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Starting my own golf academy this February at the Carlsbad Golf Center was a dream come true. However, being at a driving range, I had to think twice about how I would teach my players to hit shots off of uneven lies. Thankfully, I found one of the best golf training tools ever developed, called the Tuff Shot Trainer by Real Feel Golf Mats. This tool is perfect for practicing every type of lie, at any grade, when hitting on a driving range.

Using the Tuff Shot Training in conjunction with Trackman, we can work on the proper face-to-path ratios so that students can start their ball on the correct line to allow for the natural curvature back to the target.

I was interested to figure out what specifically changed when the ball was above or below a golfer’s feet. The general rule of thumb is that when the ball is above your feet, it tends to go left for the right-handed golfers, and when below your feet, it will go to the right.

“Is this because of the path or the face, and why?” I wanted to know.

I knew I could use my Trackman to help figure this out. I tested with my 6 iron, a PXG 0311T with a standard lie angle. I put my Tuff Shot at an 8-degree grade, starting with the ball above my feet. Then I hit 20 shots, and repeated the same process with the ball below my feet at the same 8-degree grade.

Based on the Trackman results, the differentiators between the two lies at impact were:

  1. The face angle.
  2. The swing plane.

On average, the shaft plane at impact was 10 degrees flatter when the ball was above my feet compared to when it was below my feet. As a result, the club face, more than the club path, tended to change at impact depending if the ball was above or below my feet.


The flatter the shaft at impact, the more the sweet spot points left. The more upright the shaft at impact the more the sweet spot points right.

I attribute a large portion of this to the shaft plane at impact being flatter or more vertical. This changes the direction that the center of the face is pointing upon impact.

The Data Collected


From 20 shots hit with the ball above the feet at an 8 percent grade.

For someone who hits the ball relatively straight, here is why you need to aim right when the ball is above your feet:

  • The club face is going to be closed to the path at impact when the ball is above your feet. The more above the feet, the more it will be closed. Also, the ball starts closer to where the face is pointed at impact than the path at impact. So when you aim at the target, the ball will start left and go more left, which obviously is not ideal.

If you aim right:

  • Aiming right will get the face open enough — relative to the target line — but will be closed to the path and will allow for the ball to start right and finish at the target.

Here are some general setup tips when the ball is above your feet in an uneven lie:

  • Start by standing closer and taller than you normally would. The greater the slope the more important this is.
  • Choke down on the club to help get the shaft more upright and to avoid fat shots.
  • Aim your entire body to right field so the ball can start right of the target before it curves to the left.
  • Take one more club to compensate for choking down on the shaft.
  • Finally, commit to the swing and trust that the ball will come back to the left.
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Originally from Portland Oregon, Devan played collegiate golf at College of the Desert in Palm Desert before transferring to San Diego State. In 2007, he started working for Jim McLean at PGA West. There Devan was able to spend significant time with Jim McLean and was subsequently asked by Jim to move to the TPC Doral location in Miami, Florida, to be his Personal Teaching Assistant. At Doral, Devan was able to teach with Jim in every golf lesson, clinic and school that he taught. Some of the notable players he worked with while Jim’s assistant were Greg Norman, Keegan Bradley, Lexi Thompson, Eric Compton and Vaughn Taylor. Devan also aided Jim in the writing of his Death Moves book in 2009. In 2011 Devan was offered a Master Instructor position at The Jim McLean Junior Academy in Dallas/Fort Worth. He spent the next five years helping develop some of the best Junior golfers in the country. In addition to Jim McLean, Devan has had the opportunity to spend significant time with Mike Bender, Jim Hardy, Hank Haney, Chuck Cook and Jim Flick. The culmination of this time has helped shape the way Devan teaches golf. Devan enjoys working with players of all abilities from the High Performance Junior to the Weekend Golfer.



  1. Pingback: Trackman tells us the truth about uneven lies (Part 2) - Dan Hansen Golf Instruction

  2. Peter Maki

    Jul 27, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Sure the swing plane is different because the slope dictates it. Lie angle is the biggest reason shots curve more and start more left/right off of slopes.

  3. Steven

    Jul 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Good article Devan. I like that the technology confirmed what we all intuitively believed. I also like the explanation. It would help a little to know how far to the right or how far to left to aim.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Bert

    Jul 20, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Nice and simple – just right for me, simple!

