Match Your Shoulders to the Sloping Lie for Greenside Success

August 5, 2016

On sloping greenside lies, use a less-lofted club, choke down, and swing harder than you think you should.

Uphill lies challenge short-game skills (and nerves) like no other. Case in point: The situation I face in the photo above. I’ve short-sided myself with my tee shot on the par-3 17th at my home course (Escondido C.C. in Marble Falls, Texas) and I’m in a heap of trouble. To salvage par, I have to catch the ball cleanly and choose the club that lets me fly the ball high enough and far enough to avoid the junk and stop near the pin.

If you match your shoulder tilt to the slope of the hill, the ball will fly nice and high and land oh so softly—yes, even with a 9-iron.

Oh, and my stance won’t make things any easier. (I have to watch my step or I’ll tumble back into the stream!) Because the ground in front of the ball is higher than the ground behind the ball, if I use a normal stance the club will dig into the hill as soon as I make contact. To get such a “stab” shot close to the pin, everything must be perfect, from club selection to swing force to timing. It isn’t easy—only 10 percent of weekend players can get the ball to the hole with a lob wedge from an uphill lie.

There’s hope, however. Instead of taking your normal stance on a severely uphill lie like this, tilt your shoulders (right below left in this case) to match the slope you stand on. If you maintain this tilt during your swing, the club will swing “up” the hill. And it won’t dig, so your contact doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, your normal, less than perfect contact will do fine.

Keep in mind that tilting your shoulders dramatically increases the loft of the club at impact. If you’re not careful, you’ll come up short, just like 90 percent of weekend players. To compensate, club down; this creates a manageable launch angle and shot trajectory. I usually select lob wedge in this situation, but since I’m standing on an upslope, I’ll drop all the way down to a 9-iron and choke up on the club until it’s about the same length as my 60-degree wedge. The act of choking down combined with the extra loft created by the hill effectively turns my 9-iron into a lob wedge (from a normal lie). That makes it easy to judge where to land the shot and how the ball will behave once it hits.

The really tricky part? Convincing yourself to swing your 9-iron as hard as you would your lob wedge. Your brain will battle you, but trust me— if you fully commit and match your shoulder tilt to the hill’s slope from start to finish, the ball will fly nice and high and land oh so softly—without coming up short. If you don’t keep that shoulder tilt, you’ll leave the shot short, and the ball will trickle down into the hazard.

It’s that’s simple: Tilt, club down, choke down, trust. This is short-game magic. You’ll save par from the scariest places, and have your buddies saying, “Mickelson who?”