Hitting a golf ball purely and accurately on a consistent basis is probably one of the toughest things to do in sports. There are so many factors that can alter or ruin your shots, and one of these is the “lie angle” of your club.
So, what is lie angle in golf?
Lie angle refers to the number of degrees between a golf club’s hosel and the ground line when the club is addressed, or straight down from the hosel to the ground. An upright lie leads to more pulls and hooks, while a flat lie leads to more pushes and slices.
While that is a quick answer to what lie angle is, there’s a lot that goes into how lie angle affects the distance and direction of your shots. For more information on that, as well as how you can adjust your lie angle, we encourage you to keep reading.
Why Is Lie Angle Important?
The lie angle of a club directly impacts the manner in which the club comes into the golf ball at the kick point in the downswing. The angle directly impacts how the club bottoms out in the swing. In fact, having an improper lie angle can cause misses up to 4 yards per degree that the lie angle is off.
How Do You Measure Lie Angle?
Lie angle is measured as the number of degrees between the shaft of the golf club and the head of the club. Major club manufacturers will measure lie angle beginning from a set number of degrees that they refer to as standard. Measurements are taken in terms of degrees flat or degrees upright, relative to the standard lie angle measurement.
It is worth noting that although referred to as standard, the standard lie angle varies between equipment manufacturers. Each manufacturer measures their lie angle differently, and the lie angle for different types of clubs (i.e. driver, hybrids, wedges) varies based upon the club shaft length.
Longer clubs, such as a driver, tend to have a flatter lie angle when compared to shorter clubs, like wedges.
Putters also have a lie angle, but most are close to 90 degrees. Players generally stand more or less right over the golf ball when putting and the lie angle of a putter varies depending on the type of neck the putter has.
The neck of the putter is simply the very last portion of the club shaft. Some putters have a straight club shaft that goes directly into the putter, while others have a bend in the neck to accommodate a more upright angle of visibility and attack when putting.
What Is a Flat Lie Angle in Golf?
A flat lie angle occurs when the club shaft is a higher number of degrees obtuse (looking down instead of measuring the hosel to ground angle) than the standard lie angle for the equipment manufacturer. As each manufacturer has a different standard for the default lie angle on their clubs, there is no official degree measurement for universal flat lie angles.
Players looking to get new golf clubs can order them with a flatter lie angle than what’s standard from the manufacturer. Used clubs or clubs that the player already owns can also be adjusted to create a flatter lie angle if needed. Generally, this is done with a vice by a PGA Professional.
A flatter lie angle causes the heel of the club to be higher off of the ground in comparison to a standard lie angle. If the club is too flat, this lack of contact by the heel can lead to a push or slice miss.
It is easiest to think of the clubface pivoting on a point from the center of the face at address. A flat lie angle would have a similar effect visually to the clubface as dropping the hands lower when addressing the ball. Players who naturally keep their hands too high could benefit from a slightly flatter lie angle to compensate.
What Is an Upright Lie Angle in Golf?
In contrast to a flat lie angle, the upright lie angle occurs when the angle between the clubhead and the shaft is less obtuse (again, from a downward view) than the standard lie angle as set by the manufacturer.
Just like a flat lie angle, the upright lie angle is measured based upon the number of degrees upright the club sits from whatever the standard manufacturer lie angle is.
Having a more upright lie angle will cause the opposite effect of a flat lie angle if the angle is too upright. Players using a club with too upright of a lie angle will make impact with the toe of the club not contacting the ground. This can lead to a pull or hook miss.
Going back to the previous analogy, an upright lie angle will pivot the clubhead in the opposite direction from the center clubface point as a flat lie angle.
The same effect of an upright lie angle can be observed on the clubhead by moving the hands upright from their natural position. The ball will make contact closer to the hosel of the club when the lie angle is upright.
Does Lie Angle Affect Distance?
The short answer is yes, assuming that the player does not play the correct lie angle for their swing. The ideal point on the clubface for the ball to make contact is in the dead center of the face. Known as the sweet spot, the optimal distance for a club will come when contact is made at this point.
By making adjustments to the lie angle, it causes part of the club to not make contact with the ground squarely, assuming the other factors remain consistent. If a player does not need a non-standard lie angle on their club, an adjustment will take the ball away from that center sweet spot, regardless of whether it’s upright or flat.
