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Big-Time Misconceptions about Sidehill Lies

After you’ve been playing golf for some time, you’re bound to hear this rule of thumb:

If the ball is below your feet, play for a slice. If the ball’s above your feet, play for a hook.

Well, that statement is only half true. Literally.

Ball Above Your Feet: Play for a Hook

In the case where the ball is above your feet, it will indeed tend to hook. That’s because when you set up the club with the toe of the club higher than the heel, the club face itself does actually point to the left. Try it by imagining hitting a shot with your sand wedge with the ball waist high. The club face is “looking” well to the left.

Now, try that same imaginary shot with your 3-iron. You should notice that the face isn’t pointing as much to the left. So, the degree that we account for the hook depends on the loft of the club we’re using AND the severity of the slope we’re talking about.

In practice, find a side slope and hit some shots with different clubs. Use an alignment stick to make sure you’re aiming in the exact direction you think you’re aiming. Take note of how much hook you can expect with each club. It’ll be different as you progress through the bag.

Ball Below Your Feet: Play it Straight

On the other side, when the ball is below your feet, the converse is not true. You can play these shots straight away without accounting for a slice. This is because even on the most severe sideslips, you’ll never address the ball with the toe of the club lower than the heel of the club. You might flex your knees in the address position, but you won’t tilt the club up to the extent that it’ll affect ball flight. Play it straight!

So, the old rule is misleading many golfers for exactly half the sidehill shots they hit. Hope that helps you!