Last October I wrote about the four big mistakes I made when playing a course for the first time. You can find out what they were by having a quick pre-read here.
So with those lessons learned I played two unfamiliar courses last weekend and realised there were many more mistakes in my bag that are particularly prevalent to hilly courses.
The hills are alive with the sound of Fore!
It was my annual boys’ weekend away and we played at Mickelover Golf Club near Derby and Uttoxeter Golf Club in Staffordshire, right next to the racecourse. Both are fabulous and enjoyable golfing experiences made better by some luck with the weather.
Each course features pretty well-kept tree-lined fairways, blind drives and green approaches with no shortage of sloping terrain to navigate. I don’t think I’ve heard bell ringing and shouts of ‘Fore’ so often from so many directions, like cowbells and yodels across Alpine valleys. Wise precautions for hidden landing spots.
The art of hilly course management
Let’s just say I played really well until I didn’t. My driving was good, my putting was great, a complete revelation after recent yippy episodes, but my course management was plain dreadful.
Too often I played a nicely struck shot to where I thought was a good landing spot or green centre, only to learn I was heading in the wrong direction with the wrong club and never found the ball. I have plenty more excuses.
To compound that issue, I was not used to the volume of sloping lies that both courses offered that demanded a particular set of skills that only years of hill course membership experience can build.
Uphill, downhill, feet above and below and any combination of the four provide some challenging stances and surprising roll-outs to test a first-time visitor.
Would I play these courses again? Absolutely ‘YES’ now I’m more familiar with their layout. They will both look amazing in the late Autumn with leaves turning gold. So what did I learn from this experience?
I learned to play golf as a junior on a hilly, undulating golf course but this weekend gave me a reminder of some rusty techniques I need to revisit:
Practice sloping lies
I really need to spend more time practicing shots from sloping lies. It’s a skillset you can’t practice at most flat ranges but, once learned, would save lots of shots and reduce non-scoring holes.
Do the maths
I need to do more maths on my yardages. It’s no use knowing your club distances if you don’t compensate for the elevation of the target as well as the winds. And when the maths are done I need to choose the right club to compensate for the lie angle change on slopes.
Ball below feet
I really don’t like the ball-below-feet lie but I need to get over it. Some think the downhill lie is their hardest but for me it’s when the ball is a foot below both feet. As a tall person with a bad back and a dodgy left foot, I just don’t get low enough or sense the right balance to avoid a nasty slicing ball with a comedy parachute landing follow-through. So undignified.
Courses with a view
Hilly courses are some of the most picturesque I have played on with their interesting contours and the odd pause on a hilltop to take in the view while catching my breath, checking crampons and coiling the safety rope.
They can also be frustrating when you don’t know what lies over yonder hill and you need to craft a well calculated sloping lie shot to an invisible landing spot in an unknown direction ahead. Local knowledge and an OS map can help.
But on balance, if I had any, I do prefer a hilly course, especially with a four-wheel-drive buggy and halfway house with a hot sausage roll and oxygen tank. They don’t have all those on Everest.
Putt well on those tricky slopes
Paul Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker and enthusiastic golf improver learning to play hilly courses.
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