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How to handle a downhill lie and hit the green

If you play a lot of hilly courses, you’re already familiar with uneven lies, including those of the downhill variety. This tricky position—in which your leading foot is below your back foot at address—can be very challenging, especially from short fairway grass. To ensure solid contact and a pin-seeking approach shot from a downhill lie, you’ll need to make the following three basic setup changes.

SET SHOULDERS PARALLEL

Your normal iron setup won’t work for this lie—the clubhead will bottom out too soon and you’ll make contact with the ground behind the ball. Instead, hold your club across your shoulders and tilt your spine toward the target until the shaft matches the slope of the hill. Once your shoulders are parallel to the slope, move on to step 2.

MOVE YOUR WEIGHT TO YOUR DOWNHILL FOOT

It’s critical to make ball-first contact from this lie, so play the ball in the middle of your stance (or at least slightly farther back than normal) and shift about 75 percent of your weight to your front, or downhill, foot. This will encourage your body to move in the direction of the slope, rather than hang back.

TRACE THE SLOPE

Last, extend your arms through impact so that the clubhead travels as low to the slope as possible. By swinging on the same plane as the hill, you’ll ensure ball-first contact and a smooth, full finish— and maybe even a birdie opportunity.

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Try This Swing Thought For Smooth Fairway Woods

f you’re topping your fairway woods or can’t hit them above the tree line, chances are you’re not staying in your address posture when you swing the club. If it makes you feel a little better, it’s a common fault—one that I’m going to help you correct.

Before I give you a simple swing thought to get those shots soaring, let’s talk a little about why you might be struggling to hit a 3-wood off the deck. For most amateurs, it starts with the wrong mind-set.

This is a stressful situation, because it’s not a shot you practice a lot or face more than a handful of times each round. You’re not used to pulling it off, and that lack of positive experience can produce anxiety that results in a bad swing. Another reason you struggle with these shots? You’re trying too hard to rip one high and far down the fairway. Getting home in two on a par 5, or reaching the green on a long par 4, comes from making solid, center-face contact with the ball­—not from swinging full out or trying to add loft to the shot with some body English. So swing your fairway woods without tension, and that includes pace. Don’t rush down from the top of the backswing, and don’t straighten up in the through-swing thinking this will get the ball up. On the contrary, it usually leads to that worm-burner you’re used to hitting.

Posture is the primary culprit for line drives and topped shots. If you think of the club moving along an arc determined by your posture at address, the moment you straighten up, you change the arc. Good luck hitting it in the center of the face when you do that. Things happen too fast to make the necessary adjustments.

So if you’re in need of one swing thought to help flush your next fairway wood, think maintain my address posture through impact. Feel like the ball simply gets in the way of your swing. You’re not hitting at the ball, you’re swinging through the ball.

This thought will improve your mechanics, and clear some of the clutter out of your mind that led to that nervous, clunky, rigid swing. You’ll hit the shot like you’re swinging a wedge.

Rick Smith, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, recently opened a new academy, the Rick Smith Golf Performance Center at Trump National Doral in Miami.

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GOLF Top 100 Teacher: This foolproof shot near the green will help you save more pars

You’re 50 yards from the green. The wind is up. You could play your standard pitch, but good luck if you put too much loft on the shot—the wind could knock the ball down, carry it too far or blow it sideways.

Your best option here is the bump-and-run.

And to make the shot that much easier to pull off, hit it with a hybrid.

The heavy weight of a hybrid allows you to make a smaller, more controlled swing but still generate ample distance to get the ball all the way to the target. The setup is very traditional: Grip down a few inches, narrow your stance and set a tad more weight over your front foot.

All you have to do now is make a simple little swing—just a little longer than what you’d use for a chip shot—with the club almost always staying below hip level. There′s not much that can go wrong. Even if you don′t make solid contact, the ball will typically roll out the correct distance. It′s a very low-maintenance shot and a great option to have in your bag when the trouble is long of the green.

– Kellie Stenzel, Boca Raton Resort & Club, Boca Raton, Fla. and Palm Beach C.C., Palm Beach, Fla.

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