How to Play from Uneven Lies in Golf

Uneven lies are one of the biggest fears for new golfers. Even seasoned players struggle from time to time in predicting how the ball will behave. While there’s no foolproof way of teaching you how you can play the uphill and downhill shots perfectly, we can surely give you some pointers.

In this post today, we’re going to break down the surface types and how each one affects your playing. Let’s get started.

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Uneven Lies on a Golf Course

The tee box, the fairway, and the green look even to the eye, right? While they’re mostly even in terms of surface condition, there’s no guarantee that the areas are level with the ground. It might be uphill or downhill. Sometimes, the angle is so subtle that you don’t realize it until you hit the shot.

Learning how to handle uneven lies is one of the fundamental skills a golf player can master. The beauty of this skill is that it doesn’t just cater to any specific course. Rather, you can use this knowledge across all golf courses around the globe.

We’ve created this guide with the very goal in mind. We want you to master the uneven lies once and for all. It might take more time than you anticipate, but it’s one of those skills that’ll never fail you.

In general, there are four areas on a golf course that are considered uneven lies. They are uphill, downhill, ball below your feet, and ball above your feet. If you’re confused by the names, we’re going to clarify it very soon.

Uphill Lie

The uphill lie is just as it sounds like. The path you’re trying to send the ball goes uphill. It’s considered a relatively easy uneven lie shot. The first rule of thumb for you when you play uphill is to take more club.

More club simply means getting a club that offers more distance than your regular selection. So, if you usually play a shot with an 8-iron, you need to pick a 7-iron to accommodate the upward angle with the same force behind the shot.

There is no universal chart that you can follow to pick the right club for the right slope. In general, the higher the angle, the more club you need to take.

Another thing to keep in mind is the loft. The uphill shots naturally open your club face a little. You can mitigate the consequences by adding a little loft to your shot. You’ll fly over the slope with a lofted club if you’re lucky.

Consider your aim when playing on the uphill lie as well. If you’re not aware, you’ll notice that the ball tends to go left instead of straight when uphill is involved. It happens because your club face naturally becomes closed throughout the impact. When you change your aim a little to the right, you increase your chances of hitting the target.

Finally, you need to adjust your shoulder and ball position. On a level surface, our shoulders are slightly higher on the target side because the trailing hand goes below the leading arm at the grip. When you’re at the uphill lie, the shoulder angle should match the slope angle.

As for the ball, it should be pushed a little toward the target than your usual position. At the same time, you’re going to redistribute your weight to the back foot to hit up on the ball. We know it’s a lot to take in if you have no prior experience with uphill lies. But you will notice the results immediately if you follow what we’ve shared in this post.

Downhill Lie

In a natural progression, downhill comes after the uphill. Playing properly from a downhill lie is one of the hardest skills to master. The address position is going to feel awkward at first as well. In terms of the tricks, you need to do the opposite of what you did on the uphill.

For clubs, you need to take less. Where you would play a 7-iron, take an 8-iron instead. The reason you want to do that is slope will deloft the club automatically at impact. So, if you don’t adjust your club selection according to the slope, you’ll cover less distance.

In terms of weight distribution, you can go back to your usual ways. It’ll happen automatically because it’s not possible to put 50/50 weight on both feet on a downhill slope. More weight will naturally come down on your front foot.

Adding more weight to your front foot has its benefits. For starters, you get to really hit down on the ball instead of coming over the top. The extra weight will also help you balance more easily when you’re standing on the slope. As for the ball position, it should move toward your back foot.

The shoulder position should follow the same rule as the uphill. It means you need to adjust your shoulder angle with the slope just like before.

Lastly, you need to aim to the left of the target. As opposed to the club face being closed, it opens up when you’re on a downhill lie. As a result, the ball will fly naturally toward the right of the target.

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Golf Ball Below Your Feet

We know we’ve raised a few eyebrows when we declared this one as an uneven lie type. It’s not something you hear every day at the course. The concept is very simple. You’re still on the uphill lie, but you’re sideways instead of facing the slope. If you’re a right-handed player, the ball is naturally ‘below’ your feet level. Hence, the name.

The key to succeeding with these shots is to stabilize your knee. As you need to extend your arms farther to reach the ball in such an awkward position, you need as much stability as you can get on your knees.

To prepare for these kinds of shots, there are no alternatives to building your legs the right way. We have the best leg workouts for golf here. You should definitely check it out.

When you manage to keep your knees flexed at the right position for long enough, golf ball below your feet shots become quite easy. Just remember not to choke on the club. Also, you need to use more club to compensate for the fade.

The last thing to keep in mind is that you need to aim a little left of the target. As the ball is below your feet, you’ll naturally hit the ball right. Adjusting your aim will land the ball right where you want it.

Golf Ball Above Your Feet

Following the same principle as the previous one, the ball is going to be above your feet’ level in this one. Just like you adjusted your position, ball position, and club selection for both uphill and downhill lies, you need to do the same in this case as well.

The most important aspect of playing from a downhill lie sideways is the shaft length. If you don’t choke up on the grip enough, there’s a huge chance that you’ll hit the ground before you hit the ball. We all know what the results of that would be!

As opposed to a golf ball below your feet, you need to take less club for this one. If you were to use an 8-iron, make it 7.

As for your position, you need to push yourself a little farther from the ball. This is probably the only shot in golf where you swing the club more like a baseball bat than a golf club. You’re essentially sweeping the ball off the ground instead of hitting up on it.

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Practicing the Uneven Lie Shots

Practice makes a man perfect. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at anything you try. No matter how hard the task was to begin with. However, when it comes to practicing the shots you want to play at uneven lies, it’s not always a walk in the park. Or in this case, a walk on the golf course.

Most driving ranges have flat areas for you to practice. Tee boxes, fairways, greens, etc. are all flat on the course as well. So, where do you practice?

Well, you need to find the uneven lies and make your own practice drills, specific to the course. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s nothing impossible. Just make sure you’re not trying to practice during peak hours. The last thing you want to do is disturb other players who are trying to improve their scores.

Final Words

Golf is not a sport for people who want it easy. Only the people who have spent enough time at driving ranges and golf courses know how hard it is to property play golf. There’s no denying that the uneven lies are part of the game.

So, if you’ve been running away from these areas, it’s time to tackle them head-on. You can only run away from things for so long. It’s always better to improve yourself than to running away from your weaknesses.

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Thanks for reading today’s article!

Nick Foy – Golf Instructor

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