Understanding Dynamic Lie Angle

We saw in the Clubhead in Geometry chapters how the golf lie angle was measured by manufacturers using an industrial specification gauge with the club properly registered on the base with the center of the sole touching. As a review, the lie is the angle at which the shaft exits the head relative to the ground line. The key role of lie as we will soon see is in shot direction, in particular the mid and short irons. But realize the lie also affects how we set up to the ball at address.

Golf Club Lie Angle Explained

A club’s lie can be considered as standard, flat, or upright. These measures are based on industry norms or how the manufacturer designed the club. For instance, a typical #6 iron has a lie angle of close to 62 degrees. A flatter lie angle will be less than 62° as the shaft will be closer to the ground line than the standard club. A more upright lie angle will be greater than 62º as its shaft will be more vertical related to the ground line. Each individual club in a set has a specific lie angle, the shorter the club’s length, the more upright its lie angle.

diagram of the measured of an 6 with lines extending out of the hosel depicting an upflat, standard and flat lie anglediagram of the measured of an 6 with lines extending out of the hosel depicting an upflat, standard and flat lie angle

While the lie angle the manufacturer had built into the club is important, what is most important is the lie angle at impact because this is what will dictate the direction the ball will go after impact. The lie of the club at impact can be described as dynamic lie angle. Many golfers will make the mistake of looking at the lie of the club at address. If they see the toe up in the air, they will construe that as being incorrect. However they do not factor in several things that happen that may flatten out the club during the swing.

When we talk about dynamic lie, it is the opposite of the measured lie as we can see from the following diagram. A club with too flat of a lie angle and the shaft will be more vertical.

We would rather look at the contact point of the sole on the ground rather than the shaft when discussing the dynamic lie. Here there are three conditions. A club’s lie can be considered as correct, flat, or upright. The correct lie would be where the contact point with the ground is in the center of the sole regarding the scoreline area. A lie that is too flat will have the contact point with the ground out toward the toe of the sole. And lastly, too upright and the contact point will be closer to the heel.

Why is this important? A lie that is best suited to a player will position the plane of the club’s face toward the target at impact, making it easier to hit straighter shots. Improper lie angles may cause improper set-up positions, pushed or pulled shots and/or a club that does not feel solid at impact. Players and club fitters are often inclined to believe a player’s shot difficulties are a result of poor swings. However, lie angle has such a great influence on shot direction that a player making a perfectly good on-plane swing with a short iron that may have a lie angle that is incorrectly matched to them can miss the intended target by several yards. Improper lie angles will, in effect, cause the plane of the face of the club to tilt to one side or the other, yielding shots pushed or pulled in relation to the target - all at no fault of the player.

To show how, there are a number of props you can use to see for yourself or show to your customer. One is to take a mid-iron and drill a 3/8” hole all the way through the center of the face. Next, drill a hole halfway through the center of a golf ball with the same 3/8” drill bit. Take a 3/8” wooden dowel or the tip of 0.370” parallel tip iron shaft and cut a section 10-12” long and epoxy one end into the ball. The other end of the shaft or wooden dowel can be inserted into the hole in the center of the face of the iron.

diagram of a golf iron with rod extending out of the face with a ball on the other end of the roddiagram of a golf iron with rod extending out of the face with a ball on the other end of the rod

Have the golfer place the club in the address position as he or she normally does, aligning the club with a specific target. If the static lie is correct for the player, the shaft and ball will point directly toward their target. If the lie is too flat, the shaft/ball will be aligned to the right of the intended target; if the lie is too upright, the direction of the shaft/ball will be to the target’s left. For a left handed player, the opposite will occur. This is not to say that lie should be fit to a player in this manner - on the contrary, the position of the club in a static position such as in the demonstration may not be an accurate picture of the face position at impact during an actual swing. This demo is only meant to show what could happen if the club were in a similar position at impact related to what it was at address. The more the lie is off; the further right or left the ball will be pointing relative to the target.

diagram of 3 golf irons and the direction the ball will go if the lie angle is too upright, correct or too flatdiagram of 3 golf irons and the direction the ball will go if the lie angle is too upright, correct or too flat

You could repeat this experiment with a low lofted club like a putter and a higher lofted club like a wedge to demonstrate our next topic.

