By Tyrone Hardy For The Enterprise
Hello fellow golfers. This week our question comes from Herb in Shoreline. He is having trouble hitting the ball solidly and accurately from uneven lies and would like some advice on how to improve this skill.
This is a great question since rarely does a player have a level lie when playing a round of golf. We will start with the four basic uneven lies: downhill, uphill, ball below your feet and ball above your feet.
The first thing to understand is that each of these situations will have tendencies. For a downhill lie, the ball will have a flatter trajectory and tend to have a left-to-right ball flight (for right-handed golfers). The uphill lie will have a ball flight that is higher and likely fly right-to-left. The ball that is above your feet will also produce a right-to-left flight and the ball below your feet will impart a left-to-right flight.
Obviously these are not steadfast rules but generally can be expected. The more severe the slope the more pronounced these tendencies. Even though these lies differ, there are a few common adjustments that need to be made.
The first and most important is balance. Balance is critical even on level lies but becomes monumental when facing an uneven lie. When facing an uneven lie, balance can be augmented by taking more club than usual, which allows the player to make a more controlled, less than full effort swing. This will give the player the best chance to make a balanced swing.
The other common adjustments are in the setup. First, try and get your posture perpendicular to the slope you are facing and “swing with the slope.” For example, if you have a downhill slope, set up to the ball with most of your weight on your front foot and feel the swing going down with the slope. This will assist with making solid contact.
As for ball position, some may say that you need to place the ball back in your stance for a particular lie and so on. I believe the best way to play these lies is to use a ball position that is in the center of your stance for all of these lies. This position is easy to achieve, consistent, and since a complete weight shift does not generally occur, keeping the ball position in the center of your stance will allow the ball to stay at the bottom of the swing arc much like a chip or a pitch.
Once a player becomes more confident and proficient at hitting the ball off these lies, adjustments can be experimented with until the right fit is achieved for the player. I have found that the largest obstacle for players to improve in this area is practice. It is very difficult to find a place where you can practice hitting uneven lies.
Driving ranges tend to be very level and golf courses frown on someone hitting practice balls from the downhill lie in the 18th fairway. The best approach is to remember these tips, embrace the challenge and learn from each experience so that you will be more prepared the next time you face these situations.
Tyrone Hardy is a Class A PGA member and is the director of golf at Ballinger Lake Golf Course. For more information see www.ballingerlakegolf.com.