Moving the contact point on the face in either direction will reduce the distance in comparison to contact in the sweet spot.
Does Lie Angle Affect Your Shot Direction?
Yes, lie angle also has an effect on the direction a shot goes. Most players have experienced a swing that feels like it made contact close to the heel of the clubface or out on the toe of the clubface. An improper lie angle will cause shots to miss towards the heel or the toe.
Having a flatter lie angle than necessary will move the contact point on the club closer to the toe, which will cause misses to the right for a right-handed player. In contrast, a more upright lie angle than necessary will cause the contact point to move towards the heel and lead to misses left for a right-handed player.
The reason moving the contact point causes issues with shot direction is because of the speed that the clubface rotates through the ball at various points of contact. When turning the face through the ball, the heel of the club has the least degrees of rotation to make it through the ball.
Contact out by the toe often doesn’t get through the ball because the toe has the largest number of degrees to rotate to get that portion of the club through the ball.
What Lie Angle Do the Pros Use?
Amateurs could learn a thing or two from PGA Tour Professionals. The lie angle, which is often overlooked by amateurs, is one of the main areas of focus for professionals when trying new equipment, especially irons.
Professionals will use any number of lie angles. It is a very individual preference and professionals will look to use whatever angle maximizes the club’s ability to make contact, with the ball with the sole of the club hitting flat on the ground at both the toe and the heel.
Taller players will often need an upright lie angle to accommodate their height, as standard clubs are designed with players under six feet tall in mind.
It’s worth noting that the pros, as a general group, will actually tend to have their clubs get flatter as they approach their wedges, even if they are playing upright irons. This is because wedges have to be designed to be versatile, keeping in mind that they will be used for a wide variety of shots.
Since wedges are not often swung as hard as possible, unlike other clubs, wedges tend to droop and have the toe make more of an impact with the ground than the heel. As a result, a slightly flatter wedge lie angle can help balance out the club’s contact with the ground.
Should You Adjust Your Lie Angle?
If you’ve read this article and feel as if your swings are making contact off-center, the lie angle could be an area to look for solutions. However, making an adjustment to the lie angle of your clubs is not as easy or affordable as making a grip change. Existing clubs that are bent to adjust the lie angle can be reversed, but every movement weakens the metal ever so slightly.
Bending your irons every time you start missing greens to the right isn’t a very practical solution and can get costly. Players thinking they can save some cash and adjust their clubs home could just as easily damage their irons or cause the club to make even less fluid contact with the ground at impact.
The best method if a golfer wants to make adjustments to their lie angles is to go get fitted at a licensed fitter. Most locations that offer fitting will provide players with their club specifications, even if they don’t intend on getting any new equipment.
Players can pay a fee to receive their specs, and then take this data to a PGA Professional to adjust their lie angle according to the findings that the player receives from their fitting session.
Another alternative that allows for less room for error involves just providing lie angle specifications when ordering a new set of clubs. When the manufacturer has lie angle information when processing your order, they can create the club to fit your needs.
This eliminates the need to torque on the club after it’s manufactured to try and adjust the lie angle.
Whatever path you take, be sure that you are 100% sure that you want to make adjustments to your lie angle before taking action. Unless you’re on staff with an equipment manufacturer, all of these actions will incur costs for amateur players.
As fun as club tinkering can be, you could easily spend a few hundred dollars searching for an answer in your lie angle and not achieve the results you seek.
What is the Best Lie Angle for a Driver?
The optimal lie angle for a driver varies depending on the manufacturer, player height, player wrist to ground measurement, and other factors. Most driver lie angles are between 56 and 60 degrees as a standard, measured from the hosel down to the ground.
A driver generally has the longest club shaft of any club within the golfer’s bag. A longer club shaft will necessitate the lie angle to be flatter than shorter clubs simply because the player has to be standing further away from the ball when swinging.
Unlike irons, adjusting the lie angle of a driver is not an easy task. It is highly recommended if you need to utilize a driver with a varied lie angle from standard, you make the adjustment on a new club coming from the equipment manufacturer.
This will remove the possibility of hurting the club, especially if someone is putting the driver’s head into a vice to pull on the club shaft and manually adjust the lie angle.
Finally, don’t forget that adjusting where the hands sit at address can make a large impact on how flush the sole of the club comes into the ball. Be sure to make swing adjustments and maybe get a lesson before deciding to make major alterations to your equipment.