Ball Below Feet – What the Ball Does 2

Commit this fact to memory: A ball that's above or below the level of your feet will curve in the direction of the hill's slope.

That means when playing a shot from a “hanging lie,” where the ball is lower than your feet, it will start and curve to the right-hander's right – a push-fade, in other words.

Three factors cause this to happen: 1) An open clubface at address. 2) A spine angle that's tilted forward and makes the swing plane more upright. 3) Difficulty in firing the body through the shot, inhibiting the release and leaving the clubface even more open at impact.

Because the lie can push weight onto your toes, the dreaded shank is another common miss-hit. So is topping the ball for the golfer who has trouble maintaining the level of his hips and shoulders throughout the swing.

What's a golfer to do when faced with this conundrum? Our next tip will teach you how to compensate.

Golf Tip Ball Below Feet - What the Ball Does?

Golf Tip Ball Below Feet - What the Ball Does?

We can all agree that golf is a difficult game. In fact, some would argue that this is the most difficult game in the world, at least from a skill perspective. It is not as physically demanding as many other sports, but golfers have to possess a long list of skills if they are going to move the ball from tee to green successfully hole after hole. Of course, if you have any experience at all in this game, you already know this is true – golf is incredibly hard, and we have all made the bogeys to prove it.

With that said, one change would make this game dramatically easier. If all golf courses were perfectly flat, the game that presents so many difficulties would instantly become more manageable. Golf would be relatively boring if courses were flat, but it would certainly be easier. Side hill lies are extremely challenging, as they add a variable to your shots which would not be there otherwise.

In this article, we are going to address one specific type of side hill lie. We are going to help to understand how to deal with a situation where the ball is below your feet. This is a common situation to find yourself in during the course of a round, especially if you play most of your golf on a hilly layout. It is essential for all golfers to know how to deal with side hill lies, and the ball below the feet situation is one of the most difficult to handle.

Right from the start, it is important to understand that this is a tricky shot which is never going to be as easy as playing from flat ground. You will always be better off to leave your ball on a flat patch of turn whenever possible, as no amount of experience will make it easier to play from a side hill than a flat lie. The idea here is to learn how to deal with the ball being below your feet as effectively as you can. You should develop your game to where you can survive these shots and then strike when you do find a flat lie and an accessible target.

All of the content below has been written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

A Basic Rule of Thumb

A Basic Rule of Thumb

Golf is a complicated game that becomes much easier when you do your best to keep it simple. You can't always keep it simple, of course, because there are many moving parts which need to come together in order to play well. On this topic, you should start out with a simple understanding of how side hill lies work, and then you can get into the details of how to play these kinds of shots.

As a basic rule of thumb which you can apply to all of your shots, the ball is going to typically move in the same direction as the slope. So, when the ball is below your feet, that shot is going to want to move to the right as it flies. This may come in the form of a fade, or it may be that the ball just starts to the right of the target and stays there. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but more times than not the ball is going to head the way the slope is tilted.

This applies when you are different types of slopes as well. If the ball is above your feet, that shot will usually move to the left rather quickly. A shot played off of an upslope is going to want to move higher into the air than normal, and a downslope shot will fly lower to the ground. As long as you keep this rule of thumb in mind, you shouldn't have to think too hard about these kinds of shots on the course. You will evaluate which way the slope is headed, look at the shot you are about to hit, and make the necessary adjustments.

Of course, we included the word 'basic' in front of this rule of thumb because things are not always this simple. The ball will usually head in the same direction as the slope, but not always. The specific dynamics of your swing will have something to say about where the ball goes, as will the lie of the golf ball in the grass. For instance, a ball which is below your feet – but also in some long grass – may actually be pulled to the left rather than drifting off to the right.

One of the biggest keys to having success in these kinds of situations is something we can't help you with – experience. As you gain experience dealing with more and more shots from side hill lies, you will gradually get more comfortable with how to adjust both your aim and your stance. You will be mostly guessing at first, but there will be more confidence behind your guesses as you move forward. It will be easier to anticipate how the ball is going to behave when it comes off the face of your club, and you will be able to plan accordingly.

