Playing Out of Bad Lies

Scott Sackett
Director of Instruction
McCormick Ranch Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

More Information

When playing golf, there are a lot of times when you won’t have a perfect lie. You might be in thick rough, mulch, pine straw, wet dirt, firm bare or one of a hundred different types of lies. This tip will focus on what adjustments to make in your golf swing to ensure solid contact from one of the most unfortunate lies there is, being in a divot in the fairway.

I have spent a lot of time on TrackMan lately thinking of using the lie as a reactionary tool for the student to then change his/her swing and attempt solid contact. The one lie I can create over and over again on the range is playing from a divot.

The simplest way I describe this is using the low point of the swing arc. Essentially, when playing from a divot, you want to shift the bottom of the swing arc farther ahead of the golf ball than a regular shot. This is because the ball is sitting below the level of the ground.

What adjustments in the swing should you make?

A common adjustment is to just shift the ball back in ones stance and strike the shot. This presents 2 problems if aligned at the target: 1) It shifts the Club Path (horizontal movement of the golf club through impact) significantly right, and 2) It gives the Club Face a shorter amount of time to square.

Instead. Take your normal set up as if the lie was not in a divot. Then, shift your stance significantly open (the farther the ball sits down, the farther left you’ll want to open your stance if right handed) and swing the hands/club head on stance line. This will do 2 things that helps insure great contact even out of the worst of divots. 1) Increase the Attack Angle so you’re hitting more down at it. If the ball is below the level of the ground, there is no hiding the fact you have to go down and get it. 2) Shift the Swing Direction or general direction of the arc far enough to the left to get the higher Attack Angle and allow the low point of the swing arc to occur farther in front of the ball.

Scott Sackett, GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher since 1999, just voted as one of Golf Digest’s Best Teacher in the State for the fifth year in a row. Also, Director of Instruction at Park Meadows CC in Park City, Utah and while in Scottsdale Scott teaches at McCormick Ranch Golf Club. If you would like to reach Scott, you can contact him at