Golfers spend most of their practice time hitting balls from fairly level terrain, because most ranges are pretty level, and then when they get out on the course they find that this situation doesn’t occur too often. So it is important that they understand how to approach these uneven situations and be able to predict what the ball might do.
There are four types of uneven terrain: uphill, downhill, and then the side hills where the ball can either be above your feet or below your feet. So depending on which situation you are in, you have to make some adjustments.
UPHILL LIE: First thing to understand is how this lie will effect trajectory. Because you are swinging up the hill your ball flight will tend to be higher than normal and won’t travel as far so you will need to use a club with less loft to offset this, especially if the incline is severe, also know that the ball won’t roll as far. To set up for this type of situation you need to get your shoulders parallel to the slope, back shoulder should be lower than the front. By doing this, you should feel more pressure on the back foot, don’t fight it its okay. You can pretty much hit any club in the bag from this situation.
DOWNHILL LIE: Opposite of the uphill lie, the downhill is a much tougher shot and you should be very careful with club selection. This trajectory will be lower than usual and the ball will have a lot more roll. Depending on the severity of the downhill, you shouldn’t take more than a 5 or 6 iron to advance the ball. Long irons and fairway metals are very difficult to get airborne from a downhill lie, so even if you have a long distance to go, you might not be able to get there, play smart and get the ball back to a good situation.
SIDEHILL BALL ABOVE FEET: When the ball is above your feet it closer to you than from a level lie, the adjustment that needs to be made is to stand taller and possibly choke down on the grip. For the right-handed golfer the ball will tend to go to the left, there are two reasons for this, because you are standing taller it will create a more horizontal swing plane (flatter) and the second part is the loft on the club. The less lofted clubs will tend to go slightly left where a more lofted clubs, say a wedge would go dramatically more left. Best think to do is to simply aim to the right to offset this.
SIDEHILL BALL BELOW FEET: When the ball is below your feet its further away from you so you would need to bend more from the hips and possibly add more knee flex to get down to the ball. For the right-handed player, the ball will tend to go to the right, the reasons are a more vertical swing plane (upright) and again the loft factor. Depending on the club you are using (loft wise) you would need to aim more to the left to allow for this.
So, if possible, practice these shots on the range but if you can’t these ideas should help you to predict the ball flight.
Sean Hanley is Director of Instruction at Cranwell Golf School • Lenox, MA • 413-637-8271