Down Hill Lies
My belief in both of these shots is a little contrary to other methods that I have read. The glaring difference really is ball position. It's my belief that gravity is going to play a roll in both of these shots and your swing center is going to change slightly because of the terrain.
Let’s get down to the technique for this shot. Your first step is to get into your address position and try to level your shoulders to the ground. Once you do this you will notice that the bulk of your weight is going to be on your front foot. This is fine, and in my opinion it is preferred.
Next I want you to play the ball slightly forward of where you normally would. The reason being is that gravity is going to pull you down the hill (towards the target) in your swing. This will move your swing center towards the target as well so you need to make accommodations for that. Make a smooth three quarter back swing and try to focus on staying in balance. When you are dealing with uneven lies, don’t try to hit the ball hard because this will make it much more difficult to maintain proper balance and make good contact.
Lastly make a concentrated effort to swing with the slope. It will feel as though you are trying to chase the club head down the hill after the ball. This is very important. Most people get into a good address position, make all the proper adjustments and then fall back and try to lift the ball into the air instead of staying down and through the shot.
In this tip I want to talk about maintaining shoulder plane. For those of you that aren’t sure of this term it is the angle/plane of your shoulders during your golf swing.
Most of us at some point in time have played baseball or softball. When we swing a bat we are standing more upright and playing the game on more of a horizontal plane. When playing the game of golf we are bent over at hips playing the ball off of the ground. This would be considered an incline plane.
One of the major problems that I see is the mixing of the two planes together. What I mean by this is I see many players that set up properly over the ball on an incline plane, but as they start their backswing they tend to rise up and by the time they reach the top of their backswing their shoulder plane is in a horizontal position. Meaning there shoulders are level, running parallel to the ground. If they were to maintain their incline plane at the top of the backswing their front shoulder (left shoulder for right handed players) should be lower than their back shoulder.
A great drill to feel this is to get into your golf posture/address position. Put your hands across your chest (right hand left shoulder, left hand right shoulder). Make sure you are bending from your hips and make a shoulder rotation. You will notice that your front should is lower than your back shoulder. This is an incline plane and is what you want to try to maintain in your swing.
Maintaining your shoulder plane is also a good way to minimize coming over the top. If you flatten your shoulder plane at the top of your backswing as you come down you need to get back on an incline. 99% of the people over do it and get over the top on the downswing and have the club traveling on a severe outside to inside path on the downswing. This will cause your shots to start left of your intended target line.
A common problem I see is many people tend to set up with their hands behind the ball almost adjacent to their belly buttons. If the ball is in the proper position, slightly forward in your stance, and your hands are by your belly button, then they will be behind the ball. The problem with this set up is it adds loft to your putter. When you add loft to your putter it makes the ball get air born after you strike it and you lose distance control.
Your goal when putting is to try and make the ball hug the ground, not float it through the air. A good way to do this is to use a forward press in your putting stroke. To do this make sure your hand position is slightly ahead of the ball. Keep your ball position slightly forward, but have your hands adjacent to the inside of your left thigh. This should get you hands ahead of the putter head and allow you to keep the ball on the ground when putting. What you will find is you are actually taking loft off of your putter and by doing so you will find it is easier to get the ball to the hole with less effort.
This is a putting methodology that is being used by Dave Stockton (and sons) in their short game lessons. During his career on the PGA Tour Mr. Stockton was considered one of the best putters of his time and that included playing against Jack Nicklaus. Currently the Stockton’s are becoming very popular among touring professionals (male and female) in sharing their knowledge of putting and short game.
Nolan Ryan was one of the greatest Baseball pitchers of all time. He could consistently throw his fastball around 100 mph and he did this in a career that I believe lasted over 20 years. When asked about his ability to throw the ball hard he would reference using his legs to create more power, it was something he focused on.
Now I know throwing a ball is not exactly the same as swinging a golf club, but there are similarities. When throwing a ball you wind up, step towards the target, and swing your arm to throw the ball. In golf you wind up (backswing) then shift your weight towards your target and swing the club forward towards your target. In both of these situations you use your legs first to move towards your target. You don’t start swinging the club (or your arm) forward until you have moved your lower body towards you target.
So if you are struggling with making solid contact or not getting enough distance take some time to practice and only focus on your legs. Make sure your upper body and lower body are working together and that you are just not dominating your swing with your upper body.
Your goal when swinging the golf club is to realize that the backswing is a marriage or blend of body rotation and arm lift. A good one piece take away will start your body rotation then once our hands pass your back leg the club should begin to work up. Your goal is to feel like the club is staying in front of your chest not getting stuck to far behind you.
A great check point for this is when you get your club in the L- position of your backswing (front arm parallel to the ground and shaft at a 90 degree angle to your arm) the butt of the club should point at an extension of your target line and your hands should be in the middle of your chest. Not behind you or outside of your target line. If you can do this on a regular basis it will give you a great opportunity to swing the club on the proper plane.
