The golf club’s shaft runs down to the hosel, which takes off at an angle to the clubhead. That angle, called the lie angle, contributes to the direction the ball goes when you hit it, and more.
Golf club manufacturers build standard lie angles into their mass-produced clubs. There’s a good chance the standard lie angles do not fit your physique and swing, just like a suit off the rack in your size fits sort of, but not quite right. Just like you would get that suit tailored, part of a club fitting is getting the lie angle right.
Here’s why lie angle is important. If your clubs are too upright (the lie angle is too large), the club will be tilted toward you at impact, causing the clubface to face to the left of its address position, and the ball will go left. Conversely, if your lie angle is too small, the lie is too flat and you will tend to hit the ball to the right. (See drawing)
The more lofted the club, the more pronounced this effect is.
In addition, a club with the wrong lie angle will tend to strike the ball with a glancing blow. That will cause you to lose distance, the ball will fly lower and have less backspin, and the strike will never feel solid.
There’s an easy way to check whether the lie angle on your clubs is right for you. Get a Sharpie with a wide tip and draw a line on the ball. Put the ball down so the line is perfectly vertical and against the clubface when you address the ball. Now go ahead and hit the ball.
If the lie angle is correct, you will have a vertical stripe of ink on your clubface. If the lie is too upright, the stripe will lean toward the toe. Too flat, toward the heel. If there’s something wrong, get it corrected. This is a simple adjustment on a loft and lie machine.
The reason you want to get wrong lie angles corrected is that if you don’t, you have to introduce a compensation into your swing to make the ball go straight. It’s a lot easier to fix the club than to adjust your swing.
Get the lie angle on your irons checked every year if you play a lot of golf. Repeated impact against the ground can cause this angle to change.
You can use the theory of lie angles to help you play a shot from a sidehill lie. Imagine the ball being above your feet. When you address the ball, the bank raises the toe of the club, making the clubface point left of the swing path. So, aim right to compensate.
The opposite is true when the ball is below your feet. The clubface is now facing to the right, so aim the shot to the left of your target.