What Hardpan Is on the Golf Course

Do you know what hardpan is on a golf course? It's an area of very hard, bare ground, and most golfers will rue their luck if their golf ball comes to rest on it.

Hardpan is also called a "hardpan lie," and sometimes a "bare lie" or "bald lie." "Hardpan" and "tight lie" can mean the same thing, but the term tight lie implies that there is at least a very thin amount of grass under one's ball.

Hardpan, on the other hand, implies that there is no grass beneath your ball. Hardpan implies bare, compacted, hard ground, a place where the dirt is sometimes compared to concrete.

And it can be found on many golf courses. What causes hardpan? It can result from drought or heat, poor turf maintenance (or at least a low maintenance budget), or from the grass being killed and worn away through high foot traffic or golf cart or vehicle traffic. Hardpan becomes more common in summer months on golf courses in hot climates.

Generally, golfers do not get any free relief from a hardpan lie. If your golf ball rolls onto hardpan and stops there, you have to play off it. (Sometimes there are exceptions to that, such as if the area has been marked as ground under repair or if a rules committee has implemented preferred lies.)

Some golfers try to play a ball off hardpan by picking the ball clean with a more sweeping swing. The biggest dangers in playing off hardpan are fat shots and thin shots. A fat shot (hitting the ground behind the ball) is not going to feel good in your wrists because the ground is so hard. Thin shots and skulling the ball — the most common mis-hits off hardpan — are common because golfers might overcompensate trying to avoid hitting the ground behind the ball.

Playing off hardpan usually requires a steeper swing with a more descending swing path to help get the ball up into the air. Full shots off hardpan are discussed in the top video, chips and pitches off hardpan are discussed in the bottom video.

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