Well I have started to use these in my putting lessons as well and again I find them invaluable. The benefits that I see with them is you can quickly figure out where you want to aim and then from there you just square up your body and start working on your stroke. You would be amazed with how many 10 footers you can roll in when you get lined up properly.
I know you can’t take the rods out on the course with you but the ability to practice your putting stroke and know you are aiming properly is going to make a difference when you finally get out to play. How many times have you thought you hit a good putt and it is nowhere near the hole? We almost always blame our stroke or our in ability to read greens. Well it could be neither; it could be you just don’t know how to aim properly. Do yourself a favor and get some alignment rods and go work on your putting. I will be shocked if you don’t start seeing better results quickly.
When we talk about sequence we are talking about the order in which things happen. You could possible make the proper move in the swing but if it is out of sequence it can have a terrible result.
So assuming that we are working with a good set up position here is the sequence of the golf swing.
- One piece take away. The shoulder, arms and hands work in one unit to move the club away from the ball.
- Once your hands reach your back leg begin to hinge/set the club. This should feel like an in and up move. Not just taking it inside or lifting it up.
- L- position. This is a good check point. Your left arm (r.h. players) should be parallel to the ground and your wrist should have a 90 degree hinge in it. Also the shaft should be pointing at an extension of your target line.
- Top of backswing. This position is just the finishing of your shoulder rotation and completing the backswing. Your weight should be sitting on the arch of the back foot.
- Weight shift. THIS IS A KEY MOVE. Make sure you take what ever weight went into your back foot and place it into your front foot. This should happen in a smooth and seamless fashion.
Ok, are you still with me, this is getting longer than I wanted. I think I need to go get something to drink.
- Arm drop. This is where the club should feel like it is falling from the top of the backswing. (Many people will come over the top at this point). The club should drop and then swing from the inside.
- Lag. This is where you are allowing your hands to lead the club head into the ball.
- Impact. Your weight is on your front foot, hands are slightly ahead of the club head, chest is square to the ball and you front hip is starting to clear/open. Also make sure your weight is centered on your foot not out on your toes.
- Extension. Get your arms to extend past impact towards the target while your head is still down looking at where the ball used to be.
- Finish. You’re in a balanced position with 90% of your weight on your front foot, your hands over your front shoulder and your belly button facing the target.
Now do all of this in less than 2 seconds. The average person thinks this is an easy game, RRRRIGHT!
Up Hill Lies
There are certain common mistakes that most people make.
- Most people tend to lean too far into the slope. Then when they make their swing they stick the club into the ground.
- They tend to make their normal backswing and get stuck on their back foot and can’t make a good weight shift forward.
- They tend to keep their ball position the same as normal and coupled with getting stuck on their back foot they tend to hit a flip hook and miss the shot low left (right handed player).
- Level your shoulders to the hill. Your goal here is to try and swing the club with the angle of the hill, not into the hill.
- Shorten your back swing. Gravity wants to pull you down the hill so if you make your normal backswing you will get stuck on the outside of your back foot. Make no more than a three quarter backswing so it is easier to get back to your front foot.
- Move your ball position back in your stance a little. Because gravity is trying to pull you down the hill and make it harder to shift your weight to your front foot this is an easy fix to give you a chance at making solid contact.
Ball Flight Direction
If I asked you the question which had more influence on the direction a golf ball travels which would you choose. A) Club face angle or B) club head path (the path on which the club head is traveling)? The winner is A) the club face angle!
Most people truly don’t know the answer to this question. This is not up for debate in the golf world this is considered a law. To me this is why it is so important to focus what is happening at impact. We may not all be in the ideal positions at different times of the golf swing but what we want to achieve is a good impact position.
There are only two possible times in the golf swing where the club face is pointing at the target. At address and at impact, that’s it. So if that is the case we should all try and be more aware of where the club face is during the golf swing. In ideal conditions we want to swing the club from a “toe up” position going back to a “toe up” position going through.
This “toe up” position should occur when the shaft is parallel to the ground going back and when the shaft is parallel to ground once it comes through impact. To properly feel this make slow practice swings and only focus on where the clubface is and try to hit these spots. Do not manipulate the club face with your hands what you should notice is your forearms should control the opening and closing of the club face during the swing.
Here is a quick and simple alignment tip for when you are playing. Take an extra club with you when you go to hit your next shot from the fairway. Set it down running parallel to your target line and then make sure to get your body parallel to the club you set down. Now this is not legal if you are playing in a tournament or if your are playing a match with your buddies but if you are out for a casual round do something a little different and see if it helps you hit it a little straighter.
Well times have changed, a lot. In my opinion the two biggest improvements in golf over the last twenty years has been the development of the hybrid club and the quality of golf balls.
