What's the best way to learn how to hit from a downhill lie?
How do I hit the downhill lie shot?
This is a tough shot for many amateurs because they try to help/lift the ball into the air. You might get away with this sometimes on flat slopes, but you’re going to chunk and top the ball almost every time from a downslope. Let’s keep it simple and learn the proper technique to hit this shot. Check out this short YouTube video to make the changes necessary to pull this shot off in the future!
Set up and swing path are key--And don't swing too hard
All unlevel lies are hard–for all players.
For a right-hand golfer the ball will tend to go low and cut or fade to the right. First take more loft than normal because the ball is going to come off low. If there’s a 10′ down angle and the 8 iron has 38′ of loft–it now has 28. Next, weight on the downhill foot enough so that the spine angle is perpendicular to the slope or the shoulders are parallel with the slope. Ball position will be near the uphill foot. Feel like you are leaning down the slope. This is crucial as it puts the body in a position to do the next important thing–SWING DOWN THE SLOPE. Most Ams will want to try to help the ball in the air given the downhill slope–when they do they’ll either hit behind the ball or top it.
Take a more lofted club, aim slightly left (to account for a slight fade), set the weight on the downhill foot (how much depends on how severe the slope is–so that you get the shoulders parallel with the slope), ball positioned near the uphill foot, swing down the slope and DO NOT TRY TO HIT THE SHOT FULL. Balance is key and because you’re on an unlevel lie it’s important to swing within yourself so you maintain that balance.
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Walk Through Your Shot On Downhill Lies
I actually have my students hit downhill shots quite often during lessons. The biggest adjustment is getting a persons lines (shoulder, hip, knees) to match the downhill slope. Once that happens, hitting shots from downhill lies is fairly simple. The added step that I add is is to have students walk through (step through) the shot with their trail side (right side for right handed players/left side for left handed players). This is a technique that I learned from Jimmy Ballard that he actually taught to Gary Player in 1978 to get rid of the duck hook. This is a great way for students to learn how the trail side goes down the line to the target and lends itself to striking very solid shots.
Flare the Downhill Foot
Balance is the foundation of every golf shot. Flare your downhill foot 145 degrees. As you do, narrow your stance so your support is under your lead hip. Next, either behind or next to the ball make practice swings with this foot flare. Notice how balanced you are in your finish. Also notice where your club bottoms out in your practice swing. The position where the club bottoms out is your ball position. The bottoming out position will be back in your stance and relative to the slope. The steeper the slope the further back the club will bottom out. Should you set your shoulders parallel to the slope? I no longer teach that adjustment on uneven lies except in a bunker. That is my teaching preference. The extreme flare of your downhill foot with the right ball position will give solid contact and a full balanced finish
Downhill Lies made a bit easier
It is always fun to bomb a tee shot then find yourself on a downhill slope. Most players will struggle with this shot and top the ball more often than not. What I tell my students is they have to get their shoulders and hips on the same line as the slope. Once they get the feel then when they swing make sure they swing down the slope. When we get set up we also discuss what the slope will do to the loft of the club. It decreases so the can use a less lofted club and still get decent distance.
Always keep it smooth and keep your weight a little more toward the foot that is higher. So in this case back foot.
Posture and acceptance
When playing a downhill lie, set your shoulders parallel to the slope and your spine perpendicular. The swing in as if you are chasing the ball down the hill. Choose one less club, choke down a bit and you’re ready fire. DO NOT TRY TO LOFT THIS SHOT!! Accept the fact that the golf ball will fly on a very low trajectory and run a good ways upon landing. Take a few rehearsals and swing up hill going back and DOWN THE HILL COMING DOWN. A regular 7-iron might fly like a 2-3 iron. Accept it and deal with it.