Level the Field

It doesn't seem fair. You finally hit a fairway and your ball finds a steep sidehill lie. Don't sweat it. With a few basic setup adjustments you can knock your approach on the green. Here's how:

Ball below your feet

Bend a little more than normal from your knees and hips, so your chest points at the ball. The farther the ball is below your feet, the more you need to bring your sternum down toward the ball. This allows you to maintain your posture and make solid contact.

  • Make rehersal swings from a similar lie to see where the club bottoms out. That's where you should play the ball in your stance. Generally, with the ball below your feet, it should be just back of center.
  • Aim a few degrees left of the target. The ball will tend to fly in the direction of the slope; in this case, from left to right.

  • Take one more club than you typically would for the distance, and swing easier for more control. Good balance is the key to solid contact.

    How it should feel: Distribute your weight evenly over the arches of your feet. You want to feel like you're swinging nearly flat-footed, so your legs don't move as much. Swing too hard and your weight moves out over your toes, leading to a pull.

    Ball above your feet

    Stand taller than normal so your chest points at the ball.

  • On severe slopes--i.e., the ball is several inches above your feet--grip down one or two inches to maintain the proper distance between your body and the ball.
  • Note where the clubhead brushes the ground. From this lie, ball position tends to be just forward of center in your stance.

  • Aim a few degrees right of the target. The slope helps curve the ball left, plus, you're swinging more around your body from this lie, which promotes a draw.
  • Take an extra club and swing easy, trying to keep your body stable through impact. You don't want to fall back.
  • Chronic slicer alert!

    If a slice is all you know, plan on hitting the ball straight when the ball is above your feet. The right-to-left slope will reduce some of the slice spin. Conversely, if you draw the ball, plan for more right-to-left movement than usual.

    LAIRD SMALL is director of instruction at pebble Beach Golf Academy in Pebble Beach, CA.

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