The 9-iron is one of the friendliest and shortest irons in the bag.
If you put a 9-iron next to a 3-iron, even most non-golfers would opt for the 9-iron as looking easier to hit.
It’s often considered one of the “scoring clubs,”, especially in the hands of the professionals who feel they knock their 9-iron shots close to the flag and set up birdie opportunities.
Throughout this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the 9-iron and how to set up for success with this club, including:
- 9-iron loft and length,
- 9-iron distance range: how far does a 9-iron go?
- When to play a 9-iron,
- Five tips for setting up a 9-iron chip shot
Let’s dive into this spectacular club and make our 9-iron club game successful!
What is a 9-iron?
We mentioned in the introduction that the 9-iron can be seen to form part of the bag known as the scoring clubs.
If you look at the proximity to the flag that the tour pros hit shots from 125 – 150 yards on the PGA Tour (the distance from which many 9-irons will be hit), the average proximity is 24 feet.
That still might not seem that close, but would you complain if you hit every 9-iron shot you hit to within 24 feet?
One of the reasons why a club like the 9-iron can be classed as a scoring club relates to its loft.
Average 9-iron loft: 41-43 degrees
Strong-lofted 9-irons: 37-38 degrees
While it might be an excellent idea to hit a 9-iron when your playing partner hits a 7-iron, it’s worth remembering that the stronger lofted 9-irons carry nearly the same loft as a traditional 7-iron.
Lofts for all irons have progressively strengthened over the years; taking a 9-iron from the 1960s would be lofted around 47 degrees.
Length of a 9-iron
The average length of a 9-iron is 35.5 inches.
We all vary in size, and our golf clubs can be altered for length and lie to suit our requirements.
You should never compensate with your set-up for a poorly fitting 9-iron.
If you are considering changing your clubs, look for a fitting specialist who can determine the exact length and lie that will fit you best.
How far does a 9-iron go?
9-irons can go different distances for different golfers based on their skill levels.
If we were to work on averages, though, we would see 9-irons fly:
High handicapper – 100 yards (91 meters)
Low handicapper – 135 yards (123 meters)
PGA Tour average – 148 yards (135 meters)
LPGA Tour average – 119 yards (109 meters)
There are exceptions to these rules; for example, Rory McIlroy and Bryson Dechambeau will average between 160 – 165 yards for their 9-irons.
When to play a 9-iron
A 9-iron is essentially a club used for approach play, teeing off on par 3s, and can be helpful to chip with around the greens.
The primary factor for approach play and par 3s is the length you face when considering using a 9-iron.
Before committing to your shot, things like the weather conditions you are playing in or elevation changes must be considered.
The ideal scenario to consider using a 9-iron for chipping is if you don’t need to loft the ball over any hazards between you and the pin.
Let the club loft do the job for you, and plan the shot to run out for at least 60% of the total distance the shot needs to go.
A 9-iron is also handy if you can warm up by hitting shots before you go and play or if you are working on a technical change in your swing.
You can also start to get a sense of what your ball flight is like by hitting a 9-iron which you can also factor into your play on the day.
Set up to play a 9-iron
Your stance should be no more than your shoulder width, this is not a long club, and there is no need to create an extensive base to swing hard from as with the longer clubs.
The ball position is in the center of your stance. This will help to promote a downward angle of attack on the ball to compress it well.
Having your hands set slightly ahead of the club face at address will also help promote the downward strike but be careful not to have them too far forward, creating excessive shaft lean.
Weight distribution between your feet should still be 50%-50%.
Solid fundamentals will help create the platform for a good swing.
You can play a lower-flighted punch shot with a 9-iron; to achieve this, move the ball position no more than an inch back from the middle of your stance.
Set up to play a chip shot
Chipping with a 9-iron requires a few changes to a full swing.
Tip #1: Set up your feet and legs with no more than an inch between them.
Tip #2: Move the lead foot back a couple of inches to create an open stance
Tip #3: Stand close to the ball so the shaft feels like it’s sitting vertically.
Tip #4: Weight marginally favoring the lead leg and foot
Tip #5: Hands slightly ahead of the club head
Treat this shot almost like a putt, as the ball will still spend much time on the ground rolling out to the target.
Don’t try and help the ball in the air by scooping at it with your hands at impact – let the club loft do the work for you.
Think of a pendulum action back and forth, similar to a putt.
Pulling off a successful chip with a 9-iron gives you more options with your short game.
Remember that this shot is best suited when you don’t need to carry the ball over bunkers or through long grass, where a more lofted club will be more appropriate.
So, now that we have covered some of the basics, are there any unique 9-iron shots from history that inspire us; two clear shots stick out from recent memory.
Fitzpatrick U.S. Open success
Matt Fitzpatrick has been a prominent DP World Tour winner for several years but hadn’t broken into the winner’s circle in the US.
He came into the 2022 U.S. Open at Brookline with good vibes as he had won the U.S. Amateur there in 2013.
Things initially didn’t go well for Fitzpatrick as he pulled his tee shot into a bunker up the left of the 18th.
Facing a 160-yard shot and having to get the ball up steeply to avoid a grassy area in the bunker was not an easy task, even without the pressures of trying to secure your first major victory.
Selecting a 9-iron, Fitzpatrick hit the shot of his career so far as the ball landed on the green 20 feet from the hole.
Woods’ sublime bunker escape
We are spoilt for choice regarding great shots and Tiger Woods.
Playing in the 2020 WGC event in Mexico, Woods came to the 9th hole, his final hole of the day.
Woods’ tee shot leaked right and ended up in a fairway bunker.
Only 134 yards left to the flag, but Woods was hampered by a tree in a direct line to the flag.
Woods used his 9-iron and played a huge cut shot around the tree with the ball landing on the green and, with a lot of sidespin, ended up 10 feet from the hole.
Having flexibility in our iron play is something every golfer can benefit from.
The 9-iron takes us into the territory of what’s deemed our scoring clubs; We can play approach shots, tee shots at par 3s, and even chip with a 9-iron.
Becoming friends with your 9-iron can help you save shots around the course, so get out there and practice!