Uphill or Downhill Slope: How to Play from Uneven Lies

Dan Gold
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How to Play from Uneven Lies

Golf is played on a rectangular course made of grass with a network of strategically-placed trees, bunkers and water hazards. These features are introduced into the course to make the game more challenging and shorter.

Bunkers or sand traps are great obstacles that provide a challenge and variety to a game. They are situated in the course as to provide an advantage to a player who hits a ball out of it. They also make the game more exciting.

If you fail to abide by the rules or if you unintentionally hit your ball into the bunker, you receive a penalty stroke, which is same as a stroke for an out-of-bounds.

Now, it’s very important to play a ball out of the bunker as you would play a ball situated on fairway or green. The angle of the slope decreases your shot distance and increases it on the other side, which calls for a change in your stance.

Here’s how you can score from an uneven lie.

Uphill Lie

This is when it is impossible to put your ball in a press forward motion toward the green, and it is necessary to hit the ball toward the back of the ball and then move it forward.

To hit an uphill lie, you have to start with your hands slightly behind the ball. The grip should be a little more to the inside than normal. Your club should be slightly to the inside of the ball.

You should anchor the club and the hands as you would with a normal lie; then, you should allow the club to swing back. You’re keeping the head of the club open to produce a descending blow on the ball to strike it firmly and drive it upward.

This upswing should be slightly longer than normal to allow for the fact that you must strike the ball from below and the ball must be moving forward. The clubhead should bounce lightly on the ground when it hits the ball.

If you’re dealing with a right to left break, you should hit the ball just a little more on the toe and try to keep your hands just a bit more on the inside.

Downhill Lies

There are two kinds of lies on the golf course. Uphill lies and downhill lies. Uphill lies will make your ball travel farther downhill than you may anticipate … with a bad slice.

Downhill lies will do the opposite … your ball will travel farther than you may anticipate … with a bad hook.

Uphill lies will slow your ball down, and downhill lies will speed your ball up.

What do I mean by uphill and downhill lies? My guess is your thoughts are spinning right now as you try to sort this out. My job is to keep it simple.

Golf Ball Below Your Feet

This situation can arise in golf ball positions after your shot has ended to a steeply elevated fairway. In this circumstance, you will be on either an excessively exposed hillside or a hard-to-maneuver valley.

It is very important to recognize this situation in time. This is when almost 40% of the balls played into this lies are either lost or out of bounds.

In case you’re in a hole, this will definitely be a challenging hole to play, to say the least. The next thing you should do after understanding the situation is to recognize your back path.

Just about every hole requires a specific amount of play in a front, back and sideways direction. Make sure that you have to play the ball with a specific degree of a shot. A tee shot should be taken to be around 140 yards to start.

If the hole is about 350 yards long, and the tee box is around 400 yards from the green, and you took off from the tee box, then you would have to play the first third of the hole straight down the contour of the hillside.

Now, selecting a club isn’t too much of an issue, as most of your shots will be down the hill, providing that the hazard is not within 200 yards of the hole.

Golf Ball Above Your Feet

If your golf ball is sitting on the ground above your feet, don’t simply go to the side of it…it’s too much of a penalty. Instead use a wedge instead. If you forget this rule during a tournament, you can suffer the 5 or 6 stroke penalty.

Using an iron is a two-swing penalty, and if you consistently need to do this, it’s a signal that you need to fix your swing. With a wedge you can make better contact with the ball, in addition to small shots and control of the ball.

However, you do not want to be under the ball; your best lie will be on the side of your the ball, but slightly in front. The ball should not be in the center front of the club face; instead, you want to see the edge of the club. Swing to the ball, and make contact with the ball at the edge of your sand wedge. This should allow your ball to roll smoothly down the fairway.

Dealing With a Combination

A common practice is to alter the lie of your ball so that it is on the downward slope and nearer to the hole on those putts. This is done to give you a better chance for the ball to stay on line towards the hole.

There is a downside, however, to having the ball closer to the hole on the downhill slope as it gives you the opportunity to spin and wind the ball in the opposite direction.

The main problem with trying to play the ball from a downhill lie is that it can be difficult to know for certain just what the true lie of the ball. Many times there is more slope to the area that may not be perceptible at first.

The best option is to set up for the putt as far behind the ball as possible and lean over the ball. Taking extra time and practice in learning to judge slopes will help you make the right judgment and save you strokes.

Playing from an uphill lie can be just as difficult. When you’re standing behind the ball it will look as if the ball is above the hole, when in fact it is just that your point of view is shifted from directly behind the ball to in front of it.

As a rule of thumb using the ball as a point of reference, you should play everything from a downhill toward uphill as long as the path it can take to the hole is relatively straight.

How to Practice Uneven Lies

Any time the slope is not level, it is referred to as an uneven lie. These types of lies are virtually everywhere on a golf course.

With the exception of some par-3 holes, most holes have a fairway that is not totally flat. It may be flat for the first 100 yards and then start to curve and rise. The same applies to long par-5 holes or downhill par-4 holes.

The first rule of playing an uneven lie…don’t practice it.

Okay, unless you have a putting green and a few dozen golf balls laying around your house, this may not be possible. But, if you can practice this at all, it should be done on the golf course. Mark the hills with stakes or sprinklers to show when they are mounds and when they are valleys. If you can mark areas on an actual golf course, that’s even better.

Many times, the area around the hole is not the problem. Any area that puts the ball below or above your feet creates an uneven lie. Here’s a simple tip that will help you decide what club to use on an uneven lie.

If the ball is behind you, pick a club that produces a high, arcing shot.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to evaluate and appreciate wine will give you more confidence for when you’re dining at a restaurant or asking what to buy at the wine store.

It can be an intimidating experience to walk into a wine store and not recognize the scores or know which regions are the premium ones. You may feel you’re at a disadvantage when the man behind the counter offers you the most expensive bottle.

But you don’t have to worry about it anymore because the next time you enter a wine store, you can make an educated guess at which one is good or hit the ratings sites to find out more. And the next time you are in a restaurant, you can also confidently say, “I’ll have a glass of the rioja, please.”

But a note of caution, always remember not to judge a wine by its label. A bottle may look fancy but at the end of the day it’s the taste that matters.