Before the Masters took over the golfing world, we were discussing what to look for when approaching your golf ball. This topic is much debated, but often overlooked by higher handicap players. It is important to aware of your surroundings when playing golf because it is a big part of course management.
- What is your yardage?
- What is the wind doing?
- How does the ground feel?
- Is there an elevation change between your ball and the green?
- What is the temperature like? Is it humid?
- Do you believe what you see and visualize what you want?
So far these points only account for about half of the things I look for when approaching my ball. Adjusting for these above points will help lower your score. Yet, there are still more!
Is the ball above or below your feet? After watching the Masters, it becomes very clear that a flat lie is rare in golf. It is important to understand the adjustments required when hitting from an uneven lie. If the ball is above your feet, grip down on the club a little and lean forward so your weight is in your toes. With the ball above your feet, players have a tendency to hit left or draw the ball (for right-handed players). If the ball is below your feet, flex you knees a bit more and put your weight in your heels. Have a quieter lower body when you swing to prevent lifting up on the shot. Balls below your feet have a tendency to go right (for right-handed players)
Are you hitting uphill or downhill? When hitting the ball uphill the general rule is to take one more club to adjust for the changes in the loft of the club caused by the angle of the hill. Play the ball slightly forward in our stance. Shot it uphill have a tendency to go left or draw (for right-handed players). When hitting the downhill, the general rule is to take one less club for the same reasons and an uphill lie. Place the ball back in your stance and do not over-swing. Downhill shots have a tendency to go right or slice (for a right-handed player). Regardless if your swing is uphill or downhill, try to swing the club parallel to the slope of the hill. This will help ensure crisp contact.
This video by Ben Austin is about 7 minutes long, but worth watching to understand the challenges when hitting a ball from an uneven lie.
Did you hit the fairway or the first cut? If you are on the fairway, congratulations! Remember the other points we discussed. If your ball is in the first cut; pay attention. Most of the time, when the ball is in the first cut it has an increased chance to be a flyer. The first cut of grass acts like a natural tee and enables most players to get a cleaner hit on the ball. As a result, the ball travels 10-15 yards further than expected. If the ball is lying in the first cut, consider going down a club to adjust for the flyer lie.
There are so many things to consider when approaching a golf ball. Many experienced players go through a checklist of things that could influence their shot. After watching Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth approach each shot with precision, a check list of variables may be just what is needed to lower your score!
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!