  5. alan

    Jul 20, 2016 at 7:45 am


  6. Grim

    Jul 19, 2016 at 11:48 am

    You do realize it’s quite easy to hit straight shots from uneven lies?

    The main reason the ball goes left when above your feet and right below, is because of the out of balance reaction your body has during the swing.

    This teaching method of aiming to adjust for these types of shots is wrong and very outdated.

    • Smacked

      Jul 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      So’s your face

    • Bob Pegram

      Jul 20, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      It works for most people. It is easier than trying to change your entire swing balance on one shot.
      However, explain what you mean. I am curious.

    • John

      Jul 21, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      uh, no?

      On all shots with all clubs, the ball has backspin. Backspin is created by the ball “rolling up” the face perpendicular to the sole angle. This is known. Physics also dictates that backspin will cause the ball to move “up” through the air perpendicular to the axis of spin. Obviously gravity fights this, but that is why you see that “balooning” ball flight. So, with a square face-to-path, this axis of spin will be parallel to the sole angle. If we put those pieces together, ball above your feet=sole angled left=axis angled left=ball goes left.

      Also important to note that the face angle itself, due to the loft, will be offline, meaning the ball will start left or right of your line, then curve from there. Both the line and spin will be more affected by higher-lofted clubs. (This is the bit about the face being “closed” above, although he did kind of a poor job of expressing what that really means. The club face would appear square to you, but you have to consider the loft of the face as well, which will now be pointing left or right. The pics do a better job of showing that.)

      This is why lie angle is a fitting criteria–if you’re delivering the club too upright or laid back, you’ll need to compensate other ways or the ball will always move right or left, respectively.

  7. Howard

    Jul 19, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Is that the Carlsbad Golf Center? Go Aztecs!

    • James

      Jul 19, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      Yes it is! Spent 16 good months there with the Golf Academy of America in 08/09

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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things



As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.

For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.

All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.

This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.

So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.

  • Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
  • Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
  • Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
  • Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
  • This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
  • A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
  • And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.

So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…

  • Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
  • You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.

If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.

More from the Wedge Guy

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Clement: Don’t overlook this if you want to find the center of the face




It is just crazy how golfers are literally beside themselves when they are placed in a properly aligned set up! They feel they can’t swing or function! We take a dive into why this is and it has to do with how the eyes are set up in the human skull!

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Clampett: Why golfers aren’t improving



The average golf score in the United States is still 100 and has been for over 50 years, despite better equipment, improved technologies, and course conditions. Touring pros continue to improve. Seemingly every week is a new tournament scoring record, despite courses getting longer and tougher. So why doesn’t the average golfer improve?

Two major problems exist, and when combined, set the perfect “stymie,” preventing game improvement. Sadly, it’s hurting the game and is responsible for why four million golfers quit every year and why 10 million want-to-be golfers lie waiting, wondering how to learn. The Five Golf Powers, which form the World Golf Federation, have done little to address this problem.

Problem #1

Style-based instruction is the predominant form of golf instruction and continues to confuse golfers. This epidemic has stifled game improvement and established a landscape of frustrated golfers. The search for the perfect style of swing and the desire to create certain “good looking” or “preferred styled” positions has led to countless books, videos, and teachers who taught their “ideal” style of swing. “Stack and Tilt,” “Single Plane Swing.” “Natural Golf Swing,” “The A-Swing,” “The X-Factor Swing,” “The Morad Project,” “The One or Two Plane Swing,” “The Gravity Golf Swing,” and the list of style-based teaching methods go on and on… Meanwhile, the best golfers in the world don’t subscribe to any of these swings.

Television adds to the confusion. An analyst may express his or her opinion about the best grip, setup, backswing, plane, downswing, follow-through, etc. One teacher says to do one thing, and the other contradicts it. Confusion abounds everywhere.

One day while on air at the Golf Channel, I had just finished discussing how to hit a bunker shot by keeping the same swing, just changing the set-up; when another instructor, with little playing credentials, followed me and shared with the viewers an entirely different swing that included throwing away clubhead lag and flipping at the bottom of the swing to hit a bunker shot. The poor viewer who watched that day and who couldn’t interpolate which way was better. How many viewers were confused? My goal is to eliminate the confusion, not be part of it. So, I refused to join the Golf Channel on TV in that capacity anymore.

