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 golfers are faced with a downhill lie, they find the ball below the plane of their feet.
Because the toe of your club is going to be lower than the heel, the sidespin you impart to the ball will push it in the opposite direction, causing a fade instead of a hook. Therefore, you must align yourself not right of the target, but left of it.
On a downhill lie, your weight falls forward toward your toes. Keeping this in mind, take your practice swings with the goal of centering your balance again through your thighs and over the arches of your feet. A good way to remember this is to focus your weight under your shoestrings.
Just as when facing an uphill lie, take some extra club in this situation. In fact, on a downhill lie it is even more important to compensate for likely lost distance, since reaching down for the ball when swinging is more difficult than reaching up toward it.
When the ball is above your feet, your swing plane naturally becomes flatter, making your golf stroke more like a baseball swing, which is why most golfers fare better with uphill lies than downhill lies.
Downhill lies result in more shanks and pop-ups than uphill lies because your body instinctively wants to straighten up, and the more it does so, the more lower-body strength is inadvertently removed from the swing.
No matter what the situation, it is always more effective to take more club and swing within yourself than to take less club and increase the chances of swinging out of control.
To help develop the right feel for a downhill-lie swing, try the following drill:
Stand at one end of a swimming pool with the balls of your feet past the edge. Swing your 5-iron and try to skim the water. With your weight correctly distributed, you’ll be able to swing from this position without consequence. If you lean too far forward, however, you’ll learn your lesson in a hurry.
A former PGA Touring pro, Doug Weaver is the Director of Instruction at the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy and conducts “Where Does the Power Come From?,” a free golf clinic and demonstration, every Monday at 4 p.m. For details on the nine distinct programs for golfers ages 12 to adult offered by the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy, call (843) 785-1138, (800) 827-3006 or visit palmettodunes.com.
By I.J. Schecter with Doug Weaver. Photography by Rob Tipton/Boomkin Productions