By Dave Pelz
Downhill wedge shots are difficult, and it doesn’t take much of a downhill slope to create a problem. Changing your orientation to the ground by tilting your shoulders is the best solution to hitting downhill shots, as long as the slope isn’t too severe.
The solution to a downhill lie: The proper set-up for downhill slopes is to spread your stance (feet) more than normal to provide a wider base, then lean forward to get your spine closer to perpendicular to the sloping ground (see the image showing the set up position compared to normal). This will also place a disproportionate and unusual loading on your forward leg, knee and ankle, and make keeping your balance as you swing a real challenge.
Because this forward weight distribution is unusual doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In fact, for downhill trouble lies, it’s the exact position you need to maintain through impact in order to execute a successful, powerful escape from this lie.
Set your shoulders parallel to the ground, keep your balance as well as you can on your backswing, then make a good through-swing. Allow yourself to walk forward on your follow-through to keep from falling. You can play the ball in the middle of your stance (or slightly back in your stance if you want to provide a little “fudge margin,” to avoid hitting the shot fat), and plan on the ball coming out low and running longer than normal once on the ground.
When the slope is severe: When the downslope gets too steep to stand with your shoulders parallel to the ground, make a walk-through finish. Stand vertically, but setup aiming way left. Open your clubface and hit a cut shot from the sidehill lie you’ve created (see the set up in the Golfer’s Eye View photo). Aiming far left changes the downhill lie to a sidehill lie, with the ball below your feet. This is still not an easy shot, but if you don’t catch the heel of your wedge on the ground before impact, you can hit a cut slice around your target.
Practicing this in the mirror is a great way to internalize the adjustments and the feel of swinging form the proper position. Now you’re getting the feel of putting your body into position (wide stance and minimum spine tilt or lean) to make good solid escape swings from sloping lies. Good Scoring to You!