Lie Dispersion Angle

There is a term called lie dispersion angle, which is the angle the face is tilted when the lie is too upright or flat. The amount of degree will change with the loft of the club. For instance, with a putter (which is extremely low lofted) one can change the lie upright or flat 45° and the shaft/ball will change extraordinarily little. To put it into relative terms, look at the following chart.

Putter Dispersion Angle Offline Error by Loft

Putter Loft Dispersion Angle Distance (Feet) Error (Inches)
0.0° 20 ft. 0.0"
0.1° 20 ft. 0.4"
0.2° 20 ft. 0.9"
0.3° 20 ft. 1.3"
0.4° 20 ft. 1.8"
0.5° 20 ft. 2.2"
0.6° 20 ft. 2.6"


We show putters with lofts varying from zero to 6° of loft. The examples show what would happen if lie is off by 6° and we have a 20 foot putt on a perfectly flat surface. If the putter face is square at impact, then the putter with zero degrees loft will go perfectly straight as there is no dispersion angle. As the loft increases, we begin to see a dispersion angle that increases as the loft increases. 

A regulation size golf hole is 4.25” meaning any error greater than half the diameter or +/-2.6” will miss the hole to one side or another. That will not occur until we exceed 6° of loft (which would be on the exceedingly high range of putters with 3° being the norm).

Now let us look at the other clubs using examples where the lie is off 2° one way or another. If the player typically hits a 10° driver 236 yards, a 2° error creates a 0.35° dispersion angle leading to a 3.9 foot error. This assumes the face is square. With the average fairway 32 yards wide, this amount of error may seem minimal. But remember in the Basics of the Swing chapter is the face angle is either open or closed it will create slice or hook spin and compound the error.

Golf Club Dispersion Angle Offline Error by Loft

Club Loft Dispersion Angle Distance (Yards) Error (Feet)
 0.31°  240 3.9
10° 0.35° 236 4.3
11° 0.38° 232 4.6
12° 0.42° 228 5.0
13° 0.45° 224 5.3
14° 0.48° 220 5.6
15° 0.52° 217 5.9
16° 0.55° 213 6.1
17° 0.58° 209 6.4
18° 0.62° 206 6.7
19° 0.65° 202 6.9
20° 0.68° 199 7.1
21° 0.72° 195 7.3
22° 0.75° 192 7.5
23° 0.78° 187 7.7
24° 0.81° 183 7.8
25° 0.85° 178 7.9
26° 0.88° 174 8.0
27° 0.91° 169 8.0
28° 0.94° 165 8.1
29° 0.97° 161 8.2
30° 1.00° 157 8.2
31° 1.03° 153 8.2
32° 1.06° 149 8.3
33° 1.09° 145 8.3
34° 1.12° 142 8.3
35° 1.15° 138 8.3
36° 1.18° 135 8.3


Club Loft Dispersion Angle Distance (Yards) Error (Feet)
37°  1.20° 135 8.5
38° 1.23° 131 8.5
39° 1.26° 128 8.4
40° 1.29° 125 8.4
41° 1.31° 122 8.4
42° 1.34° 119 8.3
43° 1.36° 116 8.3
44° 1.39° 113 8.2
45° 1.41° 110 8.1
46° 1.44° 107 8.1
47° 1.46° 105 8.0
48° 1.49° 102 7.9
49° 1.51° 99 7.9
50° 1.53° 97 7.8
51° 1.55° 95 7.7
52° 1.58° 92 7.6
53° 1.60° 90 7.5
54° 1.62° 88 7.4
55° 1.64° 85 7.3
56° 1.66° 83 7.2
57° 1.68° 81 7.1
58° 1.70° 79 7.0
58° 1.71° 77 6.9
60° 1.73° 75 6.8
61 1.75° 73 6.7
62° 1.77° 72 6.6
63° 1.78° 70 6.5
64° 1.80° 68 6.4


