When the ball lies on the side of a slope above your feet, the swing will become flatter (more horizontal). The result is a shot that starts left of target and often draws or hooks farther off-line.
Use these tactics to combat a ball-above-your-feet stance:
- Take one less club: The slope will bring the ball closer to your hands, forcing you to choke up considerably if the hill is severe. The ball will also fly lower, so use a more lofted club (like an 8-iron instead of a 7) and use your normal grip.
- Aim right: It's difficult to avoid hitting these shots left of target. Rather than altering your swing, simply aim far enough right to compensate.
- Make an easy swing: Variables in stance make it more difficult to hit the ball solidly. Focus on making a controlled, balanced swing to ensure good contact.
How to Hit a Golf Ball That's Above Your Feet
If you are anything like most golfers, you hate uneven lies. Golf is so much easier when the ball is resting on flat ground, yet that doesn't seem to be the case very often on the course. Most courses have at least some degree of slope, and even flat courses have humps and bumps around the layout that cause you to have to adjust your stance and swing accordingly. Although it can be frustrating to find your ball on the side of a hill, golf is a far more interesting game thanks to the presence of uneven ground. If the game were played exclusively from flat lies like it is on the driving range, most people would quickly get bored with the experience.
One of the most challenging lies that you will face is when the ball is resting above your feet. There are a number of possible outcomes from this type of lie – and most of them are bad. For the average golfer, this is probably the most difficult of all uneven lies, simply because it is so easy to miss-hit the ball with what feels like a good swing. You have to make a number of adjustments to your technique in order to hit a solid shot when the ball is above the level of your feet. Whether you are just hitting a short wedge or you are trying to reach a target that is 200+ yards away, you will need to have a clear game plan in mind before starting your swing.
Before getting into specific details on how to hit the ball when it is above your feet, there is one point that should be covered up front – you should never expect to be as accurate from an uneven lie as you would be from a flat lie. It doesn't matter what kind of uneven lie you are dealing with, there is a good chance that it is going to send your ball at least a little bit off line. The key to successfully playing good shots from uneven lies is lowering your expectations and picking conservative targets that will allow for some margin for error. If you take aim at a hole which is located right next to a bunker or water hazard, you are only asking for trouble. Part of playing a good round of golf is knowing when to be aggressive and when to play it safe. Without a doubt, hitting a shot from an uneven lie is one of those times when it is better to pick the safe and smart shot.
To learn how to hit the ball when it is above your feet you will have to spend plenty of time on the course – because most driving ranges simply don't have uneven ground available. The only way you are going to encounter sloped lies is by getting out on the course and playing some rounds, so don't spend all of your time on the practice range. Once you understand how to attack this kind of lie, you need experience in order to become adept and rising to the challenge.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as needed.
Some Basic Adjustments
When you first arrive at your ball at find that it will be resting above the level of your feet during the upcoming swing, there are a few changes that you should know you need to make right away. In time, these changes will become second nature and you won't really even have to think about them prior to the shot. For now, you will want to focus carefully on each of the three points below to make sure you are giving yourself the best possible chance at success.
- Choke down on the club. The first thing you want to do when playing the ball above your feet is to choke down on the club slightly at address. You will need to adjust how much you choke down based on the severity of the slope. If the ball is only slightly above your feet, moving your hands down the grip just an inch or so should do the job. When the ball is well above your feet, however, you may need to slide your hands down several inches before you are able to find a comfortable position. Choking down on the club is helpful because you will be effectively shortening the overall length of the club, meaning the slope won't effect your swing quite as much as if you were trying to use the entire length of the club to hit the shot.
- Narrow your stance. Making yourself a little bit taller at address will also help to 'flatten out' the slope that you are standing on. Bring your feet slightly closer together than you would have them on a typical shot, and you will be taller over the ball as a result. This is another step that will go a long way toward allowing your normal swing to work well even when the ball is high above your feet. The idea is to make as many pre-swing adjustments as possible so that you don't have to do things too much differently once the club starts in motion.
