pay attention to the finer details. Dave Myers, a golf instructor in Florida, gives the following suggestions:

…assume a wide enough stance (about shoulder-width) so that if someone tried to push you over, they couldn’t…As you swing back, make sure that the brim on your cap does not move or turn off the ball. If you don’t wear a cap, then try to keep your head relatively still. This will not only ensure a short, compact backswing, but it will keep you more centered over the ball so that you can hit it more solidly.

Consistent contact is the key to a successful iron tee shot, so pay close attention to your stance and your movement during each swing.

Tip #3 – Swing down on the ball.

Many golfers, both experienced and inexperienced, will sometimes try to help lift the ball with their golf swing. Don’t sweep up at the ball. As referenced above, an iron is designed to lift the ball on its own — you don’t need to help it.

If your divot is behind the ball, that’s a bad sign. A good swing means you’ll strike the ball first, then you’ll leave a divot.

The following video offers some helpful guidance for hitting irons off the tee.

Tip #4 – PRACTICE!

It goes without saying — if you want to improve your ability to tee off with an iron, you’re going to need to practice that skill.

How often do you see golfers practicing iron tee shots at the range?

The answer: Not nearly enough. That’s why so many golfers struggle with this particular skill.

Next time you visit a driving range, make yourself pull out a short iron, a mid iron, and a long iron.

If you can get comfortable with each club category, you’ll be ready for any approach shot that a golf course throws at you.

David Nesbitt is the Director of Instruction at Boulder Ridge Golf Club in San Jose, California. He gives some excellent tips to help you practice good habits and tee off effectively with an iron.

Hitting Irons Off the Tee (Common Questions)

When should you tee off with an iron?

The simple answer? As often as possible. It’s much easier to hit a quality shot off of a tee, since you’re taking grass out of the equation. A clean hit will give you more distance and control over your shot.

Can you use a tee on the fairway?

The official rule is no, you can’t use a tee on the fairway. Tee boxes are reserved for tee shots. Even though some golfers may bend the rule in casual rounds, tees are not supposed to be used on the fairway.

Do pros tee up irons?

On a tee shot, yes. There is a reason why tees are only permitted on the tee box. Pros know that anything they can do to ensure direct club to ball contact, without blades of grass interfering, gives them a major advantage.

How can you hit your irons better?

Make sure you’re setting your tee to the proper height (1/4″ off the ground or just slightly above the grass). Pay close attention to your stance and swing down on the ball.

Why do you hook irons off the tee?

There are a few reasons why you hook irons off the tee. It could be that your grip is too strong, your alignment is off or your swing needs some adjustments. This Golf Digest article may be helpful.

How do you hit long irons off the tee?

It takes some practice to get good with long irons, but there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure a better hit.

  1. Widen your stance. The longer the club, the wider your stance should be to allow a full shoulder turn.
  2. Place the ball toward the front center of your stance.
  3. Don’t go crazy on the backswing. Focus on making solid contact and let the iron do the work.

Should you use a tee when hitting an iron off the teebox?

Definitely. Since you only get to use a tee on the tee box, take advantage of the opportunity to hit the ball without any grass getting in the way. There may be some rare exceptions to this, but generally speaking, a tee set at the proper height will help you get more distance.

Should you tee up your iron on a par 3?

Definitely. Tees set to the proper iron height (1/4″ or just slightly off the ground) will take grass out of the equation and allow you to hit a better shot.

How often do you see golfers practicing iron tee shots at the range?

Not nearly enough. Everyone loves crushing the ball, but getting good with your irons can make a huge difference.

On your next range visit, try a 20/30/50 approach. Take your bucket of balls and dedicate 20% of those balls to wedge shots. This is also a good way to warm up.

Then dedicate 30% of those balls toward hitting your irons, particularly the ones you will use the most in a typical round.

Finally, end the festivities with a bit of stress relief. Pull out that ball-crushing driver and launch the remaining half of your balls into outer space.

Do you have other tips that you’d like to share?

Please post them in the comments below. And if you’re in the market for some game improvement irons, see our Most Forgiving Irons post.

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