We don’t get a lot of hilly lies in Arizona. Around here it’s pretty flat. Perhaps for that reason we ought to look at hilly lies so that when on that rare occasion we find ourselves in a hilly lie, we’ll know what to do.
Uphill lie: You position the ball toward the uphill foot. You align your shoulders parallel to the ground. You swing along the ground — back and through. You can use whatever club you would normally use for the distance to your target unless the uphill lie is significant. If it is, you need to realize that the ground will add loft to your club and you will be hitting it higher than you would normally. You could lose distance in the process. Therefore, you might be well advised to use one more club to make up for this phenomenon. In addition, you will be prone to hook the ball because your leg drive will not be what it normally is due to the uphill lie.
Side-hill lie with the ball above your feet: You position the ball in the middle of your stance. Stand more upright. You swing around yourself more. You approximate a baseball swing. The way you will most often miss this shot is trying to make an upright swing like the one you normally make. You need to be comfortable swinging around yourself in a more horizontal plane. You can typically use whatever club you would normally use for the distance to your target. Because of the horizontal swing plane, you will be more apt to close the clubface through the ball. Expect a tendency to hook the ball. You might want to aim a little to the side of the target to account for the hook path.
Downhill lie: You position the ball toward the uphill foot. You align your shoulders parallel to the ground. You swing along the ground — back and through. You need to use a more lofted club. You do this to avoid hitting the ball into the ground due to the downhill slope that the ball is sitting on. This might make getting the ball to the target impossible. That’s OK. Playing downhill lies is more about damage control than it is about hitting your target. You want to simply get something out of the shot and leave yourself in a position where you can perhaps get more aggressive with your next shot. Make sure to play the ball far enough back. The No. 1 problem with this shot is simply getting the clubface on the ball. It’s all about attack angle. If the ball is far enough back in your stance, you’ll have a much easier time getting the clubface on the ball. Since you cannot effectively “stay down to” this shot, you can expect a tendency for the shot to fade.
Sidehill lie with the ball below your feet: You position the ball in the middle of your stance. Bend your knees more and bend over more from the waist. Your swing will be much more upright, which might make it shorter. You need to use a more high-lofted club and, once again, this shot is about damage control. If the high-lofted club is not enough to get you to your target, you’ll have to rely on your short game. You just want to get something out of the shot. Focus on staying down to the shot throughout. Your No. 1 tendency will be to stand up. If you do, mis-hits will result. Because of your swing path, expect a tendency to fade the ball out of this lie.
Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with these shots very often. We get to hit off flat lies most of the time. If, however, you do get into one of these situations, knowing the guidelines for dealing with the lie and having realistic expectations will go a long way toward achieving a useful result.
Tom Drisler is teaching at Union Hills Country Club. Individual lessons, group lessons and video lessons with take-home CDs are available. An email summary follows each lesson. Call 602-316-0419 to schedule an appointment.