- Take it easy. With your hands moved down on the grip of the club and your stance narrowed, you will be mostly ready to hit a good shot. As one last adjustment, make sure to take enough club for the shot in front of you so that you will be able to swing softly and still carry the needed distance. Balance is critical in any golf swing, and you will be prone to falling off balance with your stance narrowed at address. By making a softer swing you can reduce the risk of losing your balance and give yourself a far better chance to succeed off of this awkward lie.
The three changes above don't really have anything to do with the technical elements of your golf swing, so they should be quick and easy to implement into your game. By leaving your mechanics alone, you will find that have more consistency throughout the round as you adjust to various lies that you have to deal with. Simply by moving your hands down the grip, standing taller, and swinging easier, your performance with the ball above your feet should rapidly improve.
Catching the Ball First
One of the main challenges when it comes to this type of shot is making sure you hit the golf ball before your club digs in to the ground. Since the ground is effectively closer to you when the ball is above your feet than it would be on a flat lie, you will need to be careful to avoid making fat contact. If you hit the ball fat, you are almost certainly going to come up short of the target.
Fortunately, the adjustments that were covered in the previous section will go a long way toward helping you avoid fat contact. Specifically, coming down a couple of inches on the grip of the club will help you miss the ground on the way into impact. However, even with those adjustments made, you could still find yourself hitting the ball fat rather frequently from this kind of difficult lie. For most golfers, this happens when the upper body moves down toward the ball at some point during the backswing or downswing. If you allow your upper body to tilt down toward the ground, you will lose even more space between your upper body and the ball, and fat contact is the likely result.
As is the case with many other problems in the golf swing, maintaining a good posture throughout your swing is the key to avoiding this mistake. If you can stay engaged with your lower body by keeping some flex in your knees, your upper body should stay in place. It is usually when the legs straighten out that your upper body will lean into the ball, so focus on the role of your legs all the way from address on through to the finish. Remember, it is even more difficult to hold your posture on an uneven lie than it is on flat ground. To do so successfully will require plenty of practice in this situation, so you should expect to get better and better at this skill as you gain experience.
It is also important to remember that you are trying to hit down on the ball through impact, even though the ball is above your feet. Hitting down (assuming you are hitting an iron shot) is crucial anywhere on the course, so don't forget about this fundamental just because you are on an awkward lie. Keep your balance throughout the swing and picture the club moving down through the golf ball and into the turf in order to make solid contact. You will find that it is a little more difficult to hit down when the ball is above your feet than when you are on flat ground, but you need to keep your confidence up and commit yourself to the shot.
The last tip in this section that will help you avoid fat contact is to make sure you keep your legs turning to the left throughout the downswing. This is an important fundamental for all of your shots, but it is especially crucial from this type of lie because a good lower body drive will help the club reach the ball in time at the bottom of your swing. Many amateur golfers struggle with this part of the game, largely due to a lack of confidence. You need to believe in your swing in order to move through the hitting area aggressively. Before you start any swing when the ball is above your feet, convince yourself to have confidence in the shot you are about to hit, and then hold nothing back as you execute the swing.
Aiming the Shot
While you might think that the major difficulty of playing a shot with the ball above your feet is executing the swing, the biggest hurdle of all might be aiming up the shot correctly. Your ball flight will change when you are playing from an uneven lie, so it is crucial that you understand what adjustments you need to make in order to wind up with the ball resting somewhere near your target. There are a couple of basic rules that you can follow when hitting the ball from above the level of your feet, but you will also need to go through a period of trial and error before you can consistently pick the right line for this type of shot.
To get started, you should understand that the ball is likely to go left when it is sitting above your feet. The angle of the ground under the ball will essentially 'throw' it to the left immediately when it leaves your club, meaning you obviously need to aim out to the right somewhat at address. The amount of adjustment that you need to make depends on the distance of the shot you are hitting, the type of ball flight you normally use, and a variety of other factors. For example, if you usually hit a draw, that draw may turn into a hook from this kind of lie. On the other hand, a player who usually hits a fade may hit just a slight pull when the ball is above their feet. The only way to know for sure what this kind of lie will do to your ball flight is to pay careful attention to each shot you hit on the course. If you want, you could even write down the results of each shot for a period of time until you feel more comfortable with how to adjust your aim in this situation.
