Managing Severe Greenside Lies
I just returned from a wonderful golf trip to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama. If you are looking for a wonderful golf vacation, this is it. The courses are remarkable and the prices very reasonable. But this is about the short game, so let me share some thoughts with you.
The courses we played featured dramatic terrain, and many greens were quite elevated, so when you missed one, you often found yourself with a severe uphill lie for your recovery shot. As I play on the Texas coast, we don’t see this too often in our world, so I had to draw on some memory and short game logic to deal with these. Here’s what I know works.
First of all, severe uphill lies are more problematic for a number of reasons, the first of which is your own balance. With your right foot (for right hand players) dramatically lower than your left, it makes finding a comfortable and balanced stance almost impossible to achieve. So the first objective is to achieve that. I find that most weight will be on the back foot because of the lie, so you have to “lean” your lower body into the slope a little to get more on the left side. That also means that your right leg will be straighter than your left, so it helps to move the left foot back a bit to allow for more leg flex there. Am I clear so far?
I find this shot to be easier to execute if you swing as much along the slope as possible, so that you can get the club through the ball. This means you have to tilt your upper body backward a bit, so that your shoulder plane is more in line with the slope. Take more practice swings than normal on this shot to get the feel for your balance and how the club path will be.
And finally, especially if you have a lot of green to cover, take a lower lofted wedge than you might normally choose for the shot. You are swinging along the slope, rather than level, so the loft is naturally increased. If your favorite club is your sand wedge, it may have an effective loft of a 64* or more! And you will have a hard time making yourself swing this hard on such a short shot. I recommend selecting a club at least one or two lofts less than you would normally use for a recovery pitch of that distance, i.e. if your instinct is to take the sand wedge, use your gap or even pitching wedge. In several occasions, I found myself going all the way to my 9-iron to get the ball moving forward instead of just upward. It worked!
So, the fun of traveling with your clubs is the challenge of varying courses, and you’ll find shots sometimes that you don’t use at home. Hopefully this will help you when you find yourself faced with recoveries like these.
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With an uphill lie near the green, I de-loft the club face by setting up with my hands forward. It works well for me. My swing is changed because of this, but I have yet to be convinced that your swing should remain the same with all irons (as I've been told by many other golfers).
33.2... you should allow yourself to be convinced.
Ouch. LOL. I'm 32.6 - allowing myself to be convinced!
loltoo and ouch!
Whenever one faces an awkward chip (in particular), it's best to use a lower risk technique - ie: avoid radical flops. Remember to take your medicine and keep getting closer to the hole.
I recall Lake Chabot Muni in Oakland CA -many elevated greens and tees. Behind the elevated greens were the continued hill. So chipping uphill, one could go long and face the next shot coming down off the hill (what we coined as the Chabot Chip. From one extreme to the other. In the Chabot chip one had to land the chip about a foot short of the apron in the rough and it would barely trickle out onto the green and roll toward the hole. What Fun!
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