How to adjust your setup to hit off uneven lies like a pro

Welcome to Play Smart, a regular game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

Practicing on the driving range is important for improvement, but it won’t teach you every shot you need to be successful on the course. Practice tees are typically flat, which is great for grooving a consistent swing, but not so helpful for practicing variety.

Once you’re on the course, flat lies aren’t a guarantee. The topography of most courses presents a variety of lies to contend with — even from the fairway. Knowing how to navigate these uneven lies is crucial if you want to play your best golf.

In today’s edition of Play Smart, we enlist the help of instructor Kelan McDonagh for a crash course on how to hit off an uneven lie.

How to hit off an uneven lie

When you come upon your ball sitting on an uneven lie, first take stock of where your feet are in relation to the ball. Are they below the ball? Above it? Uneven? The answer will inform how you approach the shot.

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In the example above, the ball is above my feet. And as soon as I set up for the shot, it’s obvious that an altered setup is needed.

“What we notice immediately with the ball above your feet is the [face] of the club is going to want to go to the left,” McDonaugh says. “If we set up correctly, then we just gotta worry about making a golf swing.”

From here, only two small tweaks need to be made. First, it’s important to move the ball back in the stance. And second, you have to open the face. Now, the clubface is pointed directly down the line facing the target.

“Then just make your normal golf swing,” McDonagh says.

It’s as simple as that. With these setup adjustments made, all that’s left to do is make a solid swipe at the ball.

Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at