Top 3 Ways to Stop Topping the Golf Ball

    Ah, the topped shot. It’s embarrassing, all right. Even worse, the ego damage is compounded by a lousy result, which moves you only a little closer to the intended target.

    Whether you tend to top tee shots, irons or hybrids, the cause is undoubtedly a flaw in your fundamentals. Your address position could be off, or your posture inconsistent. Perhaps you suffer from one of golf’s most common – and fatal – faults, the reverse pivot.

    The cure for your tops likely lies in one of these three tips:

    1. Move the ball back in your stance

    Sound simple? It is. If you’ve got the ball too far left (closer to your lead foot) at address, your swing will find its bottom point before it reaches the ball. By impact, the clubhead is traveling up and over the ball, usually clipping it above the equator.

    If you’ve been topping the ball often, check your ball position first. With the driver, the ball should be opposite your left heel; a little farther back is OK, but too far left is no good. Proper positioning varies with the irons, woods and hybrids, but a little experimentation should tell you whether your problem stems from the setup or the swing.

    2. Maintain correct posture throughout the swing

    Many golfers, especially seniors, habitually lift up during the downswing. Naturally, this pulls the clubhead upward and away from the ball.

  • As your upper body turns toward the ball on the downswing, keep the left (lead) shoulder down through impact.
  • The right shoulder rotates under the chin on the through-swing, remaining below the level of the left shoulder until the finish.
  • Eight-time major winner Tom Watson offers a great example of consistent posture. Here’s how he does it.

    3. Fix your poor weight shift

    It’s true that the reverse pivot is a leading cause of slicing. It’s also responsible for a large percentage of topped golf shots.

    Briefly, a reverse pivot is when your weight shifts to the left on the backswing, then right on the downswing and follow-through – the reverse of a correct transfer. If you finish with more weight on your right side than your left, you’ve got this dreaded swing disease.

    Click here to learn a drill that will repair your pivot and rid you of topped shots – and maybe slices, too.

    Top 3 Ways to Stop Topping the Golf Ball 2
    Stop Topping the Golf Ball Using this Guide

    One of the great pleasures in the game of golf is looking up after your swing and watching your ball soar through the air in the direction of the target. Even if you don’t hit a great shot every time, there is something satisfying about watching the ball fly that gives the golfers a great feeling of accomplishment. Of course, if you are topping the golf ball, you won’t get to experience that sensation at all.

    Topping golf shots is one of the most frustrating mistakes that you can make on the course. In addition to not getting any real distance out of the shot, topping the golf ball can be an embarrassing mistake that will leave you not wanting to play golf with others, as you are afraid of doing it again. How to stop topping the golf ball is one of the questions golf teachers get most frequently, because it is similar to the shank in terms of how badly it can affect your game. If you are wondering ‘why am I topping the golf ball’, the following instruction may be just what you need to get back on track.

    Even if you have no big aspirations for your golf game beyond just being about to go out and have a good time with your friends, you will still want to solve the problem of topping the golf ball. Once you figure out how to stop topping the golf ball, you can get back to enjoying the game you have come to love. While the golf swing can be challenging and confusing at times, you can certainly conquer this problem as long as you are willing to put in just a little bit of practice time and work on a few basic fundamentals. Understanding what causes topping the golf ball is the first step toward correcting that problem, and we will be getting to that shortly.

    There are too many great reasons to play the game of golf to let a little problem like topping golf shots keep you down for long. Try to keep your frustration over this issue under control, and instead focus on finding a solution as quickly as possible. If you are playing golf topping the ball, how to correct this problem should be your top priority on the practice range. First we will diagnose what causes topping the golf ball, then we will move into the technical corrections you need to make to fix the problem. Finally, we will look at some simple drills that can help you get rid of this annoying mistake once and for all.

    Please note: all of the instructions that follow are based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the instructions before applying them to your game.

    Top 3 Ways to Stop Topping the Golf Ball 3
    The Root Cause of the Topped Golf Shot

    Just like with any other part of your golf swing, the first step toward fixing the problem of topping the golf ball is understanding why it happens in the first place. If you aren’t clear on what is going on in your swing that is leading to the topping of the ball, you don’t stand much of a chance at all to fix it. The good news is that unlike some other parts of the golf swing, the issue that you are likely dealing with to create this problem is relatively easy to understand. And since it is easy to understand, it should also be easy to fix.

    You need to start with the understanding that the golf swing is a rotational motion. While your body might move a little bit laterally throughout the swing, the majority of the motion is going to be rotational – that is, your center of gravity is going to remain in roughly the same spot while your body turns to the right, and then back to the left toward the target. Much of golf instruction has to do with removing any extra unnecessary motion from the swing. For example, sliding from right to left while the club is in motion is something that will hurt your golf swing and rob you of power.

