Wouldn’t golf be wonderful if you could pick and place your ball on the perfect lie every shot?! Many would argue yes!
But in reality, you might find that you’ve hit a stunning tee shot, only to be faced with a tricky downhill lie when you were certain you were going to make birdie.
While downhill lies are difficult to play, they’re certainly not impossible.
So, to help you approach your downhill shots with more confidence and account for the required adjustments, we tell you everything you need to know about playing even the most difficult of golf downhill lies that you find yourself in out on the golf course.
What Exactly is a Downhill Lie in Golf?
A downhill lie refers to when the golf ball is sitting in an uneven lie at the point of address. Addressing a downhill lie is particularly awkward, and you need to adjust your setup to ensure the ball heads in the correct direction.
As you might imagine, downhill lies are most prevalent on hilly parkland courses, and they’re more likely to cause you an issue when the ground is wet.
The key to hitting the ball on a downhill lie is adjusting your weight, aligning left, and playing through the ball.
We explain everything you need to know regarding downhill lies in golf in the sections that follow.
Where Do You Aim on a Downhill Lie?
You will need to aim slightly left of the target when you’re addressing the ball in a downhill lie. This is because the ball will track right once hit. The reason for this is that you’re naturally extending your arms down the slope, which means your clubface is open at the point of impact.
As you will know from the occasional slice, an open clubface causes the ball to veer right and often out of bounds!
To prevent this from occurring when you’re playing a downhill lie, shift your alignment ever so slightly to the left. You should also try and adjust your shoulders with the downslope.
It’s also important to note that the impact of playing on a hill will affect the loft of your club. When your ball is sitting in a downhill lie, the loft of the club in your hand will be similar to that of the next club up down when played from an even lie.
So, if you’re playing a nine iron from the fairway, expect it to fly more like an eight when you’re on a downhill lie.
As is the case with playing any shot on the golf course, it’s vitally important to consider your lie before addressing the ball.
The slightest adjustments to account for an uneven lie can be the difference between finding the green in regulation and slicing a shot out of bounds!
How Do You Play a Bunker Downhill Lie Shot?
A downhill lie in the bunker makes a tricky shot even more difficult, and you will have to adjust your setup to account for the uneven ground beneath your feet. In most instances, you will find yourself in a downhill lie when the ball finds the inner side of a bunker that is facing the green.
One of the biggest issues you will face in this scenario is maintaining balance, so the first thing you need to do is widen your stance.
Increasing your stance to slightly wider than shoulder-width apart should do the trick, and will be enough to help you keep your balance when you execute your bunker shot.
Next, it’s helpful to tilt your body so that it’s perpendicular to the slope.
This will prevent you from skulling the ball at impact, as it stops you from approaching the ball to one side. As is the case with all bunker shots, this slight tilt will help you play through the sand and ensure the clubhead travels up through the ball.
Finally, we’d advise you to use a club with slightly more loft than you ordinarily would.
So, for example, if you usually play a 56-degree sand wedge out of the bunker, switching to a 60-degree lob wedge will account for the downhill lie and ensure you can generate sufficient height to get the ball out of the sand.
It’s far from easy to execute the perfect bunker shot from a downhill lie, so we’d recommend spending some time out on the range practicing before making these adjustments out on the course.
What About When You’re in the Rough?
There isn’t a great deal of difference between playing a downhill lie from the fairway or the rough. Begin by broadening your stance slightly and aiming a little left to account for the clubface opening on the downswing.
Depending on the lie you find yourself within the rough, you might need to take a different club than you ordinarily would from this distance.
If you’re in the first cut, you don’t really need to make any changes other than those introduced above.
But if you’re in the shaggy stuff and don’t think you can get a good shot into the green, remember the number one rule of finding yourself in trouble on the golf course – play it safe!
It’s always better to play out of the rough and get your ball back into play, particularly if you’re faced with a tricky downhill lie.
The last thing you want to happen is for your ball to veer right and further into trouble when your lie is less than favorable. As such, get the ball out and back onto the fairway and look to attack the pin on your next shot.
How to Hit a Fairway Wood on a Downhill Lie?
To successfully hit a fairway wood on a downhill lie, the first important piece of advice is to widen your stance so you can get your balance, as you don’t want to follow your ball down the hill after impact.
If you don’t want to play a hybrid or an iron from your downhill lie, it’s possible to hit a fairway wood, but you will need to take into account the necessary adjustments so you don’t top the ball.
You should then adjust your shoulders so that they are matching the slope and you are leaning down the hill.
If you don’t make this adjustment, you will end up hitting up on the shot, opening the clubface in the process. This will almost certainly result in your shot flying too far right.
As we’ve already mentioned, another issue you will face when you’re playing a downhill lie is that the loft of the club will be reduced.
As such, if you have a 3 fairway wood in hand, we would advise switching to a 5. It’s worth losing out on the distance to ensure you get the right trajectory on the shot and don’t hit a slice.
While it’s perfectly possible to make the adjustments and play a fairway wood from a downhill lie, you don’t have to go for the glory shot when you find yourself in a tough spot!
It’s always best to keep the ball in play, so if you feel like the shot you’re planning is too difficult to execute, switch things up and use a mid-iron to get the ball down there and heading towards the pin.
How Do You Hit a Steep Downhill Lie?
Specifically, when you’re playing a steep downhill lie in golf, you will need to make sure you strike the ball cleanly and don’t take too much of a divot. To ensure a clean strike, consider shifting the ball slightly further back into your stance than you ordinarily would.
Equally, shifting around 75% of the weight to your front foot will also help you execute a clean strike when you’re faced with a particularly steep lie.
Finding yourself in a steep downhill lie is far from ideal, and you will need to make the necessary adjustments to your setup to ensure you play a decent shot.
You should also aim slightly left, widen your stance, shift your weight, and go with the next club up.
Again, you won’t be surprised to hear us advocate the safety-first approach when you’re out on the golf course!
We strongly believe that you should keep the ball in play whenever possible, and if that means sacrificing distance when you find your ball in a tricky lie, then so be it.
The worst thing you can possibly do is shank the ball right and out of bounds from a steep downhill lie, as you will be in a much worse position than you started in.
It often pays to play it safe, so don’t be afraid of lofting one down there and going for the pin on your next shot.
Practice with a Solid Technique to Master the Downhill Lie!
Finding your ball in a golf downhill lie doesn’t have to be the end of the world! While it’s certainly disappointing, making some simple adjustments will make the world of difference when it comes to the accuracy and trajectory of your shot.
Providing you follow the steps listed above and make the required adjustments, you should be able to play downhill lies like a pro, and no longer need to worry about how your ball is sitting as you consider your next shot.