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Vertical golf


Beautiful undulating terrain is an integral part of most beautiful
golf courses and a feature of the three most-played courses in Nepal.

Precision scoring sports by and large have uniformly flat surfaces from which to aim from. Golf is a major exception, and that is one of the many charms of the game. There are uphill, downhill and sidehill lies. Add to this combinations of side and up, side and down, and you can easily comprehend why a player needs to be armed with the ability to understand the intricacies of each uneven position.

Practice ranges have flat hitting surfaces, and usually a perfectly level and 'bouncy' Astroturf mat to hit from. Beginners almost always start their game from here, and this is the type of shot they get used to hitting. Playing on a real course, they are faced with this new awkward challenge, and seem baffled at why they have such difficulty hitting the ball. Their well-practiced normal 'flat lie' swing ends up with miss hits and often even air shots. The cause is undoubtedly a lack of understanding the lie and knowing the adjustments to make.

Balance is a key in executing a good golf swing. When playing from uneven lies, this becomes crucial, as the body is not used to swinging with gravity pulling at it from an angle. In all the scenarios below, remember to concentrate on balance and easing off on the swing. To compensate for this, a club (or two) extra should be taken to achieve the needed distance.

When the ball is above your feet the ball will naturally draw (right to left for right handed players). Compensation must be made by aiming right of the target. The ball is closer to you than normal, so choking down on the grip helps you adjust for this level difference. Never try to hit a full shot from these lies, and remember to take an extra club.

When the ball is below your feet, the ball tends to fade. Therefore, aim left of the target. To keep balance, hit easy and take one or even two extra clubs.

Uphill and downhill lies can be maddening, yet we see the masters of the game play them with seeming ease. What is their secret?

The common mistake is in setting up to the ball with the shoulders horizontal, irregardless of the lay of the land. If you do that on an uphill lie, you will end up with a swing that is too steep, driving your club face into the slope, hitting high and well short.

For both uphill and down hill shots, take a club and hold it across your shoulders, then bend your knees appropriately, and shift your upper torso until the club is parallel to the slope. Now your swing path and your club's angle of approach will be similar to what you would have on level ground. Remember again to swing easy to stay balanced, and to take a little more club to make up for this.

Armed with this knowledge, analyse the lie you have, make the necessary adjustments, and see the difference in your shot making.

Deepak Acharya is a golf instructor and Head Golf Professional at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)