    However, for most people, it isn’t lateral movement that they need to worry about when it comes to topping the golf ball. Rather, it is vertical movement. When you start to move your body up and down during the golf swing you will be exposing yourself to the possibility of hitting a topped shot. Good golf swings remain level throughout the backswing and downswing, so the body remains as stable as possible and the job of delivering the club head to the back of the ball gets that much easier.

    To better understand this concept, think about other areas of life outside of the golf course that require precision. Say, for example, you were trying to write a letter the old fashioned way – with a paper and pet. Would it be easier to write clean, legible words while sitting quietly in your chair at the desk, or while bouncing up and down in that same chair? Obviously, it is much easier to write while you are sitting still. Of course you can’t sit still while swinging a golf club, but the same notion still applies. If you are moving up and down while trying to do everything else that hitting a golf ball requires, you are destining yourself for failure.

    The problem of moving up and down during the swing is not an uncommon one. Many amateur players struggle with this swing fault, and it is to blame for plenty of the bad shots that you see at your local course each weekend. Since the downswing happens so quickly – in just a fraction of a second – there is not nearly enough time to correct for the problems that your vertical movement has cause. So, for instance, if you left your entire body up a couple of inches during the downswing, there is no way that your hands and arms will be able to react quickly enough to reach down farther and still hit the golf ball solidly. Instead, you are almost surely going to top the shot.

    It is important that you know where to look in your swing for the lifting action that is the answer to the question of why am I topping the golf ball. There are two main places in your body that could be the root cause of the issue – your calves, and your head. Your calves could be the problem if you find yourself standing up onto your toes as you swing down toward impact. This is a move that some golfers end up putting into their swing, usually by accident, as they try to get more power. It is actually possible to play good golf this way, and you might see better players who get up on their toes from time to time – especially when swinging hard. However, for a golfer who wants to figure out how to stop topping the golf ball, getting rid of this move should be a top priority.

    Lifting your head right before impact is likely the leading cause of topping golf shots. You can do everything right throughout the entire swing, but if you lift your head early, the shot can go all wrong. The real problem here is the chain reaction that occurs when you do lift your head up out of the shot. By lifting your head, you pull your shoulders and arms up along with it. Even the difference of only an inch or so can turn what would have been a beautiful golf shot into a disaster.

    For such a frustrating mistake, topping the golf ball actually has a pretty simple cause. If you can avoid changing your level (moving up and down) during the swing, you should be able to eliminate almost all of the topped shots from your game. How do you do that, exactly? Let’s work on that now.

    Top 3 Ways to Stop Topping the Golf Ball 4
    The Mechanical Fix

    Trying to tell yourself ‘not’ to do something in the golf swing is a pretty challenging, and usually unsuccessful, proposition. For example, if you tell yourself to not move up and down during the swing, all you are going to be thinking about is moving up and down – or trying not to do so. It is a negative way of thinking that usually only crowds your brain with mixed messages. This is a common way of thinking for many golfers, and it is almost always a failing one as well.

    What you want to do instead is tell your body what it does need to do. If you can pass a message from your brain out to your muscles with a positive action that they need to take, the emphasis will be taken off of what you want to avoid doing. This is the kind of positive thinking that good golfers use all the time – don’t focus on your errors, but rather than manner in which you can fix them.

    So, when it comes to the issue of topping the golf ball, you don’t want to think about moving up and down, but instead think about what you want to do with your body to make a good golf swing. The answer is simple – rotation. If you are rotating successfully to your left during the downswing, you won’t have either the time or the ability to move your body too much up and down. It simply isn’t possible. Get your rotation working properly throughout the swing and you can bet that your vertical movement will quickly disappear.

    Understand that the rotation element of the golf swings as soon as the club begins to move away from the ball. Rotation works in both directions, as well – you have to rotate away from the target if you are going to be able to rotate towards it with any kind of power and aggression. However, this rotation happens in two sections:

  • Shoulders powering the backswing. To rotate away from the target, you want to focus on the movement of your shoulders. They are what should be moving the club away from the target initially, as your hands and arms should only be hanging on for the ride. When your shoulders have successfully turned as far back as they can while maintaining balance, your backswing is completed.
  • Lower body leads the downswing. The control of your golf swing shifts when you reach the top of your swing. The shoulders were in charge to begin with, but your lower body takes control and leads the way down into impact. This is where so many golfers go so very wrong. The average player uses their upper body to control the whole swing, which is why they can make a decent-looking backswing that ends up going wrong when they start to swing down. If you are going to hit good golf shots, the rotation in your downswing must come from your lower body. It’s that simple.
  • You might feel like the solution to your topped shots problem has to be more complicated than just fixing your rotation, but it’s not. As long as you are rotating correctly in both directions, you will have a hard time hitting a topped shot. When you struggle with playing golf topping the ball, how to correct the issue is as simple as getting your rotation right.