Setting Up for Success

Setting Up for Success

To hit quality shots when the ball is below your feet, you need to make some adjustments to your setup position. The ball is not where it usually is when you have a flat lie, so you need to tweak your stance in order to make solid contact. These changes aren't going to be dramatic, but they are very important. Without these changes, it will be almost impossible to hit a good shot in this position.

As you get ready to hit a shot where the ball is below your feet, make sure to hit on each of the following points.

  • Add flex to your knees. This is the big one. When getting ready to swing, you need to flex your knees more than you would when hitting the ball from flat ground. The ball is farther away from you than it would be on a flat lie, so you need to use your knees as a way to adjust for that fact. Basically, you will be making yourself shorter when you add flex to your knees, which is going to balance out the effect of the lie and leave you in a good position for a clean strike. With your knees flexed more than usual, however, you won't be able to make as big of a turn or as powerful of a swing. So, you should be using more club than you would typically use for the shot at hand. Also, while adding flex to your knees, it is important that you don't bend over too much from the waist. Bending over too far will cause you to lose your balance, and lost balance is a big problem in this situation. Keep your upper body relatively upright and use your knees to help you get down to the ball.
  • Move the ball back in your stance slightly. If you use your normal ball position for this shot, it is going to be difficult to reach the ball at impact. You don't want to have to move laterally during your downswing, so move the ball back an inch or two to make sure you can remain centered while swinging around your core. With this kind of ball position, you can just make a simple shoulder turn back and through in order to send the ball on its way. This is another adjustment which is going to cost you a little bit of distance, so keep that in mind when planning out your shot. You never want to feel like you are forcing the ball to cover the necessary distance while on an uneven lie – it would be much better to use plenty of club so you can swing softly and remain in control from start to finish.
  • Use the entire club. The hardest part about this kind of shot is the challenge you will face in simply reaching the ball at impact. With the ball well below your feet, it can be hard to get the sweet spot all the way down to the back of the ball at the right moment. To avoid making that task any harder than it needs to be, make sure your hands are all the way up at the top of the grip. Many players choke down slightly for most of their shots, and that can be a good idea – when you are on flat ground. It is not a good idea here, however. Stay up at the top of the grip and use every last bit of length that the club has to offer.
  • Stand a little closer to the ball. Again here, this is a tip which has everything to do with helping you reach the ball. By moving in just an inch or two, you will have less distance to cover between your hands and the ball. Also, this adjustment is going to help you make an upright swing, which is ideal when trying to pick the ball off of a side slope. A flat swing would run the risk of catching the ball fat in this situation, so move in a bit and make an upright move to take the ball off the turf cleanly.

You should do your best to practice these adjustments on the driving range before using them during a round. Of course, it can be hard to find side hill lies on the average driving range, so this kind of practice isn't going to be a perfect replica of what you will find on the course. If you can find even a small slope where you can hit from on the range, take advantage of that opportunity. If not, you will have to 'pretend' that you are on a slope while still getting comfortable with the adjustments we provided. Once you have dealt with this situation a few times on the course, things will get more comfortable and you will start to see better results.

Making Some Decisions

Making Some Decisions

The physical adjustments that you need to make in order to hit the ball when it is below your feet are pretty straightforward. The mental adjustments you need to make, however, are a little harder to pin down. Specifically, it can be tough to pick out an exact target for the shot, and it can be hard to judge exactly what path the ball will take as it flies through the air.

Believe it or not, the first decision you need to make is not selecting the target for your shot, or even choosing the club you will use. Rather, to start, you need to decide exactly how aggressive you are willing to be with this shot. Are you going to fire at the flag, or are you going to play it safe? Will you try to get the ball all the way to the hole, or are you okay with playing a bit short in order to stay away from trouble? The answers to these questions will then dictate the rest of the choices you make.

