What is a Tight Lie in Golf? Explained with Video!

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As you address your ball where it sits on the golf course, you need to consider the type of lie that you find yourself in.

And depending on the condition of the course, you might, unfortunately, find yourself in a tight lie when you’re in and around the green.

But what is a tight lie in golf, and why is it so difficult to execute your desired shot when the grass is thin underneath your ball?

To help you adapt your game and stop thinning or blading shots when you find yourself in a tight lie, we take you through everything you need to know about playing your shots from a tight lie out on the golf course.

What Exactly is a Tight Lie in Golf?

A tight lie in golf refers to a situation where a golfer’s ball comes to rest at a spot on the course where there is very little grass underneath the ball. Typically, the ball will be resting on thin grass, bare earth, or even a hardpan lie.

But the result is always the same – the shot is incredibly difficult to hit!

When you’re faced with a tight lie on the golf course, it’s difficult to hit under the ball and take a divot, which leaves you with limited shot options.

This rules out various shots and necessitates a bump and run or a kiss shot with a low-bounce wedge, two shots that high handicappers struggle to play.

We take a look at how to play a tight lie below.

How Do You Hit a Tight Lie?

Shot selection is so important when you address your golf ball and find it sitting in a tight lie, and you can opt to play one of two shots when you are stuck in a tight lie, these are called the “bump and run” or the harder “kiss shot”.

The first way to play a tight lie is to hit a bump and run with a low-loft club, which requires a sweeping motion as you follow through on your shot.

If you don’t need to carry water or a hazard, then a bump and run is your best option. This means you can get the ball moving towards the pin without having to worry too much about shot trajectory.

The reason that bump and runs are ideal for tight lies is that they enable you to pick the ball cleanly, without taking a divot.

Alternatively, you can hit a kiss shot with a high-loft and low-bounce wedge.

Again, the premise here is that you can’t take a divot and need to just kiss the turf without disturbing the grass or dirt beneath.

If you catch it too thick, you will hit a fat shot when you’re playing out of a tight lie.

If you’re going to attempt a kiss shot from a tight lie, you really need to use a wedge with low-bounce – one that is ten degrees or lower.

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You will also need to open the clubhead slightly at the address, so it doesn’t dig in at impact.

Ultimately, it’s important to practice variations out on the range, as both bump and runs and kiss shots are difficult to execute!

Check out the instructional video below on how Phil Mickelson tackles tricky tight lies:

Why Are Tight Lies Difficult?

The main reason that tight lies are difficult is that the ground below your ball is solid and unforgiving. When you find that your ball isn’t sitting up, you can fixate on the fact that you will struggle to execute the ideal shot from the position that you find yourself in.

And because your ball is sitting down on a surface where taking a divot is extremely difficult, it’s much harder to get the ball in the air and heading towards its destination.

As we explained above, a tight lie necessitates one of two specialist shots, and not every recreational golfer has them in their locker.

If you don’t consider your lie and adapt your shot selection, you will end up playing a thin or fat shot, depending on your swing type.

As well as choosing the right shot, playing the ball from the back of your stance slightly reduces the likelihood of you hitting down on the ball, which is something you need to avoid when playing a tight lie.

How Much Bounce Should a Tight Lie Have?

When you’re playing the ball from a tight lie on the golf course, you don’t need or want a great degree of bounce. When we talk about bounce, we’re referring to the configuration of your wedge, and it’s something that recreational golfers often ignore.

As you consider which type of wedge to carry in your bag, it’s so important to look at its bounce as well as its loft.

For instance, a standard sand wedge comes with 56 degrees of loft and 12 degrees of bounce, while a lob wedge is typically 60 degrees and 8 degrees, respectively.

Both clubs have been designed in such a way to ensure that the sole of the club bounces when it’s grounded, but doing so from a tight lie is disastrous.

So, if you choose a club with a high degree of bounce, it is likely to bounce up from the ground first, causing you to skull the shot.

As such, when you’re playing a shot from a tight lie, it’s so important to select a club with a low degree of bounce – less than ten degrees is ideal.

How Do You Hit a Wedge from a Tight Lie?

The key to hitting a wedge shot from a tight lie is to use a club with high loft and low bounce. For instance, a lob wedge with 60 degrees of loft and 8 degrees of bounce would be ideal for getting you started.

Then, as you address the ball, remind yourself that your aim is to kiss the turf.

Grounding the club and hitting down on the grass as you would elsewhere on the course is a big no-no when you’re playing from a tight lie.

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To avoid hitting down on the shot, play the ball from the back of your stance and take a couple of practice swings, ensuring you don’t take a divot.

Providing your rhythm is good and you don’t take a chunk out of the turf, you can execute your wedge shot from a tight lie and hopefully get the ball heading on the right trajectory.

How Do You Hit a Chip from a Tight Lie?

Executing the perfect chip shot from a tight lie is all about making contact with the ball first. You need to play the ball farther back in your stance than you ordinarily would. As a rule of thumb, the tighter the lie, the further back you should go in your stance.

It’s also helpful to narrow your stance slightly and place most of your weight on your front foot.

To complete your setup, lean the shaft forward, and you’re all set.

As for club selection, it would be better to use a club with a slightly lower loft than usual, as this will stop you from cutting down on the ball and taking turf.

Of course, it will take a while to perfect chip shots from a tight lie, so make sure you practice out on the range!

In the meantime, instead of a conventional chip shot, you could always try a bump and run with a mid-iron from the side of the green, as this is an effective shot to play when your lie is particularly tight.

Can You Hit a Flop Shot from a Tight Lie?

In theory, you can hit a flop shot from a tight lie, but it’s certainly not easy. The difficulty of a flop shot increases as the lie tightens, which means you’re much more likely to blade or thin the shot.

If you’re planning to execute a greenside flop shot, the ideal lie is one that is fluffy, so your ball is sitting up.

This allows you to get the face under the ball and generate the extra height that is required to avoid a hazard or get the ball landing high and soft.

Flop shots aren’t the easiest to play at the best of times, and they become a lot more difficult when the lie is tight!

Unless you absolutely have to, we’d avoid playing flop shots from a tight lie, as there are other shot variations that work much better when you’re struggling to get the club under the ball.

It’s Time to Tackle the Awkard Tight Lies in Golf Head On!

From time to time in your golf career, you’re going to find yourself playing out of a tight lie.

Being able to understand what is a tight lie in golf will save you from blading or thinning your shots around the green and will enable you to adapt your shot type to accommodate the conditions.

The key takeaway to remember is that you should play your shot from the back of your stance and choose a club with fewer degrees of bounce than you ordinarily would.

This will reduce the likelihood of thinning or blading your shots from a tight lie and keep your score respectable as a result.