Experienced golfers know that sidehill lies cause shots to curve in different directions.

Depending on whether the ball is above your feet or below them. But when focusing intently on aim, they sometimes forget to factor in distance.

A shot from a sidehill stance will generally fly shorter than one hit off level ground. The more severe the tilt, the less the ball will carry. That's primarily because the additional curve subtracts distance, but there are other factors, too. You generally won't swing as hard because of the awkward stance; and with the ball above your feet, you must grip down on the club, making it shorter.

There is one caveat: When the ball is above your feet it will draw (turn right to left) and roll more after landing.

Apply these basic club-selection rules when faced with sidehill lies:

  • Ball below feet: Take at least one extra club, depending on the slope's severity. This will help you reach the ball more easily, without additional bending at the knees, and compensate for the loss of carry distance.
  • Ball above feet: If you can reach the target without carrying a hazard, take one less club and plan for extra roll. You won't have to choke up as much on the shorter club, improving your chances of making a good swing. If the ball rests several inches above your feet, however, it will fly a shorter distance.

If all golf courses were perfectly flat, this would be a pretty boring game.

Adjust Club Choice When Playing from Sidehill Lies

Part of what makes golf so interesting is the fact that most courses have at least subtle slopes – and some have dramatic slopes which cut across the entire property. When your ball comes to rest on one of these slopes, which is often referred to as a sidehill lie, you will need to make a number of adjustments in order to hit a good shot. It is definitely a challenge to produce a quality shot off of a sidehill lie, but isn't the challenge of golf a big part of what makes it so much fun?

In this article, we are going to talk about a key element of playing from a sidehill lie – choosing the right club. Of course, picking the right club is a key skill on every golf shot, and that is certainly true when it comes to sending the ball from a sidehill lie up toward your target. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as just checking the yardage and using the club that you would always use for that number. There are a few variables to consider in this equation, and we will get into the details of the matter later in the article.

One common problem faced by amateur golfers is the fact that their game does not translate well from the range to the course. Many golfers feel that they are well-prepared for a round thanks to their work in practice, but they go out onto the course and don't achieve the expected results. A big part of this issue comes down to things like sidehill lies. Golf is a game which is constantly presenting you with new challenges, and it is your job as a player to overcome those challenges with creativity and flexibility. Playing this game well would be pretty easy if all shots were basically the same, but that isn't the case. If you hope to elevate your level of play, it will be essential to learn how to deal with as many different types of shots as possible.

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.

Distance Adjustments

Distance Adjustments

Playing from a sidehill lie is going to impact the way the ball leaves the club, and as a result, it is going to impact how far the ball travels overall. Of course, there are swing adjustments to be considered here as well, but we will get to those in the next section. For now, our focus is going to be exclusively on predicting how far the ball is going to travel.

The points below highlight what is likely to happen to the ball when played from various types of sidehill lies.