From a lie where the ball is only slightly below your feet, you can probably afford to be pretty aggressive. The difference in your ball flight from a flat lie and a slightly tilted lie is not enough to worry about. That story changes when the lie becomes more severe. If you are standing on the side of a steep hill with the ball way below your feet, it will be necessary to be smart and give yourself plenty of room for error. You don't want to make a big mistake from this kind of lie, as you can easily waste a couple shots or more by sending the ball way off line. Be patient when you find a dramatically uneven lie and do your best to get out of the situation with no lasting damage to your scorecard.

Once you determine if you are going to be aggressive or relatively safe, you can then start to think about your target and club selection. The target you pick out for your swing will usually need to be at least a little left of where you would like the ball to finish. Regardless of whether the ball cuts in the air or just is pushed out to the right, it will usually finish to the right of your initial aim point. Commit yourself to the target you select and don't try to 'help' the ball move right by cutting off the release in your swing. Just make your normal swing, and trust that the lie is going to move the ball to the right in some form or fashion.

We already mentioned that you need to use a little extra club when you find this kind of situation on the course, and that certainly is true. One of the worst things you can do on the course is to swing hard from an uneven lie. If you have 150-yards to your target, and you usually hit a 7-iron from that distance, move down to a 6-iron and make a smooth swing. If the lie is particularly tough, you may want to hit a 5-iron and hit a punch shot. No matter what, you should always stand over the ball on this kind of shot thinking that you have plenty of club to reach the chosen target. If that is not the case, you will naturally swing too hard, and the results will be ugly.

The final point which needs to be made in this section is that you have to trust your decisions completely once they are made. Commitment is crucial in golf, as any doubt rolling around in the back of your mind is sure to be manifested in the way you swing the club. Once your choices are made, dedicate yourself to them completely and go about the process of executing your swing. Even a poor decision can work out if you believe that it is the right way to go.

Ball Below Your Feet in the Short Game

Ball Below Your Feet in the Short Game

It may be even more common to draw an uneven lie around the greens than it is in the fairway. When you miss the green and have to chip, you will usually be dealing with some kind of uneven lie. To build a good short game, you have to know how to cleanly chip the ball toward the target time after time, regardless of the slope you may be dealing with.

On the one hand, it is a bit easier to chip from this kind of lie than it is to hit a full shot. After all, you don't have to make a bit turn or anything like that, so you shouldn't wind up falling off balance. You need to make clean contact in order to control the distance that the shot travels, but that task is a relatively easy one with such a small swing.

On the other hand, your expectations are much greater when chipping than when making a full swing. You are trying to get the ball up and down, so you are hoping to chip to within just a few feet of the cup to set up an easy putt. It takes skill to chip accurately when the ball is below your feet. To build up your skills in this area, consider the tips listed below.

  • Knee flex is still important. Just as was the case when you were hitting full shots, you still need to use plenty of knee flex in order to deal with this situation. Set yourself into a comfortable stance with plenty of bend in your knees, and stay that way throughout the shot. It will be easier to stay in your stance when chipping since there is no full turn. However, don't take this for granted because it is still possible to come up early – especially as you swing through the ball. Focus your mind on your knees and ride it out all the way through to the finish.
  • Don't expect much spin. It will be hard to put much spin on your chip shots when the ball is way below your feet. You won't be catching the ball as cleanly as you can on flat ground, which means some of the spin you could have created otherwise will be lost. There isn't much of anything you can do about this fact, so the best thing to do is accept it and plan accordingly. Your chip shots probably aren't going to stop quickly, meaning you have to give the ball plenty of room to bounce and roll before it arrives at the hole.
  • Don't expect much height. Just as the ball is going to come out with little spin, it will also come out low in most cases. This is also related to the way you are going to make contact with the ball at impact. Do your best to avoid planning chip shots that require significant height, and instead try to play the ball along the ground and up to the hole. Bump and run shots, when possible, are a good choice in this situation.

Golf would be much easier if courses were flat, but it would be pretty boring as well. Uneven lies give the game much of its interest, however you have to know how to deal with these situations if you are going to succeed in lowering your scores moving forward. We hope the tips we have provided in this article will help you to perform at a higher level when the ball comes to rest below your feet. These are not easy shots, but they can be made easier with the right technique and plenty of practice. Good luck!