As you can see from the chart, as the loft increases the dispersion angle increases, but only up to a certain point. At 39°, the dispersion angle gradually decreases. A 2-3 yard error could be the difference between reaching the green in regulation and the ball going in a greenside bunker. As we have shown earlier in the text there is direct relationship between GIR’s and scoring. That is why the lie is important to check as well as alter when incorrect (if possible).

Dynamically Fitting for Lie Angle

It is highly recommended to fit for lie at the same time as you fit for length as you can use the same demo clubs. If not, the fitter can use their interchangeable head and shaft program or even the player’s own clubs if they only need an adjustment and not a new club or whole set. Remember the limitations you have as most drivers, fairways and hybrids cannot be altered for lie. This will leave most club fitters primarily fitting lie for a mid-iron (like a #6 or 7-iron) and wedges. While an incorrect putter lie might not appear to be an issue as explained earlier, we will discuss in the Putter chapter how the proper lie angle can lead to better alignment. 

One word of caution, it used to be customary to have demo clubs that were the exact same to one another except one might have been standard lie, one 2-3° flat and another 2-3° upright. However, if the head size (primarily blade length) the player is fitted for differs from the demo clubs as well as the shaft and flex, any lie fitting may not be accurate as these factors have an influence on the dynamic lie angle at impact as we will see later. 

A club fitter can continue to use the impact spray or labels on the face to make sure solid contact is made in the center of the face. In addition it would be helpful to have a means of identifying where on the sole contact is made such as the addition of sole impact labels or even black electrical tape. 

impact label on sole of an iron with marks near the center where it hit the lie boardimpact label on sole of an iron with marks near the center where it hit the lie board

To create those marks will require hitting off a hard surface such as a golf club lie board. These can be the thin polycarbonate lie boards that are commercially available (which are portable). If textured, there may be no need for any sole impact tape. Something more substantial would be a piece of plywood. If purchasing one of the commercially available lie boards, buy two. If one breaks during the fitting (which will occur from time to time) you can continue with your fitting with your spare. If using a piece of plywood (or the like) make certain it is large enough so the customer can stand on it with the ball level with their feet.

iron with a face and sole impact label lying on top of polycarbonate lie impact boardiron with a face and sole impact label lying on top of polycarbonate lie impact board

By examining the marks on the sole, the fitter can remedy any error that can occur. This process can be accomplished either indoors or outdoors, but outdoors will be more accurate as we will discuss later.

A Look at Impact On the Clubhead’s Sole

Look at the picture on the right. This shows the scuff marks created by impact with the sole on our lie board. The club on the left clearly shows the impact was made out on the extreme side of the toe indicating the club is too flat. The clubhead in the center is a little better as the scuff marks are closer to the center but they are still biased toward the heel. The one on the right shows the marks more centered.

black electrical tape on sole of an iron with marks near the toe where it hit the lie boardblack electrical tape on sole of an iron with marks near the toe where it hit the lie board

Angle of Attack and Lie Impact Markings

It is more customary to see the scuff marks more toward the leading edge of the face. This indicates the player is hitting down on the ball or has a descending angle of attack. If the marks are more toward the center between the leading and trailing edges, this will show a very shallow (if not) angle of attack. This is also referred to as a sweeper swing. Lastly you may find the scuff marks along the trailing edge. This would indicate the player is trying to create loft by picking the ball or getting the clubhead ahead of the hands at impact.

