Many golfers suffer from a swing that approaches the ball in an “over-the-top” fashion, causing a variety of mishits such as slices and pulled shots.
An over-the-top golf swing path typically results when the golfer's arms start the downswing – big mistake. Instead, the lower body should lead the way, pulling the shoulders, arms and club toward the ball from an inside path.
There are a number of drills to promote proper body rotation and cure over-the-top syndrome. One of the best may just be the simplest.
Here's how it's done:
1.Using any club, assume your normal address position and begin the backswing.
2. On reaching the top of the swing, pause for a full two seconds.
3. Finish the swing.
Pausing prevents the arms and hands from taking over on the transition from backswing to downswing. You should feel the left side of your lower body (for right-handers) begin to turn toward the target before the hands start downward.
Golfers looking for a quick fix for an over-the-top swing can try another trick: At address, move your left foot about six inches forward so that your stance is closed in relation to the target line. Keep the clubface aimed at the target and swing normally.
Stop Coming Over the Top in Your Golf Swing
Three of the most dreaded words in the game of golf are 'over the top'. A swing that includes an over the top move during the transition from the backswing to the downswing is one that will always be prone to hitting a slice. As you certainly are aware, the slice is among the biggest issues that stand between amateur golfers and shooting better scores. If you are a player that struggles with the slice, removing the over the top mistake from your swing has the potential to change your game almost overnight.
Obviously, eliminating your over the top move is going to be easier said than done. It is an easy mistake to make, and if you have been swing the club in this manner for a long time, your old habits aren't going to go away without a fight. To correct your swing technique, you will first need to understand what you are doing wrong to create the over the top move in the first place. After you understand the root cause of the problem, you can then get down to work on fixing it.
A slice is not the only negative outcome that you can experience when swinging the club over the top. Other problems you can face include the following –
- Too much backspin. An over the top swing will approach the ball from a steep angle, meaning that you may impart too much backspin onto your shots. While that isn't necessarily a big deal when hitting your short irons, it can be a big problem with your driver.
- Loss of distance. This issue is directly related to putting too much backspin on your shots. A high spin rate will send the ball floating up into the air, costing you valuable distance. To add yardage to your shots you will have to find a way to get rid of your over the top move in order to reduce the backspin rate effectively.
- One dimensional game. It is almost impossible to hit a draw when making an over the top swing. That means that all of your shots are going to fall into the fade or slice category, making you a one dimensional player out on the course. Even if you prefer to play a fade most of the time, it is helpful to have the ability to hit an occasional draw when necessary.
There is nothing good that comes from swinging the club over the top. While you might be able to find a way to play decent golf using this kind of motion, your game will be better for the effort if you can put in the practice time to get rid of it once and for all. This is not an impossible task, but it will require some focused practice and plenty of patience.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as needed.
A Clear Picture of the Problem
Do you know exactly what it means to come 'over the top' in your golf swing? Most players think that they are familiar with this swing problem, but it might be a little more complicated than you realize. Only when you fully understand the over the top swing fault, and its root cause, can you get down to work on taking it out of your game.
Over the top refers to the motion of your swing during the transition from backswing to downswing. Instead of your hands (and the club) moving down toward the ground as you transition forward, your hands move up and away from your body in an over the top swing. The result is a swing plane that is too high coming down into the ball, leading to a steep angle of attack that swipes across the ball from outside to in. Both the steep angle of attack and the outside-in swing path are negative elements that can lead to poor ball striking. Simply put, a player who is struggling with an over the top swing needs to reverse the pattern of movement they are using during the transition. Instead of the club moving up and away from the body, it needs to move down and in closer to the body. This might feel awkward to someone who is used to swinging with an over the top move, but it is a necessary change if better ball striking is going to be achieved.
While the over the top action itself happens at the top of the swing, signs of trouble can usually be seen much earlier than that. In fact, most golfers who swing the club over the top make a killer mistake during the takeaway portion of the swing. After this mistake is made during the takeaway, an over the top swing is all but inevitable. So what is that mistake? Taking the club too far to the inside.
