the fascinating elements of golf is that conditions are constantly changing,
from one course to the next, one day to the next and one hour to the next. The terrain, the grasses, sand texture,
course layout, wind, temperature fluctuations, rain, ground firmness, growing
trees and foliage all contribute toward making the playing of golf a continually
changing and challenging experience.
Learning to handle a variety of conditions is a requisite for being a
competent player. Knowing how to
teach someone how to overcome unusual conditions with special shots is a
requisite for being a competent teacher.
Most golf is practiced on
“flat as a pancake” terrain, but hardly any of it is played there. The four most frequently encountered
uneven lies are uphill, downhill and the two sidehill (ball above the feet and
below the feet). Here are the basic
considerations and adjustments for these four:
Sidehill – Ball Above The
All uneven lies create a
tendency for the player to err, resulting in incorrect distance, faulty
direction or both. When the ball is
above the player’s feet, on the side of the hill, the three most frequent
errors are chunking, pulling and hooking. The chunk is easy to understand. The ball is elevated and closer to the
player. This requires the player to
either assume a different body tilt than that to which he is accustomed and/or
to shorten his hand position on the grip.
If neither is done the club will hit the ground first rather than the
The other two errors that are
frequently made when the ball is above the feet are pulling and hooking. A simple but graphic illustration the
professional can give to his students is to take a putter and sole it so there
is literally zero degrees of loft in the face and so that it is “looking” or
facing at right angles to the target.
Ask the student where the ball will go if it is struck with the face in
this position. “To the target,” is
the answer. Now elevate the putter
1 ½ to 2 feet in the air keeping zero degrees of loft in the face. Ask where the ball will go if struck
now. The answer again is, “to the
target.” Next take a lofted iron,
like a #9, and repeat the previous routine. With the #9 soled normally, the answer
to where the ball will go is, “to the target.” But when it is elevated, the pupil can
readily see that the loft in the face when tilted upward is now directed to the
left. The ball will not go
to the target, but to a spot quite a bit to the left of it. With the ball higher than the feet, a
more horizontal swing plane is created promoting more hand and forearm
rotation. With an inside swing path
added to a clubface “looking” left it is easy to see why a pull or pull hook
from this lie is a common tendency.
Another factor which encourages a pull to accompany the hook is
gravity. Whenever a player is on
uneven terrain, gravity will try to pull him toward the lower point of the
slope. In this case, the low point
is behind him so the pull is backwards.
Because of the backward pull of gravity, the swing path can travel
several degrees to the left, resulting in a pulled shot. Here are some solutions the teacher can
use the offset these three negative tendencies when the ball is positioned above
perpendicular to the lie as possible so the body position in relation to the
ground approximates a normal lie, yet the weight favors the balls of the
down on the club so the club can clear the ground.
the ball near the middle of the stance since weight transfer won’t be as
suspension point (the distance from the ground to the base of the neck) constant
to maintain balance.
couple of practice swings to get the feeling of clearing the ground at the right
the pull or hook by aiming to the right.
The steeper the ball lies, the more the player must
player should swing within himself.
Trying to hit hard from an awkard lie is difficult. Always swing with less than full
effort. This may require using a
stronger club to provide the added distance needed.
Uneven Lies – Ball Below the
Playing a shot when the ball
is lying lower than the feet is one of the harder shots in golf and it’s
easy to understand why. Beginning
golfers find it easier to contact the ball if it’s raised in the air on a tee,
more difficult when it’s on the ground.
Now, in the ball below the feet lie, it’s actually lower than
ground level. The tendency is for
the ball to be topped, pushed or push-sliced. A face position demonstration similar to
the one given with the ball above the feet can be shown to the student. The procedure is the same, but the
result reversed. Show the putter
first where the face remains square when tilted, then tilt the toe of the #9
iron downward and the loft in the face will “look” to the right. To make the proper compensations for a
ball positioned below the feet the player should:
Go to the
full length on the grip.
close enough to the ball to easily reach it with the
body close to perpendicular with the ground, but sit deeper in the knees at
address and let the weight feel more on the heels.
suspension radius constant. Don’t
pull up or fall forward.
the left an amount relative to the tilt of the clubface and allow the ball to go
to the right.
How much should a player aim
right or left on these shots? The
answer will come from practice, but here is a way that may help. After he has selected a club, let the
student mimic with the palm of his hand in the air the club’s loft and the
soling of it on uneven terrain.
Have him carefully note the amount of deflection the face presents from
the target line. let him compensate
that amount plus a bit more for the curve, then swing
The most common tendencies
from the uphill lie are pulling, chunking and underclubbing. This is due primarily to the force of
gravity attracting the player toward the low ground or the player’s right. It is difficult from the uphill lie for
the golfer to transfer his weight to the front foot as he normally would. When the weight stays back, the swing
path travels left, causing a pulled shot.
In addition, the natural slope of the terrain tilts the golfer’s stance
upward, adding loft to the face of the club. This causes the ball to go a higher and
a shorter distance. Increasing this
tendency even further is the reluctance of the weight to transfer left, allowing
the head end of the club to pass the grip end too soon. To neutralize these tendencies when
faced with an uphill lie the player should:
basically perpendicular to the ground level but with a bit more focus of weight
to the left. Resist gravity’s pull
by seeing the weight transfer up the slope with the swing.
ball near the middle of the stance to make it easier to
stronger club to reach the target.
down on the club for better control.
the right an amount sufficient to compensate for the
couple of practice swings to adjust to the different condition, then make a
comfortable, controlled swing,
The downhill lie shot
is difficult because the ball is below the normal stance level. This shot requires more concentration
than any of the others. The
tendencies are a push or push-fade and the topped shot. A push or push-fade is largely the
result of not squaring the clubface.
It is difficult to produce clubface rotation and not top the shot while
trying to follow the slope of the terrain.
Further adding to this tendency to push or slice is gravity pulling the
player’s swing center ahead of the ball.
Some solutions (used in combination) that the teacher can offer his
ball slightly back of the middle of the stance.
perpendicular to the ground, but resist being pulled down the hill past the
shoulders as much as possible to match the slope of the ground to make it easier
to stay with the shot. (It helps to
sit more in the right knee.)
the club being somewhat delofted which will cause the ball to go lower, hotter,
and roll farther. A ¾ controlled
swing from a downhill lie may send the ball the same distance as a full swing
with the same club for a normal lie.
the left an amount commensurate with the slope.
practice swings until there is a comfortable feel, then make a controlled swing
following the level of the ground.
Uneven Lies – Short
Be sure the student realizes
that the same ball flight tendencies will also apply to the short pitch, chip
and bunker shots. In fact, it is
quite important to learn how to adjust to server slopes around the green where a
lofted club is frequently used. In
these situations the face angle will be even more misdirected in relation to the
leading edge than on longer shots.
Here are some general guidelines for pitches, chips and bunker shots from