Diagram of impacts on the sole of 3 irons iron caused by different angles of attackDiagram of impacts on the sole of 3 irons iron caused by different angles of attack

Face Angle and Lie Impact Markings

However, we need to look at the brush marks too. If the brush marks are straight from the leading to trailing edge this would indicate the face is square. But what happens if it is not as in many cases? If the face is open, it too may create a situation where the impact marks can appear toward the trailing edge like the illustration in the middle. This would show a fade even though the upright lie angle may tell you the ball should go left because impact is on the heel and too upright of a lie angle.

The bottom illustration shows a trap shot where the face is closed, and the ball will start left and go left even though the scuff marks out on the toe might indicate a push because of too flat a lie. This is why fitting indoors and hitting into a net can be very misleading versus the same test done outside where you can watch ball flight.

Diagram of impacts on the sole of 3 irons iron caused by different face anglesDiagram of impacts on the sole of 3 irons iron caused by different face angles

My rule of thumb is if the ball flight is straight do not adjust the lie even though the impact may occur on the heel or toe of center. I conducted an indoor lie test on one individual where it took a 6 degree upright lie alteration to get the impact mark to be in the center of the sole. When we went outside to watch ball flight the ball went way left and resulted in a tremendous pull.

How Sole Radius Influence Lie Angle Alterations

Fitting books written in the past, the consensus was for every ¼” off center the mark on the sole was relative to the center of the sole, then that would require a 1° alteration to the lie angle. To show an example, let us look at the sole of an iron with the gray marks indicating every ¼.”  A mark ¾” out toward the toe would mean the club being evaluated was 3° flat of what the player needed.

diagram of golf club sole marked every 1/4 inch depictiong how many degrees the lie is offdiagram of golf club sole marked every 1/4 inch depictiong how many degrees the lie is off

Part of the reasoning goes back to years ago the sole was much flatter than what is typically found on today’s modern irons. The heel-to-toe sole radius on an older iron model might have been 14”. The tangent for each degree on a 14” radius would be remarkably close to 0.25”. For example, the line out toward the toe would indicate the contact point on the sole if the clubhead was tilted 4° to show indicating the club was too flat. The mark is approximately 1” toward the toe. 

diagram of a golf club iron with a 14" heel-to-toe sole radiusdiagram of a golf club iron with a 14" heel-to-toe sole radius

The line toward the heel is tilted the opposite direction by 2° to show where impact would be made on the ground if the club were too upright. The mark is approximately 0.5” toward the toe.

The sole radius on a modern iron might be closer to 6” to 10”. In plain language, it is much more curved from heel to toe than the irons of the past so that the club could be played from a variety of lies. The tangent for each 1 degree of lie change now only moves a little over 0.1” with a 6 degree sole radius. If using the lie impact labels to indicate how much alteration is necessary is dicey at best, unless you know exactly what the sole radius is and can calculate the tangent from any lie alteration.

diagram of a golf club iron with a 14" heel-to-toe sole radiusdiagram of a golf club iron with a 14" heel-to-toe sole radius

Impact on Club Face by Incorrect Lie Angle

Do not be surprised to see not only the impacts on the sole change by altering the lie angle, but also impacts on the face. We mentioned before that the lie dictates how far we stand from the ball. Golfers may use the lie angle to help set up. With the club more upright they are apt to stand closer to the ball rather than have the toe up in the air. Therefore you might see a combination where the lie was too upright the impacts on the sole are toward the heel and impacts on the face are out toward the toe. By bending the club flatter, both the sole and face impacts go toward the center.

Conversely, if you see the sole impacts toward the toe and the face impacts toward the heel, the club could very well be too flat. By bending the club upright, it could reach our goal of both center face impacts as well as center sole impacts.

