In this section, we are going to talk about one specific kind of uneven lie – the downhill lie. This is a lie where the ground is sloped down toward the target. For instance, if you are playing a par four which is downhill from tee to green, it is likely that your approach shot will be played from a downhill lie. Most golfers would consider these kinds of lies a little easier than playing from an uphill lie, but they are still not simple. Hopefully, the tips we provide in this section will help you handle this circumstance a little more successfully.

Downhill Lesson Chart

It should be mentioned that you can take steps to avoid finding this situation by thinking carefully about your course management plan. If possible, play to flat areas of the course so you can make the game a little bit easier on yourself. Finding uneven lies is inevitable from time to time, but you'd be wise to reduce the number of these shots you need to play during each round.

Golf is rarely played on flat ground. If it were, the game would be much easier – and probably pretty boring, to be honest. It is the slope of the ground which keeps things interesting, as the various uphill, downhill, and side hill portions of the course will offer surprising bounces, tough stances, awkward lies, and more. In this article, we are going to discuss the impact on downhill slopes.

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Chipping Techniques From The Downhill Slide
Short Game Issues When Playing Downhill Lies In Golf
A Lack Of Practice Areas For Golf Downhill Lie Shots
Strategic Adjustments And Techniques For Downhill Golf Lies
Tips for Handling Downhill Golf Lies
Strategy for Downhill Sidehill Lie Shots
Hinge the Wrist Quickly for Downhill Bunker Shot
How to Stay With a Downhill Shot
Downhill Lie With Raised Green Bunker Shot

How to Stay With a Downhill Shot
How Senior Golfers can Play their Best Downhill Chip Shots
Chipping Downhill Lie Lesson
Strategy for Downhill Lie
Two Ways to Play a Fast, Downhill Chip, Golf

Golf Drill Tip: Downhill lie – Compensations
Right Hand Golf Tip: How Best to Hit from a Downhill Lie
Golf Drill Tip: Downhill lie – What the ball does
Golf Drill Tip: Downhill lie – What the swing does

How Should I Play A Downhill Golf Chip Shot?
How do you hit a shot from a downhill lie?
Should I Hit Downhill Chips And Putts From The Toe?
Downhill Lie Golf Shot, What Is The Best Technique To Use?

To be clear, we are defining a downhill slope as one which runs down toward the target. While the tee box should be flat on each hole, you could find a downhill lie and any point from there up to the cup. In fact, you could even encounter a downhill lie on a hole that plays uphill overall from tee to green. There are some advantages to be enjoyed when on a downslope, but there are some significant challenges to be overcome, as well.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

— Full Swing Basics from a Downhill Lie

When hitting a full shot from a downhill lie, you won’t need to change your whole swing technique in any radical fashion. You will, however, need to make some slight adjustments to make it as easy as possible to achieve clean contact. Without these adjustments, you could find yourself struggle to strike the ball solidly, and it’s always hard to get close to the target without solid contact.

The three adjustments listed below make up the bulk of what you’ll need to do when you find yourself facing a full shot on a downhill lie.

Downhill Lesson Chart

  • Match your shoulders to the slope. This is where it all starts, as adjusting the angle of your shoulders at address is going to help you ‘normalize’ this situation. When you take your stance, do your best to match the angle of your shoulders to the angle of the ground under your feet. In other words, your left shoulder is going to be lower than your right shoulder, because your left foot is lower than your right foot. It’s tempting to keep your shoulders level despite the slope, but that is going to cause you to hit the ball fat more often than not. It’s important to maintain plenty of knee flex at address to support your stance as it is a bit awkward to set up with your shoulders tilted like this. Balance is always going to be a challenge when on an uneven lie, so using plenty of knee flex will help you counteract that issue. On a severe downslope it might not be possible to match your shoulders to the slope without completely losing your balance, so just get as close as you can.
  • Limit your level of effort. Swinging as hard as you can would not be a good idea from a downhill lie. In fact, on any kind of uneven lie, you will always want to manage your effort level to avoid losing your balance and making poor contact. When in-between clubs on a downslope, always go with the longer club so you can swing easy and focus on balance. Of course, you need to take the slope into account when picking your club in the first place, and we will talk about that topic in the next section. Many amateur golfers struggle with the mistake of swinging too hard in every situation, so pay close attention to this point if you know that your normal swing borders on the limit of max effort. You might be able to get away with that kind of aggressive swing on flat turf, but it’s hard to pull off when the ground is uneven.
  • Stay down and through with the right shoulder. The temptation is always going to be to let the club come up early when swinging down a slope. It’s hard to get all the way down to the ball in this kind of situation, so focus on the use of your right shoulder down through the hitting area to improve your chances. As you swing down, feel like you are ‘chasing’ the swing with your right shoulder. Of course, it will help immensely to keep your head down all the way through impact, as that is going to help your right shoulder stay where it needs to be. When you do find yourself on the course with a downhill lie, make it a point to take an extra practice swing or two while paying attention to how your right shoulder moves through the downswing. Even just one extra practice swing can go a long way toward helping you feel more comfortable on the downhill lie.

