Measure a club's lie angle to see if it should be flatter.
The term вЂњ1 degree flatвЂќ is probably unfamiliar to anyone who hasn't bought a set of golf clubs from a professional club fitter. If you buy clubs off the rack at a golf store, you probably focus more on the shaft's length, flex and composition. If you examine the clubheads, you'll likely consider whether they're forgiving of mishit shots. But if you're fit for clubs, the club fitter will make sure that the clubs have the correct lie angle to suit your body and your swing.
Lie Angle Defined
A golf club's lie angle measures the angle formed by the shaft and the clubhead's sole. Golf manufacturers use lie angle charts to determine standard lie angles for each club, depending on the golfer's height. For example, a typical driver has a lie angle of about 55 degrees, while a 9-iron's lie angle is about 64 degrees -- the more loft a club contains, the greater the lie angle. If the lie angles of your clubs are 1 degree greater than the manufacturer's standard, your clubs are 1 degree flat. If your lie angles are lower by 1 degree, the clubs are 1 degree upright.
Effects of Incorrect Lie Angles
To understand how the lie angle impacts your game, think about hitting a ball on a hilly course. If your ball is on a hill or short rise and lies above your feet, it will fly to the left -- if you're right-handed -- when you take a normal swing, because the clubhead's toe will be higher than the heel. In other words, the effective lie angle will be too upright. Likewise, if you hit a ball on flat ground with a club that's too upright the heel will strike the ground first, causing you to pull the shot. Flattening the lie angle cures that equipment defect.
Determining the Correct Lie Angle
If your clubs are fitted professionally, the fitter will likely have you hit some balls off a lie-testing board. He'll place tape on the clubhead's sole and examine the tape after each shot. If the lie angle is correct the pro will see that the tape has impacted the board in the center of the clubface. But if you're consistently hitting the board with the clubhead's heel, then your lie angle is too upright and must be made flatter. You can do a rough check yourself with your current clubs by examining any divots you take during a round. If the divots are deeper on the heel side your lie angle is too upright. If the toe side of your divots are deeper your clubheads are too flat.
Changing the Lie Angle
If your current clubs are too upright and need to be flatter, a club fitter can make small adjustments by hand, including 1-degree tweaks. The fitter will anchor your clubhead in a vise, attach a wrench to the hosel and pull the shaft to widen the angle. If you're getting a new set of clubs, have them professionally fit, if possible, so no adjustments will be needed.