To hit the ball on an upslope, you need to be a lot narrower than normal. If you go wide, your weight goes onto your right side, so it is so much harder to work up the slope. By opening your left foot, you’re giving yourself extra room. If you’re square on an upslope, you’ve got nowhere to go.
On an uphill shot, it’s more important to rotate through the strike than it is to rotate back. You also need to stand a little closer, work your pelvis up the slope and finish nice and tall.
If you’re on a 10º slope and you normally hit a 56º, you’ve basically got a 66º wedge. You will probably need to take less loft than you’d think. You don’t need to do very much. With a bit of practice, you’ll realise it’s a bit like a standard chip shot. It’s actually an easy shot.
What to do
Widen your stance for this one. This gives you more room for your elbow to fold on plane. If you don’t have that out the way, then you’re off-plane. A lot of what you’re doing here is, not surprisingly, the opposite of what you’d do on an upslope.
If you’re on a 10º slope, then a 56º wedge is now a 46º. If you need to get it up there then you need to open the face and be brave. It’s just a question of experimenting with how much you need to open it. Once you get the knowledge and feeling of the result from practice, you’ll instinctively know the movements.
The absolute fundamental of any short game shot is you’ve got to control the low point. You always follow the slope. If you’re on a downslope, then your pelvis has to stay down for longer.
The biggest mistake is thinking that you need more height so you try and help it up. If done correctly, everything in your set-up creates the height, so if you just follow the slope and get the strike, you’re fine. Yes, it will go a bit lower than a normal shot but you can actually still hit it pretty high and stop it quickly.
What to do
Ball above feet (easier option)
This is all about face plane tilt. This means that if the ball is above you, even though you think the grooves on the clubface look like they are aiming at the target, the face plane tilt is actually now pointing left and up.
That means your ball is going to go higher and left. The tough shot to hit is the full wedge with the ball above your feet. It’s a tough shot to master because the ball just wants to go left. The simplest way to do it is just aim right. If you aim everything right then your face plane tilt is moving everything back to the target. Then you just swing with the slope and you’ll hit a draw.
Be aware that it will run more with this option and the steeper the slope, the more you need to aim right and grip down to compensate for slope. This is the easier shot and it’s something that you’ll use most often.
What to do
Ball above feet (trickier option)
If the greens are firm, the ball can run a bit too much with the easier option. So, if you’ve got the ball above your feet and you want to stop it, you need to work against the slope.
This is the shot for the better player who wants more control of the golf ball. Then you’re adding loft, you’re a bit further away. By working up the slope, it’s almost like you’re hitting a fade. You’ll want the ball to come out straight and neutral but it will feel like you’re cutting it to get the ball coming out straight.
What to do
The biggest issue you see is that, when people practice their short game, they get to choose the lie and they get a bunch of balls. When you go and play, however, you don’t get to choose the lie - and you only get one shot. So, you’ve got to use your set-up to get you best prepared. What you don’t see is people experimenting.
If you keep experimenting with your short game, you’ll know more about what you need to exaggerate because everyone is different. But you’ve got to understand what the principles are before you can start tweaking things.
How much you change things will only be determined by the flight you get. That’s the skill and the art of the short game. That’s the fun of golf. A good player probably won’t be able to tell you how much they exaggerate things; they just do it. You’ve got to go and practice that and figure it out.
Because of the run-off areas around the green, you need to exaggerate your set-up because there’s more variety. You need the ball to do different things. Keep exaggerating it until you get the result you want.
David Patrick PGA Professional, teaches at Kingsfield Golf Range. For lessons, call David on 07773 427 233. Follow him on Twitter at @shortgamedoctor.