Golf Downhill Lie: How to Play?

The golf downhill lie occurs when you have hit your shot onto an upslope and you need to aim straight down the slope to get to your target. When you stand into the shot you feel a little like a ski jumper right before he starts his run down the ramp. I know, golf and ski jumping? I only said a little like a ski jumper as both are looking down a ramp.

The key to appreciating the difficulty of the golf downhill lie is to know that your ball will fly much lower than normal. It does not matter what club you choose the ball will fly lower and roll a lot more than on a flat lie.

Most players facing this shot have difficulty making clean contact at impact. They either hit the ground behind the ball or they hit the top of the ball and they don’t end up advancing the ball very far.

There are a couple of small setup and swing adjustments that can help you adapt to the golf downhill lie. The slope may impact the control of your ball flight, however, the more solid your ball contact the easier you will be able to plan the flight of your shot and predict its outcome.

Follow the steps below to better ball striking and control off of this lie.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 1
Recognize the Situation

  • As you can see from the picture your ball has landed on a downslope and your target line is straight down the slope.
  • The change to your ball flight is that your ball will fly lower than normal.
  • The downhill slope decreases loft and launch angle of your shot.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 2
Club Selection

  • Due to a reduced launch angle your shot will not carry it’s regular distance in the air.
  • You will need to take at least one or two clubs less in order to adjust for the difference.
  • Therefore, if the shot would normally require an 8-iron, you may have to select a 9 or a PW because your ball will have the trajectory of the lower lofted club.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 3
Setup (key part of lesson)

  • Your club should start right behind the ball. I will change picture soon.
  • The key to playing this shot is in the setup. A small adjustment helps create much more consistent contact for purer shots.
  • If you stand into this shot as you normally would and took a swing, your club likely bounce off the hill above the ball which will lead to very poor contact.
  • For this shot, take your normal stance and then bend your leg that is lower down the slope (left for right-handers) more than your other leg.
  • This will tilt the angle of your shoulders to match the angle of the slope. The objective is to get your shoulders to match the angle of the slope. The best way to do that is by bending your knee.  If you try and do it by only tilting your shoulders, you will likely lose the angle during your swing. Bend your knee to create the angle.
  • You should feel more weight on your left leg than usual.
  • Your ball position should remain in the middle of your stance.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 4

  • The two most important aspects of playing this shot are balance and maintaining your shoulder angle throughout your swing.
  • With your lower knee bent you should feel a lot of weight already on you lower leg. Try not to shift more onto that leg or you risk falling off the ball down the hill (reverse pivot).
  • It will be difficult because gravity is pulling you down the hill, but we still need to try and make a normal back swing. If we don’t turn our shoulders our arms will lift the club and make the swing very steep. This we lead to us chopping down on the ball and poor contact.
  • Start your backswing with your shoulders, arms and club.  Just remember to keep the extra flex in your knee. You will likely feel your leg muscles really engaged to maintain your balance.
  • As with a flat lie, when your club is parallel to the ground it should in line with your toes.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 5

  • Maintain the flex of your lower leg and use it to maintain your balance to the top of your backswing.
  • Make a full upper body turn over your lower body.
  • In this example I am only making a 3/4 swing, but notice I have still made a full shoulder turn.
  • Avoid shifting your lower body (hips) as this will cause you to shift off the ball.  This will change your club path and make it harder to make solid contact.
  • You should feel your weight centred over the ball, in the middle of your stance.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 6

  • In your setup you set your shoulders to the same angle as the slope.  Heading towards impact you must maintain this angle by keeping the flex in the knee that is lower down the slope.  Left knee for right handed players.
  • Despite going downhill you still want to get your weight onto your target side foot.
  • The toughest part of the swing is to avoid driving too hard towards the target.  If you do you will get too far ahead of the ball at impact.
  • Remember to always start your downswing from the ground up. Drive towards your target using your feet and legs. Then unwind your body.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 7

  • Once again this step is all about maintaining your shoulder angle.  This is critical to hitting a solid shot.
  • If you maintain your angle then your club will work down the slope.
  • When we don’t maintain our angle it is usually because our shoulders go back to their normal flat lie angle.  If that happens then our club will slam into the slope at impact instead of swinging down the slope.
  • Another key to solid impact is making sure we rotate the body through impact.
  • On the downhill lie it is easy to drive down the hill without rotating.  This will cause the club face to stay open at impact and you will likely lose your shot to the right.
  • As with all shots your hands must lead the club head into impact.

Golf Downhill Lie Step 8
Follow Through

  • The key to the follow through is to maintain your balance through the end of your swing.
  • After impact it is alright if you end up walking down the hill following your shot.
  • You will likely finish with a restricted follow through because of the slope down the hill.

I encourage you to practice this shot at your practice facility or on the golf course.  It is easier to be confident standing over a shot if you have successfully tried the setup and swing technique. It is a little different and does take some getting used to. Once you get used to it, the most difficult of uneven lies actually becomes the easiest to control.

I hope you found the lesson helpful in the development of your game.  Good luck with all your practicing and playing.

For lessons on other uneven lies please select from the list below.