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How to hit off downhill lies: A 5-step checklist for every golfer

June 01, 2024

Without the proper setup, hitting off downhill lies can be one of the trickiest shots in golf. One of the most important aspects of iron play is ball-first contact, which can become difficult off a downhill lie.

Not to worry, though, as there are a few simple steps that you can use to hit quality approaches of downhill lies. And the best part? Most of these changes are in the setup, so if you get them right, you won’t have to think too much during the swing.—Andrew Park, Andrew Park Golf, West Orange C.C., Winter Garden, Fla., Golf Digest Best in State Teacher, with Drew Powell

How to hit off downhill lies

  1. Move the ball back
  2. Aim left
  3. Grip down
  4. Shoulders with slope
  5. Step through

How to hit off downhill lies #1: Move ball back in stance

The most important thing to focus on when hitting off downhill lies is catching the ball first. If you play the ball too far forward in your stance, this will be very difficult to do, given the slope. You would need to lean forward so much that you might fall over. By putting the ball an inch or two farther back in your stance, you’re helping to ensure that you make clean contact.

How to hit off downhill lies #2: Aim left

If you aim at the target off a downhill lie, a right-hander will hit nearly every shot to the right because, as I mentioned, the ball is farther back in your stance. When you move the ball back, your club path is headed more in-to-out when it reaches the ball, so the ball tends to start to the right for a righty. To account for this, you should aim about five yards left (a left-hander should aim right) with shorter irons and up to 10 yards left with longer clubs.

How to hit off downhill lies #3: Grip down

When you move the ball back in your stance, the low point of your swing is happening much earlier than usual. If you keep your normal grip, then you will dig into the turf too much. That’s why you should grip down on the club about one inch, and you’ll make much cleaner, crisper contact.

How to hit off downhill lies #4: Shoulders with slope

This is a big one. When hitting off a downhill lie, don’t ever try to fight the slope. Instead, focus on swinging with the slope, which you can do by aligning your shoulders with the slope. If, on a normal shot, your shoulders are tilted slightly up at address, focus now on having them more level or even tilted down. This will naturally allow you to swing down with the slope.

The correct feeling is that you are “trapping” the ball and hitting down on it. If you try and help the ball in the air from a downhill lie, you’ll hit two or three inches behind the ball every time.

How to hit off downhill lies #5: Step through

Now it’s time to have some fun. As you make your downswing and are focusing on swinging with the slope, allow your weight to move into your front foot and then step through the shot. Gary Player was famous for this step-through move. This helps ensure that you will make ball-first contact with a descending blow. If you stay on your trail foot too long in the downswing off this lie, you’ll hit it fat. Don’t fight gravity and momentum!

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