Few of us have access to a driving range with dedicated space to practice from different lies and stance levels, so those shots must be experienced on the course. Most short-game practice areas, however, feature humps, slopes and different cuts of grass, so you should take advantage and learn to play various shots.

For example, chipping from sidehill stance changes the shot's basic equation. If the ball is below your feet, it will tend to come out slightly right of your aim; the opposite holds true when the ball is above your feet.

Here's the method for chipping with your feet above the ball:

  • Resist the urge to bend over to reach the ball. Instead, stand slightly closer and flex the knees more to make up the difference.
  • You should feel a little more weight on your heels than with a level stance.
  • Hold the grip as close to the butt end as necessary to comfortably reach the ball, and make sure the club's sole lies flat on the ground.
  • Aim left of where you want the ball to land. The farther below you it lies, the more right it come off the clubface.
  • Plan for less spin than with a standard chip.

Now for a chip with the ball above your feet:

  • Stand farther from the ball, with extra weight on your toes.
  • Choke up on the club as necessary, since the ball will be closer to your body. The club's sole should lie flat on the turf.
  • Aim right to compensate for the ball's leftward flight. The steeper the slope, the more left it will come out.

Swing a touch harder than you typically would from the same distance to counteract the effect of choking up.

How to Adjust Your Body when Chipping from Sidehill Lies

How to Adjust Your Body when Chipping from Sidehill Lies

For most amateur golfers, chipping counts as one of the most difficult skills in the game to master. There are a number of elements which are included in each chip shot, and it is hard to handle these elements successfully without a significant amount of practice. You need to strike the ball cleanly, you need to hit it the right distance, and you need to evaluate the lie of the ball in the grass. Even just those three points alone are enough to cause most amateur players to run in the other direction. Of course, chipping is an extremely important part of golf, so you can't afford to back down from this challenge.

Another one of the elements which makes chipping so difficult is the fact that you are frequently going to have an uneven lie for this kind of shot. The area around the green on most golf courses is sloped at least to some degree, largely for drainage purposes. When your ball comes to rest on this sloped part of the course, you will have to adjust your technique and planning as necessary to still produce a quality shot. In this article, we are going to walk through a number of different tips which should help you play successful chip and pitch shots even from sidehill lies.

Before we even get into the technical instruction, one of the first things you are going to need to do here is accept the challenge. It might sound silly, but some amateur players refuse to even work on this part of the game – they just kind of throw up their hands and admit defeat. Yes, it is hard to hit great shots when you have a tough, sidehill lie, but this game is supposed to be hard. Embrace the challenge you have been given, prepare yourself in practice, and look forward to a day when you no longer fear these tricky kinds of short game shots.

A big part of the short game comes down to nothing more than having the right attitude in mind when you walk up to the ball. When you are chipping, you are probably a little bit frustrated that you failed to hit the green with your previous shot. However, that frustration is going to do nothing to help you get the ball in the hole as soon as possible. If you can learn to put your frustration to the side while focusing on doing your job with the chip shot, your game as a whole will improve. Adversity is sure to find you on the golf course – it is how you deal with that adversity which is going to determine your success or failure in this game. Not only to the best golfers have solid swings and plenty of experience, they also know how to keep a positive attitude from start to finish.

All of the instruction provided in this article 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.

The Difficulties of a Sidehill Lie

The Difficulties of a Sidehill Lie

Why is it more difficult to chip from a sidehill lie as opposed to a flat spot around the green? There are a number of reasons why this kind of shot poses a significant challenge. Before we get into the topic of how you can improve on these shots, we first need to dissect exactly why they are so difficult. With a clear picture of the challenge you face, it will be a bit easier to overcome the challenge with a combination of practice and planning.

The list below highlights the key issues you are going to face when playing a short shot from a sidehill position.

