Factors that Influence Golf Ball Lie

The golf ball lie is critical to determining the playability of golf course fairways and roughs.  The common definition of golf ball lie is the amount of the golf ball that remains above the turfgrass canopy after the ball comes to rest.  A ball lie where it sits above the canopy produces a clean hit imparting backspin on the ball.  In situations where the ball may sit down into the canopy leaf blades can become the club and the ball causing the ball to “fly” upon being struck imparting little backspin.


Various means of measuring ball lie have been developed using digital caliper devices3 and digital image analysis1.   In a survey of golf course fairways creeping bentgrass 79 to 86 percent of the ball was above the canopy, while Kentucky bluegrass fairways ranged from 61 to 72 percent2.  In controlled studies, creeping bentgrass maintained at 0.5 inch ranged from 90 to 95 percent.  Bermudagrass mowed at 0.5 inch 92 percent of the ball was above the turf canopy1.


Mowing height has the greatest impact on ball lie.  As previously mentioned bermudagrass mowed at 0.5 inch 92 percent of the ball was above the canopy, at 1 inch the percentage dropped to 89 and at 1.5 inch the percent of the ball above the canopy was 77 percent1.  In general the lower the mowing height the better the ball lie.  However, if the mowing height is below the turfgrasses adaptive range the ball lie decreases.


Nitrogen fertilization had no effect on ball lie.  Plant growth regulator (PGRs) applications had no effect on ball lie in fairways.  However in bermudagrass roughs at mowing heights > 1 inch PGRs (trinexapac-ethyl) improved ball lie by increasing the percentage of the ball above the canopy.



  1. McCalla, J., M. Richardson, D. Karcher, A. Patton, and W. Hanna.  2008.  Effects of mowing Height, Fertilize, and Trinexapac0ethyl on ball lie of Tifsport bermudagrass.  Arkansas Turfgrass Report 2007, Ark. Ag. Exp. Stn. Res. Ser.  557:29-32. 
  2. Cella, L. and T. Voight.  2003.  How are your fairways holding up?  Golf Course Management 71(7): 8992.
  3. Cella, L., T.B. Voight, and T.W. Fermanian.  2004.  Measuring ball lie on golf course fairways.  Crop Science 44:214-217.