What you need to do is be willing to experiment with different types of golf balls. Titleist is the industry leader in golf balls, and they make a great ball, but they are not the only game in town anymore. I’m on staff with Cleveland/Srixon golf and absolutely love the Srixon Z-Star ball that I play. I would stack it up against any other tour ball out there. However, what you need to do is do your own research through trial and error and see what is best for you.
In addition to be willing to try different brands you should try different models. A tour ball is not for everyone and most people don’t want to pay the price for a tour style ball. They have golf balls out now that are specifically designed for slower swing speeds, higher swing speeds, people who need to hit it higher or people that need to hit it lower.
I know a lot of you are going to say you will play what ever you find but if you are serious about the scores you shoot you should try to find one you like and one you believe helps you play better. As the commercial says “the golf ball is the one piece of equipment you use on every shot” so with that being said you will be better off if you know how your golf ball is going to perform especially around the greens when chipping and putting.
Let’s get started with set up. First get into the bunker and get your clubface pointed at your target. Next get your body aimed slightly left of your target. While you are getting settled into your posture dig your feet in a little bit for some stability.
Now you are ready to make your swing. Your goal here is to make sure you swing in the direction that your body is aiming, which is left of the target. It should feel as though you are swinging slightly out to in, or cutting across the ball. Other key factors are; your weight should be more on your front foot and should stay on your front foot through impact and you want to make sure to set or hinge the club just a little earlier than you would in your normal swing.
One other thing that needs to occur is you want to make sure once you strike the sand to that the clubface keeps looking at the sky. Do not allow the toe of the club to pass the heel of the club. The easiest way to achieve this is to make sure your chest keeps turning to the left of target. That is the best chance to keep that clubface open.
Remember, if you miss this shot, miss it left of target.
Once you are loose group your practices into short irons, middle irons, long irons/Hybrids then get to your woods. You are probably going to feel a little rusty so if you are struggling with your short irons stay with those clubs until you feel comfortable. Then move to your middle irons and so on.
Your goal is to try and practice with a purpose, don’t just get to the range and figure it out when you get there. One other thing, don’t expect to be in mid season form. Lower your expectations a little bit and just work on swinging to club. More likely than not if you can make your swing feel smooth and comfortable the ball will go in the general direction that you want it to.
Just to make sure, you should be holding on to your golf club while you do this. Your next step, as you have the club behind the ball, is to make sure your hands are pressed forward, slightly ahead of your belly button on the target side. Lastly make sure you have a little flex in your knees. You don’t want your legs to be straight but they should not flex more than over the balls of your feet. You want to feel as though you are in an athletic position preparing to make a very athletic motion.
Stick with the basics to get things started this season and I’m sure you will have some positive results.
Pre Round Practice
My suggestion for you is to take your putter and wedge and head to the putting green. Once you get there start with some long putts, don’t worry about direction just focus on distance control. Then work your way to the 3 foot range. These are your money putts and the ones that help you build confidence in your putting stroke. Make sure you see a few balls go in the hole. From there take your wedge and start hitting some pitch shots. Make a point to hit to 2 or 3 hole locations. This will help you work on your feel and also help you to loosen up.
From there head to the first tee, loosen up and get ready to play. If you can, focus on the rhythm of your swing and putting the ball in play not just trying to kill it. Remember, you worked on your short game prior to the round so have some confidence when it comes to using it on the course.
The most common problem with a typical slice is the person brings the club back to much to the inside on the take away, then because they have no where else to go (because the club is stuck behind them) they come over the top to try and get the club back on plane. This is what we refer to as an “under and over” move. Under plane going back and over plane coming down.
What I want you to do is just the opposite of that. Exaggerate the feeling of the backswing swing. Make it feel like more of an “up and under” move. Technically it would be an over and under move. Meaning the club would be slightly over plane on the backswing and then slightly under plane on the down swing.
The goal is to try and get you to swing on plane with the path of the club traveling just to the right of target. If you start to do this properly you will notice the ball should be starting just to the right of target. If it stays to the right your club face is just slightly open and we need to work on squaring the club face. To achieve this you will need to roll the right forearm over the left forearm. Do not try and flip the club head at the ball.
Shallowing Your Swing Plane
The most common miss in golf is what we call a banana slice. It starts out way left (right handed players) then curves way right. A slight left to right curvature is not bad, and actually some players prefer that shot shape. The big curvature comes from your swing plane being to steep (vertical) and then pulling across the ball. This puts excessive left to right spin on the ball and causes a big slice. I know everyone does not have the time to practice but if you can, find a place that will allow you to play the ball ABOVE your feet, this is a classic side hill lie position.
Even if you can only make practice swings please find a place to do so. What this does is allow you to naturally round off your swing and start coming into the ball on a shallower angle. The ball draws (curves right to left) more easily from this position and it will allow you to be more comfortable attacking the ball from the inside. From here try to capture that sensation and then apply it to your swing from a normal lie. One additional point, the ball does not have to be two foot above your feet you only need it to be four or five inches above your feet for this to be effective.