Today’s average golfer gets much of their information online, surfing the internet and watching YouTube videos while being bombarded with countless emails produced by golf instructors who deliver “swing tips” to promote their business. Contradictory views confuse undereducated golfers searching for clues to playing better golf. Desperate, they head to the driving range, ready to apply whatever they just read, but it rarely helps and never lasts.

Problem #2

Since I left the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions in 2014, I’ve gotten a rare insider’s look at the green grass golf business. I’ve witnessed a second problem that contributes to golfers not improving. A war has developed between golf club staff and professional golf instructors, who dedicate their careers to just teaching golf. Head and assistant professionals, who are underpaid, make much-needed additional income through golf instruction. The additional supplemental income is vital to their survival. They are not trained to teach golf per se, most learn to instruct through shadowing another club professional, or they read books, watch some videos, and learn much as the average golfer does. I was shocked to hear that the PGA does not train golf professionals to become teachers or directors of instruction, though they have just begun offering golf instruction as a track in the PGM College programs. Initially, when this track system began three years ago, the PGA estimated that only 20 percent would choose golf instruction. They were shocked to discover that 50 percent chose the track for golf instruction in their first year. It makes sense to me; golf instruction pays better, has more flexible hours, and, if you’re good at it, brings a smile to people’s faces.

Club staff professionals find it hard to compete with a competent golf instructor who has dedicated their livelihood to instruction. It’s a separate profession that requires a separate set of skills and specific training. It’s not easy to be a good golf instructor. Many full-time professional golf instructors have difficulty finding a job because staff professionals feel they will lose their business. Staff professionals often make their feelings known to management and owners and declare the club “their territory” for golf instruction. They often give the ultimatum and threaten to leave if management hires a professional golf instructor. With so few young people filling the needed gap of golf professionals, the staff usually gets their way. What is left at the club then are under-trained staff professionals teaching golf for the money and ill-equipped to give quality lessons.

No wonder recent statistics show that 70 percent of golfers who take lessons don’t improve. Additionally, 38 percent of private golf club members in the United States want a game improvement program, but their club doesn’t provide a satisfactory solution. One of America’s largest golf management companies; just discovered that clubs with a high-end golf instruction program reduce member attrition rates by 75 percent a year. The Proponent Group, the leading organization for professional golf instructors, reveals that the value of good golf instruction is much larger than most club owners and managers think. In fact, for every dollar an instruction program earns, the club benefits $1.75. Additionally, the lesson takers spend 78 percent more money at the club than non-lesson takers.

Management, to appease the staff’s request to earn an extra $20,000, costs the average club over $1 million per year, though they don’t yet realize the cost. The sadder picture is that most clubs generate less than $50,000 in golf instruction when a $1 million yearly program is available. The market is large; the eager golfers are plentiful, and golfers are starving for good instruction. History suggests that ownership and management don’t value good golf instruction. That’s why it’s unheard of to track instructors’ key performance indicators. But once ownership discovers this, they will emphasize member services and develop good golf instruction programs.

The answer to both problems

Style-based instruction is opinion-based, a failed attempt to find a perfect swing that doesn’t exist. Everyone is different, built differently, coordinated differently, skilled differently, with different natural propensities and learned behavior. Attempting to put them all in a box has proven disastrous.

Arnold Palmer once said, “Swing your own swing; I sure did!” Arnold had it right; style is individual, just like one’s signature, though I admire Arnold’s signature the most. But that’s my opinion. I have his signature on a picture of us hanging in my studio after our last round of golf together. The common denominator of all the best players in the world is impact. It’s the only thing that matters in the swing. Find your way to get there and make it consistent. That’s the name of the game. That’s why I developed “Impact-Based Teaching,” Learning to work from impact, backward, rather than swing-style, forward, is the key to quicker learning, improved instruction, happier golfers, and more golfers getting and staying in the game. Impact-based instruction is the vaccine to the “style-based” teaching methodologies epidemic.

The answer to the second problem is training staff professionals in Impact-Based Teaching and teaching them how to build their business. Track KPIs, improve their closing of new student assessments, and increase their retention, referral, and closing rates. Staff professionals can be successful in instruction once they are trained. It’s not their fault! The fields are ripe, and the harvest is plentiful for good golf instruction.

Good golf instruction is needed and can make a tremendous difference in the game, bringing more golfers, filling up club memberships, driving revenue, supporting junior golf, and more. It’s time we band together for the good of golf. Improve golf instruction and make it available.

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