What elements make up the perfect swing? Before you even take your shot you have to pick the right angle of approach, take into account the weather and wind speed, and you have to pick out the perfect club for the job.
We know in practice you also look at your balance, your takeaway, your position at the top, and your downswing, but there is one key, very small element to the swing that many golfers forget. And, it may surprise you how much your game will improve once you get this right.
Many coaches have noted that players will develop incorrect and inefficient swing techniques in an attempt to compensate for not having this element of their swing correct. Incorrect swings like these can often lead to unnecessary injury.
The good news is a lot of the work to improve this element of your game happens off the course when you are club fitting.
You might have guessed by now that this crucial element we're talking about is the lie angle.
In this article, we'll be breaking down what exactly the lie angle is and how to check if your lie angle is working for you. We will also be talking about the difference between upright and flat lie angles, and how you can use the lie angle to improve your game.
So What Is A Lie Angle?
The lie angle is the angle between the center of the shaft and the sole. To put it into simpler terms, the lie angle is the angle between the center of your club and the line of the ground.
A common misconception when it comes to the lie angle is that said angle is most important when teeing up, but in fact, you should be much more careful about what your lie angle is at the moment you strike the ball.
The lie angle can make or break your shot. Getting this angle right is the difference between hooking or slicing the ball off in an unexpected direction, and sending the ball sailing happily onto the fairway.
A lot of golfers, both first time and more experienced players find it shocking that something this tiny can make such a difference. The good news is that by tweaking something very small you can see big results.
How To Mesure What Your Lie Angle Is
There are a few things that can affect what your lie angle should be. You must take your height, body type, and play style into account.
Each club comes with a natural lie angle, for example, a standard 9 iron roughly has a lie angle of 64 degrees, so once you understand what the best angle for you is you can have your clubs adjusted.
There are two main ways to measure your lie angle. One of them you can even do from the comfort of your own home course.
At home course test: for this test, you will need a marker pen and some impact tape.
Simply mark with a vertical line the center of the ball (where you would strike it head-on), and tee up as you usually would. Follow the instructions provided by the tape’s manufacturer and place it on your clubhead.
Tee off as you usually would, when you look at the tape, you will see a line of marker ink indicating the lie angle of your strike. We would recommend repeating this a few times so you can gain a more in-depth understanding of your swings.
At the Store test: most specialist shops will offer clubfitting sessions where they will measure your height and arm length as well as testing how you swing. Your local golf club might even do this too. Once they’ve gathered the data they’ll be able to adjust your clubs to fit your needs. Most clubs can be adjusted by the fitter by bending them at the hosel.
It is also possible to get apps that will track how well, and in what direction you’re striking. Taking averages from this data will allow you to work out the flaw in your lie angles whilst playing. This option is more time consuming than the two we mentioned above.
NOTE: The lie angle of your club won’t stay the same for the club’s whole lifespan. General wear and tear can change their weight and shape, this also affects the lie angle. So we recommend getting your clubs touched up every six months, or immediately if you begin to notice a change in how they’re swinging.
Flat VS Upright Lie Angles - How They Affect Your Swing
The Affect of the Lie Angle and the Loft
The upwards angling of the clubface, also known as the loft is directly affected by the lie angle. If the lie angle is wrong, it doesn’t matter how squarely you strike the ball, you will still see an angled shot (when the trajectory of the ball is too far left, or too far right from the beginning) and tailspin (the trajectory of the shot begins incorrectly, and becomes more off-target the further it travels).
A flat lie angle (for a right-handed golfer) will result in angled shots and tailspin to the right of the course. Whereas, upright lie angles will send the balls spinning out to the left.
Flat Lie Angles
When we say a flat lie angle, what we mean is the angle between the shaft and the sole is too small.
Because the lie angle is too small, or flat, the ball is likely to be hit too low. This will result in, for a right-handed golfer, the ball being sliced and curving to the right.
The impact of an ideal swing is level with the heel of the club. However, if the lie angle of the golfer’s swing is too flat the impact will take place below the heel, causing the side affections mentioned above.
It is possible to get a flat lie angle when both teeing off, or when striking the ball straight from the turf.
NOTE: Here is where you will notice dents and chips in your clubs most, although striking the grass before making contact with the ball can also affect the lie angle at this stage.
Upright Lie Angles
An upright lie angle means the angle between the sole and the shaft is too large.
What this looks like on the court is that heel of the club dips below its toe. This results in shots shifting to the left and having left tailspin. The upright lie angle also results in the ball regularly being hooked by the club.
When measuring the lie angles of your shots, you will most likely find that your angles are too upright.
Due to many of the most common mistakes in amateur golfing (bending the knees too much whilst swinging, standing too far away from the tee, too long shafts, etc) most popular club manufacturers produce clubs with more extreme lofts too compensate for these mistakes. This in turn affects your lie angle.
NOTE: The angles of standard clubs can vary widely between different manufacturers, so it’s well worth doing your research before purchasing, as you may be able to find a club that requires less adjusting and save yourself some cash.
Why You Should Correct Your Lie Angle
As we mentioned before lots of players with incorrect lie angles tweak their swings to compensate for their imbalances. This is not something that we’d recommend for a few reasons.
Firstly, as we mentioned earlier many coaches have seen that these kinds of compensating shots can lead to premature injuries during play - not only will fixing your lie angle make you a more efficient player, but it will also add longevity to your game.
Secondly, the compensating shots will make you a less accurate player. A wrong lie angle will result in a smaller margin of error when taking your shot. Put simply, it becomes harder and harder for you to hit a good shot. On average your shots will also be slower and less powerful.
Finally, adjusting your lie angle can help set right other areas of imbalance in your game. Nearly all professional players have the lie angles on their clubs adjusted to suit their personal play style, and it could benefit you too. If you have trouble with your putts spinning off to the left, for example, why not have the lie of your clubhead flatted by a degree or two to neutralize that.
The possibilities are endless. We highly recommend taking the time to understand how lie angles affect your game, as a small tweak to them can provide a lot of improvement for very little effort.