Ideally, the club will swing straight back from the ball early in the takeaway. The first few inches of the takeaway are crucial to set up the path for the rest of the swing. If you are able to keep the club head on a straight back path away from the ball early in the swing, you will be in good position. However, if you allow the club to swing inside early, you will be setting yourself up for an over the top move. Most of the time, the inside takeaway can be blamed on overactive hands. A good takeaway is made by using the rotation of the shoulders and torso to move the club – but many amateur golfers make the mistake of using their hands instead. By using your hands to move the club away from the ball, you will put the club on an inside path and an over the top motion is the likely result.
Why does an inside takeaway lead to an over the top swing? It all comes down to space. You need to have space available to swing your hands down toward impact in the forward swing. When you make an inside takeaway, you are bringing your hands and the club in very close to your body. As you finish the backswing, you will likely find that there is no space available to then swing down into the shot. The only option is to take the club over the top, simply to create space and give your hands a free and clear path to the ball. While this motion will allow you to make contact with the ball, it won't enable you to hit the kind of quality shots that you would like to see come off your clubs.
The answer to this problem, of course, is to make a wider backswing. When you are able to maintain width between your hands and your body in the backswing, there will be plenty of room to swing down toward impact. You won't have to take the club over the top because you will have a clear path from the top of your backswing directly to the ball. Using a takeaway that keeps your hands quiet and allows the shoulders to do the work is the best way to create a wide swing and eliminate the over the top error.
Two Great Drills
It is helpful to understand the problem of making an over the top move in your swing – but understanding alone isn't enough to successfully fix it. For that, you will want to use a couple of drills that have been specifically designed to address this problem. If you can spend some practice time working on each of the two drills highlighted below, you should be able to solve your over the top problem and get your golf swing back on track.
The first drill will address your takeaway, since that is where the trouble starts for most players. Your takeaway is a part of the swing that probably hasn't received a lot of attention over the years. Most golfers work on things like swing plane and impact position, while overlooking the importance of the takeaway. This drill isn't going to be the most exciting thing you have ever done at a golf course, but it will be one of the best things you have done to improve your game.
To complete the takeaway drill, follow the steps below –
- To start, take out one of your mid-irons (such as a seven iron) and take your stance as if you were going to hit a shot. You won't be hitting any actual shots during this drill, so there is no need to have any golf balls in front of you. Place a club on the ground instead of a golf ball, and position that club so that the shaft is representing your (imaginary) target line for the shot.
- Once you are into your stance, drop your right hand off of the club and place it in your right pocket (or on your hip if you don't have pockets). At this point, your left hand will be the only thing holding onto the club.
- Start your swing and take the club back until it is parallel with the ground using only your left hand. You should quickly find that you need to engage your shoulders to make a smooth takeaway since you only have one of your two hands available to control the club. When you reach a position where the club is parallel to the ground, stop your swing and pause.
- Check the angle of the shaft of your club at this point. If you have made a good takeaway, the club will be parallel to the club that is one the ground representing your target line. Reaching this position successfully is a good sign of a proper takeaway. However, if the angle of the shaft is pointing behind you, you will know you have moved the club too far to the inside. Repeat the drill over and over until you can avoid the inside takeaway.
The idea of this drill is to take your hands out of the takeaway and force you to rely on your shoulders and torso to move the club. It will be harder to take the club on an inside path when only your left hand is holding onto the grip. After several repetitions of this drill, put your right hand back on the club and make a few practice swings. Remember what you learned and focus on avoiding the inside takeaway even when you have both hands on the club.
The other drill that will help you eliminate your over the top move is a called the 'towel swing'. This is another drill where you won't even hit the golf ball – however, don't let that cause you to think that the drill is not important. The lessons that you can learn from completing the towel swing drill will quickly translate to your normal swing when you start hitting some balls on the range.
Use the steps below to properly complete the towel drill –
- For this drill, you will need a large golf towel (or other towel from home that you don't mind using for this purpose). Lay the towel out on the ground and roll it up along the longest side. When you are finished rolling it up, you should be left with a long cylinder shape.
- In one end of the rolled up towel, tie a knot that will be used to keep the towel from unrolling. You might find that it is easier to tie this knot if you roll the towel up tightly in the previous step.
