It’s hard enough to hit a golf ball into that elusive piece of real estate known as a fairway when it’s resting on a dead level, manicured tee box. But when the ball comes to a stop on a slope steep enough to make a mountain goat stumble, the average golfer is in trouble. That is, unless he or she knows how to adjust the swing, the equipment and body weight to compensate for the uneven lie.
According to Rion Summers, Director of Golf Operations at Charlottesville’s Meadowcreek Golf Course, golfers should adjust their games to compensate for whatever lie they encounter. For example, when the ball lands on a downhill slope, simply recognize what you’re up against and make corrections.
“Because you are swinging down, a downhill lie will promote a lower trajectory, which requires that you use one less club than you would normally select,” Rion states. “An uphill lie will promote a higher trajectory and therefore requires the player to use one more club than normal.”
On a downhill shot, Rion suggests that you play the ball back in your stance and make an effort to stay down through the shot. Good arm extension through the shot will encourage a divot following impact of the clubface and the golf ball. The tendency on this shot is to pull up at impact, which usually results in a miss-hit. And remember to use one less club for your shot.
“For an uphill shot, try to keep the lower body as stable as possible throughout the swinging motion, since gravity will be working against you. Try to finish the swing in perfect balance,” Rion teaches. “The tendency on an uphill shot is to ‘sway’ on the backswing and swing off of the back foot, which usually results in swinging up at the ball and can also result in a miss-hit.”
Side hill shots, Rion says, can also be made confidently with a little adjustment.
“When the ball is above the feet, the weight tends to settle on the heels of the feet,” Rion says. “Therefore, address the ball with the weight a bit more on the toes. Since the ball is closer to the body, the swing will be flatter, more like a baseball swing, which will promote a hook or draw. This will require the player to compensate during the setup to aim further right if right handed or further left if left handed. On this shot, select one more club than normal, grip down a little on the shaft and swing at about 75% of a full swing, which promotes better balance and results.”
The Meadowcreek Pro also advises that when the ball is below the feet on a side hill shot, it is important to sit back on the heels and use the full length of the club. “Remember to take one more club than normal for this shot,” he says. “Since the ball is farther away from the body, the swing will be more upright and will result in a slice or fade. The aim should be further left if right handed and further right if left handed. Staying down is absolutely critical on this shot and requires the player to have more knee flex, with the arms fully extended through the hitting area.”
“On all of these shots, it is important to understand the effects that the slopes have on the flight of the ball and set up accordingly,” Rion concluded. “Then it is just a matter of selecting the right club and making a balanced swing. With a little practice and swinging within yourself, these shots will become less awkward and a lot more fun.”
Rion Summers is a PGA Head Golf Professional and Director of Golf Operations at Meadowcreek Golf Course. He is available as a teaching pro for individuals or groups. Call him at 434-977-0615 or e-mail at SUMMERSR@charlottesville.org