There are plenty of bad lies in golf and not all of them deal with the score you tell your friends! Most revolve around how and where your golf ball is sitting.
Because most practice facilities provide only flat surfaces or carpeted tee boxes to hit from, the only time most golfers encounter an uneven lie is on the course. The key to hitting from uphill or downhill lies is positioning your body perpendicular to the slope and swinging more with your hands and arms than with your body.
On an uphill lie, the ball should be more forward in your stance. The lie will help provide loft, so use an additional club (for example, a 6-iron instead of 7-iron) to maintain distance. On your downswing, shift as much weight as possible to your target side. This helps you stay balanced.
The downhill lie is essentially the opposite. The ball position is back in your stance and your weight is on your back foot. Shifting too much weight forward causes you to lose balance. For this shot, get the ball in the air by choosing a more lofted club.
A downhill lie generally produces a longer, lower shot. Take that into consideration when selecting your club.
Sidehill lies present a different challenge. It helps to know how the ball comes off the clubface so you can make the necessary adjustments in your set-up.
On these lies, the ball typically curves in the direction of the slope. A ball below your feet tends to fade, while a ball above your feet tends to draw.
For a ball above your feet, move your hands lower on the club, stand closer to the ball, and keep your weight on your toes. Adjust your target line accordingly.
Those aren’t the only tough situations you might encounter on the course.
The rough is designed to penalize poor shots. Typically, the grass is higher and thicker off the fairway, making it difficult to make clean contact with the ball.
The key from the rough is realizing your limitations. Rather than attempt a risk-filled recovery shot, you should try to just get the ball back in play. You can accomplish this with most irons by moving your hands down the club handle, positioning the ball back in your stance and taking a three-quarters swing.
As you work your way around the course, you also may need to hit a ball higher, lower, or draw or fade it, to avoid obstacles. Each can be done by adjusting your set-up.
For more height, move the ball forward in your stance. If you are playing into a wind or below a tree branch and want the ball to take a low path, the ball should be farther back in your stance.
As you play more often, get a feel for how a subtle switch in ball position can affect the ball’s trajectory. Master these special shots and turn any bad lie into a good one.