What Is A Tight Lie In Golf? 4 Easy Ways To Find One

a golf ball in a tight lie

Meet Jake

Jake was a competitive golfer for over a decade dating back to the days of being the Captain of his high school golf team. He has played more than 200 courses across 32 different states in the US. Now semi-retired, Jake continues to golf 3-4 days a week with a current 2 handicap, gives golf lessons to his friends and family, and provides a wealth of knowledge to Golf Circuit from his competitive playing days. Jake combines practical expertise with technical knowledge to create golfing strategies and training techniques for both beginners and scratch golfers.

A tight lie in golf is when a ball is on a small amount of grass or directly on dirt. A shot from a tight lie is one of the most difficult, despite its unassuming appearance.

What Is A Tight Lie in Golf?

A tight lie in golf is when a ball sits on grass less than a quarter-inch high, or no grass at all. The “tight” description comes from the ball being tight to the ground.

A golfer must approach this type of shot differently than a ball perched up or in heavy rough. If a ball sitting up is your preferred lie, a tight lie is the complete opposite.

How to Identify a Tight Lie

Tight lies are almost always accompanied by a hard surface below whatever grass there is. The ground factors into your approach and requires golfers with steep swings to make the biggest adjustments.

Seasoned golfers know all too well the pain that comes from a tight lie. As you walk up to your ball, everything looks good.

You find it without a problem, there’s no thick rough to fight through—no apparent trouble.

Once you’re over the golf ball and prepping for your shot, you realize the trouble you’re in. You have a tight lie and know it’s going to take a different club and swing to play the ball effectively.

To pile on, your margin for error has gone out the window, and absolute precision is the only way to get the ball from point A to your desired point B.

So where can you find a tight lie?

  • Burnt out areas, or areas without good irrigation
  • Hardpan surfaces
  • Bald areas without any grass at all
  • Fairways and fringe where the grass was cut too low

This list above is only of the most common areas, but tight lies do not discriminate. You can find them anywhere on the course.

Another commonplace is on tee boxes, though since you’re using a tee, it tends not to matter.

When it comes to winter golf, almost every lie is a tight lie. This is because the grass has gone dormant and will no longer sit up.

Not to mention, the ground is usually frozen and taking a deep divot comes with more consequences than a bad shot.

How to Play from a Tight Lie

The tricky thing about a tight lie is it can go bad two ways, topped or thin. Allowing your club to bounce off the ground before hitting the ball results in a top. Trying not to go too deep and staying too high leads to a bladed shot.

Wedges and Irons

Hitting right behind the ball takes away some of the effects of a tight lie. To keep the club in the right position, make sure to use a forward press.

This eliminates some of the loft and leads the ball to run out. With practice you’ll be able to control trajectory and distance.

Making contact at the very bottom of your swing arc prevents a tight lie from being too detrimental.

Swings like this with clubs like a 7 iron, won’t make a divot by scooping or sweeping the ball with minimal turf interaction.

Going too low means your club will bounce off the ground and at that point it’s anyone’s guess where it ends up.


My personal favorite club to use on a tight lie is a hybrid. With a hybrid, you can sweep the ground without a divot, elevate the ball, and get some distance.

The important thing to remember here is not to come down steep as that will cause too much club-turf interaction.

Unsurprisingly, I’m also a big fan of the 15-yard hybrid chip shot that runs up the fairway and onto the green.

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