Hitting a golf ball straight is difficult enough from a flat lie.
When you and the ball are suddenly on different levels, it becomes even harder.
Facing an uphill lie, downhill lie or sidehill lie is daunting, but like many situations in golf, it can be handled well with an appraisal of the physical situation and proper compensation for it.
When faced with an uphill, downhill or sidehill lie, it is most important to focus not on the slope of the ground, but on the angle of your clubface against it and in relation to the ball. Many amateurs make the mistake of thinking they need to change their swing in these situations.
In fact, the adjustments necessary in these scenarios have to do with the position of the clubface relative to the ball against the ground, not the fundamental action of the swing itself. Let’s look at each of these shots and the adjustments they demand for successful results:
Golfers are sometimes faced with an uphill lie, where the ball is higher than the plane of the feet. Often in this situation, the club’s toe will sit slightly higher than the heel, requiring you to make subtle adjustments to prevent a poor strike.
With the toe and heel misaligned in this manner, you will unavoidably impart sidespin to the ball, causing a hook. Keeping this in mind, the first thing you must do is adjust your stance so that you are aligned not directly toward the target, but to the right of it.
When golfers are faced with a downhill lie, they find the ball below the plane of their feet. The club’s toe is often lower than the heel. A player must aim left of the target to account for the natural fade spin that will be imparted to the ball.
On a downhill lie, your weight falls forward toward your toes. Keep this in mind. Take your practice swings with the goal of centering your balance through your thighs and over the arches of your feet. A good way to remember this is to focus your weight under your shoestrings.
Another tricky situation that differs from uphill and downhill lies is the sidehill lie. When standing sidehill, with the front foot or back foot higher than the other, you must compensate for altered loft. The change in loft can reduce shot distances by up to three clubs in some circumstances.
As when dealing with an uphill or downhill lie, you must be conscious of good balance and of taking a full backswing and completing your follow-through when faced with a sidehill lie, rather than allowing anxiety to cause an incomplete golf swing.
When facing uphill, downhill or sidehill lies, remember that success comes not from altering your swing. It comes from making proper adjustments before you even get into the address position. Practice these types of shots as often as you can. Eventually they’ll become just another part of your ever-expanding arsenal.
A former PGA Touring pro, Doug Weaver is the Director of Instruction at the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy. (843) 785-1138, (800) 827-3006 or palmettodunes.com.
By I.J. Schecter with Doug Weaver