There are a couple coachable moments in this fantastic shot played by PGA Tour player Sungjae Im on Friday at The American Express. It’s tough to say what is more impressive. The contact from the side hill lie, or the great strike he makes in the dormant rough. If you combine the two alongside the eagle putt, you truly have a special PGA Tour moment.
There are two types of sidehill lies, one where the ball is above your feet, or one where the ball is below them. Im is facing the latter in this video. When you are challenged with such a
position on the golf course there are a couple PGA Coaching principles you should follow to find similar success to Sungjae.
Start by going through your normal routine to begin the shot. Determine the yardage to your target and check the wind, etc. Now when selecting the club, take a little extra. The longer club won’t hurt to help you reach the ball and with your weight shift limited from being on a slope, you’ll need a little extra distance.
Take your normal stance and align yourself slightly toward the uphill side of the shot. The lie will cause the trajectory of the ball to fall toward the downhill side, or away from you. You need to compensate for that before you hit the ball. Once your feet are set, lower your backside to reach the ball. Do not bend over, lower your center of gravity instead. This is crucial to helping you maintain some balance on these uneven situations.
Once your set, swing and follow-through to your target. Standing on a hillside and swinging a club around your body will test your balance. The best way to stay grounded is to make a complete follow-through. If you stop, your momentum will cause you to fall over and miss making solid contact.
Here’s a quick summary for when the ball is below your feet:
Take an extra club.
Aim toward the uphill side.
Lower your center of gravity to reach the ball, don’t bend over.
Swing to your target, let the ball curve naturally.
The second challenge Sungjae and the rest of the players face in Palm Springs this week is the dormant rough grass. Many players all over the country face these very same conditions during the winter months. Unlike regular rough, you don’t have to worry about getting through the thick grass. In this case, there is little to no grass, and therefore the ball tends to sit directly on the dirt or ground.
When the ball gets very tight to the ground like we see or experience in these playing conditions, you must swing like you’re going to take a divot. It doesn’t matter if you are using a fairway wood, hybrid or iron. Striking down through the ball ensures we can elevate it properly. Take that ball position in dormant rough or dirt and move it back just a little. This will create a steeper angle of approach on the ball and cause better overall contact.
Watch Sunjae hit the shot again. Now that you have these coaching tips to help you impact the ball like Im, your confidence in a similar situation should be much greater. Who knows, with a simple plan like the steps listed above you may be able to make own highlight reel swing!