Explaining the 'Sidehill Lie' in Golf

What is a "sidehill lie" in golf, and what is the best way of playing a golf shot from such a lie? Let's define the term, and then we'll let Jack Nicklaus explain what adjustments to make in order to pull off a good shot from such a position.

Most simply, a "sidehill lie" is when your golf ball comes to rest on ... the side of a hill. And that could mean an actual hill on a golf course, or smaller mounding, or just an area in the fairway that is sloping slightly up or down as you take your address.

When your ball sits on flat ground, the golf ball and your feet are at the same level. With a sidehill lie, the ball will be either higher than the level of your feet, or lower than the level of your feet (because the ground your ball sits on is sloping either up away from you or down away from you). That is the very definition of "sidehill lie" give in Gary McCord's instructional book, Golf for Dummies (affiliate link used for book titles in this post, commissions earned): "Ball either above or below your feet."

The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms also includes the word "sidehiller," meaning a shot played from a sidehill lie, or the golf ball that is sitting in a sidehill lie. "Sidehiller" is not a word that is used much today.

But usage of "sidehill lie" goes back at least to the 19th century, and was common at least by the early 20th century. In Gene Sarazen's Common Sense Golf Tips, published in 1924, Sarazen wrote, "Nothing is more difficult for the average golfer than to play a sidehill lie."

How do you play a sidehill lie? The specific technique varies depending on which type of sidehill lie you have: a ball below your feet, or a ball above your feet. In the classic golf instruction video Golf My Way (based on his legendary golf instructional book of the same name), Jack Nicklaus discusses and demonstrates the technique.

Here is Nicklaus explaining sidehill lies with the ball above your feet:

And here is the Golden Bear discussing and demonstrating playing from a sidehill lie with the ball below your feet:

If you search YouTube for "sidehill lie," "ball below your feet," or "ball above your feet," you can find many other videos on the subject.

Related articles:

Davies, Peter. The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms, 1993, Robson Books.
McCord, Gary. Golf for Dummies, 2011, Wiley Publishing.
Nicklaus, Jack. Golf My Way, 1976, Simon & Schuster.

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