These are minor adjustments a fitter can make even after the clubs have been delivered to the player and re-test them before leaving your shop. This is especially true of the long and short irons as most club fitters may test only a mid-iron and set all the irons the same amount of degrees flat or upright relative to the standard specifications. Just because the #6-iron may need to be 1 degree upright does not automatically mean all irons and wedges within the set require a 1° more upright like angle.

diagram of face impacts on 3 irons caused having tthe correct lie angle, one that is too flat and one too uprightdiagram of face impacts on 3 irons caused having tthe correct lie angle, one that is too flat and one too upright

One of the reasons has to do with the lie progression throughout the set. We might have three iron sets that share the same lie angle, but only in the #6-iron. One iron set may progress in lie angle 0.5° per iron (flat slope), the next set might progress by 0.75° per iron (normal) and lastly you might see 1° progressions (steep). When all is said and done, we could see 1.5° lie difference between the #3 and 9-irons between these three sets.

Examples of Lie Angle Progression in an Iron Set

Iron Flat Normal Steep
3 Iron 60.5° 59.75° 59°
4 Iron 61° 60.5° 60°
5 Iron 61.5° 61.25° 61°
6 Iron 62° 62° 62°
7 Iron 62.5° 62.75° 63°
8 Iron 63° 63.5° 64°
9 Iron 63.5° 64.25° 65°


The premise behind the flat progression is the longer irons are more likely to be pushed or sliced so by making the longer irons more upright may help correct for the flaw in the player’s swing. This is a perfect situation where two wrongs can make a right. In contrast, the steeper slope was commonly how older iron sets were set up.

Also, consider any manufacturing tolerances. Just because a manufacturer says the lie of their #6-iron is supposed to be 62° does not mean it will. Most manufacturing tolerances are +/-1° meaning the lie could be anywhere in-between 61-63° and be perfectly within tolerances. A well-equipped clubmaking shop should have a lie/loft machine to be able to adjust or correct for these tolerances when they do occur.

Factors Influencing Dynamic Lie Angle

When changing from one clubhead model to another you may find that the properly fit lie angle is not always the same. That is, if we had more of a player’s iron where the blade length was more compact from heel-to-toe, the player may fit into a flatter lie angle than an iron or wedge were the blade length was longer. The reasoning is the center of gravity usually follows the geometry of the head.

Let us start out with a blade-style iron that has a blade length of 3” (76.2mm). The best position to hit the ball is at the center of gravity (CG) of the head, which may or may not be in the center of the scoring lines. In this iron, it might not be uncommon for the CG to be 1” from the back edge of the heel.

The iron outlined in black may be a game-improvement design with a longer blade length of 3.18” (81mm). By extending the blade length the CG may be positioned further from the hosel. It may be 1.25” from the heel. So to hit the ball at the CG with the same length club as the smaller blade-style iron, one would have to stand ¼” further away from the ball. Think about that statement for a minute. We assume that if we use two 37.5” #6-irons with a 62° lie, we should stand the same distance to the ball, but we do not. 

diagram of golf club and how blade length influences how far away the club needs to be horizontally from the golferdiagram of golf club and how blade length influences how far away the club needs to be horizontally from the golfer

The end of the butt cap touches the vertical line on the right at some point. The horizontal distance from the end of the grip to the heel is the cosine of the lie multiplied by the club length. In this case of a 37.5” 6-iron and 62° lie, then the H-dimension is 17.6”. But from the CG of the head to the end of the grip cap is 18.6” for the blade-style iron and 18.85” for the game-improvement iron. While ¼” does not sound like much, it does represent miss-hitting the ball on the face using the same set up and stance. To compensate for standing further away, the lie should be 0.5° more upright and this would make up for the 1/4” difference so the person can stand the same distance to the ball.

The longest iron outline is our ultra-game improvement design with an even longer blade length of 3.39” (86mm). The extended blade length may shift the CG even further from the hosel about 1.50” from the heel. This would require the lie to be 0.5° more upright than the game-improvement design and a full 1° more upright than the blade-style iron to maintain the same distance from the end of the grip to the ball.