It would be a mistake to make any big changes in your technique when playing from a downhill lie. With that said, it would also be a mistake to think that your standard swing technique will get the job done in this situation. Your best bet is to balance those two extremes, using something that looks mostly like your normal swing while also paying attention to the three points we have listed above.

— Course Management Decisions

There are a ton of decisions to make during the course of a round. In fact, it is the decisions you have to make that cause golf to be so much more work than it looks from the outside. Non-golfers are often surprised that tournament players are so tired at the end of a round – it’s just walking! Well, if you play this game, you know it’s a lot more than that. The decisions you make can wear you down by the end of 18 holes, especially if you are playing under pressure.

Making good decisions while playing from a downslope is important, as it’s possible to come away with some pretty ugly results if you make the wrong choices. There are far too many possible situations out there on the course for us to walk you through every one, but the points below should help guide your decision making process in this situation.

Downhill Lesson Chart

  • Be careful of forced carries. When standing on a downslope getting ready to hit a shot, you might feel like the ball is going to go farther than normal because the slope is ‘helping’ you in the direction of the target. But here’s the thing – there are a couple of factors working against you in terms of distance. For one thing, the downslope is going to make it harder to achieve clean contact, so you might not get as much out of the shot as you would on flat ground. Also, the ball is going to come out lower than usual, as the slope will rob you of some loft at impact. It’s this second point that is particularly important to remember when playing a shot that needs to carry a water hazard or bunker (or any other obstacle). If the ball comes out low, it might not carry as far as it would normally, and your shot may come up short of the intended target in the air. That’s not a problem if you have room to let the shot bounce and roll, but it isn’t going to work if you need to carry the full number. If possible, you might want to use an extra club or even play away from the target to mitigate your risk in this circumstance.
  • Watch out for misses left. Some players will tend to miss the ball left when playing from a downslope, as they’ll get past it a little at impact and use their hands to shut down the face. If you know that’s something that gives you trouble from time to time, keep it in mind when picking your target for a given shot. For instance, imagine you are playing a relatively short approach from a downslope to a pin cut on the left of the green, close to a bunker. Normally, from flat ground, you’d aim right at the hole and try to knock it in there close. But you should think twice from a downslope, especially with that bunker lurking so near to the side of the green. In this situation, you might want to guard against the miss left by aiming a little bit to the right of the flag. If you do pull the shot left, it might wind up perfect – but even if you hit it straight, you should land on the green and have a putt toward the hole. A big part of course management comes down to managing your mistakes and keeping your ball out of trouble spots. Take note of what your own miss pattern happens to be when playing from a downslope and make choices that limit your risk.
  • No shame in a layup. Often, the downhill lies your ball finds will be relatively mild, and you will be able to hit a full-length shot without much trouble. However, from time to time you will find a severe lie that really tests your ability to hit a long shot. When that happens, remember that laying up is always an option, and sometimes it is the best choice. Going for an extremely difficult long shot from a severely downhill lie will put you at risk of hitting a terrible shot – and maybe adding several strokes to your score when all is said and done. Instead of walking into that kind of trouble, opt for a shorter club and put the ball in a safe position for your next shot. This isn’t the most exciting decision you will make on the course, but it just might be the one that keeps your round on track.

Always think through your options before hitting any given shot on the course. Sometimes, being aggressive will be the right play – often, it will be better to play it safe and avoid trouble. Whatever you decide, take the lie of the ball into account and fully commit to the shot you have selected.

— The Issue of Practice

Most of the time, when learning a new skill in golf, the instructor will tell you that it’s important to get out and practice that skill as often as possible. And that’s good advice, to be sure. If you want to improve, you need to practice! But here’s the catch – it’s hard to find a place to practice shots from a downhill lie. Most driving ranges are completely flat. On a rare occasion, you might find a range that has some sloped hitting areas for you to explore, but those are far from common. Most likely, you will be hitting your shots from flat ground, whether it is off of turf or off an artificial mat.

Downhill Lesson Chart

So, how do you practice shots from a downhill lie when you can’t find such a lie at the driving range? It’s a tough situation, to be sure. Simply put, you probably won’t get the reps that you would like to make progress in this area. But that doesn’t mean you should give up – by getting a little creative, you might be able to make progress here after all.

