Golf Tips for Chipping on a Downhill Lie

By Laird Small

Nicklaus vs. Watson - 1982 US Open Championship

Here we are number seventeen at Pebble Beach, the year was 1982 and Jack Nicklaus had just finished his round. He was in the TV tower doing an interview and he was looking at possibly being the second person to win a fifth US Open. Ben Hogan won five US Opens. Well Tom Watson had hit a shot that was to the left of the green on number seventeen and he faced this downhill shot, he was five yards off the green in the high rough, much higher than it is now. It did not look very promising for him to be able to catch Jack Nicklaus. Well, in golf as in life magic can happen at anytime.

How to Hit a Golf Shot with a Downhill Lie

Here is how he hit this shot that helped him win the 1982 US Open Championship. When you have a downhill-sidehill lie like this what happens is the bottom of the swing is now in a different spot. Your impact is going to be a little bit sooner that the swing.

What you have to do here is to get your shoulders to match the slope. We tend to be comfortable with level shoulders but the slope is going down so we need to get our shoulders to match the slope. That is critical in this shot because that allows the club to swing up and down and helps you to deliver the club to the ball in the right way.

Now, when you hit a shot from the downhill position the ball is going to go a little bit lower, so what you have to do here because the green is running away from you then you have to open the clubface up just a little bit. The tendency is that on the downswing we try to help the ball up, but you have to make sure that you stay forward so that your downhill leg is going to be a little bit lower than your uphill leg.

Let's take a look at it with a shot. The ball is rolling up there, go a little bit more. Well, that is about as well as I can do today but here is a little of the history of how Tom Watson hit his shot and actually how to hit this shot. This technique works for you on any golf course you play when you have a downhill lie. Make sure you get your shoulders to match the slope whether it is uphill or downhill. Then take a few rehearsal swings to find out where the new bottom of the swing is and that is where you want to play the ball in your stance. Good luck.

Category: Bad Lies
Sub Categories: Ball Position, Chipping, Impact

About the Instructor

Laird Small
Laird Small
Pebble Beach Golf Academy
1700 17-Mile Drive
Pebble Beach, CA 93953
Tel: 831-622-8650