TROUBLE SHOTSby: Brent Smith, Director of Instruction, Legends Trail Golf Club
Don’t be a hero; get the ball back in play. Take a lofted club. Set up with the ball a little farther back in your stance than normal and the clubface slightly open. The open clubface will help you get the ball up quickly and counteract the tendency of the grass to grab the hosel and close the face. Your body alignment should be slightly left of the target because the open clubface will send the ball to the right if the grass does not close the clubface. Apply a little more grip pressure than usual with the left hand to help keep the clubface square throughout impact.
Take the club back a little steeper on the back swing than normal. This, along with playing the ball back in your stance creates a steeper angle of attack into the ball, which eliminates the amount of grass you have to swing through before impact and helps get the back airborne quickly. Again, hold the club firmly throughout the shot. You should be able to get plenty of distance and hit the ball straight.
The most important consideration when facing an uphill lie is to remember that the slope adds loft to your shot and results in a higher trajectory. Take at least one club more than you would normally hit, possibly two clubs more if the slope is severe. Set up with your spine perpendicular to the slope. This sets your shoulders parallel to the ground and allows you to swing down the slope going back and up the slope going through. Set your weight slightly to the right side at address and play the ball toward the front of your stance. Flare your left foot out about a quarter turn to encourage weight transfer on the downswing.
This shot is more troublesome for most golfers, but it’s not really and more difficult. A downhill lie decreases the amount of loft on the club and causes the ball to fly with a lower trajectory. Take one less club than you would normally hit. Again, set up with your spine perpendicular to the slope and your shoulders parallel to the ground so that the club swings up the slope going back and down the slope coming through. Position your weight toward the left side and position the ball slightly back in your stance. Turning against the slope is difficult so you may want to close your stance a bit to encourage a better turn.
Side Hill - Ball Above Feet
To play this shot, stand taller at address with less knee flex than you would normally use. Choke down about an inch on the club since the distance between your hands and the ball is less than from a flat lie. The club will swing more around your body on a flatter plane when the ball is above your feet. This decreases the loft on the club and results in a low, right-to-left shot, so choose one club less than you would normally hit and align your body and clubface slightly to the right of the target. Keep your weight set toward the balls of your feet throughout the swing.
Side Hill – Ball Below Feet
Even the pros have trouble with this shot, but that doesn’t mean you have to. To get down to the ball, flex your knees more at address and bend more from the hips. Hold the club at the end of the grip. Widen your stance a bit to lower your center of gravity. This creates stability during the swing. The slope of the ground causes your swing lane to become more upright and vertical and also adds loft by opening the face of the club. These factors generally add up to a high, left-to-right shot. Use one more club than you normally do from the same distance and align your body and clubface to the left of the target line. A good swing key for this shot is to maintain your knee flex throughout the swing.
Remember, the flight of the ball tends to reflect the direction of the slope. Practice uneven lies whenever you can to get a feel for the shots you hit from the various situations. It’s always an advantage to know what to expect. With all specialty shots, you should make a couple of extra practice swings before attempting to strike the ball. Program the shape and feel of the swing into your mind’s eye and visualize the flight of the ball. And relax! Shots from uneven lies are usually not as difficult as they seem. Don’t let tension ruin your efforts.