No matter how flat a course first appears, you'll eventually end up having to hit the ball off a slope. It may be an uphill, downhill or sidehill lie, and any one of them will frustrate the player who doesn't know how to play them or understand their effects on ball flight.
The key to hitting the ball in each of these circumstances is adjusting your address position so you make contact at the bottom of the swing arc. Couple that with an understanding of how the ball will bend as a result of these adjustments and you can turn a tough situation to your advantage.
To get into the proper address position to hit off either an uphill or downhill lie, simply set the line of your hips and shoulders parallel to the slope you're on. This means adjusting your balance so that most of your weight is on the lower foot. For a right-handed player that's the right foot for an uphill lie, the left foot for a downhill lie. Ball position also is important, and you should play it toward the higher foot -- the left foot for an uphill lie, the right foot for a downhill lie.
To prevent a fat or topped shot, swing the club along the line of the slope. Starting with the hips and shoulders set parallel to this line at address makes this easier.
The steeper the slope, the greater the tendency to lose your balance, so take a few practice swings. You may decide that making a three-quarter swing of the arms, keeping the lower body quiet, will increase your chances of good contact.
The lie and your address position influence the shape of the resulting shot. Your setup for an uphill lie naturally adds loft to the clubface, while the angle of the slope also promotes a higher shot. So take a less-lofted club or two, depending on the severity of the hill.
The opposite is true for a downhill lie: Swinging down along the slope delofts the clubface, while the angle of the slope creates a lower shot. Go down a club or two.
From a sidehill lie, you must alter the swing plane by changing your posture. The lie helps you do this. A ball below your feet forces you to stand closer to it and bend more at the waist, creating a more upright swing plane. A ball above the feet forces you to stand farther away and more erect, encouraging a flatter swing.
In addition to altering the swing plane, sidehill lies also affect the shape of the shot. A ball below the feet forces a very straight takeaway with the arms, resulting in an out-to-in approach path and a left-to-right flight pattern. Compensate by aiming a little left, allowing for the fade.
A ball above the feet calls for a great deal of body turn and a flat arm and shoulder plane, resulting in a right-to-left flight. Aim a little right to allow for the draw.
Private Lessons 1999 Time4 Media, Inc., used under license by GolfServ Online, Inc. Instructional information provided by Golf Magazine.