Ball Above My Feet

I have a very difficult time playing shots with the ball above my feet, especially from a tight lie. Can you give me some suggestions to improve on this shot? Andrew C. Graham, NC

The first thing you need to do in preparing to play any golf shot is to assess the condition of the lie and how it may affect the flight of the ball. In this case, you will be striking the ball from a tight, clean lie from the fairway. The primary concern is that the ball will be played above your feet. That lie will have a strong tendency to fly in a right to left spin or draw spin pattern. You must take that into consideration as you prepare to select the correct club to play the shot.

Pre-Swing

  1. Decide the yardage that you must carry the ball. If you would normally hit a 5 iron from that distance, you will select one club longer (4 iron) to play this shot for the following reasons:
    • Because the ball is above your feet, the ball is going to lie ‘closer’ to your body. You are going to adjust to that closeness by gripping further down the shaft to ‘shorten’ the effective length of the club.
    • The overall swing speed will not be 100% full motion so the taking a less lofted club will help compensate for the slight loss in distance due to your less than full swing. Side hill lies tend to make a player lose their balance if they swing too hard on the shot. For this shot, you are going to make a smooth, controlled swing in order to assure that you contact the ball cleanly.
  2. Set-Up Adjustments:
    • Alignment: You should adjust your alignments to compensate for the right to left ball flight. There are several things from the perspective of Physics that create the right to left ball flight pattern from a ball sitting above your feet. The primary culprit is the clubface angle at impact. We know that the clubface contributes 75%-80% of the direction of an iron shot and 80%-85% of a teed driver shot. (Take any iron out of your bag and once at address simply raise the club up to simulate the ball above your feet. You will quickly see that the higher you raise the club, the more your once square clubface now aims left of the target). Make two adjustments in your alignment. Commit to aligning your body to the right of your desired landing spot. Allow the clubface to address the ball slightly more open (to the right) than normal.
    • Ball Position: When the ball is above your feet, you should adjust the ball further back in your stance than normal (close to center of stance).
    • Balance: Because the ball is closer to you, you will have to adjust your spine angle at address to a slightly more upright angle than normal. This adjustment may make keeping your balance more difficult especially if you swing too hard. Additionally, gravity will tend to pull your weight down the slope during your swing – again causing you to lose your balance. At address, make the adjustment of moving your balance point in your feet more toward your toes and adjust your spine angle to a position that you feel perfectly balanced and comfortable before you swing. Remember, keeping your balance throughout this shot is critical to success.

In-Swing

  1. A ball above your feet will require that you have a flatter or more around your upper spine sweet-spot swing plane. Your pre-swing adjustments plus your adjusted spine angle at address will accommodate the more rounded swing plane nicely. You will now free to making a smooth and controlled swing with a mind that is confident, ready, and committed to making a great shot. Your clean strike will send the ball exactly where you had in mind before the shot!