For starters, look to your own property for an opportunity to practice. Do you have any sloped grassy area in your front or backyard that could work for some practice swings? If so, consider making practice swings from time to time to get more comfortable with swinging down a slope. Sure, you won’t be able to hit any actual shots in this setting, but that’s okay. Just getting the feel for what it’s like to swing on a downhill slope should help you respond better when you are on the course.

Another option is to fit some practice swings into actual rounds of golf when the course isn’t busy. You shouldn’t be hitting a bunch of extra shots on the course, as that will tear up the turf, but you can make practice swings when you have time (just don’t take divots). As you make your way through a round, stop and make a few practice swings when you find a downhill area that you can use. Of course, pay attention to your pace of play and never use this strategy if there are groups waiting behind you to play.

Finally, one more important point is to make the most of every opportunity you get to play a shot from a downslope during a round of golf. When you face this situation, pay close attention to how you get ready for the shot and what the outcome looks like in the end. Where did you go wrong, or did the shot come off perfectly? It might even be worth writing down some notes that you can review later. Learn as much as you can from each shot and you may be surprised to find how quickly you can improve.

— Downhill Lies in the Short Game

Our last section in this article is going to be reserved for the short game. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking this section or thinking that you only need work in the long game when it comes to downhill lies. The short game is hugely important to your success on the links, and it’s quite common to play putts and chips when your ball is resting on a downslope. It’s not an exaggeration to say that improving in this area can dramatically expand your potential as a golfer.

As you practice your short game shots from downhill lies, keep the following list of points in mind.

Downhill Lesson Chart

  • Address is important. Just as with the full swing, it’s important to position yourself properly over the ball for chip shots and putts on downhill slopes. You should be trying to match your shoulders to the slope just as you did with the full swing, and make sure to keep your knees flexed, as well. Many golfers tend to overlook the importance of matching their shoulders to the slope when it comes to putting specifically. Thinking that it’s easy to make good contact with a putt, these players will just stand with their shoulders level and make their usual stroke. This is likely to result in contact low on the face, because the putter isn’t swinging down the slope, and the ball will typically come up short of the target. No matter what kind of short game shot you are playing, make an effort to match your shoulders to the slope of the ground (or get close, in the case of severe slopes) and you’ll find it much easier to make good contact at impact.
  • Soft hands are key on short putts. If you are standing on a downslope when hitting a short putt, that putt is probably going to be pretty scary. After all, if it doesn’t go in, or at least grab a piece of the hole, it could race by and leave you with an even longer putt coming back. That’s not what you want – so don’t even think about that outcome and just focus on what you can control. To maintain great control of your speed on this kind of putt, soften your grip and focus on using your shoulders to swing the putter. That’s what you should be doing anyway, but it’s particularly important when putting downhill. Also, it’s crucial that you keep your head steady on these short downhillers, as it is easy to look up prematurely while trying to will the ball into the cup. Stay steady, use a light grip, and make a smooth stroke to knock them in over and over again.
  • Expect a long, flat bounce on chip shots. When talking about the full swing, we talked about how your ball is going to come out lower than normal thanks to the slope of the ground. With that in mind, remember that your chip shots are going to do the same thing, so your first bounce is likely to be flat and long. This is particularly true out of the rough where you won’t be able to put much backspin on the shot. As you get ready to chip or pitch from a downhill lie, keep the bounce in mind and try to pick a landing spot that will give you enough room to work with. If you don’t have enough room to stop the ball next to the cup, accept that reality and just play the shot to finish a bit long – it’s not worth the risk to try to do something ‘fancy’ and stop the ball quicker. You are already in a tough spot by having to chip from the downhill lie, so play it safe and give yourself a chance to roll the putt in.
  • Downhill lies in the bunker are trouble. There is no way around it – a downhill lie in a greenside bunker is a very challenging shot. If you find yourself in this kind of position, your first goal should be to simply get out of the sand in a single swing. That might not mean getting the ball close to the hole – it might not even mean getting the ball on the green. Make a plan that will allow you to get out of the trap and back onto the grass at the very least. If you happen to draw a good lie and the slope isn’t too severe, you may be able to play closer to the hole in some situations.

We hope this discussion of downhill slopes on the golf course has given you plenty to think about. If you are currently pretty happy with the state of your golf game, but want to find small ways to make improvements, working on handling these kinds of slopes better would be a nice step in the right direction. Instead of seeing a downhill slope as an obstacle, you may soon come to see it as an opportunity that can be used to your advantage with the right technique and some sound course management. Good luck!