Awkward Lies

awkward lies

By Dr. T. J. Tomasi, Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

The first order of business when you arrive at your golf ball is to examine your lie, i.e., the characteristics of how your ball is sitting. Since your lie dictates the kind of shot you can play, part of being a skillful player is “reading” the lie and then being able to execute the required shot.  

There are four basic types of uneven lies: 

  1. Ball above your feet; 
  2. Ball below your feet; 
  3. Downhill slope; 
  4. Uphill slope. 

Each of these has a predictable ball flight pattern, and the gravitational forces of the hill will challenge your ability to make a balanced golf swing. Simple adjustments you make in your setup will compensate for the effect the slope has on your body. 

Keep these effects of uneven lies in mind: 

  1. The ball follows the direction of the slope. 
  1. You’ll lose your balance down the slope. 
  2. The bottom of your swing arc is altered by the slope. 
  3. The path and plane of your swing are altered by the slope. 


Although uneven lies are opposites, some adjustments are standard for all. In general, protect your balance by anchoring yourself into the hill, against the pull of gravity. Angle your shoulders to match the slope so you can swing with the contour of the hill. The slope causes changes in your swing arc, so you need to adjust your ball position accordingly. Move the ball back on a right-to-left slope, forward on a left-to-right slope. And finally, opening or closing your stance will neutralize the effect of the slope by returning your hips to level. Close your stance for a right-to-left slope, and open it for the opposite. Once you’ve made the correct adjustments in your setup, you need to do only two more things: The first is to make a smooth, three-quarter swing for maximum control, and the second is to focus on the target.

TJ Article # 167 Photo 1

The great Annika Sorenstam knows how to adjust for a downhill lie by opening her stance, moving the ball back and tilting her shoulders to the angle of the slope.

TJ Article # 167 Photo 2

My stance is closed here, with the ball back, and my weight is toward my toes. I’m aiming right because this shot will curve a lot in the direction of the slope, from right to left.

If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.

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