First of all, thank all of you for the emails with your questions. I received a number of them that should make good posts in the coming weeks, but I encourage you to keep sending in your ideas for things you'd like to see me write about in the future. Today's was selected from that batch, and Keith H. is going to win a new EIDOLON wedge for his inquiry about playing downhill lies:
"I'm fairly comfortable with uphill lies and sidehill lies, but always seem to dread a downhill lie. I make a point to maintain balance but think I'm under/over compensating for the downward hill grade trying to keep my shoulders parallel at address. I had one of these last time I played, but was in luck, the ball was on a tuft of grass and a 6 iron away from the green. There were trees in front of me, but I should have been able to get the ball up and clear those easily as the ball was sitting up nice and pretty. The ball resulted going more forward than up, and the ball bounced within the trees and then into OB. I'm not sure, but I think I may have scared myself out of making the shot.Well, Keith, let's dissect the downhill lie and see if we can’t give you some thoughts and techniques on how to improve your results when you have one again.
First of all, I think it’s a good idea to relax your expectations anytime you have a lie that is less than good-to-perfect. The same shot that you can execute from a clean fairway lie becomes measurably more difficult as you deal with more difficult conditions – uphill/sidehill/downhill, rough, insecure footing, etc. When you face a tough shot, expect that your best effort will be no better than an average effort from a clean fairway lie, OK?
But let’s take that downhill lie in particular and analyze the challenge. Most agree that to handle downhill (or uphill) lies, you want to set your shoulders parallel to the ground, so that your swing plane can adapt to the angle. That will obviously result in a lower launch angle for the shot, so you want to consider that when you choose your club. With the swing plane set according to the slope, that 6-iron you pulled to hit the shot over the trees is now going to launch the ball on a trajectory more like a 5-, 4- or even 3-iron. Would that still have cleared them?
And because of the lower launch angle, the ball is likely to fly a little further and land hotter, with less spin. Did you take that lower launch angle into account when you planned that shot you described? Was trying to hit it over the tree from the downhill lie really a high-percentage shot?
The second thing about a downhill lie is that with your shoulders and swing plane set with the slope, it is harder to get a good weight shift and full turn back, up into the slope, and your turn through the ball is very likely to shift your weight more forward than with a level lie. Most also agree that you want to play the ball slightly further back to help get a clean impact with this adjusted swing plane.
If you get a chance to practice this shot a bit, try these tips and see if the results don’t get better. And I hope you enjoy your new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge.
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The best advice I ever got for downhill/uphill lies was "Make your long leg short and your short leg long". It's hard to get comfortable with, but it seems to work once you figure out how to stay in balance. On downhill lies, making your back leg (short leg) longer by decreasing the amount of knee flex while increasing the flex of your front leg (long leg) tilts your body in the direction you need to be.
Thanks for the shoulder tip... that should help, the "play ball back in stance" wasnt always getting it done by itself...
The shoulder tip really is HUGE. Once you get that- there are things you can do here and there- but that is the single one that will get you started in the right direction and make you go from feeling like a complete idiot to at least having a chance.
As Jack Nicklaus pointed out in "Golf My Way", a shot from a down hill lie will also tend to go right (for right handers). So in addition to planning for a lower hotter shot, one might aim a bit left.
I know the shoulder tip and still feel un ease w/ downhill lies. I usually chunk em'.
I believe also that downhill lies will tend to push/fade while uphill lies have pull/hook tendencies (I think it has to do with the hill getting in your way, physically or perceived).
Todd Anderson @ Sea Island GC,Ga says:
1)Fit The Club: The tendency is to drop the handle back to try to add loft. Make sure the club's leading edge is flush to the ground.
2)Set The Body: Build your setup around soled club. Point the butt of grip between zipper & left hip & play ball further back than normal.
3)Swing: Shots tends to fly lower & go right. So take less club & aim left. swing down the slope & don't try to help ball in the air.
GD Dec '08.
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