Adjusting your game for altitude, unlevel lies

When you play golf in the mountains, like at my facility at Old Greenwood Golf Course, you’ll enjoy spectacular vistas and cool summer temperatures. You’ll also experience two important things that will surely affect your play: Altitude and unlevel lies.

“If you’re going to play your best, you’ll need to adjust for the added distance that you’ll get in our thin, mountain air.”

If you’re going to play your best, you’ll need to adjust for the added distance that you’ll get in our thin, mountain air. Plan on a 10 percent increase in distance at an elevation of 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Yes, your math skills will be tested; but extra distance is a fun problem to have.

You’ll also need to know how to adjust your stance, swing and alignment to hit the ball solidly and also to compensate for the altered ball flight you’ll get from these awkward situations. Below are the simple rules you’ll need to use on the four uneven lies you are sure to see on your next mountain golf vacation.

Sidehill Lie | Ball above the feet

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  1. Hold down on the handle
  2. Stand taller
  3. Stand farther from the ball
  4. Make a flatter swing than normal

Ball Flight Consideration: Be aware of the tendency to hit a pull/hook.

Sidehill Lie | Ball below the feet

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  1. Add knee flex
  2. Add more torso tilt
  3. Stand closer to the ball
  4. Swing more upright than normal

Ball Flight Consideration: Allow for a push/slice ball flight.

Uphill & Downhill Lies


Uphill and downhill lies both require the same, basic three-step system:

  1. Play the ball toward your higher foot
  2. Place more weight on your lower foot
  3. Set your torso perpendicular to the hill

Uphill Lie

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The slope will block your normal downswing weight transfer, so open your stance to compensate. You’ll need to rely on the arms and wrists to create most of the power. Think about swinging up the slope, not into it.

Ball Flight Considerations: The ball will fly higher than it would from a level lie and have a tendency to hook. Because of the unusually high trajectory, be especially cognizant of the wind conditions and how that may affect club selection.

Downhill Lie

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This is the most difficult of the four unlevel lies for most people. In addition to the three requirements listed above, you’ll find it helpful to turn your front foot out (down the hill) to give you a wider base of support and better balance.

Ball Flight Considerations: Expect a low fading shot from a downhill lie. Again, adjust your aim and club selection, allowing for that ball flight; don’t fight it. You need loft on this shot so avoid hitting long irons and fairway woods even if the distance to the green requires it.

By Keith Lyford | Photos courtesy Old Greenwood

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