quick coaching

The Best Approach to Attacking the Golf Ball on a Hill

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Lydia Ko of New Zealand plays her shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the 76th U.S. Women's Open Championship at The Olympic Club on June 04, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Memorial (PGA Tour) and the 76th Women’s US Open have a couple of things in common. Both events draw the best players in the world and each course has a large number of sidehill lies. The Olympic Club where the women are playing is built on the side of a hill. We will witness similar sidehill struggles watching this weekend at Jack’s Place, Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
The game of golf has so many details for the average player to remember. That’s why PGA Coaches have the simplest sayings in the game. Playing from a position where the ball is above your feet or below can be frustrating. Golf is pretty tough playing from a tee! When it comes to these types of lies there are certain rules you can follow to help ensure you’ll end up with a reliable result.
When setting up to the ball on the side of a hill, remember one thing; the ball always travels downhill.
The rules of gravity do apply, but that’s not necessarily the reason why PGA Coaches say this all the time. When we change the height of the ball and the club interacts with the turf, the clubhead path and clubface will be affected based upon where the ground is in relation to you. The ball will always tend to fly toward the downhill side after you strike it with a normal swing. Knowing this, it is very important to compensate with our aim prior to the shot.
Fighting the lie is like trying to avoid paying for drinks after you make a hole in one. You cannot escape the inevitable. When you approach a situation where the ball is above or below your feet start by preparing for the shot by aiming toward the uphill side of your target. In doing this, you will account for the natural curve of your shot downhill. For some, this can get confusing so here’s a real-world example.
A right-handed golfer is about to hit a shot into the green with an eight iron and the ball lies above their feet. If they aim in a traditional manner, they will miss their target to the left of the green on the downhill side. In order to avoid this mistake, the next time they encounter a similar lie they aim to their right and swing along that line. The ball still curves toward the downhill side (their left), but since they aimed further right the ball now curves toward their target rather than away from it.
Please make sure when you adjust your alignment that you adjust your whole body toward the new target line. Don’t just try and swing in a different direction. This alignment adjustment will make a major difference in the success of your sidehill shots. There are also a couple of minor adjustments we can make to go along with choosing the correct target line. Take a look at the matrix below. Follow these PGA Coaching recommendations as well.
A Couple Quick Rules
  • Ball Above Your Feet
    • Grip down on the club
    • Weight toward your toes
    • Take less club
  • Ball Below Your Feet
    • Bend the knees to get to the ball
    • Weight toward your heels
    • Take more club
Fun golf requires some attention to detail. Don’t feel as if you have to remember all of this. Feel free to take a small index card and write some notes on it. Carry it in your golf bag. It will make a substantial difference in helping you enjoy your future rounds.

Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.