Chances are high that you’ve heard this phrase before; “coming over the top.” But do you know what it means? Why it’s bad for your golf swing? Why it happens? Or how to stop it?
There’s a lot of golf lingo out there and many people assume others know exactly what they’re talking about when using these terms. “Coming over the top” is one example of this insider talk. Since you’ve probably heard it used before, whether it was referring to your swing or not, you’ve probably tried to make sure you didn’t do it. Every time it’s used, it’s typically connected to an ugly shot, so we try everything in our power to avoid it.
The truth is, though, it’s probably something you’re currently doing in your golf swing and don’t even realize it. Fixing this swing flaw can result in a dramatic drop in scores, more consistency, and more fun.
What Is Coming Over The Top?
So, let’s start at the beginning. What is coming over the top? To put it as simple as possible, it’s when your golf club travels too far away from your body at the top of the downswing.
As you take the club to the top of your backswing, you want the first move of your hands, arms, and the golf club to drop down and travel close to your body, from the inside, on its way to the golf ball. This allows you to make impact with the golf ball in the correct position to see it fly far and straight.
The problem is, allowing your hands, arms, and club to drop down and approach the golf ball from the inside isn’t a natural move that most people make. Instead, at the top of the swing, people try to swing the club, forcing it through impact, which makes the club “come over the top” and extend away from the body.
When you come over the top, you club tends to make impact with the outside half of the golf ball. Once your club starts to come over the top in the downswing, there’s really no way that swing can make solid contact with the ball. So, you’re left hoping and praying for a lucky bounce to get the ball to go where you want.
What Happens When You Come Over The Top?
Like I said, when you come over the top, you club will not make solid impact with the golf ball. Instead, it’ll be connecting with the ball from the side.
This does a couple things.
- It puts side spin on the ball, which will typically result in a big slice.
- The other thing it could do, depending on the position of your clubface at impact, is violently pull the ball.
So, if you struggle with a slice or a pull, even though they look very different, they are both a result of coming over the top in your down swing.
The next thing that’ll happen when you come over the top is that your odds of hitting the center of the club face go down significantly. This means you won’t get nearly as much distance as you should.
You’ll probably notice that you hit a lot of balls off the toe of the club when you come over the top. You might even see big, deep, divots that start before the ball; resulting in a chunked shot.
Common Reasons For Coming Over The Top
Now, let’s talk about the reasons most people come over the top.
Trying Too Hard
The first, and most common, reason is that most players want to hit the ball far. Our natural reaction to wanting to hit the ball far is to tense up our muscles in order to explode with power through impact. The problem with that is that tense muscles, at the top of your downswing, will cause your arms to push away from your body and come over the top. Too much tension in your golf swing will, almost always, result in an over the top downswing.
Trying to Hit Down Too Much
Next, is that most people have been taught to hit down on the ball, which is true. In fact, I’ve talked in previous articles about how you need to hit down on the ball in order to get it to go up in the air. That is still true. The problem comes when people interpret “hit down on the ball” to mean “come over the top and cover the ball.” Or they try to hit so far down that the club comes away from their body in order to slam down into the ground.
It’s important to remember, when hitting down on the ball, that you can still do that while coming from the inside on your downswing.
How To Stop Coming Over The Top
Let’s get in to how you can stop coming over the top.
Focus on Back Elbow
The first thing you need to do is re-read the last sentence in the previous section. Remember, you can still come from the inside when hitting down on the golf ball. In order to do this well, focus your mind on your back elbow (right elbow for a right-handed golfer). In your down swing, that elbow ought to stay close to your side. The moment it travels away from your body, is the same moment you start swinging too far over the top.
Let the Club do the Work
Next, you need to remember to let the club do the work and stop trying to hit the ball with explosive power. I would much rather you swing nice and easy, and hit the center of the club face, than swing hard and barely miss the sweet spot on your club.
Never sacrifice centeredness of contact in order to gain swing speed. Trust that your club will hit the ball the right distance. If you don’t trust it, take a little more club than you normally would. Swinging more club in a more relaxed way will make sure your muscles don’t tense up and push away from your body.
Clear the Hips
Finally, you need to get your hips out of the way. Another reason a lot of amateur golfers come over the top is because they either let their weight get too far back in their downswing and finish, or the never clear their hips.
Why does this matter to your arms and club? Because if your hips don’t move forward in your downswing, your hands don’t have enough room to come from the inside.
Drills To Fix Coming Over The Top
Now that you know how to stop coming over the top, here are some great drills to help you solidify those concepts…
Drill #1: Glove Under Arm
In my opinion, this is one of the greatest drills to improve your golf swing.
- First thing you need is a lanyard with a clip on the end.
- Put the lanyard around your neck and attach an old golf club to the clip.
- Then, put the glove under your back armpit (right for a right-handed golfer).
- Then, hit your shots.
If the glove drops out of your armpit in your downswing, then you’re coming over the top. As soon as that back elbow moves away from your body, the glove will drop. If you can hit shots with the glove staying in your back armpit until after impact, then you’ve sufficiently come from the inside and stopped coming over the top.
Drill #2: Impact Tape
This drill is a little bit of an experience, rather than a drill, but the point is to build your confidence and understand where you get your distance. So, for this you’ll need some impact tape. You can get it at most golf department stores or online. Basically, it’s a piece of tape that’ll show you where on your club face that you make impact with the golf ball.
Once you get the impact tape:
- Go to the range and put it on a couple club faces. Make sure to try it out on, at least, your driver and an iron.
- Then, hit some different shots at different intensities. Try to hit one really hard and another one nice and easy.
- Then, record in a note on your phone or a piece of paper, which type of swings you hit the club face most consistently with and which type of swing traveled the farthest.
I think you’ll find out that the ones where you swing nice and easy are the most consistent, as far as hitting the sweet spot, and also travel the farthest. Until you do this experiment and see the results for yourself, you may not fully trust the information in this article enough to swing easy to hit it farther.
Drill #3: Hip Bump
For this final drill, you’ll need a snow pole or an alignment stick.
- Put the alignment stick into the ground, so that is standing vertical.
- Then, put the outside of your front foot (left foot for right-handed golfer) against the base of the alignment stick as you address a golf ball.
- Make sure the alignment stick is low enough that you can swing your arms without hitting it, but high enough that you can bump it with your front hip.
- Then, just hit some golf balls. Focus on “bumping” your hip into the alignment stick on the down swing.
If you aren’t bumping it, then you aren’t clearing your hips enough. Try bumping the alignment stick while just doing practice swings at first if it’s too difficult.
There you have it! That’s all you need to know to stop coming over the top, so you can hit better, more solid, farther golf shots.