Sidehill Shots: Dealing with the Lack of Practice

One of the big hurdles you are going to have to get over with regard to sidehill shots is the fact that they are nearly impossible to practice. When was the last time you came across a driving range that featured sloped hitting areas? Probably never. Most likely, every driving range in your area is flat as a pancake. That is perfect for working on the mechanics of your swing, but not so ideal for learning the shots you’ll need out on the course.

You probably can’t do anything about the design of your local driving range. You can, however, take steps to improve your play in this area of the game, even if the driving range isn’t much help. The tips listed below are meant to help you improve from sidehill lies.

  • Pick safer targets. This should be an automatic adjustment when you find yourself in the situation of playing from a sidehill lie. As soon as you see that the ball is going to be either above or below your feet for a given shot, you will want to look for a relatively safe target. Quite simply, you can’t expect to be as accurate from a sloped lie as you would be when the ground is flat underneath your feet. Rather than trying to hit an incredible shot to a small target, make things a little easier on yourself. Pick a big target which offers you as much room for error as possible. You might not hit the ball close to the hole this way, but you will be far more likely to stay out of trouble. Since you probably won’t get as much practice on these kinds of shots as you would like, opting for safe targets is a good way to reduce pressure and come away with a satisfactory outcome.
  • Pay attention to results. Since you aren’t going to be able to hit many – or any – sidehill lie shots on the driving range, you need to see each of these shots on the course as a learning opportunity. Don’t just hit the shot and walk on to the next – take a moment to think about the result and what it can tell you for the future. For instance, if you hit a shot from a sidehill lie that comes up short of the target, analyze what might have went wrong. Did you pick the wrong club, or just make a poor swing? How could you have done better? It is critically important to learn from all of these opportunities, even if they are frustrating in the moment. As the experience piles up, your decisions are sure to get better moving forward.
  • Make an extra practice swing or two. Usually, you should keep your practice swings to a minimum. When playing from the tee, or from a flat lie in the fairway, there really isn’t any need for more than one practice swing. However, the story changes when you find yourself with an awkward lie. If the ball is above or below your feet, take a couple of extra practice swings is a great idea. This will help you to get comfortable with your stance, and you can make some final adjustments before hitting the shot. For instance, you might realize during your practice swings that you need to use an extra club to reach the ball below your feet. Or, you might find that you need to choke down even farther when the ball is above your feet. Whatever the case may be, these swings can help you to get over the fact that you haven’t been able to practice much in this situation. Of course, pace of play is always important in golf, so make your practice swings quickly and play your shot as soon as you are ready.

You are never going to feel as prepared for a sidehill shot as you do for a shot played from flat ground. That is just a reality in this game. However, that doesn’t mean you need to be terrified when you stand over one of these shots during an upcoming round. By picking a safe target and using a couple of extra practice swings, you can have yourself ready to go. After the shot has been played, take a moment to analyze the outcome and keep that result in your memory bank for future use.