A wedge shot from a downhill lie has its challenges, especially when coupled with the closely-mown fairways and tight lies that players encounter at The Masters. We’ll see a prime example of this intimidating shot at Augusta National’s 15th hole, but with advice from Titleist Staff member, Cameron McCormick, you can learn how to adjust for a downhill lie and ensure good contact between the ball and the club face.
The Downhill Lie at The Masters Tournament
Firethorn, the 530-yard, par-5 15th hole at Augusta National has seen its share of drama in Masters history. In fact, the shot that put The Masters on the map — the famous albatross nicknamed “the shot heard ‘round the world” — was pulled off by Gene Sarazen on No. 15 in 1935. At the time, Grantland Rice, America’s first great sports writer and a founding member of Augusta National, called Sarazen’s 4-wood shot "…the most thrilling single golf shot ever played.”
But for every “2”, “3” and “4” recorded at Firethorn over the years, there have been far more “6s”, “7s” and “others”. If you aren’t able to reach the green with your second shot, your lay-up will leave you with a downhill wedge shot off a tight lie which must carry Raes Creek and hold a narrow, false-fronted green. It's one of the scariest shots at Augusta.
Tips for the Downhill Lie Wedge Shot
As Cameron says, the keys to hitting a downhill shot from a tight lie are solid contact and sufficient spin, and in the video above he shares his approach for taking the fear factor out and hitting these shots close.
Making Solid Contact
Using Firethorn as an example, making solid contact is the primary objective. Hitting the ball fat (striking the ground behind the ball) will produce a muffed shot that flies short and will splash down in Raes Creek. Hitting the ball thin (contacting the ball with the leading edge of the club instead of the club face) will send the golf ball rocketing over the green, where a severe slope and more water awaits. To improve your chances of making clean contact, move the ball position further back in your stance, towards your trail foot. Lean heavily onto your lead foot and tilt your lead shoulder downhill, so that your shoulders are level with the slope.
Generating Sufficient Spin
In addition to crisp contact between the golf ball and club face, it’s important for players to fly the ball the correct distance and to generate enough spin for the ball to check and stop on the green. The natural tendency is to want to scoop and hoist the ball up into the air, However, to compress the ball and create spin, you must swing down the slope of the hill, strike the ball first and then the turf and accelerate through impact.
• Position the golf ball back in your stance
• Apply 95% of your pressure down-slope, into your lead side
• Align shoulders level with the slope and swing down the slope
• Accelerate through impact and and cut across the shot slightly
Using this technique on a downhill shot from a tight lie will produce enough ball speed to fly the required distance, coupled with enough spin for the ball to grab and stop quickly on the green.
For more of Cameron's Masters-inspired tips: explore A High-Spin Escape Shot When You're Short-Sided. And to bring your game from good to great, and from great to world-class, be sure to check out the instructional programs Cameron has to offer at Altus Performance.