There is a big difference between playing this type of shot from the fairway and the rough. From the fairway, the ball is likely to curve to the left because you will be able to get plenty of the club face on the ball – and plenty of sidespin as a result. So, when hitting this shot from the short grass, you should expect the ball to get up into the air and then either draw or hook to the left. On longer shots, you will find that you get even more turn to the left than you do when playing a short iron. A long shot from the fairway with the ball above your feet might be one of the most difficult shots in the game, so play this shot with care and pick a conservative target to stay out of trouble.
The story is completely different when you are coming in out of the rough. Since the long grass of the rough is going to get stuck between your clubface and the ball, there won't be much spin of any kind of this shot. Therefore, the ball isn't going to turn much to the left in the air, because it should have a generally straight flight all the way until it comes down. However, you will still need to adjust your aim because this kind of shot is likely to be pulled quickly to the left before it flies straight. Most players will see the ball start immediately to the left when it comes off the ground, but then it will hold that line for the rest of its flight. This is another point that you will have to learn for yourself in your own game because the amount of pull will vary from player to player. Take note of how much you pull the ball to the left each time you hit this kind of shot on the course, and eventually you will learn how to aim accurately.
In time, your ability to aim these kinds of shots correctly will gradually improve. Until you reach that point, however, there is something you can do in order to find more success with the ball above your feet. If you play lower shots from this kind of lie, the ball will not have as much of a chance to turn to the left in the air, so the adjustment that you have to make within your aim will be less dramatic. To hit lower shots, move the ball back in your stance slightly and take one or two extra clubs to give yourself a chance to reach the target. This kind of shot isn't going to work in all situations, but it is a great option from time to time to enable you to hit a straighter ball from an uneven lie.
Experience is a powerful thing in golf, and that certainly applies to the ability to hit the ball accurately at the target when the ball is sitting above your feet. Now that you know the basics of what to expect from this kind of lie, the only thing standing between you and improved performance is experience. You are sure to run into this kind of shot from time to time on the course, so pay attention to your results and learn from your mistakes along the way. Each shot is an opportunity to get better by sharpening your ability to aim properly.
A big part of playing good golf is making good decisions. Not every decision on the course can be exciting – everyone likes to go for a par five in two, but that doesn't always make it the right call. You have to make good decisions from the first hole to the last in order to post consistent scores from round to round. Sometimes being aggressive is the right decision, while other times it is best to be conservative and keep your ball in play.
Making good decision is especially important when you are playing from a tough lie such as when the ball is above your feet. You aren't going to be as accurate when the ball is above your feet as when you are on flat ground, so you have to pick safe and smart targets. If there is any form of trouble at all around the green, make sure you aim your ball well away from the trouble – even if that means not hitting the ball as close to the hole as you would try to do from a good lie. It takes patience to not aim right at the hole on every shot, but that patience will be rewarded when you are able to keep penalty strokes off of your scorecard.
It is a good idea to be conservative anytime you have to hit a shot with the ball above your feet, but that idea is particularly important when the trouble is lurking left of your target. Knowing that the ball is likely to turn left in the air, you don't want to try hitting an aggressive shot when a slight miss to the left is going to cost you a couple of shots. If you have to deal with a shot where missing left is going to mean big trouble, you might even want to consider laying up to leave yourself with a better lie and a chance to get up and down. It simply isn't worth the risk of incurring a penalty to have a go at the green when laying up could easily lead to a better score.
You will probably never love hitting shots with the ball above your feet, but it is a part of the game that you will need to learn in order to reach your potential. Use the tips provided above – both physical and mental – to sharpen your performance in this challenging area of golf. Even the best players in the world struggle from time to time with this lie, so don't get discouraged if you have a little trouble at first. Keep working on it and eventually you will become comfortable with how you can manage this kind of shot without damaging the rest of your round.