How to approach a tough lie angle – Playing on Uphill And Downhill Lies explained

Golf is challenging enough at the best of times, even when playing off a flat surface like the driving range mat!

Unfortunately, the golf course only makes things harder, as we’re presented with all kinds of slopes and undulations which affect how we need to play each shot.

In fact, we’re rarely treated to a level surface in golf, so it’s essential to learn how to approach uneven lies if we want to shoot lower scores.

Uphill and downhill lies in golf are dreaded by players, but they don’t have to be daunting shots to play as long as you know the right adjustments to make.

This article will guide you through how to approach each type of sloping lie in golf so you’ll be ready to strike the ball sweetly from wherever it lands on the course!

Let’s get into it!

lie angle. Golfers play off an uphill and downhill lies in golf

How to play from Uphill & Downhill lies In golf

We’ve all been there. Your ball has landed on one of the many hills of the course and suddenly the swing you’ve been working on at the range feels awkward and you can’t seem to get a reliable strike from the slope.

Uphill and downhill lies in golf are tough to play from because they can affect your balance and the trajectory of your shots.

To play consistently from a tough lie angle, you may be required to make one or all of the following changes in stance, club selection, and aim.

There are 4 different types of uneven lie to contend with in golf:

  • When the ball is on an uphill lie
  • When the ball is on a downhill lie
  • When the ball is above your feet
  • When the ball is below your feet

Here’s how to approach each of the above!

A golfer makes a putt uphill.

#1. When the ball is on an uphill lie

So, the ball has landed on a hill and your target is at the top of the slope.

Your lead foot is going to be on a higher level than your back foot when addressing the ball.

The most important change to make on an uphill lie angle is to match your body position to the slope.

Aim to get your shoulders parallel with the incline which involves straightening your lead leg a fraction and allowing your trail leg to bend more.

Don’t fight against the slope by leaning into it. This is so you avoid crashing into the hill and taking a messy divot which will produce a poor shot.

Your ball position should be slightly closer to your higher foot and your weight should be in favor of your lower foot on an uphill lie.

The next key consideration to make when playing an upslope is the amount of loft you’re using.

The club you would normally select to make up a distance may not be the right choice when working with an uphill lie angle.

This is because when your club head is parallel with the ground on an upslope, the incline will be adding extra loft to your shot.

For example, your 7 iron is effectively going to become an 8 iron because your ball will be launched steeper in the air due to the angle of the hill.

To compensate for this, you should select a club with less loft to meet your target.

Lastly, swing with the direction of the slope and stand tall in your follow-through.

A golf iron about to tap a ball into a hole.

#2. When the ball is on a downhill lie

Now for the reverse scenario: playing the ball on a downslope.

Again, you want your address position to be parallel with the angle of the slope, this time by allowing more flex in the lead knee.

In opposite fashion to the upslope, the downhill lie starts to subtract loft from the golf club which is why lots of players struggle to get height on their ball from a downslope.

Your ball is typically going to launch lower when working with a downhill lie angle which also means it will spend more time bouncing and rolling once it lands.

The solution? Take less club.

Club down by using a more lofted club than you would typically choose to make sure your ball is going to come out that little bit higher.

This is also a necessary adjustment to compensate for the lower altitude of your target since your ball will naturally spend longer in the air when flying above a downslope and will travel further than it would across a flat surface.

Finally, don’t force the golf ball up in the air in your swing, leave that to the job of the club.

Place the ball slightly back in your stance nearer to your higher foot to help you make ball-then-turf contact.

Keep your weight on your lead foot for balance and swing with the slope.

A golfer sets up at a golf tee.

#3. When the ball is above your feet

Hills in golf not only offer you a tough lie angle when you’re swinging in the same direction as the incline; they are equally tricky to navigate when you need to play your shot across the slope on what’s called a sidehill lie.

This is where the ball sits higher or lower than where you stand to play the shot depending on the direction of your target.

When the ball is above your feet, the big thing to consider is that your shot will tend to fly left of where you aim.

This is because when you match your club head to the angle of a slope that gets higher in front of you, the toe of the club face is raised which will influence the trajectory of your strike.

Although we may think that the grooves on our club face are aiming at our target, when on a sloped lie angle, the direction of your club’s loft will be pointing up and to the left.

This is known as the face plane tilt in golf.

The solution is to aim to the right of your target.

Your face plane tilt will trigger a draw and bring the ball’s curvature in the air from right to left ending back at center.

However, be aware that the greater the amount of loft on your club the more your ball is going to be encouraged left, so you may need to aim further right when using a pitching wedge vs a 7 iron.

In terms of the setup when the ball is higher than your feet, it’s important to stand taller in your address position.

Your spine angle should be less tilted forward than for a shot on flat ground to allow room to make your swing.

The ball above your feet will encourage a flatter swing plane than usual, which looks more like a baseball swinging motion.

To gain more control, it’s also recommended to have your grip a tad lower down the shaft than usual.

This in effect shortens the club’s length which is useful since the ball is slightly closer to you when sat on an elevated surface.

Lastly, there’s a tendency to use all hands and arms to perform the swing when we’re adjusting to meet a higher ball.

Remember to still turn through the shot in your adjusted stance.

A golfer makes an uphill putt.

#4. When the ball is Below your feet

Finally, let’s talk about how to approach your shot when your ball is lower than where you stand to swing.

This can be a deceiving shot that golfers struggle with because the ball is slightly further away from the body which can lead to topping the golf ball and losing your balance forwards.

In contrast to the previous scenario, when the ball is below your feet your shot will have a tendency to travel right.

Here your club head will be lower at the front to match the slope so your face plane tilt will be pointing up and right.

You should aim slightly left of your target to compensate for playing a slight fade.

The setup when the ball is below your feet is all about getting the body low too.

Make sure your knees have more flex than usual and try to remain low throughout the whole swing. It’s easy to lift out of the shot early when the ball is below you.

The mistake when the ball is below your feet is when you only lean forward with your upper body to reach the shot and don’t pay attention to what the rest of your body is doing. This will upset the balance of your swing and you’ll hit a bad shot.

Finally, place your weight toward the front foot and rotate normally to help you get through the ball.

Remember these steps and you’ll be good to go!

Sloping lies are tough – there’s no question about it.

But now you know the right adjustments to make in stance, club, and aim, you’ll be setting yourself up for success!

Make sure your clubs aren’t working against you by checking out our full guide to the lie angle in golf!

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