With any shot from an uneven lie, the smart player visualizes what the slope will tend to do to the shape of his shot. Uphill shots tend to go higher, downhill shots go lower and sidehill shots curve.
If you find your ball in what appears to be a stymied lie near the trunk of a tree or beside a boulder that makes a full swing impossible, stop cursing the golf gods and do an about-face. Using a wedge or a nine-iron, hold the club in your dominant hand, let it hang down at your side and turn the clubface so that it's pointing behind you. Now reach forward as if you were shaking hands with someone. Swing the clubhead smoothly to the ball, letting gravity do most of the work. Presto, you're free and clear.
Practice with range balls or pinecones to enhance your feel for distance and to become comfortable hitting the ball backward. Soon you'll be hitting no-stance escape shots nearly as well as ordinary chips—this is another shot that's much easier than it appears.
Strategy: Divide By Two
By Josha Hill
At the 2001 PGA Championship, David Toms walked down the eighteenth fairway of the Atlanta Athletic Club with a one-shot Sunday lead over Phil Mickelson. Climbing a mound to get to his ball, Toms discovered that his drive had found the first cut of rough. He faced a downhill, sidehill lie with 209 yards left—the last eighty yards of it over a pond that guards the green. What to do?Toms opted for the better part of valor.
Ignoring the jeers of the gallery, Toms took losing out of the picture. He left his long irons sheathed and split the difference: He hit an easy wedge to the end of the fairway, then another wedge to twelve feet. From there he could two-putt for a play-off with Mickelson. Instead, Toms calmly holed his par putt to win the PGA.
Jim McLean, owner of the Jim McLean Golf Schools, calls Toms's tactic the Divide-by-Two Rule. While stressing he had nothing to do with Toms's decision, McLean cites it as an example of smart strategic play. "Most amateurs don't think this way," says McLean. "But dividing the distance to the flag by two turns a difficult shot into something doable."