  • Making clean contact. The biggest problem with this kind of shot is the fact that it is hard to make clean contact. The sole of the club is not going to be sitting flush on the top of the turf, so you club won't be able to work through the grass in the same way it would from a flat lie. If the ball is below your feet, the heel of the club will likely dig and the club face may turn over. Or, if the ball is above your feet, the toe can catch the grass and the face will be swung open. Either way, you are in trouble with regard to getting the ball close to the hole. Many of the adjustments we make later in this article are going to be designed with the specific goal of solving this important problem.
  • Maintaining your balance. On any golf shot, it is important to remain balanced. Keeping your balance successfully should be one of your top goals on the course, as good balance is usually going to lead to good results. Think of balance as one of the main building blocks of your golf technique. While it is relatively easy to get into a balanced stance on flat ground, this task gets much harder when they ground is sloped under your feet. You will have to work harder to become balanced on a sidehill lie, but it certainly is possible. It is going to be nearly impossible to achieve good results in this situation without finding your balance, so you need to make sure to check off this point before moving on to any other issues.
  • Judging your distance. When you hit a full shot from a sidehill lie, one of the biggest challenges is hitting the ball in the direction of your target. After all, balls hit from a sidehill like usually pull in the direction of the slope – unless they don't, which is what makes such a situation so challenging. The story is different around the greens, however. It is pretty easy to get the ball on line from short range, meaning your bigger challenge comes in the way of getting the distance right. Since you are going to have trouble making clean contact, getting the distance just right may be even more difficult than on a flat chip shot. It is going to take plenty of practice to learn how to toss the ball the right distance toward the hole with any degree of consistency.
  • Dealing with long rough. Often, when you have to chip from a sidehill lie, you will also be chipping from a location that features long rough. Why is that the case? Simple – if there wasn't long grass on the slope, the ball would probably have rolled down to the bottom. That means that you are going to have to manage to judge these tricky shots while also judging how the rough is going to affect your swing. Handling one of these factors alone can be difficult enough, so it shouldn't be surprise that dealing with two at the same time is particularly nasty.

As you can see, you have your work cut out for you when it comes to chipping off a sidehill lie. There is good news in all this, however – you can learn how to play these shots, as long as you are willing to practice with an open mind. Your technique is going to need some adjustment if you are going to have success, so plan on doing some work at your local golf practice area to teach yourself the right mechanics. The content throughout the rest of this article will help you point your practice in the right direction.

Adjusting for the Ball Below Your Feet

Adjusting for the Ball Below Your Feet

While the title of this article lumps these kinds of chip shots into the category of sidehill shots, they really need to be divided into two different groups. Chipping with the ball above your feet is completely different from chipping when the ball is below your feet. In this section, we are going to specifically address the adjustments which will be necessary to play a good chip when the ball sits below your feet. In the section that follows, we will go the other way and talk about chipping with the ball above the level of your feet.

So how should you alter your approach in order to hit great shots with the ball below your feet? Consider the following tips -

  • Add flex to your knees. This is the best place to start when trying to adjust your body for this kind of shot. By adding flex to your knees at address, you will be able to get down lower – which is going to help you reach your ball during the swing. Remember, the ball is sitting down lower than it would be when playing on flat ground, yet your clubs are going to stay the same length. Since you can't make your wedge any longer, the only option is to get your body lower. Sit down into your stance and add a significant amount of flex in your knees until you feel like you will be able to reach the ball comfortably.
  • Add tilt to your hips. Even if you are able to sit down into your stance significantly farther than you do on a flat lie, you are still likely to need a little more help getting down to the ball (depending on the severity of the lie). To get the rest of the way down, tilt from your hips while keeping your back straight. This is where many players go wrong, as it is common for golfers to hunch over rather than tilting with a flat back. You want to do your best to keep your back flat, so tilt while keeping your chest out and your chin up.
  • Widen your stance. This is a 'hidden' trick which can actually go a long way toward helping you conquer this shot. By moving your feet farther apart, you are going to accomplish a couple of goals. First, you will make it even easier to get down to the ball, as you are going to make yourself a bit shorter when you spread your feet apart. Also, you will improve your overall balance, which is extremely important (as discussed earlier). Using a wide base is always a smart move when uneven ground is involved, and it is especially important when the ball is below your feet.
  • Square up to the target line. When hitting a 'normal' chip shot from a flat lie, you will probably play from an open stance – and that is a good idea. However, when the ball is below your feet, you may want to square things up to make it easier to achieve solid contact. If you play from an open stance, your left shoulder will be farther away from the ball than necessary, and you will again find yourself reaching just to make contact. Keep that left shoulder – and the left foot – in a square position and swing the club directly down the target line.

Make no mistake – it is going to take some significant practice time before you are going to master the skill of chipping with the ball below your feet. If possible, find a spot at your local course where you can practice chipping from uneven lies. Place a few golf balls down below your feet and get to work by using the tips above as a guide. There will be some struggles along the way, but you should find progress sooner rather than later.