Relationship Between Shaft Flex and Lie Angle

There is another factor to consider and that is the effect the longer blade length has on the shaft flex. As the weight of the head is further away from the shaft, the shaft will tend to want to flatten out more in the swing. How much? It may only be 1/4° per ¼” further the CG away from the heel because of the longer blade length and the shaft wanting to align itself to the CG of the head in the swing.

Shafts that are traditionally found in blade-style irons are compact from heel-to-toe and have completely different shafts than game-improvement designs. For example, a True Temper Dynamic Gold or KBS Tour shaft would be more prominent in a blade or compact cavity back iron. The stiffness of the shaft and the tip section are less likely to bow downward in the swing than a lighter weight, more flexible and softer tip shaft found in many game-improvement designs today. Therefore the lies of a game improvement iron may have to start slightly more upright to compensate for the downward bowing of the more flexible shaft in addition to factoring in the horizontal distance to the ball created by the longer blade length.

The center of gravity of the head should dictate the initial lie angle of each iron should be. If these are not factored into, the person could end up playing a club with too flat a lie angle resulting into pushing the ball in relationship to the target line. This is really the reason why you see game-improvement irons designed with more upright lie angles than those clubs designed for better golfers.

These are two reasons why fitting with an interchangeable head and shaft program is beneficial so you can fit the player for the exact combination they would be using. Pay close attention next time at the lie specifications for most player’s irons and game-improvement irons, the lie is quite often different with the player’s irons being a degree or perhaps 2° flatter.

diagram of the downward bowing forces of a golf shaftdiagram of the downward bowing forces of a golf shaft

Dynamic Golf Club Lie Fitting Summary

Lie angle is often fitted at the same time length or when using your interchangeable head and shaft program to dial in what combination works best for the golfer. The materials to test for lie are very simple and affordable. We saw how there is a lot of interrelationship between lie and many other factors, but the most important part is to rely on ball flight and comments back from your customer. Our goal is always to have the ball go toward the intended target line. This could occur even if the lie off the sole does not make contact at the center of the sole. No golfer is going to care if the impact is off by ¼” one way or another if the results are good. 

But if the direction is off, lie angle could very well be your culprit. Almost all irons and wedges can be adjusted, while some woods, hybrids and even putter can too.  Remember the limitations are often 2° one way or another without cracking the hosel or marring the head. Fitting for lie may require the fitter to have a lie/loft machine or the ability to custom order their clubs pre-bent from their supplier (often for a small fee).

Fitting for lie will be more prominent when more loft is involved or really any club that is designed to approach a green. Any small error in lie (which could be compounded by face angle) could miss the green and penalize a golfer by at least ½ stroke for each green missed as most golfers will not be able to make it up and down from where the ball lands. Lie is also what factors in how far we stand from the ball and can make the difference of hitting out toward the toe, the heel or the center of the face which affect feel and distance. While our goal is a center face impact as well as center sole impact, this may not always be obtainable, but choose the proper lie to give the player the most repeatable results.

Static Fitting for Lie Angle

In cases where you cannot see the player swing in person, ask if the player was ever fit before. For example, if they were, ask what their previous fitting might be. While this may not be the most precise method, it is better than none. There really is no accurate substitute for dynamic player testing of these parameters. You may have to review the length fitting chapter as you might be able to incorporate wrist-to-floor measurements along with their height and review the swingweighting section. 

If the customer says the toe of their club is off the ground at impact, remember that is normal as there is some normal downing bowing that occurs during the swing. However, if they tell you the heel is off the ground at address that might be a sure sign their current clubs are too flat. Ask them about direction. If they consistently pull the ball (not a draw or hook), that may be a sign their current clubs are too upright. Conversely, pushed shots (not a fade or a slice) could very well be caused by too flat of a lie.

Items you might need

  • Lie/loft machine or accurate device to measure lie
  • Impact decals or electrical tape
  • Lie fitting board
  • Demo clubs or use an interchangeable head and shaft program. This can save both time and money.

Modern Guide to Golf Clubmaking

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