    Top 3 Ways to Stop Topping the Golf Ball 5
    Drills to Help You Make the Change

    It is easy enough to talk about using better rotation in your golf swing, but it is another thing altogether to actually make it happen. Because that part can be tricky, it is a good idea to use the following drills to learn the right feeling for your rotation. Even after just doing a few repetitions of the drills below, you should start to have a much better idea of how your body needs to work in order to avoid the dreaded topped shot.

    The first drill for you to work on is a very simple one – in fact, you don’t even need any golf equipment. Sometimes the best way to understand how your body should work during the golf swing is to get right of the club and the ball and just make practice ‘swings’ only using your body motion. This takes away the distractions and leaves you to focus on what your body is actually doing. With that in mind, find a place to stand where you have plenty of room to make pretend golf swings without a club in your hand. Start out by making your full, regular golf swing motion, only while your arms are crossed on your chest. This will take them out of the equation and help you to see what your shoulders and lower body are doing at various points in the swing.

    Are your shoulders getting turned all the way back during the backswing? Do your legs initiate the downswing, or is another part of your body doing that job? You might be surprised to see just how easy it is to learn about your swing when you use this basic drill. After just a few practice ‘swings’ using this method, you should be able to quickly see where your rotation might be going wrong.

    For this next drill, you will need your clubs, and you will need to be at the driving range so you can hit some balls. Be sure you are in a position on the range where it won’t be a problem if you miss-hit a ball or two (shank) because this drill can be a little challenging at first. Using a mid-iron, take your address position like you would for any other shot. The idea is simple – you are going to swing up to the top of your backswing, pause for a couple seconds, and then swing down and hit the shot. It might be helpful to count out loud at the top of your swing (One…Two) in order to get the rhythm.

    This might not sound very difficult – but it is. You are so used to swinging with the same tempo on each shot that stopping the rhythm in the middle will throw you all off at first. Stick with it until you hit a few good shots down the range.

    What is the point of this drill? You need to get a feeling for how your downswing in initiated, and it is easier to do that if you stop and take a break at the top of your swing. Since you are starting from a cold stop, you will have more awareness of your body and what parts of your body are taking control of the swing. If anything other than your lower body is initiating the downswing, you will be able to feel that immediately. Continue working with this drill until you are able to reliably start your downswing with your legs shot after shot – then return to full speed and hopefully your topping problem will be a thing of the past.

    Top 3 Ways to Stop Topping the Golf Ball 6
    Getting Out of Your Own Head

    Most of the issues that cause topping of the golf ball are physical, but there can be some mental hurdles to get over as well. This is especially true if you have had trouble with hitting topped shots in the past – it might be in your head even if your technique isn’t that bad. Just like with any shot on the golf course, you need to be confident and sure of yourself and your swing if you are going to be successful in avoiding the top.

    Getting out of your own way is as simple as focusing your mind in the right direction prior to the shot. This is why a good pre-shot routine is so important. When you use a pre-shot routine that helps you get comfortable and builds confidence in what you are doing, your mind will forget all about topping the ball because it will be preoccupied with the task at hand. When your mind is blank, it is free to wander – and that almost always leads to trouble.

    There are a few specific things that you should be focusing on during your pre-shot routine which will keep your mind off of all the mistakes you are trying not to make:

  • Your target. You should always have a very specific target for each shot. Prior to picking your club, pick out the exact target you are aiming at and make sure you get lined up properly to execute the shot.
  • Your ball flight. What kind of ball flight do you plan on using to reach that target you picked out? The more specific you can be about what your ball flight will look like, the more occupied you will keep your mind.
  • A single swing though. Using more than one swing thought at a time is a bad idea, so focus your mind on a single tip or technique that you want to make sure to execute properly.
  • Taking a deep breath. A long, deep breath is a great way to relax your muscles and get ready to execute a golf shot. Prior to walking up and taking your stance, try taking one deep breath while you look down the fairway at the target.
  • With all of those things to think about and occupy your time, your brain won’t have the chance to worry about hitting an ugly topped shot that rolls up the fairway. Avoiding any mistake on the golf course is a combination of physical and mental discipline, and that is true of topped shots as well. By working on your technique to avoid the vertical movement in your swing, and also making sure your mind is focused in the right direction at all times, you should be able to quickly make your topped golf shot problem a thing of the past. Now that you are hitting the ball solidly once again, move on to other improvements that will lead you to lower scores and more fun on the course