Adjusting for the Ball Above Your Feet

Adjusting for the Ball Above Your Feet

Playing a chip shot when the ball is resting above the level of your feet is a completely different challenge than the one we addressed in the previous section. You aren't going to have any trouble reaching the ball, of course, since the ball is now up closer to you than it would be on a flat lie. However, the reduction of space between your hands and the ball is going to produce a new set of challenges you will need to overcome. Again here, we have listed a few tips which should help you get on the right track.

  • Choke down on the grip of the club. One of the problems you faced when the ball was below your feet was the fact that you cannot make your clubs any longer. You can, however, make your clubs shorter – at least, you can make them play shorter. Choke down on the grip of the club by at least a couple inches to shorten the effective length of the shaft. Take this step is going to help to counteract the slope you are dealing with, and you should find it easier to achieve solid contact. If you are only dealing with a minor slope, this may be the only step you need to take in order to deal with this sidehill lie.
  • Stand up straighter. Rather than tilting out over the ball with your hips, you are going to stand up pretty straight when facing this shot. You still want to flex your knees, just as you would with any other shot, but keep your upper body mostly vertical to avoid getting too close down to the ball itself. The goal is to make the relationship between your body and the ball as normal as possible, and an upright stance is going to help take you in that direction.
  • Stand a little further from the ball. Again, this is all about making your chipping motion as comfortable as possible. By standing back slightly, you will be able to round off your swing and match it to the angle of the slope. If you were to stand close to the ball, you would need to make a relatively vertical chipping motion – and you would come down into the ball too steeply as a result. This doesn't need to be a huge adjustment, as standing back just an inch or two should be enough to put you in a good spot.
  • Play the ball back in your stance. You don't need to move the ball back all the way to your right foot, but it should be moved back at least slightly to make it easier to catch the ball before the turf. It is always going to be possible to hit this kind of shot fat, so you will want to lessen that risk with smart ball position. Play the ball back a couple inches behind center and hit down into it with confidence at the moment of impact.

Success with these kinds of shots is all about preparation. You don't want to radically change your actual chipping motion, so you should instead worry about adjusting your body position before the swing begins. We hope the tips above are able to help you get into a great position prior to chipping with the ball above your feet.

Planning for Success

Planning for Success

In addition to adjusting your body for the task at hand, you also need to adjust your game plan appropriately. It is important to have a plan in mind each time you hit a chip shot, as it is easy to go wrong if you just walk up to the ball and swing away. You should always be picturing a very specific landing spot, and you should have a plan for how the ball is going to bounce and roll to the hole as well. You might be comfortable with creating such a plan when it comes to your chip shots from flat ground, but planning your shots off of a sidehill can be a bit more difficult.

The following list includes a few helpful tips for planning out chip shots which will be played when the ball is either above or below your feet.

  • Play for more bounce and roll. As mentioned earlier, you almost certainly aren't going to have a completely clean lie when you chip from uneven ground. With that said, you probably won't be able to put much backspin on this kind of shot, so you probably won't be able to stop the ball quickly using spin. To get around this problem, you need to plan your shot with plenty of room for the ball to bounce and run out to the cup. If you don't have a ton of room available, use maximum loft to bring the ball down as softly as you can.
  • Give yourself some margin for error. Even if you make all of the right adjustments, this is still going to be a tough shot. To give yourself the best chance at success, pick out a safe path to the hole and make sure you get the ball on the green at the very least. Even if you don't chip it close for an easy putt, you still need to make sure you are on the putting surface after just one chip. You never want to have to use more than one chip shot to find the green, as those extra chips will be wasted strokes that you can't get back.
  • Pay attention to the other slope direction. In many cases, when playing a chip shot while the ball is either below or above your feet, you will also be dealing with an upslope or downslope. If the ball is on an upslope, it is going to fly higher in the air and stop faster when it lands. Just the opposite is true of hitting a chip shot off of a downslope. Be sure to take this other dimension into consideration in order to optimize your results.

Chipping from a sidehill lie will always be a challenge. Rather than getting frustrated by this challenge, you should embrace it and work hard to do your best despite the difficulty that the lie is going to bring into the picture. Using the tips we have provided in this article, along with plenty of practice, you should be able to make big improvements in this part of your game. Since the short game is directly tied to your scoring ability, you should see lower scores quickly when you chip the ball closer to the hole. Good luck!