GolfTEC’s Katie Finney provides keys to confidently navigate uneven lies. The first? Change your address position!
By Katie Finney
Among the most common problems I see amateur golfers face is the inability to play from uneven lies. If you happen to be someone who struggles with this, you’re in luck — I grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky, so I’m a bit of an expert in this area!
So, let’s discuss some tips to help you beat those pesky hillside shots. We’ll start with the good news— you won’t have to adjust your swing and remember a hundred things with your technique. We’ll just be adjusting the all-important address position.
Even the playing field on uneven lies
When it comes to uphill and downhill lies, here’s an easy rule of thumb to remember: The ball should be closer to your higher foot, and your weight should favor your lower foot.
This premise follows the “match your shoulders to the slope” tip you’ve probably heard at some point, and also creates a simple idea to focus on, even if you forget everything else.
On sidehill lies, it’s imperative to maintain confidence in where the low point of your swing will hit, so you can adjust your knee flex to fit the slope if the ball is below your feet, and grip down on the club with shots above your feet.
When facing an uphill lie, the ball won’t travel as far because the slope automatically adds loft to the club. So, you’ll likely need to take at least one extra club, depending on the slope’s severity. If the yardage calls for a 6 iron, try the 5, because you should flight the golf ball higher than normal.
As mentioned earlier, your ball position is key and should be closer to your highest foot (in this case, your lead foot). As noted in this image, you can also see how the golfer’s shoulders match the slope of the hill. Now keep your weight on your back foot and swing!
Uphill lies are a great time to use lower lofted clubs like fairway metals because of the natural addition of loft to the club. This makes it easier to get the ball airborne.
On this type of uneven lie, the ball will travel farther due to a decrease in trajectory. The downslope will naturally de-loft the club — the exact opposite effect of the uphill lie.
So, if the shot calls for a 6-iron distance, pull the 7 instead. Your ball position should be closer to your higher foot (your trail foot), with your weight favoring your lead foot. Your shoulders will automatically start to mimic the slope of the lie due to your address position. This is exactly what we want.
Due to the natural de-lofting of the face, this isn’t the moment to hit clubs you have a tough time getting airborne. I typically advise students to stick to 6 iron or less from these types of lies. Even some of my best students have difficulty controlling lower-lofted clubs from a position like this!
These can be the most frustrating of shots from uneven lies, because of the dramatic change — and often awkwardness — in addressing the ball and maintaining the position needed to control the low point of your swing. Read: It’s very easy to hit these shots heavy or thin!
On shots with the ball below your feet, try flexing your knees more to reflect the slope and maintain this flex throughout the swing. And shots with the ball above your feet, you may be inclined to stand up taller, but the easiest way to handle these is to grip down on the club and create as close of a feeling to a flat lie as possible.
The other key to remember here is that the ball flight with these shots is prone to change as well. Here’s another easy rule of thumb for those sidehillers: The ball will always tend to fly toward the low point of the slope you’re on.
This means if you’re right-handed and the ball is below your feet, you’ll want to aim further left because it’s prone to head right, and vice versa for lies with the ball above your feet.
I hope these tips will help you play the best golf you can by hitting better quality shots from uneven lies. If you find yourself continually struggling, be sure to contact your local GolfTEC Certified Personal Coach!