Golf courses rarely have perfectly even terrain, and it’s important to understand how your ball will react to uneven lies. Many golfers don’t adjust their setups based on where the ball is positioned in relation to their stance, and it’s an important part of course management.
In this article we are going to explore some basics on each lie (uphill, downhill, ball above/below feet), and how you can actually practice these lies at the range.
Before we get into that…
No matter what kind of lie we are talking about, the number one thing you should be focused on is balance. The most common mistake that golfers make on uneven lies is that they do not maintain their balance during the swing, and it prevents them from making good contact with the ball.
When you are playing an uneven lie, gravity will want to push your body in the direction that the ground is angling towards. You have to do your best to establish a strong core with your legs and make sure that you stay centered over the ball.
Players who are able to do this will be the most successful at executing shots on uneven lies.
Let’s take a look at the four different scenarios you will encounter on the golf course, and what you can expect.
* these will all be explained for a right-handed player
Ball Above Feet
If the ball is above your feet, two things typically happen:
- The ball will travel more right to left (draw spin)
- Players have a tendency to hit the shot heavy
As such, there are two adjustments players should make to help them pull the shot off. You should be gripping a little bit down on the club, and aiming a little further to the right.
How far you should aim to the right will depend on the severity of the slope, but you don’t want to overdo it. Some players will aim way too far to the right. This will exacerbate the trajectory of the shot and it could hook too much.
Ball Below Feet
If the ball is below your feet, then the exact opposite will happen:
- The ball will travel more left to right (fade)
- Players have a tendency to hit the shot thin
Since the ball is a little bit farther away, this is a shot that you particularly have to focus on your balance, and making sure that you have a strong base. Players will typically hit this shot thin because they might lose their balance prematurely.
Additionally, the ball will have a tendency to travel left to right, so the same rules apply. Make sure you aim a little bit to the left to allow for this, but don’t go overboard or else you’ll be in danger of putting too much of a slice spin on the ball.
Downhill lies will offer a few different challenges, and you need to adjust accordingly.
Most players will tend to hit this shot heavy because they will strike the turf behind the ball. Additionally, this lie will tend to “de-loft” the club, so you need to add loft to prevent the shot from going too far.
So there are two main things to focus on for downhill lies:
- You want your body angle to match the slope. Think of your shoulders being parallel to the ground, or your spine angle being perpendicular to the slope.
- Depending on the severity of the slope, you might have to use one or two clubs less because the lie is going to cause the ball to come out on a lower trajectory, and will mostly travel farther.
As you would expect, we are going to reverse this for the uphill lie.
Again, you are trying to match the angle of the ground with your shoulders, and make sure that your spine angle is perpendicular to the ground.
The tendency on this shot is to add a little bit of loft, so you might need to select more club in order to hit your shot the right distance. Additionally, right-handed players might have a tendency to hit this shot to the left because their upper body is moving faster than their lower body.
How Can You Practice Uneven Lies?
Just to recap, the most important factor on being successful on these shots is maintaining your balance during your swing (not to mention on normal lies as well!).
The problem for most golfers is that there really isn’t an opportunity to practice shots on uneven lies because most of us are going to be hitting off practice mats, or a grass range that is perfectly level.
This is a real shame, because if you want to improve as a golfer you need to be simulating as many of the conditions on the course as you can in order to transfer skills from the practice range to a live round. Additionally, practicing shots on uneven lies can actually help your normal shots quite a bit because it will teach you how to maintain your balance during your swing.
There is a product out there that can help you with this, and it’s from our friends over at the Orange Whip. They have invented a tool called the Orange Peel.
Here’s a brief video summarizing how it works.
I’ve used the Orange Peel quite a bit, and this is an excellent tool that can help golfers fix some of the biggest flaws in their swings without putting too much emphasis on anything technical.
Wrapping it Up
Hopefully now you have a better understanding of how uneven lies will affect your ball flight, and how you can alter your setup to make sure you are successful on these shots.
Maintaining your balance, and getting good contact are the two most important things for these shots, and most golfers fail because they don’t make the crucial adjustments.
This is one area of the game where you can eliminate some of the big mistakes that occur during your round that result in those dreaded double and triple bogeys.