  • Ball above your feet. When the ball is resting above the level of your feet, you are very likely to wind up hitting a draw. The nature of such a slope is going to work to flatten out your swing, and that flatter swing will usually lead to a right-to-left ball flight pattern. In addition, the club face will be pointing to the left slightly at impact, so you may hit a pull-draw. In the end, playing a shot with the ball above your feet is likely to lead to a longer overall flight. That is, of course, assuming you can make solid contact. If you don't hit the ball solidly, all bets are off in terms of the distance you will achieve. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as just adding a few yards to your expected distance and swinging away. There are a ton of variables at play here, and the way it works for you is going to be unique to your situation. For instance, a player who already hits a draw anyway is not likely to see much distance gain. At the same time, a player who usually hit a fade may pick up quite a bit of distance as a result of turning the ball over. The lie of the ball in the grass is going to matter as well, since a ball sitting in the rough won't curve as much as a ball resting on the fairway. So, while it is a good rule of thumb to expect the ball to fly farther when it is above your feet, the best thing you can do here is gain experience. The more shots you play in this situation, the better you will become at predicting your distance accurately.
  • Ball below your feet. You can probably guess what we are going to say in this section. For starters, the ball should be expected to curve in the opposite direction as when it is above your feet. A more upright swing is typically required when the ball is below your feet, meaning you'll be more likely to hit a fade. And, as a result, you shouldn't expect to get as much distance as you do normally. However, the same caveats apply here that we highlighted in the previous section. Your personal experience will vary based on a number of conditions, so experience is going to be your best friend. By learning how your swing and ball flight respond to having the ball below your feet, you will gradually become more adept at picking the right club.
  • Adding another slope. It's tricky enough to pick the right club when you simply have the ball either above or below your feet. Things get really complicated, however, when you add in an upslope or downslope as well. In this kind of situations, you have two different slopes to account for, and a whole host of variables to weigh. Without a doubt, these are some of the trickiest shots in the game. In general, you should expect the ball to fly farther when on a downslope and shorter when on an upslope. This all has to do with launch angle. If the ball is on a downslope, it is going to come out lower than it would when played with the same club off of a flat lie. Or, when hitting from an upslope, you'll get a higher launch, a higher flight, and reduced carry distance. You'll need to combine the impact of the upslope or downslope with the impact of the sidehill lie in order to come up with a plan for the shot at hand. With any luck, you'll be able to stay out of this situation as often as possible, since these shots are tricky even for experienced players.

It would be great if we could give you some concrete numbers to work with when the ball is above or below your feet. This would be so simple if you could just 'add five yards' when the ball is above your feet, or 'subtract five yards' when the ball is below your feet. Of course, nothing in golf is simple, and that just isn't going to work. Every single shot is unique, and you have to learn how to make adjustments on the fly. This is why there is no substitute for experience in this game. The more you play, the more opportunities you will have to run into sidehill lies. And, with each shot you play, you'll get a little better at judging the distance that the ball is going to travel.

Adjusting Your Swing

Adjusting Your Swing

Figuring out how far the ball is going to fly is tricky enough on its own, but the work doesn't end there. While playing from a sidehill lie, you are also going to need to make at least minor adjustments to your swing. These adjustments will aim to make it easier to achieve solid contact, and they may also play a role in how far the ball is going to travel.

We are going to divide up the likely swing adjustments you'll want to make into two categories, which are listed below.

  • Adjustments when ball is above your feet. If you need to play a shot where the ball is resting above the level of your feet, the first thing you'll want to do is move your feet slightly closer together. This is going to cause you to stand a bit taller. By standing taller, the ball won't feel like it is elevated quite so much, and the swing will feel a little more 'normal'. Also, if the ball is significantly above your feet, it may be wise to reduce the amount of knee flex you use at address. When you are playing from a particularly extreme lie, you may wish to choke down on the grip of the club to effectively shorten the length of the shaft. Of course, by choking down, you are going to reduce your swing speed and the overall distance of the shot will likely be shortened. That may mean it will be necessary to use an extra club to counteract what you lose when you choke down. We know this sounds a bit complicated, but it's not too bad once you have a little bit of practice.
  • Adjustments when ball is below your feet. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the adjustments you need to make in this situation are essentially the opposite of the changes that you made when the ball was above your feet. Here, you are going to stand with your feet a bit farther apart, and you are going to add some flex to your knees. Also, you may want to use one extra club, but this time you are going to keep your hands all the way up at the top of the grip. You need the full length of the club in order to reach the ball comfortably at impact. The key factor when making a swing in this situation is to stay down through the shot all the way into the finish. If you come out of the shot early, even just slightly, it's going to be hard to make good contact. It's always a good idea to go back to basics when you are in a tough spot such as this. Focus on keeping your eyes on the ball until you've sent the shot on its way.

As you can see, the distance that the ball is going to fly is not the only reason that you would want to change clubs when playing from a sidehill lie. You may want to use one extra club in both of these situations, whether the ball is above or below your feet. When it is above, the extra club will help you reach the target even though you have choked down on the grip. And when the ball is below your feet, using an extra club is going to give you more shaft to work with, helping to offset the uncomfortable lie. There isn't anything we can do to make these shots easy, but making the right adjustments should help to improve your results.