Flat vs. Upright Lie in Golf

Three golfers on putting green, woman holding golf flag, Saipan, USA

If golf wasn't so much fun, the complexities of the game might drive people off the links in droves. In addition to the intricacies of the swing itself, you have to deal with all of the issues of modern equipment, from shaft flex and torque to golf ball compression. And that's not all. "One of the most important clubhead specifications affecting accuracy is the lie angle of irons at impact," explains Greenwich Golf. Fortunately, club fitters can ride to the rescue and tailor all of your equipment, including the lie of your irons, to your particular swing.

Many Irons Lie

As PGA professional Tim Graves on the Moe Norman Golf website states, the lie of your irons is defined as the angle made between the shaft and the ground. "The key is to have a club with a proper lie angle that ensures the sole of the club is parallel with the ground at impact ..." An upright lie occurs when you sole the club and the toe of your iron is off the ground and up in air. A flat lie occurs when an iron tilts in the other direction so that the heel is off the turf.

Bad Lies Hurt

If you contact the ball with an upright lie, the heel of the club hits the ground first, which tends to produce pulled and hooked shots, writes instructor Hank Haney on "Golf Digest" website. A flat lie causes you to strike the ground with the toe, leading to pushes and slices. Moe Norman Golf says that a 5-iron with a lie angle that is 4 degrees too upright or flat can cause a pull or push of as much as 40 feet from your target, often the difference between hitting and missing the green.

Upright May Not Be All Right

Andrew Rice Golf bemoans the tendency of modern club makers to design clubs with lies that are more upright than in the past, noting that all-time great players, such as Ben Hogan, used irons with much flatter lies. Upright lies help players with flawed swings avoid fading or slicing the ball as much, the most common mishit of high-handicappers. But SCOR Golf argues that the modern upright shaft encourages poor swing mechanics.

The Fix is in the Fit

The traditional test to determine if your irons are too upright or flat is to go to the range with a small piece of plastic or plywood, put a strip of masking tape on the sole of your irons and whack a few balls off the hard surface. The tape will indicate where the sole is making contact and enable you to determine whether your lie is too upright, too flat or just right. But if you want to play your best, get a complete fitting from a professional club fitter who can measure not only lie but also clubhead speed, launch angle and other critical elements in order to arm you with the best possible equipment.