- Once your knot is in place, pick up the towel by the non-knotted end. You are going to now pretend that this towel is your golf club, and the end with the knot will act as the club head. Take your regular golf grip around the rolled up towel and take your stance as normal.
- With your stance in place, try to make a golf swing using the towel. In order to do this successfully, you are going to need to make a smooth, slow swing with great tempo. If you try to rush the swing, the towel will not come along for the ride.
- The transition is the trickiest part of this drill. Should you try to move your hands over the top, the towel won't cooperate (and may even hit you in the back). However, if you make a wide backswing and drop your hands down perfectly during the transition, you should find that you are able to swing through the hitting area nicely.
After plenty of repetitions swinging the towel, pick up a golf club and hit a few short shots. Think about how your swing felt while using the towel and try to replicate that feeling with your clubs. When done correctly, this quick and simple drill can actually take the over the top move out of your swing.
Adapting to Your New Swing
With enough practice time spent on the two drills above, you should be able to take the over the top flaw out of your swing. What you will be left with is a more powerful, more consistent swing that you can rely on throughout a round. However, that doesn't mean that you will instantly shoot better scores. Since you are used to playing with an over the top swing, you might find that you have trouble translating your better mechanics into lower numbers.
The biggest problem is aim. As an over the top player, you have learned how to aim you shots in such a way that will allow you to get away with the poor ball flights you were generating. Now that you ball flight is better, you have to correct the way you aim your shots. Most likely, you have gotten used to aiming a little bit left of the target so that you can fade or slice the ball back on line. Now, with your slice gone, you will need to aim closer to the actual target itself. Focus on your aim on the driving range so you can build trust in this idea before you test it on the course.
The other adjustment you will need to make is to the distance that you expect from each of your clubs. If you are attacking the ball from a flatter angle, it is almost certain that you will have gained distance over your previous swing. Your short irons may fly around the same yardage as they did before, but expect your long irons and woods to have dramatically increased. Pay attention to how far your shots are flying with your new swing and adapt as quickly as possible. Your scores are only going to start to come down when you are able to pull the right club for the distance at hand on a regular basis.
With less backspin being imparted on your golf ball at impact, you can plan on a lower overall flight as part of your new trajectory. That means that wind will be less of a factor. You still need to account for wind when preparing to hit a shot, but it likely won't have the same effect that it did when you were coming over the top. Since wind is hard to predict and difficult to account for properly, limiting the effect that it has on your shots is always a good thing.
Trust Your Preparation
No matter how hard you work on the driving range, there will always be a point on the course where you doubt yourself and are tempted to go back to your old swing. Don't fall for this temptation. You worked on making swing changes for a reason, and you will become a better player in the long run now that you have eliminated your over the top move. Even if the results aren't great during your first round or two on the course, stay with the plan and trust that you will continue to get better.
Your trust in this new swing will grow with experience, both from hitting balls on the driving range and from playing rounds on the course. Hit practice balls regularly to engrain the new fundamentals of your swing, and try to play a couple rounds on your own as well. Playing golf by yourself will give you a chance to get comfortable with your altered swing without having to feel the pressure of anyone watching you. If you hit a few bad shots during these initial rounds, you will be able to quickly forget them knowing no one was there to witness. Once you have built up your confidence you can resume playing golf with others at your local course.
All golfers say they want to get better – but few are actually willing to do what it takes. The biggest hurdle in playing better golf is being willing to go outside of your comfort zone and use a swing that doesn't feel 'natural'. As stated above, a swing without an over the top move is going to feel weird to a player who has been swinging over the top for years. If you are unwilling to make swings that feel uncomfortable for a while, you have no chance of ever improving. Only players who make the choice to test their limits and try new techniques will be able to progress in the right direction.
If you struggle with an over the top move in your swing, you can rest assured that you aren't alone. This is one of the most common swing faults in the game, and countless players hit a slice because they are unable to solve it. Use the drills and instruction above to correct the error, and give yourself plenty of time on the practice range to make the necessary changes before taking your new slice-free swing back out onto the course.